Love Stories

A message drawn from the narrative of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4.  Enjoy!

Do you like a good love story? Boy, my wife sure does. For as long as we’ve known each other she has been a huge fan of love stories. Whether it’s reading a good romance novel, watching a good love interest movie, or listening to a favorite podcast, my wife just loves a good love story.

And me? Well, less so. I’m more of an action adventure type when it comes to storytelling, give me a plot line where life and death hang in the balance, where the fate of the world is in play and tie it together with cutting-edge technological cinematronics and well, I’m in heaven. Our preferences likely aren’t too uncommon; girls typically go for the love, guys for the adventure, right? Perhaps there’s some truth to that age old gender stereotype. Perhaps my wife and I are a bit boring, a bit normal in that way.

As I age tho, I’m finding I enjoy a good love story more than I used to. Maybe I’m softening some. And more than only reading, watching or listening to them, I find, on occasion, I enjoy telling these stories too. And that’s what we’ll do for the next fifteen minutes or so, I’d like to share three of my personal favorite love stories with you.

Eros
The first love story begins in 1993, in a college town not too far from here, in Northwest Indiana, at Valparaiso University, home of the Fighting Crusaders. This story involves two college freshmen, a boy and a girl that met the first day of band practice; she played the trumpet, he the trombone. They noticed each other that first day, had a good conversation, and parted ways. At the time she was still dating someone else from high school. And the guy? He had some wild oats to sow.

But eighteen months later her high school beau was no more, and his interest in sowing those oats had waned. While this girl and this boy were still friends they began to look at each other a little differently. And one evening, after talking for hours and hours they found themselves in her car, driving past unnamed Indiana cornfields, excitedly wondering where these conversations might lead. That night they led to a local park, and a gazebo, where they drew close and embraced for their first kiss. In that moment, a gentle mist of raindrops fell ever-so-slightly from the sky. It was magical. The love story, for these college sweethearts had begun.

When they married, six years later, they made sure to return to that same gazebo on their wedding day for the taking of pictures. And, to the surprise of those gathered that day, they accompanied the jazz trio at their own wedding reception; she still played the trumpet, and he the trombone. They brought these moments, of first meetings during band, a shared love of music, and first gazebo kisses into their wedding day for a reason. They wanted to make sure those special moments were brought into their marriage as well.

I tell you this story not just because it is a personal favorite, but because it is my own. Since that time my wife Kathi and I have brought two dogs and two children into this love story, including our seven year old Hannah, and three year old son Graham. And since then we’ve travelled around the sun together more times than either of us would care to admit. We hope to continue travelling around the sun, together, for many, many more years to come.

Philia
Now in English we have just one word for love, and that is kind of limiting. Strong, positive feelings for a spouse, a sibling, God or even a sports team all gets lumped into that one word, love. But in ancient Greek there are multiple words for love. The story you just heard was about Eros, that’s the romantic kind.

Philia love is more about affectionate friendship, and is typically between family and friends. This next story is about that, and comes from the 2003 movie Love Actually. That movie, Love Actually, is actually about eight love stories, masterfully woven together into one film. Today we’ll focus on the best of that batch, in my opinion at least, the story of Daniel and Sam.

Daniel, a middle aged man, is played by a favorite actor of mine, Liam Neeson. Early in the film he loses his wife, she’d been suffering from a terminal illness, and had finally succumbed to it. Besides being a fairly young widower he also needs to learn how to be a single father for Sam, that’s his wife’s eleven year old son. Sam responds to losing his mother by locking himself in his room and crying. As you can imagine this worries stepfather Daniel immensely.

But it turns out this sadness isn’t just about losing his mom, Sam is in love with a girl at school. And he doesn’t know what to do about it. Even worse, Sam soon learns that this girl will be moving from England back to America. Sam is devastated.

To get Sam noticed by this girl the father and son come up with a plan, Sam will learn to play the drums and perform at the big school Christmas concert; perhaps that will do the trick. So Sam practices, the day of the concert arrives, and the girl actually smiles at Sam. Dad thinks to himself mission accomplished.

