Proper 10 A
228: July 16, 2017
Voice in the Wilderness: Lee Saylor
Psalm 119:105-112 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Featured Musician - Ben Grace
One of my favorite sermon series started with this parable - “Good Soil,” was used by Rev. Duane Larsen when he started at Eureka (MO) UMC.
Lectionary omits v. 10-17, cleaning it up to only include the parable and the explanation.
One of the only parables that is explained by Jesus. Explanation likely added as post-Easter story, not included in Gospel of Thomas.
Matthew 13 according to Jana Riess’s The Twible “The 12 ask JC why he speaks to the people in parables. They’d prefer straightforward behavioral checklists, please. With maps.”
Facing the question: “Why do people say ‘no’ to Christ?”
To those that believe, and have experienced Christ, it can be baffling to wonder why someone would resist.
In fact, Christians can be insufferable about this - like the person who just quit smoking who cannot stand to be around smokers.
Explanation of the parable is given to the disciples, who might have been wondering the same thing.
“Jesus' clear explanation of what each element in the parable represents would seem to leave little work for the preacher. But the interpretation also raises some troubling questions. For instance, who qualifies as "good soil"? Since soil cannot change itself, is there any hope for the hardened, rocky, and thorny soil? Are these destined to be unproductive forever?” (Elisabeth Johnson, Working Preacher)
Important Question: Can you change what soil you are?
This is not about looking at others and deciding what kind of soil they are, it is about self-reflection.
“As hearers, the disciples [and us] are not allowed the luxury of armchair quarterbacking, of deliberating over someone else’s positive or negative response… The text bluntly asks, How do you hear? What type of soil are you? (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year A p. 404).
καρδια ("heart"; 19) Interestingly, this word never refers to the actually beating heart inside the body in the NT! Hebrew and Greek map the whole heart-brain-feelings-thoughts a bit differently, but the basic point is that the heart here is not the Hallmark center, but the core of who we are, including our thoughts. (Lectionary Greek)
There is an important distinction between those who simply “hear” and those who “understand.”
“Those who receive the word of the kingdom and understand it, that is, appropriate it not merely intellectually but with a commitment at the depths of their being, will be able to withstand the onslaught of temptation and tribulation and produce a bountiful harvest.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 154-155).
The commitment of today’s Christian is not so much persecution as it is secular scorn. It is truly remarkable how timeless the trials that Jesus describes truly are.
σπειραντος ("the one who sows", participle of σπειρω; 18)There is nothing distinct about this word, but it is worth pointing out that Jesus says the parable is about this, namely, the one who throws his seed, even into wasteful places! (Lectionary Greek)
What does this story tell us about God?
God is reckless with the way he scatters the seed.
Not a careful, selective sower.
Extravagant, almost wasteful. After all, who throws seed on paths, in bushes, or on rocky soil?
All are given the same grace (prevenient grace). Grace is offered before we even decide what kind of soil we are going to be.
“Too often we play it safe, sowing the word only where we are confident it will be well received, and only where those who receive it are likely to become contributing members of our congregations. In the name of stewardship, we hold tightly to our resources, wanting to make sure that nothing is wasted. We stifle creativity and energy for mission, resisting new ideas for fear they might not work -- as though mistakes or failure were to be avoided at all costs. Jesus' approach to mission is quite at odds with our play-it-safe instincts.” (Elisabeth Johnson, Working Preacher)
What goes into good soil? What are the nutrients, fertilizers? John Wesley’s “Acts of Piety”: Bible study, conferencing, Communion, worship, prayer, and fasting.
What are the fruit that we bear? John Wesley’s “Acts of Mercy” Visiting those in jail, modest living so to help the poor, contributing to education especially among poor, abolition, teaching good health practices.
The fruit is miraculous - abundant - more than can reasonably be expected. It doesn’t take much to change lives and communities. “Evangelism must be pursued enthusiastically in spite of what appear to be meager results?
