Hanging in the Timken Museum, The Parable of the Sower , by Pieter Bruegel the Elder beautifully captures the story Jesus told to explain the inexplicable. If you haven’t read it recently, you can here. In this parable, Jesus revealed how God’s transcendent rule, his Kingdom, manifests itself in our world. God breaking into human existence is the sacred moment, we hope to use it as an example to explain how lesser sacred moments can be appreciated in our lives.
The parable is simple. A sower, like the one pictured above, scatters seeds. Some seeds fall on the path and the birds eat it up. Other seeds fall on the rocky soil, small plants grow, but since their roots cannot dig deep, they quickly wither. Still other seeds fall among weeds, which choke out the new plants, keeping them immature. Finally, some fall among good soil and the plants produce fruit.
The ground where the seeds land is presented as four different types – as a path, as rocky soil, as soil with weeds in it and as good soil. These are four general ways we can relate to the sacred moments that are happening all around us.
- The seeds that fell on the path are missed opportunities; we don’t realize the possibility for the time changing moments around us. We miss these moments without ever engaging with them. This experience is most common today because we rarely reflect on our days, choosing instead the comfort of omnipresent entertainment.
- The second soil is when we experience a sacred moment and we begin to order ourselves to live in them more, but due to their counter cultural nature, we aren’t able to sustain our posture towards them. As time goes on, we remember the sacred time as neat memories, but not much more.
- The weeds described by Jesus in the parable hold particular meaning for us today. They are the Ordinary we fill our time with every day. Deceitful riches, worries and cares of life choke the sacred opportunities around us. As the seeds produce fruit, sacred moments produce more sacred moments and the capacity to experience them deeply. How do we spend our time? Are we too exhausted from “just getting by” we have no capacity to concentrate, to listen to each other or to reflect on the course of our days?
- The final seed is what we are hoping we all choose. It is when we experience the deep connection with a spouse, a friend, a child or with Jesus, and instead, of treating this as a part of life, seeing this as life. We order our time to hope for continued love and devotion, new experiences of intimacy. When we pursue sacred seconds like we desire money, we clear our soil of the ordinary that takes our time away from the extraordinary.
Today is a sacred day – Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day. These days were put into the calendar to wake us up from our routine, to bring us out of our habits, to let us renew our pursuit of what we all know matters most. On Valentines Day, we move our focus from ourselves towards those we love. This alone does not guarantee a sacred moment, but it opens up the possibility. If it occurs, we have the choice to continue serving our beloveds or fading back into ordinary, self-centered interactions. On Ash Wednesday, we begin a journey, Lent, where we examine our lives to see if we are living by the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember how Jesus lifted up humanity by becoming one of us, the least of us. During Lent, we choose to imitate, in any way we can, the sacrifice He made for us.
Of course, we do not have to wait for these seasons to arrange our days. Every day, we can begin to live in expectation of the sacred breaking into our time. Here’s a quick list of practices to try.
1. Cancel the internet for one month. You might like it. 2. Study something that won’t make you more money. 3. Read a book aloud to whomever you sleep around. 4. Enjoy an unrushed meal with someone. 5. Pray every hour on the hour. 6. Listen not as a technique, but in truth. 7. Give less effort at your work if you are use to giving it your best. 8. Put your whole self into your work if you typically don’t. 9. Create something: write, sing, build and stick with it. 10. Humble yourself and serve those you love.