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Posts Tagged ‘parables’

farmerMy pastor loves alliteration, metaphor, and rhyme. And so, it came as no surprise a couple of Sundays ago when he referred to himself as the “Dude with the Food,” another way of saying he was the one who had the job to distribute nourishment, the “word of God” and the “bread of life.” Another food-based role for the pastor appears in the parable of the seeds (Matthew 13:1-9).

Such large crowds gathered around him [Jesus] that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed . . . [Matthew 13:2-3, NIV]

This is a familiar parable to most people about the seeds that fell on the path, or landed in rocky places or in shallow places, as well as seeds that grew but among thorns, and finally, the seeds that landed in good soil where they did what they were supposed to do: flourish.

So much has been written about the seeds and many times we have been asked to compare ourselves and our understanding of the message to one of these groups of scattered seeds. But today, I am interested in the farmer.

You see, in my mind, it is the farmer’s intention, from the beginning, to throw and plant the seeds in good soil. After all, the farmer’s goal is to reap a plentiful harvest. It is not intentional that seeds go astray. They will. They do. The farmer may spend a lot of time in soil preparation, but inevitably, circumstances and the weather may alter his best intentions. If the wind comes up or a storm, the seeds will scatter, even those that may have landed in the best of places. Seeds are challenged. Seeds are damaged.

But the key understanding for me is that the farmer is not responsible for the outcome. The farmer can plan, prepare, plant, and even encourage, but ultimately, it’s between the seed and nature (or God, in this case) to actually break down and transform into something else, like a plant. The farmer envisions the best results, but things don’t always work out that way. The farmer can pray for rain and pray for sunshine; the farmer can take out weeds, but sometimes, there are nasty critters that destroy the roots anyway. The farmer is only one while the seeds are many.

We need to stop blaming these farmers for the losses.

farmhandsSometimes, I hear people talking about their farmers who are not good administrators. I guess that means those seeds are unhappy with the size of the fields, the design of the rows, the farmhands that the farmer hired to help deliver the message. Or others say the farmer spends too much time on the fields around the house and not enough time visiting the fields on the other side of the hill, or the special little garden just for organic seeds or sickly seeds. And still others criticize the farmer for not spending enough time planning the farm, or laying hands on the seeds, or purifying the water and so on.

I’m beating this metaphor to death, I ‘m sure.

You wanna help the farmer? Be a farmhand.

 

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make a wayWe all were. Sent ahead. In some cases, that is more obvious than in others, but if you think about it, we can each lay a path or new ground for our descendants and loved ones.

But God sent me [Joseph] ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. [Genesis 45:7, NIV]

My mother and father left Europe and came to America and worked hard for the sake of their children and a new life. My mother’s mother left her village in Lithuania to go to Riga to experience city life. In my own life, bouncing from city to city, I eventually landed with a husband and a home here in Maryland and drew three orphaned children to us from Latvia and St. Petersburg, Russia, their lives forever changed.

We can each make a way. We can cut the brambles to the best of our ability so that others can walk behind.

But of course, some people refuse. The road ahead seems too difficult, too overwhelming. And so they sit in what small space they can carve out and wait. Reminds me of the parable of the “talents.” Three servants were entrusted with wealth to invest for the Master while he journeyed away. Two took risks and plunged ahead. But the one merely buried what he was given and although he returned it all, he had made not change or increase.

Humans are given gifts as well as challenges that make us who we are but also help make us what God intends. It is not about the money but about the attitude, the response to life’s events, accepting the truth of what is and making the very best of what that truth can contribute.

This process is true for organizations as well as individuals. Churches, in particular, have a mission to reach out to those stagnant souls who have lost their will or hope toward the next step. The Church, the Body of Christ, can do corporately what cannot always be done by the one. But it must be done in unity and love.

Look back: who is following you? Whose steps are landing in your footprints?

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unfairHow many times have I heard my children complain about a decision of mine not being fair? No matter that last year or month or week, a similar decision probably benefited the complainer, but it’s all about the moment and it’s all about them. It’s unfair today. I can even remember counting Christmas presents when they were little to be sure the numbers came out even (I created my own monster). To what end? But am I any different when it comes to the things of God?

The older brother got really angry and refused to come inside, so his father came out and pleaded with him to join the celebration. But he argued back, “Listen, all these years I’ve worked hard for you. I’ve never disobeyed one of your orders. But how many times have you even given me a little goat to roast for a party with my friends? Not once! This is not fair!  [Luke 15:28-29, The Voice translation]

I am questioning God’s judgment all the time. Whenever I look around and compare myself and my situation to those around me, I am judging God’s direction. When I get frustrated with my children, my marriage, my body,  my aging, and more, I am actually saying my life could be better if only. . . !

But would it really? They say people tend to re-create their negative circumstances even when given a fresh start. Women divorce to get a better husband and find the next one equally unbearable. Running away from what is does nothing but delay the learning.