The descendants of Abraham...in case you forgot over the last chapter
Ishmael- officially not a descendant- his part in the story is over
Barrenness and blessing: Theme in the patriarchs/Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel
Unlike Sarah and Rachel, Rebekah does not ask for a child, Isaac does
Names are important:
Esau- the red one
Jacob the tripper upper, he who supplants, he takes by the heel
Selling the birthright
Esau is famished- extraordinarily hungry
Jacob takes advantage of Esau’s need
How often do we justify Joseph’s manipulation by condemning Esau’s hunger?
Casey Thompson - “Esau is a figure who might resonate with thousands of people in our pews who suffer because of the stereotypes that persist concerning their race, their gender, their stage in life, or their orientation. ‘You know those Edomites: terribly hairy; never take a bath; they smell something unrighteous, I tell you; they cannot plan for the future, but you cannot blame them as they are practically animals: violent, warlike, always having children, never thinking about the ramifications of having them so young, a burden on our system, you know; if they could just control their appetites!’”
Isaac and Rebekah each choose their favorite son
Rebekah knew Jacob would inherit because God told her
God chooses too- God chooses Jacob over Esau (hates Esau according to Malachi cf. Mal. 1:2-5)
Why? Why does God choose the usurper, the tripper upper, the tent dweller? Why does God play favorites?
Where is the grace for Esau?
What begins with animosity and violence will end in peace described as the ‘face of God’ (Gen 33:10)
Esau overcomes his brother’s faults and learns to forgive- Esau is a hero!
Etiological Story - Foretells the battles between Edom and Israel- they might be fighting now, but there is a dream of peace to come
What are we willing to sell our birthright [our Christian-ness] for? For the chance to be ‘right’ or righteous over others? For the chance to judge? To acquire wealth and power over our neighbors? To remain willfully ignorant of the suffering around us? To forget that God’s news is good?
What kind of mistakes do we make and what are we willing to sacrifice when we are hungry?
“Thinking green” is the concern of the wealthy
Cycles of poverty make it difficult to “plan ahead”
When all you can think about is surviving today, it is difficult to think about the future.
How are you doing with Romans?
Try not to fall into neo-platonic dualism of spirit vs flesh
Led to a bad history of condemning sexuality and promoting self deprivation
Paul was most likely well verse in neo-platonism, but this is much deeper
Instead of condemning the flesh/creation we are free to live as creation was intended- actually the glorification of the flesh/creation
Greek: sarx=flesh; soma=body - Paul is contrasting flesh and Spirit, not body and Spirit (like the neo-platonic gnostics)
Beware the dualism of the law and grace
Law is not bad - see Romans 7:1-13
Christ completed what the law could not (revealed a way of forgiving love and God’s gracious reconciliation), but the law is still good
Bold words - really? NO condemnation/guilt/blame?
What does it mean to be “in Christ”?
What do we mean by “in”?
Locally (in us) - mystical union of the human with the divine
Instrumentally (through us) - Roman appeal with the church as the ongoing incarnation of Christ. Christology gives way to ecclesiology
Modally (with or to us) - Christ is present when religious authorities look for Christ
All of these are backwards - not about being in Christ - it is about Christ being in us - Christ came to us when we were still enslaved by sin (condemned by sin) - Christ’s death frees us from sin through our own death and recreation
Categorically different state of being to be “in Christ” as opposed to not “in Christ” - not a matter of degree but of being
In Christ - to be liberated by the power of Christ’s forgiving love that frees us from what binds, limits and ties us down. Frees us from sin and reveals a new way of seeing and being in the world
How is this possible? Karen Chakoian’s story about Michelangelo- you can’t paint like Michelangelo unless there is a way to be Michelangelo. - The Spirit has made it possible for Christ to dwell in us! We can be like Christ
Not about you- about God
You cannot be in Christ- Christ is in you and there is nothing you can do about it. Christ is within you. “You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, since the spirit of God dwells in you.”
Freedom to live as God intended when you were created in God’s image.
Great time to remind everyone that the news is good! Not about what we are doing (or not doing), but about what God is able to do in and through us
What does it mean to allow Christ to fully live within you? How can we practice this? What do we do to inhibit the Spirit from living within us?
The church still has a lot of body-spirit dualistic baggage- how can we overcome this? How can we emphasize that Paul is advocating for the beauty of the body as God’s creation not able to fully live as God intended?
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).