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Parable of the Sower | May 5, 2024 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake

 


 

All that you touch

you Change.

 

All that you Change

Changes you.

 

The only lasting truth

Is Change.

 

God

is Change.

 

The quote is from Octavia Butler’s novel, Parable of the Sower, a powerful, disturbing, and redeeming novel. Butler is considered one of the pioneers in the Afrofuturist Movement. Although written in 1993, the novel begins in the future year of 2024. Due to the nation’s continued dismissing of the reality of climate change, poverty, and exploitation, it is in a mess, a mess more horrible than I could imagine.

 

The unfolding of the narrative is based on a journal kept by teen Lauren Oya Olamina. The community in which she lives is disinherited far beyond what Dr. Howard Thurman describes in his book, Jesus and the Disinherited. Poverty, oppression, corruption by police, and fear of invaders from beyond her little walled community pervade the daily lives of those living there. Yet, they are better off in a twisted sense than those who live on the other side of the wall. These pyro people are addicted to fire, burning people and houses, stealing from the dead, and possessing nothing that we would consider marks of humanity. The citizens keep armed watch against the possibility of these depraved creatures entering the walled-off enclave.

 

Lauren’s father, a Baptist Minister, is in many ways the glue that holds the community together. Lauren respects her father while questioning much of his Christian understanding. After several disappearances of community members, the community is on edge. One day Lauren’s father does not return home. He is presumably dead. Months later, the pyro maniacs sack Lauren’s town of Robledo. The town is torched. Most inhabitants are killed including her stepmother and brothers. Rather than heading south to Los Angeles, which is close by, Lauren heads north hoping that somehow she, her two residential friends, and the strangers who will join her on her trek north would find “paying” work.

 

Walking, they journeyed past the Bay Area. All along the way, she makes entries into her journal. The entries are about a new belief system and community she hopes to establish. The belief system is based on the idea that God is Change, the only lasting truth, and that humanity should “Shape God” so that God can be more relevant in and to the lives of the people. She calls this belief system: Earthseed – seeding the earth, sowing what must grow to fruition in themselves/ourselves and the future.

 

Rev. Cecil Williams incarnated this idea that God is change in his ministry of personal and social change. He enthusiastically felt that the yearnings for dignity and freedom residual within the wombs of people – a longing for personal and social transformation – could be fortified. The closeted self could be liberated and sustained by God. He related a story about an associate he hadn’t seen in years approaching him in a negative tone stating “My, you’ve changed.”  He responded: “My, you haven’t changed.” Just as he had changed so many lives through his ministry, he had also been changed. He took down the cross in Glide Church’s sanctuary because he felt that it led people to worship death rather than life. His title was the Minister of Liberation and Celebration.

 

Isn’t life about change? We have not the same body we had in our earlier years. Hopefully, our minds have expanded. Why shouldn’t our God change as we have changed? Tagore informs us that when we were children, God became a child, a playmate. God the playmate was the source of wanderings, mental, physical, and spiritual. God was the imagination, the fantasizing, the play that brought joy and ease to life, crossing strangulating boundaries. Do you see God the same way you did when you were fourteen? What happened along the way that guided you into a different understanding of God? Did your search for and experience of the genuine in yourself alter your notion of the punishing, self-righteous, and law-bearing God?

 

Yes. The human spirit longs for constancy, for stability in the form of things that don’t change, and for God to be omnipresent so that we are assured that God is with us in the most difficult hours and needful situations. The author of the hymn Abide with Me calls for constancy. The stable presence of God is to be there at the time of the profound change in life that death is. The second stanza reads:

 

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;

earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away.

Change and decay in all around I see.

O thou who changest not,

abide with me.

 

This desire is not a contradiction with the concept that God is change. My brother James understood this. Within the constancy of God, there was change which he accepted. The “God is Change” idea is seeded within God as All-pervading and dependable.

 

Rilke pens:

 

Impermanence plunges us into the depth of all Being. And so all forms of the present are not to be taken and bound in time, but held in a larger context of meaning in which we participate. I don't mean this in a Christian sense (from which I ever more passionately distance myself) but in a sheer earthly, deep earthly, sacred earthly consciousness: that what we see here and now is to bring us into a wider—indeed, the very widest—dimension. Not in an afterlife whose shadow darkens the earth, but in a whole that is the whole.


I regularly visit a passage in The Growing Edge for sustenance and renewal.  It speaks profoundly to what I have tried to convey.


Look well to the growing edge! All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of the child — life’s most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!


This speaks of change unfolding within that which is constant. Worlds are dying but there are still worlds. Life is dying and life is being born anew. There shall be new leaves.  There shall be fresh blossoms and green fruit.  There shall be the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This dynamic of life pouring into death and death pouring into life, of constancy pouring into change and change pouring into constancy is the basis of hope to carry us forward when we don’t seem to know who we are, where we stand, or the next step to take when times are out of joint and we feel like giving up but afraid to do so.

 

In the Activist’s Tao Te Ching, these words appear.

 

Change does not come

from eloquence or persuasion.

When injustice is the rule,

Justice always lies in wait.

Where oppression flourishes,

Freedom ever lurks.

When death is the threat,

life springs into being.

The darkness of power,

            unknowing, contains the seeds

of a bright new light. ...

 

 

Olamina’s band finally arrived at a place each agreed might be salvageable although it had been burned, abandoned, and had dead bodies clearly in sight. The place had been the home of one of the traveler’s sister and brother-in-law.


Depressing as it was, Olamina thought it was a place where they could shape God, where they could be a community, an Earthseed community with the values she had shared along the journey. She said to one of the other members: “It might survive, changed but still itself.


Another other member responded: “No.”  . . . “Human beings will survive of course.  Some other countries will survive.  Maybe they’ll absorb what’s left of us. Or maybe we’ll break up into a lot of little states quarreling and fighting with each other over whatever crumbs are left. That’s almost happened now with states shutting themselves off from one another, treating state lines as national borders. …I don’t think you can understand what we’ve lost.  Perhaps, that’s a blessing.

 

Later, Olamina would speak again:

 

So today we remembered the friends and the family members we’ve lost. We spoke our individual memories and quoted Bible passages, Earthseed verses, and bits of songs and poems that were favorites of the living or the dead.

Then we buried our dead and we planted oak trees.

Afterward, we sat together and talked and ate a meal and decided to call this place Acorn.

 

The author Olivia Butler adds this final Biblical touch to the ending of the novel.

 

A sower went out to sow his seed:

and as he sowed, some fell by the

way side; and it was trodded down,

and the fowls of the air devoured

it. And some fell upon a rock; and

as soon as it was sprung up, it

withered away because it lacked

moisture. And some fell among

thorns; and the thorns sprang up

with it and choked it. And others

fell on good ground, and sprang up,

and bore fruit an hundredfold.




 

All that you touch

you Change.

 

All that you Change

Changes you.

 

The only lasting truth

Is Change.

 

God

is Change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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