Monday, July 11, 2011
Matthew 13:3 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.
Mat 13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!"
Have you ever had a moment when – no matter how hard you try – people criticize you? Well – you will then understand how Jesus feels in Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel. Let us recap what has happened up to this point:
Chapter 3: Jesus is baptized and a call from God is affirmed.
Ch 4: Jesus goes into the wilderness to refine his direction – and finds some students who are willing to follow him.
Ch 5,6,7 are spent in teaching about the way God expects us to live
Ch 8,9 : sees Jesus putting the teaching into practice
And then in Ch 10 Jesus sends his students to try it on their own.
All along he has had mixed success – some people love his teaching and follow him from place to place. And some people are very critical.
And there is a clear dividing line between those who love him and those who hate him. This mirrors the fault line of the society Jesus lived in;
On the one side those who lived in Jerusalem; these were people who worshipped regularly in the temple, who celebrated the festivals, and who called themselves the “God’s Chosen People”. And then there were those who the people of Jerusalem called ”am ha-aretz” – the “unwashed”.
These were mostly poor rural peasants: They could not read and write and so could not keep track of the Jewish laws. They could not afford to travel often to Jerusalem – so missed the regular prayers: seldom made the required sacrifices. And so they were considered sinners by those who visited the temple every Sabbath. And over time they became convinced that God hated them.
Then this teacher called JESUS travelled the rural areas telling these people that God loved them. And he hugged them, and he healed them, and he taught them the laws of God….and they flocked to hear Jesus.
But the religious people in the temple were not impressed:
Mat 9:3 Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming."
Mat 12:14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Mat 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons."
And it is in response to this that Jesus tells a story:
A story of a farmer who goes into his field in and sows seed. This is small scale farming, where seed is scattered by hand, and then ploughed in.
Jesus points out the obvious – that this is a difficult way to farm because in addition to the seed that lands on the fertile soil - some seed will land on the footpaths, and some will land on rocks, and some will land in the bushes. And in this Jesus suggests that his teaching is not equally received:
Some hear what he has to say – and their lives are changed
Some hear him and there is a small change
And some hear him and his words just bounce off.
But I think that there is more to this: Instead of focusing on the soil and the seed, I am inviting us to focus on the sower;
I have an image of a farmer sowing with Generous Abandon. Here is someone who throws handfuls of seed in every direction. I can almost hear the gasps from the rural farmers who listen, because seed is precious! There is no farmers’ co-operative to buy it from at the beginning of the season: this is seed carefully stored from last year:
Yet here is a farmer who just throws it in every direction.
Here is Jesus; saying to his critics – don’t you understand that it is the pleasure of my Heavenly Father to bless everyone in every direction. I hear Jesus rebuking the religious leaders who are so quick to write people off as sinners – rocky ground, thorny personalities, hard to teach. Here Jesus is saying that God shows love to everybody –
The just and the unjust / rocky ground and fertile soil / thorny personalities as well and the kind and the patient.
And here is the place of Good News for me, because I have moments when I am not fertile soil: I am hard to teach like a well worn footpath.
Yet God still sends his love my way. Sometimes I am thorny and prickly – yet God does not give up on me.
This is Good news for everyone – to know that even when you are struggling with life, and when you feel shallow and weak, God still sends his grace and goodness your way.
But just as I celebrate a God who so scatters grace with generous abandon, so I am challenged to learn to see this Grace extended to other people too. Let me ask of us:
Do you know someone who you think is prickly and thorny
Or someone who is hard and uncompromising
Or someone who is shallow and easily distracted
It is easy to write them off. But the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus is that God’s grace extends even to those we so readily write off as being beyond repair
Let us pray to be willing to pass the Grace of God to other people with the same generosity as we have received it from God.
Posted by Peter Grassow at 4:20 pm