communicating aspects of the kingdom of God. Parables consist of short narratives to illustrate a point. Sometimes the elements in the narrative are explicitly identified as pictures of, or metaphors for, something that helps us understand the meaning. Sometimes the meanings are explained, while at other times they are not spelt out. For example, several of these parables concern seeds, but the picture language, or metaphor, of a seed is used in varying ways in the different parables. For this reason, it is important to take each parable as a whole to determine its meaning, rather than focusing on single words or taking the metaphors too far.”
Those that have attended church when I have lead a service will be very aware that I find the use of props very useful to me, I have an art background – so I like the idea of using story boards to light up my sermon, words sometimes get lost in the message – but a picture well that’s another matter altogether. Many of our Ministers & visiting lay preachers over the years have brought seeds in, some have allowed us to take them home to see how they germinate.
The first half of this week’s reading presents the picture, familiar to Jesus’ audience, of someone sowing seed, probably throwing it across each side of the ground as they walked along a path of beaten earth through a field. Jesus notes reasons, within the story, why the seed falling in each of four different places might be more or less productive. He then calls on the crowd to listen (v.9).
“The second half of the reading jumps a few verses to where, having answered the disciples’ question about why he uses parables, Jesus calls them to ‘hear’ the parable (it is the same root word as that translated ‘listen’ in v.9) and he proceeds to explain it. This is where our tidy categories of meaning fail us; it is meaningless to argue whether the germinating seed (v.21) or the soil type (v.19) represent the person. The wording is ambiguous but the meaning is clear. The different growing situations are metaphors for different responses to the word of the kingdom. As such, they help explain why Jesus’ message is not received with acclaim by all of Israel. Various factors affected how the same ‘seed’ of God’s word fared in different circumstances in Jesus’ time: distraction by forces against God, by hostility from others, by worries of life and concern for wealth. Beyond that, we may find that the parable helps us understand why people outside the Church today respond in varying ways to the gospel, and it may also reflect how Christians feel that they respond to the ongoing call of God on their lives. This range of potential applicability reflects the power of a good parable. It can speak to various situations in differing ways – but all may be fruitful.”
There can be no better example of how we should act as Christians if we use the example of the seed. But also that image of Jesus having to get into a boat – because so many people were there, like the image above reminds us of the climate affecting how we worship moving forward, we will have some form of social distancing, there will be many changes in the short to medium term but whatever our Church looks like as we move forward we must all remember we are the “seeds” we have to grow our Church, it’s just that we may have to find new ways of doing that.
The links between the readings
We use pictures to communicate ideas all the time. Isaiah and the psalmist both make poetic use of pictures to speak of abstract concepts, such as God’s word, or to express the way in which they saw the whole of creation giving praise to God. Paul uses metaphors of walking and dwelling to speak of the ways in which believers’ lives are bound up with the Spirit of God. Jesus, the master storyteller, conjures up pictures to communicate deep truths about people and about the work of God. We shall see more over the next two weeks.
Part 3 will be posted on Saturday