Sunday, July 6, 2014

Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23: A Surprising Look at the Sower

Nine times out of ten, the art asssociated with the gospel reading for Sunday, July 13, will be pastoral in the agrarian sense of that word. Vincent Van Gogh painted several versions of the sower figure based on earlier work by Jean-Francois Millet. A search for either or both of these painters and their work will provide many examples and analyses.

Rather than focusing on the productive farmer in the golden glow of sunlight, let's consider a different approach to the story. One that focuses on the seed being sown. In the gospel reading (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23), Jesus tells the parable of the sower and provides an interpretation of the various outcomes of broadcast sowing. The hearers would no doubt concur that we all desire to be the good soil - that we hear and understand and give a good yield when we hear the word of God.

The assumption of the goodness of fertile ground embraces an assumption that what is being sown is the Word of God. What if, though, in different circumstances, what is sown is far from God's word? What kind of soil does that message find? Do we hope and trust that those seeds will find fertile ground?

Usually when you see the work of American Regionalist artist Thomas Hart Benton, you will see his more typical subjects: scenes of American life and landscape. His style is recognizable in the landscapes and figures whose curves are almost to the point of distortion. But in 1942, Benton created eight paintings on the dangers of the brutal totalitarian governments of the Axis powers. His work "The Sowers" (below) shows three hulking figures sowing skulls. The figures sow with the expectation that more skulls will grow from these "seeds".
NARA Still Picture Branch (NWDNS-44-PA-1966). Online at:

What happens when these are the seeds being sown? Do we hope for a good yield from such seeds? Do we hope for large fields of fertile ground to nurture such seeds? The soil isn't the only important part of the story. The seeds must be taken into consideration as well.

Visit Art&Faith Matters on Facebook for a more playful approach to this subject.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the idea of your FB page - but when I looked, every second or third post was "Sexy Porn" which I'm sure is not what you want. Hope you can find a way to deal with this.