Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sexagesima: A Devotional Commentary

Luke 8:4-15 As a great crowd was coming together and as people from every city were coming to him, he spoke by a parable. “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some seed fell along the wayside; it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the sky devoured it. Other seed fell on the rock, and as soon as it grew, it withered away because it had no moisture. Other fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew with it, and choked it. Other fell into the good ground, grew, and brought forth fruit a hundred times.” As he said this, he exclaimed, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Then his disciples asked him, “What does this parable mean?” Jesus replied, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to the rest, it is given in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now, this what the parable means: The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are those who hear. Then, the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are those who receive the word with joy when they hear. But they have no root; they believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation. What fell among the thorns is those who have heard, and as they go on their way, they are choked with worries, wealth, and the pleasures of life; and they bring no fruit to maturity. As for the seed that fell in the rich soil, this is those who have heard the word with an honest and good heart, who retain it and bring forth fruit with endurance.

Despite the fact that Jesus explains the parable, it seems that people keep misinterpreting it. Jesus is not teaching an economics lesson. Jesus is not telling us how to be good farmers. Good farmers don't throw their seed around randomly. Although Jesus talks about various soils, Jesus does not call for introspection. He does not tell people who are one type of soil to strive to be another type of soil. He doesn't even call for catagorization. He's not listing characteristics so that a person can try to determine what type of soil he is. According to Jesus, this is not what the parable is about. Jesus told this parable to explain the kingdom of God. Jesus told this parable to tell His disciples what will happen when the Word of God is sown.

What is the Word of God? Wrong question. Who is the Word of God? Jesus.

If Jesus is the Word of God, then who is the sower? Some man-made institution? Some para church organization? A mission society? A local church assembly? Individual believers? None of the above. God the Father sows the Word of God. God the Father sows the Word of God over the entire earth and the Word of God has the various results listed everywhere it is sown.

Seeds are much smaller than the plants they produce. They look insignificant. Even if you manage to see a seed just before it is sown, once it is sown you can't see it at all. Jesus is the Seed. He born of the virgin Mary and had a rather short career in which He was rejected and despised. Eventually, He was killed and buried. He could not be seen at all. He rose from the dead and then vanished.

In the parable, the Sower sows, and then the Seed works. The Seed is thrown on the wayside. It is trampled underfoot and the birds of the sky eat it. That doesn't mean that the Seed is not the Seed or that the Seed is defective. The birds are the Devil. The Devil recognizes the power of the Seed even when man does not. The Seed is trampled over by man but the Devil sees its real power. The Devil tries to destroy the Seed of by eating it and that's exactly what happened in the crucifixion. But when a bird eats a seed does that keep the seed from reproducing? Absolutely not. Many plants survive because birds eat their seeds and spread them everywhere in their poop. The Seed still works in spite of the Devil's attacks and even uses the attacks of the Devil for His own purpose.

The Seed also falls among the rocks. The Seed is sown and people respond with joy but whither away because they have no root and apostatize in time of temptation. Once again, the Seed is not deficient. There is no problem with the Seed. But they cut themselves off from the Seed. They cut themselves off from the preaching of the Word and the sacraments.

Other Seed fell among the thorns. The Seed does its job but those who receive it are unfruiful. They do not fall away but tend to spend most of their time concerned with material wealth.

Other Seed fell on the good soil and was very fruitful. But the Seed was the same in each instance. This soil had been prepared by God to bear fruit when the Seed was sown. There was nothing inherently good with the people who were more fruitful. They really didn't do anything at all. The Seed worked in them this particular result.

The parable is entirely descriptive. It doesn't tell anyone to do anything. It simply says what will happen. It does not tell us to scatter the Seed. God the Father has already done that. We are simply called to tell people what the Seed has done and avoid getting in the way. We could act as persecutors or provide people with lots of things to worry about but the parable doesn't really describe anything positive that we do. It's all about the Seed who died, was buried, and rose again for you.

If the church is going to try to use this parable as a model for what it does, I suppose it could take notice of some things. God the Father sows the Seed everywhere. He seems to just sow and sow without real concern for where it lands. The church should not spends its time focusing on specific target groups. It should just be indiscriminately telling everyone it sees about the Seed. The church really can't tell which soil is which anyhow.

Also, the message the church should be bringing should be all about what the Seed has already done. If the message is something else you might end up with lots and lots of people who are bearing fruit for whatever message you happen to be bringing but it has absolutely nothing to do with the Kingdom of God and might actually be getting in the way. Get out of the way! I could tell someone who has a failing marriage or has lost their job or whatever else that if they say a sinner's prayer then everything will end up all hunky dory for them and if everything does end up hunky dory for them and they go and tell lots of other people their story and lots of other people do the same thing in hopes that everything will be hunky dory for them. It appears to be good marketing and all that jazz. But it has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. It's only some strange message of hunky-doryness that can only stand in the way of the real message about a dead Jesus on a cross which isn't exactly hunky-dory and all the promises that followers of the dead Jesus Jesus on the cross will be persecuted. The same could be said for sowing the seeds of "life-principles" or "Christ-consciousness" or whatever else you'd like to throw into the mix. The Seed is Christ. He has done it all. Get out of the way!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your devotional is very helpful and clearly explained! Love Mom