Part of the Story – February 16, 2020
Psalm 138, Mark 4:1-20
February 16, 2020
So, how are you doing with the Sabbath? That’s what we talked about last week. And I think it’s important! God gave us the sabbath because he loves us and wants the very best for us! And remember, “Things are not always righteous just because God commanded them. Sometimes God commands things because they are righteous!” And one of those things is the Sabbath.
That’s what we talked about last week, and I thought it was good to start with a reminder. Today we’re thinking about Parables. And, according to Mark’s Gospel, this passage, at the beginning of chapter 4, is the first time Jesus taught the people using Parables. Of course, it’s not the first time he spoke to the crowds. He’d been doing that for a couple of chapters now. And we know he “taught them as one who had authority.” But here in chapter four, is the first time he taught them using parables. (Or at least it’s the first time it’s recorded. We can’t know for sure.)
The other thing we don’t know is whether this teaching technique was unique to Jesus. We’re not told if any of the other teachers of his time used parables. But whether they did or not, I think we would all agree that Jesus was the master! He told them these stories that he made up to fit the occasion or the message he was giving them. They were stories that came right out of their life’s experiences. And he made them poignant and personal and powerful!
So, I find myself wondering what the people thought, hearing one of his parables for the first time. What did they think about these stories? And remember, we know Jesus told these stories. We know many of them. I suspect when we hear them, we think, “Oh here’s another one of the great parables of Jesus.” But what did they think, hearing them for the first time?
For one thing, I think they were amazed! I think they were captivated by these stories, stories that spoke to them personally. I think Jesus drew them in, and he even broke through their understanding, and challenged their thinking on a lot of things. “Who is my neighbor?” “What is God’s kingdom really like?” When we really get to know these stories, we see that.
The other great thing about him telling stories like this, is that the people were able to put themselves into these stories. And the Jewish people were good at that. They were good at putting themselves into the story of their history. They said, “Abraham and Moses were our fathers.” “We went down into Egypt.” “The Lord brought us out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” That’s how they felt about those stories.
So here they are offered opportunities to put themselves into the stories Jesus told. And I ask you today, do we do that? Because I think these parables always compel us to ask that. “Where do we find ourselves in these stories?” Here in the Parable of the Sower, we are compelled to ask ourselves, “Which of the “soils” the sower’s seed fell in are we?
How about it? Are you like the path that the seed fell onto? Is there no way the word can “take root” in you? It lays there on the surface until “the evil one” comes and takes it away. There are many today who would deny the word of God. They would love to “take it away” from those who believe.
Are you like the rocky soil? The word falls upon you and takes root, and grows quickly. But there is no depth of soil, and the word is withered by the heat of the sun. Does the “intensity” of life, the pressures, the stress, threaten to make the word “wither” within you.
Or, are you like the soil with the weeds? The word is planted in your heart and grows well. But, so do the cares and concerns and the busy-ness of this life. Do the many other things you have to do every day choke out the word Do all those things you have to do in this life simply crowd it out?
Or, are you like the good soil? Does the word take root in your life and grow and flourish and produce a good harvest? Those people understood the importance of that in their agriculture. They knew their crops had to be healthy if they were going to be healthy. And I believe Jesus helped them see the importance of having that vibrancy and growth in their lives of faith
I’m surprised Jesus didn’t mention one other kind of soil. And this is the one that’s my biggest problem when I try to do any gardening. When I plant something, it grows strong – for a time. But since I don’t know all that much about gardening, and I really don’t know how to take care of it, as time goes on the plant just gets weak. It still grows. It might even come up every year, but it’s never really very strong looking again. How many of us would describe their lives of faith that way? Is that the way you see yourself? Your faith isn’t “tended” very well, and it’s kind of weak.
When Jesus tells a story like this, he compels us to see ourselves in it. And in the telling us this one, he compels us to think about which of those “soils” we are. And in doing so, he gives us a good lesson in the need to nurture our faith, in the importance of seeing the word grow within us.
So, how do you see yourself in this parable? How are you part of this story? I hope you’ll consider that today. How does the word of God grow within you? Are you nurturing it? Are you giving it attention, or is everything crowding it out?
I also hope that you will see how we are part of these stories Jesus told, because we are part of his story. Two thousand years later, we are his disciples, as we said a few weeks ago. We are part of that great “cloud of witnesses,” that great procession through history, that great parade of the saints of the church throughout the ages!
And as we come into our Annual Meeting today, we might think about all the other hundred and thirty-some previous Annual Meetings of this Church. We can maybe even give some thought to those who have been part of those meetings, of all the leaders and saints of this church over all those years – some who’s story we know, some we have only heard about.
And we can be glad and give thanks for our history, our heritage, and our Savior who started it all, who gave us these stories, and who made us part of his story even today!
Eternal God, we are glad to be your people, part of that great parade of saints. Like the people of old, help us to see ourselves in these stories. Help us to nurture your word within us, to care for it lovingly, that it may grow and flourish. For we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.