Sermon – July 13th 2014
5th Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Jesus loved to tell stories called parables. These were pithy little stories that always had a surprising ending. They had a way of challenging people. They had an uncanny way of helping people to see a true reflection of themselves whether they liked it or not. Often, the stories revealed a truth that many people did not want to admit. Instead of receiving the stories with thanksgiving they returned Jesus love with anger and hate.
We might wonder how a story like the Parable of the Sower, could unleash such anger. It seems like such an innocent story. It suggests that we Christians are the seeds that have been planted in the good soil. This is certainly the interpretation that some scribe added to the Parable, but Jesus unlikely intended it to be watered down that much. Thus what we read today has a lot more details filled in than Jesus would have likely shared. The first listeners to Jesus Parable did not likely hear it the same way. Many would have left partly confused and partly angry.
To get an idea of what it was like to hear the Parable for the first time. Here this Parable :
A man once came to Buddha with an offering of flowers in his hands. Buddha looked up at him and said, “Drop it!”
The man couldn’t believe he was being asked to drop the flowers. Then it occurred to him that perhaps Buddha was asking him to drop the flowers that he had in his left hand, since to offer something with one’s left hand was considered inauspicious and impolite. So he dropped the flowers that his left hand held.
And Buddha said to him, “Drop it!”
This time, the man was so unnerved by Buddha’s request that he simply dropped all the flowers and stood before Buddha empty handed.
And Buddha smiled and said to him, “Drop it!”
Perplexed, the man asked, “Buddha, what is it that I am supposed to drop?
“Not the flowers, my son,” said Buddha, ‘but the one who brought them.”
Keeping the Faith in Babylon A Pastoral Resource for Christians in Exile by Barry J. Robinson Ordinary 15 Year A
If you got the point of the story you might have understood Jesus story way back. This story of Buddha probably gets more at the point of the Parable we heard today more than the interpretation we heard today right in the passage that was read.
So today’s Parable of Jesus, for me, calls upon us to drop that which is holding us back from living faithfully. It is a call to forgive those who have offended and hurt us so that we can move ahead. However, this is not a call to pretend that destructive events in our life never happened but it is call to learn and move on. As Paul said in today’s epistle this is call to serve God in newness of life.
There are so many memories that can get in the way of our living life abundantly whether that is for individuals or for organizations such as churches. You may have met people like the person in the story that I am about to tell as told by William Willimon. I suspect that most of us have done this some time in our lives. Here is the story:
Remembrance can be a sure way to ensure that a congregation fails to achieve vitality.
I once served a church where there was a man who had been a member of that church for over 30 years. He didn’t hold any prominent office in the church, but some of the people ‘jokingly referred to him as our “unofficial historian.” History is fine, and it is good to have someone in the congregation who can remember the congregational story and its past, but only up to a point.
His remembrance functioned negatively within the life of the congregation. Just let someone come up with a new idea, and he would always be there to say, “No. We tried that back in 1969 and it didn’t work.” Case closed, and the end of the possibility of the newness of life.
One time, when somebody suggested that we try a new initiative in evangelism, he chimed in, “I remember well, a previous pastor suggesting that we try that. We did it, but it was a big flop. That was about 1964.”
“1964!” I shouted. Do you know where I was in 1964? I was renting my tux for the high school prom. That is ancient history. Why should we care what happened in 1964? I wasn’t even a pastor then. It is a whole new world today.”
I was only partially right. It is never a “whole new world” unless we have the ability to lay aside the past that enslaves us.
Pulpit Resource by William Willimon Vol. 33, No. 3 Year A July, August, September 2005 Published by Logos Productions Inver Grove Heights MN P.G. 12-13
I have learned myself of the importance to let go of past anger, grudges and disappointments. I was married once before and I did not happy relationship. I knew once that relationship was over I needed to forgive my ex-wife and myself. I needed to let go if I was to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. As well, I knew that if I was ever to enter a new relationship I would need to let go if I was going to have any hope of choosing a compatible and loving partner to be with. Doing this work through counseling and spiritual direction was not easy but oh so worthwhile. As you see, I am now in a healthy relationship with Jen. This would not have happened if I had not done my work.
Remember, as I said earlier, to let go does not require us to completely forget. To let go does not require us to call some dastardly or unkind act as okay. To let go and forgive does require us to put these memories enough in the back our minds so that we are not continually having those memories inflame us over and over again. Rather our goal is to learn from our mistakes and move on into even more abundant life.
So what do you need to let go of? What do you need to keep at the back of your memory? Who do you need to forgive? As you acknowledge the answers to these questions over your life, find the courage to do the work and you will discover even more joyfulness.