The Rev. Randy Knutson
Matthew 13: 1-9; 18-23
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Listen to this…Sermon 2014.07.13 RRK
I want to begin by thanking so many of you who came to my ordination two weeks ago, for the great turn out of people and for the gifts of a stole and Amazon credit by our Vestry. And I especially am thankful for the greetings of welcome and encouragement by many of you as my ministry among you includes being your Deacon. Thank You!
“Jesus went out and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into the boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables.” You would be right to think that after our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land last January, I can not hear these words, or similar ones in the same way again. For now I know what this place looks like and what is embedded or implied in the words themselves.
For you see, Jesus was from Nazareth and we went there. It is now a bustling city, with a number of places commemorating his life, but back then it was a back water community, cut off from surrounding areas by a mountain pass. We can understand why Nathanael said to Philip, before his introduction to Jesus, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It was such a small, unsophisticated, place. Can anything good come out of Victor? Of Thornton? We know Jesus was born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem and we went to these two cities, drank in the historical depth and present vitality of them both. But after he was called into ministry, after his Baptism, Jesus did not stay in Nazareth, but instead went all around the region of Galilee, especially around Lake Galilee, which we also visited, and the city of Capernaum. Of this place, Matthew says “He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum.” This is the ancient city along the lake that is described by Mark as the town of Jesus or appropriately, where to start looking for Jesus, if you wanted to find him. It was his new home. And this is what you would see if you were to travel there. You would see the ruins of a wonderful synagogue, made of stones, whose walls mostly still exist. One section for the men and the other for the women. The ornate decorations that were once part of the building are carefully sorted and preserved nearby, the work of Franciscans, who for years, worked to excavate and bring all of these pieces together for everyone to see. Next to it are the ancient ruins of the city, the bottom half of the rooms and houses, made of stone walls packed closely together. One of these is the house where Peter’s mother in law is said to have lived and where Jesus cured her. We don’t know for sure, but perhaps Peter and Andrew and therefore, James and John were from here. Above this house, in the tradition of the church, is a modern church building, put there to preserve this holy site. But it is not built ‘around’ Peter’s mother in law’s house, but above it, hovering on supports, like a flying saucer. If you are fortunate, and we were, you can go into the church and look into the ruins of the city and the very spot venerated since at least the 4th century as Peter’s mother in law’s house. Then, literally a stones throw (from Rt. Field to Home base) is the sea of Galilee. So this could have been the setting of this teaching. But there is much to be learned from this.
Jesus had no amphitheater to go to meet and teach the crowd. No doubt he had visited the synagogue and taught there; it was but a few hundred yards from the lake shore. But he is teaching not in that building, but outdoors, where, everyone, ALL, men & women; Jew and Gentile, could hear his words. So with this first parable in Matthew he is literally DOING what he is talking about: the sower is spreading seed, the Good News of the Kingdom everywhere, to everyone!
Now, if you are like me, when you hear this parable, you might put yourself in the position of evaluating ‘what kind of soil am I?” Am I 100 fold, 60 fold or 30 fold soil? Am I one that will bear fruit for the Kingdom or Reign of God? Right away there is the temptation to be concerned about where we are in this parable. There is even a simple contemporary song that captures some of those thoughts:
Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard, break the stone away.
When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost, lead me on your way.
Lord let my heart, Lord let my heart, Lord let my heart be good soil.
But let me encourage you to get beyond that and imagine yourself instead, to be like Jesus, to be the sower.
People who know anything about farming and sowing have said this parable is terrible example. This sower is spreading seeds everywhere. What’s up with that? If you or I were to plant a garden, we would carefully plant the seed in rows, not only because it is easier to harvest, but we can build ruts around the rows to channel the water. We can also keep track of what we have planted and nourish it along, weeding out the things that should not be in our ‘rows.’ Walk out to our community garden and you will see a successful contemporary example. But not here; the sower is throwing seeds about everywhere, and it shows. For some were thrown on the ground and snatched up and didn’t get a chance to grow. Some were on rocky ground, where they would have heated up and sprouted, but quickly dried up; no depth of soil here. And some were planted in the midst of weeds that choked them out; pushed out by other concerns. What was the sower thinking? What a waste! And yet, and yet, this is the very thing Jesus is doing as he tells the parable, and so should we.
We are charged everyday to go out and spread the love of Christ, not knowing what will happen with our kind acts of love given into the world. Certainly some of that sowing will come to nothing, but we ALL know that sometimes that is not the case. It could be the next week, the next year or at the end of someone’s life when you discover the love and kindness you gave in Christ’s name had an effect on that person’s life. It is then we understand this principle of spreading the Word of God and the Love of God with such abundance. What could these acts be? Perhaps taking the time to be with and really listen to someone in our busy, harried world. Perhaps reaching out in kindness and love to someone when it would be much easier to just move along. I think if you took the time to examine your life, you would find many ways to do this that would speak to your heart.
Now, here I am speaking to myself as well as all of you. It is surely not such an effort to remain in that spirit of love and kindness, looking for ways of being sowers of Christ’s love in this next hour, as we pass the peace later or meet as friends over coffee and treats. That is a beginning; a good first place to remember to do this. But it is when we go out the doors of this church, into the world, to all that this next week will bring, that we find this sower’s mission is hard, but not impossible.
My new study Bible has a footnote that says that these yields of 100 fold, 60 fold and 30 fold, are exceptional but not impossible. And that is what God is calling us to every day and every week, to find from the Spirit of Love, given to us in our fellowship together, in our support and life here, to try to reach for that unlikely, but possible yield of 100 or 60 or 30. We are asked to reach out in this world in exceptional, but not impossible ways. And also, if you are like me, I feel like I’m not a consistent number my whole life, or every week, but I catch myself bouncing around. But I just need to use the Love and the gifts that God has given me to reach out with to others, and look for those opportunities when I can spread God’s seed and love and then just do it. It is a fool hearty way to do things, to cast seeds of love, care and concern this way and that, but I find when I do, I’m in good company, both now and in the past. Amen.