Broadcast (Part 1): The Parable of the Sower
This morning we’re going to meditate on a subject that is near and dear to every father’s heart: Television.
Generally speaking, I don’t watch a lot of television. But, I am a dad. And there are those staples of the broadcast television diet that are hard to go without: like the State of the Union address, the Academy Awards, and of course Chargers games.
For many years we did not have television in our home; which is to say we didn’t pay for cable or satellite TV. But a couple years ago I broke down, and I bought a $20 antenna.
So if we want to watch television, there is a ritual in our household that goes something like this. Old dad gets out the cheap antenna, unrolls the long white coax cable out the back door, climbs up to the roof, and places it just so. (I know, it sounds medieval. What can I say, I’m a traditionalist in more ways than one.)
Of course, hooking up the antenna is only the beginning. Once that task is complete, thus begins that classic pastime: “find the TV signal with the antenna rods.” If I’m alone it’s much more work. I have to climb up the roof. Turn the antenna on. Adjust the rods. Climb down. Go inside. Check the TV. No signal. Go outside. Climb up the roof. Adjust the antenna rods. Climb down. Check the TV.
I know. I’m probably destroying your image of your priest’s home life. ”I thought he stood in a corner and prayed all day. What a dope, he doesn’t even have cable.”
It’s not always that bad though. Sometimes I have the help of my 11-year-old son.
And by help, I mean he sits on the couch in his socks with his feet up eating potato chips and yelling out the window to me on the hot roof, “Nope, still no picture. Keep moving it. C’mon dad, it’s almost halftime!”
I am proud to say that the other day, during the Stanley Cup Finals, I had a brilliant idea. I turned to my son, and said, “Hey man, YOU get up on the roof and fix the antennae.”
One of the great blessings of fatherhood: delegation!
A few years ago television stations changed the way they broadcast their signals. They changed from an analog broadcast to a digital broadcast.
The good news about digital broadcast is that the picture is really crisp and clear. The bummer — for those of us who still use antennas and watch broadcast television, (which I think is just me, and one other dude who lives up in Bakersfield) is that when the reception is bad, the static is really weird. Gone are the days of good old fashion ants-on-the-screen static. Remember how bad reception used to make fuzzy pictures, but you could still kind of watch the show? Not so with digital static. Now the image just freezes like a really bad cubist painting. Which is especially frustrating during Chargers games. “Bla, stru, faI, tac, Touchdown! Chargers lose again!”
(Wouldn’t it be great if I just talked about TV and football the entire sermon? Best sermon ever!)
Believe it or not, broadcast television is actually a beautiful tie-in with today’s gospel, the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel of Mark. Because as it turns out, the word broadcast was originally an agricultural term: used to describe the act of sowing, or scattering seed; the seed was “broadly cast” along the fertile ground.
Broadcast, isn’t that a cool image. You get the sense that the message – the signal – is just thrown out there – psheww. It’s everywhere. Which is exactly how it is with Gods love. With the message of His Good News, manifested through His Son Our Lord.
This is the picture Jesus gives us in today’s kingdom parable. This tiny parable encompasses the whole of salvation history. The Law and the Prophets have prepared the ground. The man who scatter the seed is Jesus himself. And the seed is the Good News – which Our Lord broadcasts – he distributes freely without any discrimination. In fact, the Greek word for “cast” means literally “to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls – to give over to another’s care uncertain about the result.
Jesus casts the message of God far and wide. He broadcasts the Good News to the ends of the earth.
Then we’re told, the man “goes to sleep at night and gets up by day.” This is a clear depiction of Our Lord’s death and resurrection.
Jesus tells us that the seed shall sprout and grow. But in perhaps the most mysterious phrase of the parable, Jesus says that the man doesn’t know how the seed will grow.
Isn’t that curious? Jesus is the one sowing the seed. Yet he does not know how his seeds will grow. What does this mean? This uncertainty is a clear indication of the freedom which we all have to respond to the Good News! In other words, we are not forced, or coerced, or manipulated, or made to respond – to grow. Jesus himself knows not how his crop will grow.
The Good News requires a response. And that response is up to us!
This little parable of salvation history ends with the harvest, which represents the judgment at the end of the age. Our response matters.
Just like broadcast television, the question is not whether or not the message is out there. The question is, how is our antennae?
Like the old days of broadcast radio and television, the signal has no meaning if we do not turn on, tune in, and receive the message.
This is our role! The Good News is broadcast far and wide – without discrimination. But like the antennae, we must endeavor to make the connection, to receive the Word of God. God’s message requires an active response in order for it to bear fruit. If we don’t tune in, we miss the message. But more than that, we miss the connection, the loving relationship, the everlasting life with God which is the message.