That Pesky “So What” Question Again

It seems clear that we have another descriptive rather than prescriptive parable on our hands.  Jesus doesn’t tell us to be wheat.  He expressly says that us human types don’t get to do the judging or the harvesting or the burning of the weeds.  No, we are merely wheat, or so we hope, growing for a season in the midst of a sabotaged field.  Is this really what the Kingdom of God is like?  Me just soaking up sunlight, rain, and nutrients all provided by a God who seems just a little bit of his rocker?

I’m not good at taking vacations.  The typical vacation lasts for 7 days.  I can sit and do nothing for approximately 2 hours.  Even 2 weeks of merely descriptive parables has me on edge.  So, the idea that the Kingdom of God is like me being on vacation for my entire life is enough to make me think it isn’t for me.  I need something to do, some task to accomplish, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that this week’s parable is actually a parable about last week’s parable.  This week we get the Parable of the Good Soil.

Seeds that fell on good soil, seeds which should produce at least a 30 fold yield have been sabotaged by the evil one.  He has come and turn what was good soil into a weed infested mess.  The cares and concerns of the world, the lure of wealth, illness and death, all of it grows right alongside each of us and attempts to choke the very faith out of us.  It would be easy to succumb to the pressure of the weeds roots below.  It’d be simple to allow their shadow to steal our light.  Getting choked out by the weeds wouldn’t be hard, and God knows it.  So he continues to provide nutrients, he continues to allow the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike, he continues to allow the sun to shine on both the wheat and the tares, and he encourages us to persevere.  To see beyond the current hardships.  To stand tall above the weeds.  To fight for nourishment when others would starve us of God’s grace.  We are called to be the best damn wheat we can be, even and especially in a field full of pesky weeds.

Yes, this parable is descriptive.  Yes, we are really just called to be wheat.  Yes, this drives me crazy, so yes, I’m going to do my best to be as wheaty as possible when the harvest comes.

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The “So What?” Question

I love parable season.  I really do.  But this week isn’t working out quite the way I had imagined.  It has been a busy week, which, when dealing with spiritual hand grenades, isn’t ideal.  So here I am, at 10 to 2 on Thursday afternoon, my usual sermon writing time, and I’m still struggling around this question of “So What?”  I was supposed to have lunch with my friend and fellow Bible blogger, Evan, and per his post this morning, we were supposed to talk about this very issue, “So What?”, but that didn’t happen, so now my poor readers will have to read as I struggle through it in print.

The problem Evan raises in the post linked above is the crux of the issue.  If I am soil and there is nothing soil can do in and of itself to change from path to good stuff and if this story is really about God’s prodigal grace, then what is the preacher to do other than tell the parable for a third or fourth time after the people have already heard it twice in the Gospel lesson?  If I can’t draw a flow chart like this one:

The Parable of the Sower

Then what the heck do I preach?

Thankfully, yesterday I sat in on TKT’s Bible Study on the Parables of Jesus. Conveniently, the topic at hand was very parable.  As I sat and listened to it, rather than reading it, I realized that Jesus describes three action steps in his interpretation of the Parable of the Sower.  First, the word of the kingdom is heard.  Hearing is a totally passive activity.  Sound waves travel all around and when they happen to enter the ear canal and vibrate the ear drum, hearing happens whether or not I’m paying attention.  In the context of the parable, this is the work of the sower, seed is cast no matter the type of soil.

Secondly, Jesus says that some hearers will understand to word of the kingdom.  This is, I believe, the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Holy Spirit is constantly tending the soil of our hearts.  Some of us are 90% good soil and others are 90% path, but no matter the make up of our hearts, the Spirit is at work with tiller, water, and fertilizer, working to create as receptive as possible a place in our hearts.  The Spirit attempts to soften up the path, to break up the rocky under layment, to pull up the weeds, and to continuously nurture the good soil of our hearts.  We can’t do anything to make ourselves receptive to the word or to better understand it when it comes, that is a gift of grace.

Finally, the seeds that fall on good soil produce fruit with varying degrees of effectiveness: some 100, some 60, some 30 fold.  This is where we get to help out.  When we recognize the kingdom of God at work in our lives, then we are seemingly compelled to respond by helping it grow.  Thanks to the gift of seed from the Sower God, and the tending of the soil by the Farmer Spirit, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, we are able to respond to God’s work in our lives by sharing it with those around it through evangelism, giving, outreach, care, and love.  Children of the Kingdom are known by their works.  Their works don’t get them in, as this parable makes clear, but the sign and symbol of the grace of God at work in their lives is the fruit of good works.

So there, I guess I’ve worked out my issues here on WordPress.  Still, I wish I could have had lunch with Evan.