Unfortunately Sam is still miserable, for the girl is going straight from the concert to the airport, heading back to America. Dad convinces Sam that he must tell her he loves her, and drives quickly to the airport, hoping to arrive before she departs. So what happens next? Hold tight, we’ll get back to that in a little bit.

While this love story also contains a girl and a boy and the potential for a kiss, what draws me to it is the relationship between father and son. Both still grieve; Daniel lost his wife, Sam his mother. But they find a way forward, through this grief, towards a deeper relationship with each other. Their story, in a way, is a shared quest for love. This is the kind of deep connection any father would want with their son.

Agape
I’d like to suggest that the gospel reading from today, of Jesus speaking to the woman at the well, is also a love story. Unlike our previous two stories this is not a romantic eros or friendship philia kind of love. This is an agape love story. That’s the love of God for humanity. And also the love of humanity for God. Arguably today’s scripture passage has all the trappings of a very good love story. So let’s talk a bit about what makes this such a good tale.

A good love story is rarely convenient. Our gospel reading this week begins with Jesus leaving Judea and heading back to Galilee. But he didn’t take shortest route. Instead, he chose to go through Samaria, requiring extra time, energy and effort for everyone he traveled with. After arriving Jesus sat down and was tired from the journey. Why did Christ take this scenic route? We’ll find out the answer to this plot twist later on.

In a good love story location and setting matter. The setting for this story is a well, a place where water is drawn from the ground. At face value there isn’t anything horribly exciting about a well. But this well was, well, different. It wasn’t just any well. This is Jacob’s well, and the location of several notable Old Testament engagements. Jacob and Rachel were engaged here, so were Moses and Zipporah, Isaac and Rebekah were too. Now those love stories involve the very human institution of marriage. The love story unfolding here does not involve tying the knot, tho, similar to an engagement, the location suggests that a deep, life-long relationship, and perhaps even longer than that, was about to be forged.

A good love story almost always involves, at some point in the narrative, conflict. The conversation between these two people at the well begins with a request; Jesus asks for some water. This immediately piques the woman’s curiosity. Why, she wonders, would a Jewish man ask something of me? Here we have a Jewish Rabbi speaking with a Samaritan woman. And worse, the two are alone. It’s almost scandalous.

We’re told rather plainly in John 4:9 that Jews and Samaritans don’t associate with each other. Theologian Karoline Lewis suggests this is perhaps the greatest understatement in the entire Bible. Jews and Samaritans, culturally at that time, did not share much of anything in common. And they definitely didn’t come in contact with each other. For if they did tradition would require that Jesus return to Jerusalem to undergo a ritual cleansing. Yet here Jesus sits, at the well, asking for water from this Samaritan woman. The tension, in this moment, is palpable.

In a good love story both people need something. After three days of travel, and sitting there in the midday sun, Jesus must have been pretty thirsty. In a very real way he needs this water from the woman. His response tho suggests that this conversation may be about more than getting a sip to drink. He replies, “if you recognized God’s gift, and who is asking for water, you would be asking him instead. And he would give you living water.” The woman, still not grasping Jesus also has something to offer her, comments that he doesn’t have a bucket. And that well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our Father Jacob are you?” she wonders. Can you hear the sarcasm in her voice?

Jesus responds by making a distinction between the well water, and the water that he offers. That well water? Drink from it and you’ll be thirsty again. But the water that I offer, Jesus says? Whoever drinks that will never thirst. And even better, he says, that water bubbles up into eternal life. The woman, now sensing the conversation is more than idle chatter, and that Jesus does have something to offer her he responds, “then give me this water!” That way I’ll never be thirsty, and never need to come back to this well!

A good love story also reveals characters for who they truly are. The identity of Jesus is slowly being revealed in this story, but so far we know next to nothing about this Samaritan woman. And that is about to change. Jesus asks this woman, oddly, to get her husband, and to come back. To which she replies, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus answers, why yes, that’s right, you do not have a husband. You’ve had five.

Now we don’t know the nature of these former relationships, and to speculate on them would be unfair to the woman. We do know that having all those husbands would have probably ostracized her; she most likely wouldn’t have too many friends. In this culture women did the water fetching, typically going twice a day, in the morning and the evening. And they’d often go together, it was a social gathering. Yet this woman appears at the well at noon, the hottest part of the day. And worse she’s alone. I think it’s fair to say she wasn’t too well connected, or well-liked, in this community.

