Weekly Bible Devotional
“Godspell: The Parable of the Sower”
January 5, 2020
Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 13:1-9
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
Notes on the Text:
We start this Sunday a new sermon series based on the Musical “Godspell.” The hope is to take a fresh look at the teachings of Jesus through the parables and how they apply to our lives and world today.
One of the challenges that is always before us when it comes to the teaching of Jesus is allowing them to turn our perspectives and systems upside down. The parables were key tools Jesus used to do that. The parable for today turns our expectations upside down when we focus on the sower instead of focusing just on the seed or the soil. When it comes to hearing the parable of the sower, we tend to miss the big picture of it and get stuck thinking that the parable is all about us instead of God’s grace. We think that the parable is only about us being open or closed to God’s word and grace and thus we miss the larger intended impact of God’s grace. Parables were not just short stories with simple meanings. They were Jesus’ way of challenging the dominant systems and ways of thinking.
The sower seemed to discard the common sense of farming by scattering seeds where there is little potential for growth. The people who first heard this must have thought that the farmer was foolish because he chose to sow the seeds on the wrong kind of soil. Farmers in those days were not rich. Their livelihood depended on the success of their crops. Good seed was hard to come by; and the wise farmer made sure to entrust the precious grain he had to the best of soil. But this one tosses seed wherever he can find ground. The farmer behaved as though that which was most precious was available in unlimited supply.
This parable must have been shocking to the people who listened to Jesus. He used a common event from their daily lives to turn their understanding of God upside down. That is the way Jesus used his parables to help people understand that the kingdom of God was so different from what they thought it to be. The parables were rhetorical tools that got rid of the hearers’ preconceived notions about God in order to clear the way for a new understanding. The parables were supposed to help people wake up to see God’s vision for the world.
When we hear this parable, we often start thinking about the types of soil that we are whether we are good or bad. This is our orientation. This is part of our preconceived notion about God. We tend to focus on ourselves as the ones who make or break the deal! Yet, the deeper wisdom of this lesson that shatters all of our conventional wisdom is that the grace of the kingdom of God is not entirely dependent on our actions. The grace of the kingdom of God is dependent on God’s generosity. In our conventional wisdom, we may see that God is a reckless and foolish farmer, but through the wisdom of the kingdom of God, we see that God’s love is lavish, generous and even abundant. God’s grace is available to all. This is not to say that anything goes because our problems and faults will be healed once our relationship with God is at the center of our lives.
The wide broadcasting of seed is indicative of the abundant nature of God. This is hard for us to accept. How can God be generous to all people, especially those who don’t “deserve” it? How can God be so accepting of us even though we are often a major disappointment to ourselves and to those who love us? Paul Tillich, a well-known theologian, once wrote, “the hardest thing about being Christian is accepting that we are accepted.” Much of our spiritual journey is spent learning to truly accept God’s love for us and living in that same Spirit of love as we relate to others.
Our obsession with fixing the world and making sure that things are being done in the right fashion can sometimes work against our desire to live in the presence of God. Yet, Jesus’ invitation to us to live in the kingdom of God is to live a life of focus on the generosity and love of God. Our calculating minds want to know if we are doing things right and well. We even worry about others doing things “right.” But the radical message of the gospel is to pay attention to the work of love of the Spirit in our world.
The musical Godspell was produced as a modern parable to help wake people up to the teachings and path of Jesus Christ. In the early seventies, Godspell was a new way to retell the old story of faith. It was supposed to help reach out to people who had left organized religion because they had been disillusioned by the hierarchy and patriarchy of the Church. Godspell shows an image of Jesus as a hippie who spends time with his friends sharing and acting out the stories of the parables to embrace a life of deep joy. Every generation has to rediscover the teachings and ways of Jesus for themselves so that we can live by his wisdom for ourselves. We also have to imagine God in new ways; ways that challenge our narrow-minded and judgmental views.
Take a few moments to consider some of the things that really challenge you about God as this kind of lavish and seemingly foolish sower. How does the image of Jesus as a free-spirited hippie, as presented in Godspell, challenge your views of him?
The Jesuit Anthony de Mello tells this little story about himself. “I was a neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change. I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. What hurt the most was that like the others, my best friend kept insisting that I change. So I felt powerless and trapped. Then one day, he said to me, “Don’t change. I love you just as you are.” Those words were music to my ears: “Don’t change. Don’t change. Don’t change. I love you as you are.” I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed! Now I know that I couldn’t really change until I found someone who would love me whether I changed or not. Is this how you love me, God?
Prayer by Joyce Rupp:
Gracious God, give us generous hearts:
to share whatever gift it is that you have given to us;
to acknowledge you as the giver of all good gifts;
to give without counting the cost;
to share without expecting something in return;
to be wise in the way of caring for ourselves and others;
to hold all of our treasures and values with open hands;
to have gospel priorities and to align our life, love and time in their light;
to be gracious and unbegrudging in our giving;
to recognize the abundance of blessings in each passing day;
to know the freedom that comes with true generosity;
to accept our talents, whether many or few, and to use them in service of others;
to grow in giving thanks for everything;
to be happy with having what we need and wise enough to know what it is that we want and do not need;
to fall more deeply in love with the God of all generosity so that our hearts are strong enough to give away freely whatever is asked.
O gracious God,
who generously lavishes our lives with goodness,
create in our hearts a deep center of gratitude,
a center that grows so strong in its thanksgiving
that sharing freely of our treasures becomes the pattern of our existence.
Remind us often of how much you cherish us,
of how abundantly you have offered gifts to us,
especially in the hours of our greatest need.
May we always be grateful for your reaching into our lives
with surprises of joy, growth and unconditional love. Amen.
Blessing: Grace Got You