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."
We get several famous scripture selections today!
• Isaiah 55:10-13 – with God's assurance the Word will bear fruit, will do God's thing on earth. Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action—walking the talk. This scripture promises God will send us out with joy, lead us with shalom; mountains and hills will sing, trees will applaud like an excited audience.
• Romans 8:1-11 – no condemnation ("down-judgment") for us who live in Christ. Freedom from sin and death!
• Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – Parable of the Sower with Jesus' own interpretation. Fruitful, faith seeds grow into whatever the source of the seed promises. Greek for grain" in 13:8 is fruit.
• Our responsive Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13 – offers universalism that includes rivers full of water that help crown the year with bounty so wilderness pastures overflow, meadows become beautifully arrayed, valleyed decked out with grain shout for joy and sing. All this glory in creation happens because God "visits the earth." Those images in the psalm and in the reading from Second Isaiah remind us that in the Psalms 96, 98 and 148 appointed for Christmas when God visits the earth in the baby Jesus of Nazareth, mountains and hills, valleys, streams and rivers also sing for joy, clap their hands....
So far in the church's year of grace in chapters 10 through 12 of Matthew's gospel we've had 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), along with his warnings of what may happen. In Matthew 8 and 9 we experienced Jesus moving from proclaimed word into the enacted deeds that help explain his words. Before that, chapters 5 through 7 covered the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 1 through 4 tell us who Jesus is with his genealogy, birth, and very early life.
Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables, starting out with a parable about seed, sower, and earth (ground, land). Everything we have originates in the earth. In scripture the earth of Genesis becomes the land of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that God graces us with as gift and charges us to steward and care for.
Para is beside, alongside, in a similar sense to a medical, legal, or other para-professional, who works with and supports a professional in that field (though today's paraprofessional are highly-trained and professional in their own right). Paraclete as one of the words for the Holy spirit refers to clesis or "called" by our side. Etc.
At the beginning of the passage Jesus leaves the house, sits by the sea (Lake of Galilee, almost definitely), and then goes out into a boat because so many people had gathered around him. Charlene mentioned that sound carries well over water, so everyone could hear people better and it was a way of the crowds being able to notice and focus on him. This was an agricultural society that well would have grasped concept of seed – sower – different types of ground. But we can parallel this parable into other settings, as well.
Everyone agreed we didn't need Jesus' explanation of the different types of soil; everyone agreed each of us is every one one of these soil or ground conditions at various times, often during the same day.
Sara and I had attended Reformation Roadtrip 6 the day before; it emphasized Luther as an interpreter of scripture, with many cautions about the hazards and difficulties of translating any document of any era from one spoken or written language into another. The translator always is somewhere between the original text and their translation or paraphrase. I mentioned our need to contextualize our ministries of speaking and service into culturally congruent words and actions very much included spoken and written words.
Although I'd planned to discuss stewardship of finances, property, and other resources, the other discussions and observations took enough time and become so detailed and interesting I didn't even mention ways we can be too fear-filled, too cautious, focusing on observable limitations rather than trusting God's limitless giving. Like the different types of seed-sowers, that also tends to be all of us at one time or another.