The woman, whose identity has just been revealed, then calls Jesus a prophet. And in this role of prophet she ask him a theological question. Our ancestors worship God on one mount, she says, and your people say God should be worshipped elsewhere. Which place is correct? Where can God be found? This is no small question, and is at the core of the conflict between Samaritans and Jews.

Jesus responds that God is not confined to either spot, and that the time of salvation is coming. The woman, who seems to be catching on says, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called Christ.” Sensing she is now ready to hear, and understand his true identity Jesus replies simply, “I am. The one who speaks with you. I am.” The grand reveal, for both main characters in this love story, is now complete.

Often, in a good love story your close friends are surprised. After this grand reveal look who arrives from stage left, why it’s the disciples, back from the city, with lunch in hand. When they see Jesus, talking with the woman, they express shock. They are so shocked they are silent, leaving their questions unspoken. They wonder, scripture says, what Jesus seeks. Of course we the audience know the answer to this unspoken question: Jesus has come to meet this woman. He has gone out of his way, in time, distance, and in breaking cultural norms, to meet this woman.

And in a really, really, really good love story, one where you’re just tickled pink about this new relationship status, you want to tell everyone you know. And that’s exactly what happens. Upon learning that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the woman puts down her water jar and goes to the city. She literally leaves her water jar, which is live-giving in an earthly sense. She then runs to tell others about the living water, the eternal water, that she has now found.

The woman doesn’t just tell everyone she knows about this new love, she invites them to meet Christ too, saying, “come!” This man has told me everything I’ve ever done! And he still accepts me! If that’s not love, truly unconditional love, then I don’t know what is.

God So Loved The World
You see, this love story isn’t just between one man and one woman. It’s broader. And it isn’t only between one man and a town. It’s much, much more. We get a clue to how broad it is in the last verse of today’s gospel; those believing that day conclude Christ is truly the savior of the world. If you go back just one chapter, to John 3, verse 16 – a verse I can almost guarantee you know by heart – we remember that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. There, right there, begins the love story.

For when you’re Christ, on a mission from God, who so loved the world, you have to go to that world. You go out of your way, to meet that world in the flesh. You travel to lands you’re told you shouldn’t travel. You have conversations with people your faith tradition typically shuns. When you’re Christ, you love and accept people for who they are, no matter what. No matter how many husbands or wives they’ve had. No matter their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, creed, nationality, immigration status, ability, disability, income or lack of. When you’re Christ your love knows no boundaries. And when you’re Christ you implore others to go, and do the same.

Before we close I’d like to show you a brief video clip from the movie we spoke about earlier, Love Actually. We’ll pick up where we left off; Daniel and Sam have arrived at Heathrow airport in the hopes Sam can tell the love of his life how he feels. But of course, as with any good love story, sometimes that’s easier said than done. Let’s watch what happens next.

Close
That scene, of the father and son embracing, it hits me every time, just beautiful.

Do you like a good love story? Not just the romantic or friendship kind, but a good agape love story, a love story between you and your Creator. If so, be like Sam at the airport. Make bold moves, break some rules, and chase after this love. Make it your mission in life. Give it everything you’ve got.

And definitely be like the woman at the well. Drop that jar of water, or that bottle of water, or your spring water, or whatever earthly vessel you use. Drop it and run. Run and tell everyone you know. Amen.

 

The Magnetic Knife Strip

The Gift
A few years ago my wife gifted me the strangest of things for Christmas, a magnetic knife strip and four pairs of scissors. I remember opening the gift, looking at these five items, sitting together in a box, and giving her the best quizzical, confused look I could muster. It was very clear to me, in that moment, that my wife had simply dropped the ball. She’d run out of ideas for what makes her husband tick. I began to ponder what future Christmases would yield in the gift department, because really, when you’re getting a magnetic knife strip and scissors from your loved one, as their best effort to say, well, I Love You, you know things can only go downhill from there.

