Why does God bother?

Do you ever wonder why God bothers? 

God chose Abraham and promised to bless him & Sarah with a son and with descendants.

But Abraham sires a son, not with Sarah, but with Hagar instead. 

Still God gives Abraham and Sarah the son he promised, Isaac. 

 But Abraham tries to kill this promised son. 

 Still God keeps Isaac alive. 

 But Isaac is struck down with grief (unsurprisingly) 

 Still God sends him Rebekah to comfort him. 

 But Rebekah and Isaac cannot have children,

 Still God gives Rebekah not just one but two sons. 

 But, having been blessed with two, Isaac and Rebekah find they can only love one son and the boys grow up to fight and cheat and threaten to kill each other … 

 Still God continues to pour out his blessings upon them. 

If I were God I might write them off as sunk costs go find some more productive people to invest in.

Just as if I were a farmer I would want to maximise my yield and expend my precious seed and effort on only the good soil.

Seed is one of the most valuable of commodities – without seed and the harvest contained within it, none of us could live. Seed is precious - it is the way we guarantee our future existence.

Seed is carefully collected, prudently stored, protected from damp, from heat, from rats and mice, from insects, from anything else that might damage its potential for growth.

All farmers, even the not very good ones, prepare the soil, to make sure that this precious seed has the best possible chance to grow.

All except the one in the parable Jesus told: this one, apparently, leaves the rocks, leaves the weeds, leaves the thorns, doesn’t even shoo away the birds. And he chucks the precious seed around willy-nilly heedless of where it might fall.

This sower is wasteful, profligate, irresponsible, reckless … we might call him stupid even.

Yet amazingly, despite his stupidity … and despite the rocks, the birds, the weeds … the seed he chucks about brings forth a harvest. A magnificent harvest: 30, 50, 100 fold.

We, being only human tend to approach the parables, the gospels, our faith, our church, our lives from a human perspective. We focus on the outcomes, the payoff, the harvest. We want to maximise growth and success and productivity.

I was recently at a Diocesan seminar on church growth. They shared a piece of research in which a large number of clergy were asked what kind of growth they wanted: did they want spiritual growth (an increase the depth and strength of faith and discipleship) or did they want growth in service (a greater involvement in the community and commitment to social justice)? Or did they want numerical growth (more bums on pews)? Only 19% of the clergy surveyed chose numerical growth as their priority. The diocese gave us a seminar on numerical growth anyway.

I am sympathetic, really I am: numbers are declining, the Diocese’s budget deficit is increasing, we have fewer building, fewer people, fewer pounds. Should we not be investing all our resources in the things that are most likely to produce an increase?

According the Canon Missioner, hell yes!

Yet I am not so sure that God agrees with him.

A sower went to sow. He was not at all concerned with the harvest, with the yield, with the outcome, he didn’t worry about the reaping. What he cared about was the sowing: the wildly extravagant, wildly generous yet wildly wasteful, massively inefficient throwing of his precious seed everywhere, but everywhere.

The sower only cared about sharing, about showering the earth with the promise, with hope.

We are only human, we worry about taking risks, we worry about waste, we worry about failure. 

We do. 

God doesn’t. 

Otherwise why would he bother to continue pouring out blessing after blessing on murderous Abraham, mean hearted Isaac, cheating Jacob, and on us, their descendants … ?

Perhaps it is time for us to worry less about the reaping and just concentrate on sowing with as much generosity, profligacy, recklessness and even stupidity as we can muster.