2015-03-01 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Echo the Story #26 of 36: Parables
Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
“Laying Down the Story”
For 25 weeks we have been echoing the story and
…today’s story comes to us in the form of a parable.
The greek word for parable is “parabole”…to lay something alongside another thing.
And after the TSN turning point of the mount of transfiguration, Jesus starts to reveal himself to the peoples across Jerusalem and the Galileean countryside…and rather than declaring that the kingdom of God is here…Jesus starts to tell stories about the kingdom. In order to make it here & now, he starts “laying down” stories about the “stuff of earth” – – things that would be familiar to these 1st century hearers…wind, wheat, rock, flour…and in today’s parable, Jesus sits down on the bow of a fishing boat and talks of a wildly, extravagant, and prodigal sower.
Jesus shouts to the crowd: LISTEN!
Remember when I taught you to pray for the kingdom? Your kingdom come, O gracious Abba, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
The kingdom of heaven is like a wasteful and reckless seed sower!
No whiff of a miser here…this sower is extravagant!
He walks hither and yon, throwing fistfuls of seed without measure and without discernment.
[imagine…when was a time when you loved someone sharing things with reckless abandon? Did you feel the need for him/her to “hem it in?” Hope not!]
Some seeds fall on the path.
Other seeds fall on rocky ground.
Other seeds fall among thorns.
Other seeds fall on good soil.
Let anyone with ears…listen!
Hours later, the 12 disciples gather around a fire, cooking fish over hot coals…and John asks: “Teach us more of the parable.”
[use Luke 8:11ff here]
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.
As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.
But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
* * * *
This is one of Jesus’ most talked about parables. Right from the 1st century, even the disciples couldn’t quite get it (they took 3 “runs” at it!)…and so they told 3 different versions of the story in 3 different gospels…and that’s the great thing about parables, it’s not a story that has 1 correct interpretation…remember, it’s something we lay alongside our lives, not a rulebook that we measure our lives against (this is important! We are not rule-keepers, we are people keepers!).
2 important notes:
– The extravagant sower = God
– The seed is the Word of God = Jesus
* * * *
With these perspectives in mind, “let it lay…”
In this Lenten season, we’ve talked of giving up…or giving away…
And with this story, perhaps the posture for the coming week is to “lay alongside”…
Allow this parable to “lay alongside” your life.
Don’t try to lord over this story. Don’t try to wring the life out of it. Don’t try to beat meaning out of it.
Lay it alongside your life.
And then in the stillness…in the silence…in the waiting and paying attention, put your ears on…turn up the notch on your “Holy Ghost Hearing aids” and listen for the invitation to respond.
And listen in such a way that it feels like something is actually growing inside of you.
Pray that the evil one doesn’t snatch the thought away before you hear it.
Don’t look for the easy, joyous, noisy response.
Try to let go of the cares of the world…the anxieties that overwhelm your heart…the lure of wealth that chokes the life out of you…
“Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, Jesus tells us: “many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (vv. 16-17).
As we allow this story to lay alongside the good soil of our hearts, see what grows.
But how will we know what good soil responses ought to look like?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith…gentleness and self-control…
* * * * *
And let’s keep this story as GOOD NEWS!
Yes, God hopes for good soil…but the reality is that on any given week, the “landscape of our lives” is full of all 4 soils is it not?
I’m always thinking of new names for our church in light of the sermon text…this week, it was “F.S.B.C.” Four Soils Baptist Church. Yeah, I know we’d all like it to be called “Good Soil Baptist” or something like that…but really?
We are 4 soils Baptists! Lots of times we might be able to say we’re good soil…but at other times, we’re like a hot, scorched path…or a rocky road…or a thorny briar (filled with anxiety and the worries of the world)…
And good news, God recklessly, relentlessly and wastefully (and might I add joyfully?) keeps on throwing Jesus seed on us.
And Jesus is the seed that keeps on growing…the one who is formed in us…
THUS….spiritual formation, or fruit formation is NOT a try-harder-DIY-affair.
So…I say it again…lay this story alongside your life…
And in the stillness of time, even right now…
Or as you spend time in silence during the pauses that happen as we come to the Table of the Lord this morning…
LOOK! Blessed are your eyes, for they see!
LISTEN! Blessed are your ears, for they hear!
UNDERSTAND! Blessed are your hearts, for they heal! (see v. 15b “And I would heal them”)
One of my favourite prayers to help in the practice of seeing, hearing, understanding is from Ephesians 1:18:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
When Barbara Brown Taylor preaches on this parable, she talks of the “extravagant sower who will not be fazed”…she talks of the generosity of our maker…who is not cautious, or judgmental, or even very practical…who seems willing to keep reaching in his seed bag for all eternity, covering the whole creation with the fertile seed of his truth…
She imagines the sower pushing his cap back on his head and laughing…guffawing….and the story goes like this:
…Laughing and wheezing he went after his seed pouch and began flinging seeds everywhere: into the roots of trees, onto the roof of his house, across all his fences and into his neighbors’ fields. He shook seeds at his cows and offered a handful to the dog; he even tossed a fistful into the creek, thinking they might take root downstream somewhere. The more he sowed, the more he seemed to have. None of it made any sense to him, but for once that did not seem to matter, and he had to admit that he had never been happier in all his life.
Let those who have ears to hear, hear.