Text and image by Rick McVicar
Jesus embraces inclusion and diversity when he returns to a lake to deliver his Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-8, NIV).
The story is full of nature references, beginning with Jesus entering a boat to keep a safe distance from a crowd gathering "along the shore at water’s edge” (4:1). Mark’s phrasing suggests water lapping at people’s feet as Jesus speaks, a metaphor for how Jesus’ words reach the ears of his listeners. Jesus’ words do not come in waves.
No, instead Jesus' words gently lap, tickle and tease with parables that begin as puzzles and end as profound lessons.
The lake reference is repeated so often in Mark’s gospel that it must be recognized as a major theme. Previously, Jesus began choosing disciples by going to the Sea of Galilee, telling Simon and Andrew they would be fishers of people (1:16-18). We can only guess what is in Mark’s water well that he draws upon the lake reference so often.
In a devotional provided by www.saltproject.org, the Hebrew book of Jonah is suggested as a reference for Mark. The book tells of the prophet Jonah being sent to preach to the people of Ninevah, who Jonah hated. Jonah jumps a ship to escape God’s mission but ends up being swallowed by a giant fish. The prophet returns to dry land to complete God’s mission, which results in the people of Ninevah turning to God. Despite Johnah's disdain, diversity and inclusion win the day.
So with all the lake, sea and fish references, Mark drives home the message that Jesus intentionally preaches to people who are typically hated. Lake references in Mark are clearly anti-hate, whether it is anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, ableism, anti-LGBTQ+ or anti-nature. Diversity and inclusion are central to Jesus' mission.
Here again in Mark’s Gospel, justice and environmentalism are comingled into an ethic of inclusion for both nature and humankind. With that in mind, I hope you have artful health today.
Click on image to go to animated poetry about the Parable of the Sower (YouTube).