So I’ve had a busy couple of months. Between my most recent post yesterday and the one before it I had a baby, left my job, and began a new job. The new job? Ministry Associate with Trinity Presbyterian Church here in Nashville. My first week on the job I was filling the pulpit because the pastor was out of town. I did it again two weeks later. Like I said, busy.
In the past, I’ve posted some of my thoughts as I’ve been teaching Sunday School classes or lecturing, but I completely missed posting anything about my sermons. I intend to make up for that.
My sermon on July 10th was based on the lectionary text for the day, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. It’s a familiar parable known as the Parable of the Sower. Here’s the text:
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For 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. 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. Truly 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. “Hear then the parable of the sower. 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.”
My main ideas with this text are twofold. The first idea is that a fatalistic interpretation of this passage would be misplaced. It is often misread as having Jesus say that each of us is one kind of soil which is deterministic of our eternal fate. But a plain reading of the text doesn’t yield that interpretation at all. In fact, I know that in my life I have been each kind of soil at different times in different ways. So we should understand that it’s a parable about how we receive the Word, not who we are in eternity.
The second main idea is that Jesus calls this “The Parable of the Sower” for a reason. It’s not about us. It’s about a God who is willing to be profligate with his love, spreading it even where it has little hope of taking root.
There’s always hope. Cultivation is the extraordinary work of God. The soil of our lives can be cultivated, and will be. Hope abides.