Matthew 13:1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

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. Let anyone with ears listen!” Matthew 13:1-9

How shall we listen to Jesus teaching us in parables? I’m not expert on this. All I can do is share with you how it works for me.

A parable is a word picture. It is a simple story, often a comparison or an allegory. While there will always be a huge gap in time and culture between us and the original readers and writers of the gospel stories, the simplicity of the parables helps them work. Work on us. Work in us.

I read the words and let my imagination take over. I try to ignore the explanations that sometimes follow a few verses later. I pay attention to the memories that the parable evokes in me. I remember other times and places where I heard that same parable speaking. Where a parable raises a question in my mind, I might look for more information – but even that is part of the experience of listening to the parable for me.

All of this seems horribly subjective. And it clearly is. This flies in the face of what I was seeking when I went to study at a seminary. I wanted to know the RIGHT ANSWERS. I wanted to discover the TRUTH. Over those years, and in the years since then, I’ve come to realize that open-mindedness and humility are closer to Jesus than certainty and pride. I’ve come to appreciate conversations more than conclusions. And in that, I’ve grown in my appreciation for letting my imagination play when reading the Bible.

I say all of that because we are now entering a section of Matthew where Jesus teaches us in parables. I look forward to where the stories will take us….even though I have no idea right now what we’ll see each day in our reading.

This first parable of the sower and the seeds always reminds me of Sunday afternoon drives to look at the crops with my mom’s boyfriend, Denny. Denny loved to take us by the fields farmed by an old friend of his. This old friend got drunk as soon as possible every day and his row crops proved it. In a farming culture that prided itself on straight rows and clean fields, Howard’s fields were a wavy serpentine mess. He wasn’t a terribly careful or efficient planter of seeds. He just scattered them wherever.

So I read this parable and wonder if God isn’t equally as careless as Howard? If God is the sower and the seed is the good news, what does it say about a God who just willy nilly scatters seed even to those places where it has no chance whatsoever to take root and grow?

I often read this parable with the temptation to judge myself or others based on the quality of the soil or the size of the harvest. Why does the harvest vary so much? Yet even as my mind goes there, I try to remember that I am rightfully the judged, not the judge.

Parables invite us to enter them. To “climb into” this little story changes it. We hear it differently if we are sower, or the seed, or the soils, or the rocks, or the birds, or the harvest. In fact, we are all of those.

By their very nature there is mystery at the heart of every parable. The mystery here is why we can sometimes be so open and receptive to God’s presence in our lives and other times be so closed down and disinterested.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, today we begin a new week sitting among the crowds on the shore as you intrigue us with your story of the sower and the seeds. Help us hear this story well – and help us trust you in the face of the mysteries of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 13:1-9”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    Thank you for the reminder that I ” am the rightfully the judged not the judge”

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