9-13Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!
The Message (MSG) | © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
• Our prayer psalm 65 describes creation rejoicing because God "visits" earth. This psalm and today's reading from Isaiah 55 are very much like Psalms 96, 98 and 148 appointed for Christmas. In that nativity poetry, when God comes to us in the baby Jesus, mountains and hills, valleys, streams, and rivers also sing for joy, clap their hands…
10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
• During the Babylonian exile, via the writer we sometimes call Second Isaiah, God provided and people received assurance the Word would bear fruit, would achieve God's desire. Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action—walking the talk. In a wonderful parallel to Psalm 65, these verses promises God will send us humans out with joy, lead us with shalom; mountains and hills will sing, trees will applaud like an excited audience.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.
3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!"
18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When 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. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet 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. 22As 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. 23But 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."
Matthew So Far
• Matthew 1 through 4 tell us who Jesus is with his genealogy, birth, and very early life.
• Chapters 5 through 7 covered the Sermon on the Mount.
• In Matthew 8 and 9 Jesus moves from proclaimed words into enacted deeds that help explain his teachings.
• In chapters 10 through 12 we've heard Jesus' instructions and commissioning for mission, for the church sent out into the world. That's us, because all of us are sent people or apostles! Jesus also warns us what may happen to us as his ambassadors.
• Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables, starting out with one about seed, sower, and earth (dirt, ground, land).
Paraballo originally meant to throw something edible to a crowd in order to tame its appetite for violence. Later on "parable" assumed the meaning to play alongside. Parables don't necessarily contain knowledge or abstract truth; parables aren't moral tales, arguments, or objective statements. Parables can be similes, allegories, metaphors, comparisons—except when they're not.
Today's Gospel Reading
• This Parable of the Sower comes with Jesus' own interpretation. Greek for "grain" in 13:8 is fruit. This is the Parable of the Sower: the person who has the seed and who plants the seed. This isn't the Parable of the Different Types of Ground or even Different Harvest Yields. It's not about how prepared and receptive we are (rocky ground, rich dirt, well-prepared soil, spent earth…) to the seed of the word; it's all about the boundlessly extravagant generosity of the sower.
However, we all know each of us is every one of these ground conditions at various times, often during the same day. All of us reading this blog know God assumes the burden of creation's wholeness and salvation; all of us know God calls us to live as God's presence on earth; all of us know to draw upon scientific insights and our own experiences. For example, remember when we first planted milkweed in the church window boxes to attract Monarch butterflies? Apparently it was Pastor Peg's first time planting milkweed, and as abundant as the results looked, she later discovered a different variety would be even better.
For today? The psalm-writer, Isaiah, and Matthew's Jesus all express confidence in the effectiveness of God's word and presence. Amidst ongoing pandemic and protests, instead of contextualizing these passages by figuring out how they align with where we are today, let's simply consider the astonishing beauty of God's creation. Our heads and hearts need a break!
• Do you have a favorite place where you especially sense God's presence?
• Do you have house plants or a garden where you live?
• Do you have a favorite national park or botanical garden or greenhouse?
• Do you grow some of your own veggies or herbs?
• Do you ever buy cut flowers at the farmers' market or supermarket?
• Do you draw or paint or photograph creation scenes? (I enjoy doing all of those things.)
• What state or country you haven't been to would you especially love to visit because of the reputation of their nature and wildlife?