This image from Daniel Erlanger's Baptized We Live: Lutheranism As A Way of Life illustrates perfectly what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of the Word of the Kingdom is like seed.
God Gives in Abundance
The Parable of the Sower. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
This week we sit at Jesus' feet as he teaches us about the kingdom of heaven using little stories to show us what it is like to live as a child of God. Parables are short, open-ended stories that invite us to discover the truth and wisdom of God's Word as we wrestle with what this means. In the parable today, Jesus guides the disciples so they can understand Jesus' Word of God's kingdom.
Yet, even with this guidance the open-ended nature of the story allows us God to speak in a variety of ways and on a variety of levels. Today, we're going to think about
Two ways of hearing this parable of the soils. We can hear it as a story about ...
1) My personal life in relation to God's Word, or about 2) Our community life in relation to the Word
I think we usually tend to think that Jesus is talking about individual and personal responses to hearing the Word of God's kingdom. In this interpretation the soils are types of people, three-quarters of whom fail to grow to mature faith in Christ.
This leads me to wonder on the one hand ... What type of soil am I? ... and, on the other hand ... to fear for the eternal souls of those who are clearly not included as good soil -- the path type, the rocky type, the thorny type -- some of whom we also love dearly. We know too many who are hard hearted, faint-faithed, and distracted and we wonder if this parable in some way passes judgment on them.
Either way, when we take this tact in understanding Jesus, we quickly find ourselves falling into a confusing and maddening spiral of condemnation -- self condemnation (I'm so bad) or condemnation of those outside of faith. And I truly do. It believe that's the intent of this parable, at all.
So let's come at this story in a little different way today, and let's listen to hear Jesus comfort us with the joy of the Gospel.
The first thing I want to do is to zoom out to see life at St Paul's from the perspective of a whole. We are a single plot of land, a single field. This congregation is made up of paths, rocky places, thorny patches and fertile soil. The master of this field is Christ himself. He is here among us, living, present and active through the Holy Spirit. The Word -- which is the good news of God's kingdom -- is being sown into our hearts. Each week, each season, each year Christ sows God's Word into our hearts. And week after week it takes root, and we grow in understanding and so grow in faith and love ... for God and neighbor.
Where do you see this growth?
But there is more that is starting to sprout ...
But the field as a whole is made up of ... Paths, rocky places, thorny patches, too.
So as a congregation we must examine our shared hearts and ask ...
The leaders and elders of this community ... need to remember this as well when we talk about our life together. It is easy to get frustrated about all the seed that doesn't seem to produce, and it's easy to find ourselves from time to time focusing on what's unproductive that we fail to see what it growing here, and how God's work in and through us is a making a difference in the lives of our neighborhood. But in all of this, this parable tells us that Christ is alive, present and working in and among us. We are God's own field ... and
God is faithful to this field.
In the time of Jesus, the land, field is the source of wealth. It is the value of an inheritance that is given to the family and remains theirs generation after generation. Year after year, the farmer tends the field, sows the seeds and expects an abundant harvest.
When we think of this congregation, we must remember that the owner of this field is the Lord, our God. We must keep in mind that it is God who returns to this community, week in and week out to sow the seeds of God's word into our hearts, and it is God who rejoices in the harvest of faith, understanding and love that grows in our hearts. Love for God and love for our neighbor!
The same is true for us as individuals. So we can see Jesus at work in our lives just as Jesus is at work in our congregation. But just as this community is a whole field that God is active and working to cultivate ... it is true that the same can be said for our
personal lives. We are not just one type, but a mix ... what's more ...
With all of Jesus' stories, it's important to remember that when it comes down to an individual level, the story can change. We are not scripted one-dimensional characters, but God's own creatures. So in truth, the hardness of heart that you feel, ... that can change! The rocks can be removed! The cares of this world can be pruned back, rooted out so you can once agin grow in your faith. The dimensions of the fertile land can expand in every direction as we grow in faith, love and understanding, in the Holy Spirit.
The types of soils speak of the condition of our human hearts in relation to the good news of God's kingdom, the wisdom of God that is foolishness to the world. So let me pose some questions I found helpful in my meditation this week.
The condition of our heart is a mix of soils, to be sure, but the good news here is that God has promised to preservere in tending to us so that we might persevere in our faith and love in God until the full and abundant fruit of understanding appears.
God is at work in the field that is your heart and mind. Here are some ways that we can respond to God's Word together.
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