Our girls loved the poetry of Shel Silverstein. So do I. It is silly, outrageous, profound and downright funny. It is LOVED by nine year olds--- and those who would like to be! Listen to how he begins his wonderful book, Where the Sidewalk Ends. If you are a dreamer, come in, If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, A hop-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . . If you‟re a pretender, come sit by my fire For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in! He issues an invitation--- to anyone, to everyone, to you and me! Come in, come in --- enjoy! Today we hear another invitation---this one from God. The invitation comes in a most intriguing form: a parable! Jesus uses stories- parables- to reveal truth. Usually he picks scenes from everyday existence, slices of life. One could be lulled into a parable. Familiarity made one think you already knew how it would turn out. Much like when we hear: “Once upon a time” We see knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, a “happily ever after” ending. Or “It was a dark and stormy night.” We expect a scream to pierce the darkness, a body COLD on the floor and a murder will be solved. But parables have a twist to them. John Claypool loved to point out, “With parables, a story that starts out as a lens into someone else suddenly becomes a mirror reflecting our own image.” We will find ourselves in parables --- but not always in the hero’s hat. As I said, Jesus used parables to reveal truth. But the disciples question Jesus about his tactic. They ask, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus answers, “Because „seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand… but blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” Ah, yes, of course! The followers of Jesus “get” the parable while others may not! Okay, let‟s see how it works. Today we look at the parable of the sower. It‟s a “simple” story---LOVED by nine year olds--- and those who would like to be! But to us modern folk, it is little un-familiar. Why--- we wouldn‟t dream of tossing out a few seeds and claim we‟re farming! North Alabama is farm country. Each field is carefully cultivated, fertilized, irrigated, fumigated and calculated for maximum yield. Now that is farming! But this sower simply scatters the seed. And as we might expect, it falls on a variety of places in all sorts of conditions. And that is the point of the parable, isn‟t it? In the world there are a variety of people in all sorts of conditions--some have stony hearts, some thorny dispositions, and some are just plain shallow. But then there are the good ones--- the receptive ones--- who allow the “Word of Christ to dwell richly in them.” as we hear in Colossians. And the followers of Jesus should “get” the parable! Obviously, they (we) are the good soil. So what‟s the point again? Where is the so-called surprise? the twist? Understand this: Jesus tells the parable to the whole crowd, but in Matthew‟s gospel he explains it to the few disciples. He issues an invitation to anyone, to everyone--- to you and me! And herein lies the twist. The parable may be a story about the sower not the soil. The sower scatters the seed abroad--- generously, abundantly, freely. He is not careful to place the seed only on fertile soil, only within reach of the chosen. He is not concerned about conserving his efforts, about wasting the Word. He spreads it far and wide. Graciously --- in hope! In hope that the Word will be attractive; Hope that the Word will find acceptance; Hope that the Word will take root; Hope that the Word will not be forgotten; Hope that the Word will be nurtured; Hope that it will grow; Hope that it will bear fruit! The parable of the sower is about God--- who pours out the Word upon a variety of people in all sorts of condition. Isaiah says it beautifully, For 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, so shall my word be that goes forth 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. Yes, God issues an invitation to anyone, to everyone--- to you and me! Jesus is holding up a mirror? Do you see yourself? This is not an invitation to play armchair quarterback. It is not an invitation for us to decide who is in and who is out, who is worthy of attention and who is not, who gets the blame and who gets the credit. It is not an invitation to smugness! This is an invitation to be like the sower. To be giving, to be generous, to be gracious, to live in hope. In hope that everyone who has eyes will see, that everyone who has ears will hear, that all will be able to understand. For the truth is this: We are not just good soil- though we can be! We are a variety of people in all sorts of conditions--- we have stony hearts, we have thorny dispositions, and we are just plain shallow. You and I. All of us. Shel Siverstein says this way: Small as a peanut Big as a giant, We‟re all the same size When we turn off the light. Rich as a sultan, Poor as a mite, We‟re all worth the same When we turn off the light. Red, black, or orange, Yellow or white, We all look the same When we turn off the light. So maybe the way To make everything right. Is for God to just reach out And turn off the light! One day God will turn off the light, but remember the invitation! Come in, come in- enjoy!
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