But then I listened as she explained the gift. “You’ve been selling a lot on the internet lately. I see you always misplacing and looking for scissors when packaging things up. Maybe this will help you get more organized.” She was right, I thought, maybe, tho honestly after some effort I can always find scissors, no matter how misplaced they may be. It still seemed like a dumb gift.

The Installation
We set about finding a good place to mount the magnetic knife strip with its new supply of scissors, which ended up being right next the office computer. And also within arms reach of the boxes, bubble wrap, tape and printer labels I use to ship those packages. As I stood there, appreciating the handiwork of mounting the magnetic knife strip to the wall – a knife strip that holds no knives – and then hanging scissors to it, I began to ponder that perhaps this isn’t the most horrible gift after all.

And that is exactly what the gift has come to be.

The Result
In these past few years I’ve ended up using this magnetic knife strip, with the hanging scissors attached to it, almost daily, religiously replacing the scissors after each use. It has become as super convenient as my wife imagined, and likely saved me countless hours, and significant frustration, always looking for those oft misplaced cutting implements. Over time the magnetic knife strip’s utility has only grown; besides the original intent it now also houses a ruler, screwdrivers, a tape measure, and pliers too. In that time it’s evolved into my go-to spot, not just for shipping, but for cutting, measuring and fixing. I have come to absolutely love it. What I’d quickly judged initially as a bad gift has turned into, besides our two children, one of the best gifts my wife has ever gifted her husband.

So what changed? Well, over time, me. I needed to change. I needed to get more organized. But before then, before the shipping, and measuring, and fixing this magnet now encourages, there was my wife. She saw something in me, that organizational need, and went out of her way to help me with that exact deficit. She saw me for what I was, the chaotic, harried shipper, and set about to help make that into something more. She knew me, in short, better than I knew myself. She still does.

In Luke 12 scripture tells us that God too knows us deeply, even down to an ability to count the very number of hairs on our head. As a middle aged guy with a slowly receding hairline, that’s a constantly changing number, and unfortunately a dwindling one. God knows that number, keeping up with it in real time, even as it, at least for me, decreases. Such a mundane fact it seems, but also showing how intimately, how precisely the Divine knows us.

The scripture narrative in Luke 12 also talks of sparrows and small coins, little things. Yet these little things matter, and are cared for, by God. How much more are we worth, it continues, than sparrows, being cared for, and known, so deeply by our Creator?

So while I’m better organized now than in years past, I continue to be a work in progress. God knows, along with my slowly receding hairline, all about that, and knows so much more. And God sent a special partner, and gifted her with this insight, then setting about helping her to help her spouse in the most specific of ways. Like the brilliance of pairing a magnetic cutting board with scissors, all in the hopes of helping her husband become a better man. And for this, both to the Divine, and for my divinely awesome wife, I give thanks.

Dear Lord, thank you for the knowledge, and the intimacy you know us by, from the counting of hairs on our head, to what makes us tick, to at times even our unknown need of what to mount in the office. Thank you for this knowledge, and care, and for sending people all around us, to help show this care to us in the flesh. Give us eyes to see your handiwork all around us, for it is indeed there, in ways great and small. And give us your eyes, to help others, seeing them as your children, helping them, as guided by you. Amen.

A World Without God

During men’s Bible study this morning, right in the middle of reading the book of John, a friend asked this question to the group, “Can you imagine a world without the Bible?” The question quickly broadened, first to imagining a world without religion, before finally settling on the big kahuna, can you imagine a world without God?

I struggled to create this imagined reality in my head, and have been unable to shake this notion ever since.

What would a world without God be like?

With

Most every world religion has some variation of the Golden Rule; that we are to do unto one another as we would have done unto us.  God, or the notion of God, takes us beyond our little corner of reality, beyond the particular lens of the world we have been exposed to, and the lens we choose to see the world through, and says, like any good infomercial:

BUT WAIT.  THERE’S MORE.

There’s more to this life than meets the eye.  There’s more than just your reality.  You aren’t just here by accident.  You have purpose, you have meaning.  You were put on this earth to live in right relationship with all of creation.  For God didn’t just make you.  Or just your gender, or your race, or your IQ or socioeconomic status, or any other way you may choose to self-identify what makes you, you.

