A farmer goes forth to sow seed and—carefully, meticulously—prepares the ground, removing all rocks and weeds, sowing one seed six inches from another? No. The farmer, without preparation, begins slinging seed. A dragnet is hauled into the boat full of creatures both good and bad. Should the catch be sorted, separating the good from the bad? No. The Master is more impressed with the size of the haul than with the quality of the harvest. One day, not today, it will all be sorted.
A field is planted with good seed. But a perverse enemy sows weeds in the field. Should we cull the wheat from the weeds? No. The Master says that someday he will judge good from bad, but we are not to bother ourselves with such sorting today. The Master seems to be more into careless sowing, miraculous growing, and reckless harvesting than in taxonomy of the good from the bad, the worthwhile from the worthless, the saved from the damned.
“Which one of you?” to paraphrase Jesus’ questions in Luke 15, “having lost one sheep will not leave the ninety-nine sheep to fend for themselves in the wilderness and beat the bushes until you find the one lost sheep? Which one of you will not put that sheep on your shoulders like a lost child and say to your friends, ‘Come party with me’? Which one of you would not do that?”
“Which of you women,” Jesus continues, “if you lose a quarter will not rip up the carpet and strip the house bare and when you have found your lost coin run into the street and call to your neighbors, ‘Come party with me, I found my quarter!’ Which one of you would not do that?”
And which of you fathers, having two sons, the younger of whom leaves home, blows all your money, comes dragging back home in rags, will not throw the biggest bash this town has ever seen, singing, “This son of mine was dead but is now alive!” Which one of you would not do that?
And which of you, journeying down the Jericho Road, upon seeing a perfect stranger lying in the ditch half dead, bleeding, would not risk your life, put the injured man in the backseat of your Jaguar, take him to the hospital, spend every dime you have on his recovery, and more. Which of you would not do that?
The answer is that none of us would behave in this unseemly, reckless, and extravagant way. These are not stories about us. These are God’s stories—God the searching shepherd, the careless farmer, the undiscerning fisherman, the reckless woman, the extravagant father, the prodigal Samaritan. Jesus thus reveals a God who is no discrete minimalist. Abundance is in the nature of this God. So when Jesus, confronted by the hunger of the multitudes (Mark 8), took what his disciples had and blessed it, there was not only enough to satisfy the hungry ones but also a surplus, more than enough. Jesus demonstrates a surfeit that is at the heart of all God-given reality.
From The Best of Will Willimon (Abingdon, 2012. Check out Will’s novel, Incorporation, a wild ride through the contemporary church – satire and slapstick with serious theological intent. Available from Cascade Press https://wipfandstock.com/store/incorporation.