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Friday, July 8, 2011

Proper 10.A after Pentecost in Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:1-23

13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!” 10Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.17Truly I tell you, 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. 18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Prayer
Creator God, unceasingly at work in the field of humanity sowing the good seed and awaiting its yield, let your Spirit move in power over us to transform our hearts into the good soil you seek. Then may your word bear fruit a undredfold in our deeds of justice and peace, and thus reveal to a world that eagerly awaits its liberation the blessed hope and glorious freedom of your reign.We ask this through our lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

Prayers for Sundays and Seasons, Year A, LTP, edited by Peter J. Scagnelli

Some Thoughts

The setting for this parable is on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. There are many people following Jesus now and they are pressing in on him. He is offering them something they are not receiving elsewhere. He is perhaps helping them see that the world does not have to be the way it is and that the reign of God is at hand. He is sharing with them his vision of the kingdom of God and inviting them to realize that the change begins in their own lives. This band of disciples and Jesus are living on the edge of the culture and of their faith but here they are finding companionship along the way. Herein on the Sea of Galilee they are finding that perhaps there are many who feel they live on the edge.

As the people press in on Jesus he gets in a boat and begins to teach them from this place. One can imagine the people sitting along the edge amidst fishermen repairing their nets and boats. They sit and stand and listen.

Jesus chooses a very pastoral parable. Parables of course are stories with many possible meanings. Martin Luther said that one must depend upon the Holy Spirit to open their deep meaning to the person listening. Jesus even says:

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

It is probably worth spending a little time this Sunday teaching about what parables are and the nature of them. Many people have heard them, but most people don't really know what they are; how many they are; or that they were a natural part of teaching during Jesus time.

The text is divided into two parts. The first is the actual teaching, and the the explanation of the teaching. Both are important and both have their place, but I would suggest to you that you must choose to deal with Jesus' parable or Jesus' teaching of the parable.

Let us simply go over the teaching of the parable by Jesus first. Certainly people in Jesus time were more connected with their food sources and where their food comes from. Unlike us today, most of them would have had small gardens. Certainly there was a growing dependance upon farmers, but unlike the industrial age when we see whole economies depend upon foreign food production, people in the time of Jesus all farmed a little. So it is easy to understand his teaching. The sowers sows the seed this is the good news. The ground is us. We can be fruitful or not. We can be like the hard ground, the rocks, or the thorns. We can let birds come and gather it up. These are hard times and much can happen. Here is what Jesus says:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.

But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”


I think those gathered around Jesus heard this parable and thought about God. Perhaps some of the more religiously astute remember the prophecy of JEroboam from 1 Kings 14:7-11. In this story the prophet Ahijah tells Jeroboam that because he abandoned God and worshipped false Gods that he and his household will suffer for their evil ways and and that the birds of the air will peck at them upon their death. It is the same for King Baasha. So there was some understanding by the population that this birds of the air was not a good thing at all!

It is not a difficult thing to think that God is the sower, receive the good news and reign of God and don't let anything happen to it...nurture it...water it...and for goodness sakes be good ground. At the end of the day if every one of our people sitting in the pew on Sunday morning got that much (be good earth for the Gospel) we would be off to a grand start.

I think there is more there though that is worth looking at and going a little deeper. Here we see that listening and doing are important and key to discipleship work.

A disciple is not one who abandons the quest.
A disciple is not one who listens lightly and then returns to his life as though nothing has changed.
A disciple is one who will be persecuted for their faith.and if not prepared the Gospel will not have rooted itself deep enough o withstand pressure to relent.

These are some key discipleship thoughts. I am interested though in what happens when we take Jesus' last words here and return to the parable to hear it again for the first time.

Jesus says, "But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

Does the one who hears, who understands it, then bears fruit not in turn like the sower. A fruit tree itself is a sower of fruits and seeds. They fall and land every which way. The fruit tree produces a hundredfold. Yet all of it does not grow new fruit trees just like the original sower of seeds. In this way the disciple becomes like the master, the assistant gardener like the master gardener.

In this way the human being who was created to be God's partner in the garden, tending and walking with God in the end of the day is restored. The disciple returns to the work we were originally created to undertake. We are to be, like Jesus, sowers of the seeds of the kingdom of God. We are to sow with abandonment. We are to sow in all kinds of places. We are to not worry about what grows up but it is the production of fruit and the propagation of the Gospel that is essential.

In our work places, in our homes, in our families you and I are to bear the fruit of the Gospel. Which for Jesus is very clear. We are to be the family of God. We are to care for young and old, rich and poor, the powerless and the powerful. We are to bring all to a closer knowledge of God and of his son Jesus Christ. We are to so proclaim the Good News that those around us find the transformation they are seeking.

If we are to go deeper...if we are to go beyond a gnostic understanding of this gospel text where some get it and others don't...then we ourselves must become sowers of the Gospel seed.


One flew off in the belly of a bird.
One sprang up, but withered fast.
One choked by thistles, or so I've heard.
One gained a hundred when it was cast.

Come hear the wise old story
Of a sower and his seed.
He flung it far to fall,
Then battled bird and weed.
Some seed sprouted quickly,
Then withered in the sun--
But some seed fell upon good soil,
And repaid the work he'd done.

But nothing can start growing,
Until we begin sowing.

Gospel Seed, that's what we need,
\Gospel Seed, sweet Lord, we plead.
Draw deep truth from God's own word,
Cast it far until its heard.
Gospel Seed, new life within,
Gospel Seed, some soul we'll win.
Nothing's growing till we're sowing
Gospel Seed.

Sun and rain and time pass by,
And what was sown awakes.
First the blade, then the bud,
Then full ear it makes.
Come now golden harvest,
We'll reap what we have sown.
Seed once watered by our tears
Will be glad sheaves brought home.

But nothing can start growing,
Until we begin sowing.

Gospel Seed, that's what we need,
Gospel Seed, sweet Lord, we plead.
Draw deep truth from God's own word,
Cast it far until its heard.
Gospel Seed, new life within,
Gospel Seed, some soul we'll win.
Nothing's growing till we're sowing
Gospel Seed.

Bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves.
We will come rejoicing,
Bringing in the sheaves.
Bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves,
We will come rejoicing,
Bringing in the sheaves.

But nothing can start growing,
Until we begin sowing.

2002 by Skip Johnson

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