A world with God is a world linked.   A world linked to something much bigger than just you.  A world inextricably linked with every other human and creature on the planet.  God created it, and deemed it good.  And in that world you share common genetic makeup, common DNA, that binds you, now and forever, with the triumphs, failures and challenges of every other human on this planet.  A world linked is not one with winners or losers, but one of shared problems.  And shared solutions.  When one suffers we all suffer.  For one to succeed, in this big family tree, we all must.

Without

Now imagine the alternative.  A world without God.  What would that look like?  A world without God takes away this notion of a shared humanity.  Takes away our shared DNA, our shared family tree.  It takes away our responsibility to care for one another.

And in its place?  We are left, to varying degrees, isolated.  We are left only associating with people that look, act or think like us.  Or share our same country.  Or political party.  We are left divided.  We are left broken.  We are left with winners, and losers, and finger pointing.  And shouting.  And anger.  Oh anger, you nastiest of demons, pitting us against one another until no one is left standing.  You are a nasty, nasty thing, anger.  Ultimately, when left to our own devices, and bound by our own self-imposed governance of self-interest we are simply left.  Left alone.  Humanity, outside of the walls we impose on ourselves, matters not.

With

But life doesn’t have to be ruled by our own self interests.  And our living certainly doesn’t have to be lived alone.  God created us, and all things, as good.  As difficult as it can be to see that some days, with God, with common purpose, this doing unto others, unto our brothers and sisters as we would have done unto us, unifies.  It creates a sense that the well-being of all, really and truly does matter.

The apostle Paul in Galatians echoes this oneness, finding that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor male or female, for you are all one in Christ.

And Martin Luther King, in his famed I Have A Dream speech, wishes this unity on his own children, that, one day, they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  Here he saw the world for what it was, and is, as broken, and chose to live into another reality.

On this day, a more emotionally charged day than most, I choose to keep God in the center of our world.  I choose to live into God’s shared, common purpose for us.  A shared purpose that values the humanity of all.  As Paul does, I choose to value oneness, over labels of race, gender, or status.   As Martin Luther King does, I dare to dream.  To dream that the content of our character matters, deeply.  I choose to turn down a world without God that, left to our own devices pits us against each other in every possible way.  Instead I choose to live into our one, common, shared humanity, complete with all the high ideals, tribulations and joys that entails.  In short, I choose unity.  May it be so.

Spirit of Paul

The movement of the Holy Spirit can be found throughout human history, from creation, through Jesus, the disciples, the apostle Paul, and up to today in the here and now, through people like you and me.  This five-part series is a retelling of those stories, and starts when the beginning begun.  Missed the beginning?  Rewind to part 1

While God was thrilled with all Jesus had done on earth, and the disciples seemed to be making inroads forming the early Church, God knew those disciples had their limitations.  For one, they formed councils and groups for almost any major decision, sometimes crowding out the chance for the Spirit to do her thing.  For another, on occasion they could be such a motley, indecisive crew, especially Peter, who was best known for being a bit brash, cutting off ears and denying Christ at the most inopportune times.

Then there was the writing.  Or said differently there was the lack of writing.  These disciples were great fishers of men, but most couldn’t read, much less write.  Their stories would be carried on for decades orally before being jotted down.  God was looking for someone to start this New Testament sooner than that.  And looking for someone to see the risen Christ with a fresh set of eyes, be deeply moved, and write letters that leapt off the scroll when read, all to encourage these early communities of faith.  And to help document, for eternity, what exactly the Holy Spirit was up to in a post-resurrection world.  Yes folks, God knew what was needed next: God was looking for a writer.

And not just any writer, but one willing to go to cities big and small, near and far, be embraced, be shunned, be imprisoned.   And of course be willing to jot it all down for the world to see.  God searched and searched for the right person, eventually settling on Paul.  To seal the deal God asked Jesus to meet Paul, who went by Saul before seeing the Light on the road to Damascus.  You can read more about this encounter, and the early adventures of Saul turned Paul, in Acts chapter 9.

The next turning point for Paul, after meeting Jesus, was when he was infused with the Holy Spirit in Acts 9:17.  Once blind, now he could see, and began to preach of Jesus, and the work of the Spirit he saw all around.

