July 13, 2008

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 You may have noticed, as Jim was reading today’s Gospel passage, that it came in two sections. The first part was the parable that Jesus told to the crowds about a sower who scatters seeds liberally across the ground, and the results that follow. And the second part was an explanation or interpretation of the parable. The Gospel writer frames the explanation as “Jesus explaining to his disciples what he meant by this confusing story.” But most biblical scholars agree that while the parable itself is probably one that Jesus actually told (or at least, something very much like it), the interpretation is likely the product of Matthew’s community near the end of the first century. Jesus was, indeed, a Jewish teacher — a rabbi. And he brought not only a new message to the people, but he also used a new form of communication. Jesus’ method of teaching in parables was not the typical practice of contemporary rabbis, but a new and unsettling departure in religious communication. Without the helpful little explanation that Matthew’s Gospel provides, we can imagine that both the crowds and the disciples would have been confused, or perhaps intrigued by Jesus’ little stories. The biblical scholar C.H. Dodd describes a parable in this way:“At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into … Read more »

March 18, 2009 – Nutana Ecumenical Worship

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at Nutana Park Mennonite Church on the fourth Wednesday in Lent, 2009. It was part of a series of ecumenical worship services in the Nutana neighbourhood. Each service focused on a daily theme from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2009. This day’s theme was from Day 4: “Christians face to face with ecological crisis”. Genesis 1:31 – 2:3 Matthew 13:31-32 I was at an ecumenical gathering on Monday evening, and we were talking about the renewal of the churches’ liturgy over the last 50 years or so. The question was asked, “What has changed in your church’s worship over the last 50 years?” Of course, there were lots of things that had changed. For some it was Latin to English. For others it was more frequent communion. For many it was the regular use of a common lectionary. But one person answered by saying that we don’t hear so much preaching about SIN anymore. You know, the kind of “Watch out! You’re going to hell if you don’t change your ways” kind of preaching that was heard from many Presbyterian and other pulpits not so many years ago. More recent students of preaching have been taught to emphasize God’s grace and love for us. Even in the midst of a sermon that challenges us to repent, to turn around our hearts and our lives to God’s ways, still we musn’t forget to proclaim the Good News of Jesus … Read more »

July 10, 2011

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 On the day that Jesus told the parable of the sower, the author of Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the crowd of listeners was so large that Jesus got into a boat and sat there to speak, while the crowd stood on the beach to listen. You might imagine that at this point in his ministry, Jesus would have been pleased with how things were going. What could be a greater sign of success than the crowds clamouring to get close to him, to touch him, to be healed by him, or to hear his words of wisdom, as they were doing on this particular day? But I wondered, as I reflected on the parable this week, whether Jesus might actually have been feeling a bit discouraged. After all, when Jesus told parables, most of the people didn’t really understand what he was on about. Sure, they came in droves to listen to him for a while. But as we hear in the Gospel accounts several times, even Jesus’ closest disciples were confused by the stories that he told. So Jesus probably didn’t have any illusions about the fact that the average person in the crowd that day was going to completely miss the point of his speech. If the story is an allegory, maybe Jesus himself is the sower, scattering the seeds of the Word of Life here and there and everywhere he goes… watching and waiting and hoping for those seeds to sprout and grow … Read more »

July 17, 2011

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Psalm 139 I think I understand why Jesus’ disciples would have needed him to explain the parable of the weeds among the wheat. Like them, I don’t think I would have gotten the point just from hearing it once and thinking about it a little. In fact, I read the parable over and over this week. I reflected on it for hours. I read what others had to say about it online and in several published books. I even had a couple of conversations with other Christians about what Jesus’ parable might mean for us today. But when I stopped reading and thinking and talking… when it was time for me to start writing, to decide what I would say to you today, I felt stuck. There seemed to be so many possible interpretations of the parable that I didn’t know where to begin. So I decided to begin with the explanation of the parable that is provided in the Gospel. Maybe that was Jesus’ own explanation to his disciples on that day when they were confused: They were back in the house, and the crowds were left outside. And the disciples said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” And he answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the … Read more »

July 13, 2014

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 “Three Parables in One” Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is found in the Gospel of Matthew between stories about opposition to the gospel. In chapter eleven, Jesus has criticized various cities for failing to repent even though they have witnessed Jesus’ deeds of power. And later in chapter thirteen, Jesus will be rejected again – this time by the people of his own home town, Nazareth. And so, we may read the Parable of the Sower as a kind of explanation of what is going on in Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps Jesus’ disciples (or even Jesus himself) are getting discouraged. They go about preaching, and healing, and doing miracles, and they expect a wonderful response. Why isn’t their little band of followers growing? Why aren’t people responding to Jesus’ teaching by changing their lives? Why aren’t they convinced by the miracles, the healing, or the wise teaching? The parable provides a good explanation. It’s as if a sower is sowing seeds. The seeds are God’s Word being sown in the hearts of people. Sometimes, of course, the people do not understand God’s Word, and so it does not grow within them and lead to a fruitful response. Sometimes people receive the Word with joy, but when trouble or persecution arise on account of the Word, they do not have the endurance to remain steadfast. Sometimes they hear the Word and begin to respond, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the Word, and … Read more »

July 30, 2017

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 “Searching for Treasure” Five and a half parables – that’s what we find in the Gospel passage assigned for this day in the Revised Common Lectionary. Five and a half very short stories that Jesus told to his disciples to help them understand something about the kingdom of heaven. Now, don’t be confused by the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” In one of the other Gospels, it would have been called the “kingdom of God.” And in modern non-gendered language we might call it the “reign of God.” When Jesus says “kingdom of heaven” he is not talking about what things will be like for us after we die. He’s talking about the here and now, the new world that began in his life and ministry, and that is growing wherever people follow him with their lives and begin to live according to his love and mercy. He’s not saying that this is what things will be like for you later. He’s saying that this is possible now… if you look for it, and search it out, and work with him in making it happen. The parables indicate that the kingdom of heaven can sometimes seem somewhat hidden, and that may certainly resonate with our own experience. Often when we think about the world in which we live today, we can become overwhelmed by the hatred and evil that constantly seem to prevail. I am thinking about a situation happening in Istanbul right now, in which a large … Read more »