I am who I am. I have many gifts and I have many flaws. I am a follower of One God. And I have said over and over again that I trust that God to protect me and guide me. That journey will never look like anyone else’s journey.

Fairness is relative. When my children accuse me of being unfair, I want to scream! Everything I do for them and with them, is for their good, for love, for a future. Circumstances will never appear particularly fair. One day, they will learn that lesson too.

God forgive me for my own childish tantrums.

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Let us give meaning to the Bread and WineJesus loved to speak in stories, symbols and metaphors. The supernatural world is indescribable otherwise. Our language is unable to represent something we do not know or understand. The meaning is revealed over time.

I Corinthians 11:26
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. [The Message Bible]

Bread and wine were used throughout Jewish history, from manna to unleavened bread to the Temple showbread. But, at the last supper, Jesus takes bread and intentionally breaks it and shares it with the disciples (and probably everyone else who was in the room, since I believe there were women and servers there as well, and it was not a “private” event as is so often depicted). He is setting up a symbol to be repeated and to have meaning throughout history.

So often, we think of the “bread” (what we now call communion bread) as something he is doing for us. We are consuming it, we are gaining. But today, I am thinking about the implications for him. He is symbolically cutting up his body for the sake of others. His death and sacrifice begins that night.

And all that He asks is that we remember and keep remembering. “Touch me, smell me, eat me, drink me, and be whole,” He says through the sacrifice. The Jewish rituals of old had prepared people for the New Covenant. It was still the same: sacrifice for sin, offerings for forgiveness, awareness for new beginnings.

Contemporary Christians have lost the deep significance in the consuming of Christ’s symbols of body and blood. Plastic drink cups and dry crackers are poor substitutes. In this regard, it’s very possible that “high church” folks have it right.

On Memorial Days, we consider the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives. It’s holy and solemn and thoughtful. Should Christ’s memorial be any less from week to week or month to month?

The body and blood, the bread and wine, has the power to transform us. I want to remember. I want to really remember today.

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A believer, grafted to the tree of faith, still has some responsibility despite all that grace. I do, after all, need to participate in the tree… “be a tree” and not something else, like a mushroom or a dandelion.

Romans 3:2b
First of all, they [the Jews] have been entrusted with the very words of God.

When I accepted Christ, I agreed to give up some things in exchange for the embedded words of God. Those words have power and can transform a life. I agreed to keep them safe by treating them reverently.

Oh, it’s not like the “words” will go away if I am faithless. I can even cast them aside and God will not be changed in any way. But I will have broken trust… it’s a type of betrayal, a broken covenant.

God is teaching me about God through those words. And Jesus is teaching me. And the Holy Spirit is teaching me. And as I learn, I become a stronger part of the tree.

An image that comes to my mind is the great tree in the movie, Avatar. It was a life force, a home, a safety net, a fortress, a symbol… it was all of these things and more to the native peoples. And so is the tree of life for me. Unlike Pandora’s tree which was destroyed by evil, our tree of life lives on forever. But it really thrives when the parts contribute to the tree with love and joy and obedience and faith and truth and confession.

As a believer, I have been entrusted with the words of God. They are only seeds. The life of those word-seeds must be planted and nurtured to manifest.

Similar metaphors are used throughout the scriptures to help us understand. Do we? Do we take these gifts seriously? Do I? If I truly understood the words of God to be like the metaphors that Jesus used about the kingdom (e.g. a mustard seed, yeast, treasure in a field, a pearl [Matthew 13]), would I sell everything to gain the full value of this treasure?

Oh Lord, give me a love for your words that will bear much fruit. Give me wisdom and understanding. Help me to be a better caretaker of your truth.

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Luke 18:7-8
… “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

In this parable, Jesus clearly states that persistence is rewarded with justice, whether the dispenser of it is just or unjust. God promises to reward those who cry out to him. I am counting on this justice (as well as his mercy) as I pray and fast for my daughter.

But the last line tells me that there is a key element to this 24/7 crying out to God: Faith. My faith must be rooted in His ultimate sovereignty over our situation and circumstances. I pray now because the outcome is unknown. But will I have the same courage and faith if the doctors give a bad report or if she is destined to suffer?

Some years ago, my friend, who is a “white-knuckle flyer,” was very agitated as we flew across the country together. I told her she could rest easy that God would not allow that plane to fall and for us to die. She asked how I could be so sure and I told her that we had just adopted two boys (back in 1997) and I was sure he wouldn’t save them just to take away their mother again.

Today, I seek this same confidence in God’s will for our adopted daughter. There is something in the adoption process that carries a unique sense of destiny. The stories of orphans around the world are heart wrenching. And when one is picked up, like a starfish in the sand, hope is rekindled for his or her future.

This is my prayer.

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