Paul, a learned man, spoke of the Spirit differently than anyone before him.  For one, Paul, being both Jewish and a Roman citizen, could connect with many and varied audiences in person and in his letters.  This broad perspective led him to famously tell the church of Galatia that, in Christ, there is “no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one” (Gal 3:28).  It’s almost as if Paul is reaching back to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, describing how Christ has broken even more barriers that separated God’s people.  It wasn’t just language barriers the Spirit was removing, it was the barriers of race and ethnicity, affluence and poverty, even gender.  Paul, guided by the Spirit, moved from an encounter with Christ, as orchestrated by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and was about to change the world.

One approach Paul took to explaining the movement of the Holy Spirit – one among many — is through the concepts of faith, hope, and love.  He builds a case for faith from the Old Testament, writing in Romans 4:13 that “the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” He expands on this to consider how one lives by faith, saying in Galatians 2:20 that “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” For Paul, living by faith is an essential ingredient to experience this new life in Christ.

Paul too was man of hopeHe reaches a rhetorical climax on the implications of hope in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, concluding that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Why all the optimism, Paul? Aren’t you constantly in trouble with the law, often ending up behind bars, wasting away? He gives us a hint about the source of this optimism in Romans 8:11, reminding us that “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  No wonder you’re hopeful Paul, the Spirit of Christ is in you. And in all of us.

When it comes to understanding the importance of love in Paul’s Spirit theology it’s hard to top 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. In modern terms it’s easy to envision the apostle walking around in a tye dye shirt, Jesus sandals, giving lots of hugs and high fives and passing the peace pipe. The love chapter first describes the importance of love, with Paul suggesting you can be the best speaker, the brightest visionary, the most giving philanthropist or even a martyr, but if you don’t have love, well, you are nothing. Whoa, that kind of sounds important. Paul continues, telling us in chapter 13, verse 7 that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Does that understanding of love remind you of anyone?  Remind you of any particular event? Reflecting on this my mind wanders, ever so slightly, to the cross.

Spirit of the Disciples

The movement of the Holy Spirit can be found throughout human history, from creation, through Jesus, the disciples, the apostle Paul, and up to today in the here and now, through people like you and me.  This five-part series is a retelling of those stories, and starts when the beginning begun.  Missed the beginning?  Rewind to part 1

But Jesus was only on the earth for 34 short years.  After he left the Holy Spirit would need to change yet again, God realized.  For one thing, the disciples were always getting scared, especially after Jesus had died.  At one point they huddled together behind locked doors, gripped with fear (John 20:19).  It certainly seemed like the apostles could use some comfort, God thought.  Jesus knew his disciples well, and fortunately knew they’d need a hand when He had left them.  Jesus promised his disciples a helper, a comforter, telling them that the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you many things and remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).  If only it were that easy.

The disciples, in typical fashion, didn’t remember this promise, and continued to live in fear.  This fear subsided, at least for a time, as the disciples huddled in the upper room after Christ had ascended to the heavens.  God decided to fulfill the promise his Son made to the disciples by again using some elemental flair, this time through wind and fire.  First a wind came from heaven, filling the house.  Tongues of fire then descended and came to rest on each and every one of them.  What’s more the disciples were guided by the Spirit to speak in other tongues (Acts 2), which must have surprised just about everyone gathered there that day.  The Spirit of the Disciples now helped people connect with each other in new tongues and in new ways, all through the language of the divine.

Perhaps most importantly, not only did the Spirit descend on the disciples, but the disciples believed they were now endowed by the Spirit, sent from God, and mediated to them by the risen Christ.  It is this belief, that the Spirit was with them, that enabled the early Church to first form, then flourish.

The Spirit in Jesus’ life reminds me of the Parable of the Sower found in Mark (4:3-20), Matthew (13:1-23) and Luke (8:4-15).  In the parable the sower scatters the seeds, but not all fall on fertile soil.  While we model Christ in sowing seeds of the kingdom, could where they fall and what comes of them be considered an action of the Spirit?  In this way the Spirit is the wind that scatters seeds from Christ’s hands, the fertile soil it falls onto, the rain that draws life from a tiny pod, and the sun that grows us upward.  Upward, and upward, bringing us closer, once again, to our Creator.