Archive for July, 2008

On vacation this week, Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.  See you next Sunday.


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On vacation this week: Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.

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Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23


I.        Way In

A.      We had a friend in Atlanta named Gidget

1.       One of our homeless friends who ate with us at the Open Door Community (910)

2.       Her life was complicated

a.       A homeless woman on the streets of Atlanta

b.      Did a little time in jail

c.       Gidget had a heart of gold

d.      Maybe she made some bad choices – maybe she had no other choices

3.       her needs were basic

a.       safe place to sleep, food, warm clothes in the winter

4.       mostly she needed somebody to listen to her

a.       Gidget is like everybody you know

b.      She has a story

i.         Gidget used to be somebody’s little girl

ii.       Gidget  grew up in a town or city somewhere

iii.      Gidget had a husband

iv.     I’m sure Gidget never meant to be homeless

5.       I don’t know what happened to Gidget

a.       But when we lived in Atlanta, we saw her all the time

b.      Every time we saw her, she had something to tell us …

6.       “Listen.”

a.       You could not help being held fast by her earnestness

b.      Gidget yearned to be heard

c.       When she said, “Listen”

i.         She surely had your attention with her wide southern drawl

ii.       It was a plea, an invitation

iii.      Because she had something to say

B.      “Listen.”  “Listen up.”  “Let me have your attention.”

1.       I have something to tell you

2.       This is how Jesus introduces the parables he tells in today’s reading

a.       He has something to tell the crowds standing along the Galilean shore

i.         Something with the power to change their lives

ii.       …The power to change our lives, too.

3.       Listen

II.      Tell the Story

A.      Context

1.       Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry

a.       MT’s gospel, travelling around Galilee

i.         Praised and encouraged cousin John the Baptist

·         In jail, where a lot of Jesus’ followers and friends end up

ii.       Exhorted the ones who would not change their ways

iii.      Promising to ease burdens

iv.     He fed the hungry, healed the sick

B.      Today’s reading we find Jesus

1.       Shore of the Sea of Galilee

a.       Great crowds had gathered around

b.      Got into a boat where he could address them

2.       Taught in parables

a.       “Listen!”  To the parable of a sower who went out to sowSower_2

i.         Some seeds fell on the path

·         Birds ate them up

ii.       Some seeds fell on rocky ground

·         Sprang up quickly

·         But there was not root, no water

·         Scorched in the sun, withered, died

iii.      Some fell among thorns

·         Choked out

iv.     Some fell on good soil

·         Brought forth grain; 30x, 60x, even 100x

b.      “Let anyone with ears listen!”

3.       Jesus describes why he teaches in parables

a.       Section not included in today’s reading

b.      Better understanding through stories/parables

4.       Today’s reading concludes with Jesus’ explanation of the parable (unusual)

a.       Hear the parable of the sower,” Not just listen but hear with understanding

i.         Seeds that  fall on the path

·         The ones who hear the words of the kingdom and do not understand

·         The evil one comes along and snatches away the seeds laying on the path

ii.       Seeds that fall on rocky ground

·         The ones who hear the word and receives it with joy

·         Yet there is no root, so the minute trouble comes up, that one falls away

iii.      Seeds that fall among thorns

·         The one who hears the word but it’s choked out by the cares of the world and the lure of wealth

iv.     Seeds that fell on good soil

·         The one who hears the word and understands it

·         Bears fruit, yielding  up to 100x

III.    So What?

A.      Jesus himself explains the parable, so you don’t need to hear anymore about that from me

1.       Reminding us to be like the good soil upon which God’s word is sown

a.       Fertile, receptive

i.         Bearing much fruit

B.      If we are the soil … rocky, thorny; or the hard, unyielding path

1.       Which determines how the seed of God’s word is received with us

a.       Bearing fruit …

b.      Or withering within a lifeless or listless soul

C.      Then let us take a moment to look at the sower

1.       Can you get a mental image of the sower

a.       I remember the last time I planted grass seed out where the snowplow rutted up the soil where grass used to grow last spring

i.         Sowed by hand

·         Some fell on the sidewalk and driveway – did no good

·         Some fell among the ivy-like ground cover in the flower bed – choked out

·         Some fell on hard-caked or rocky soil, or in the shade

·         But the grass seed that fell in the soil I loosened with a hoe and watered

·         Came in thick and green

2.       I did my best to get most of the grass seed in the best soil

a.       I didn’t mean to get any on the sidewalk or driveway, or in any of those non-fertile spots

b.      Who knows?

i.         Maybe later I swept some of the grass off of the sideway into the good soil

ii.       Or washed it over there later when I was watering with the hose

iii.      Maybe some grass seed fell off of the ground cover leaves back into the soil

iv.     What I mean:

·         Obviously, I wanted to get as much grass to grow as I could

·         Took some care/awareness of where I cast the seed

·         Yet I threw it rather generously

·         I knew some seeds went on the sidewalk, the driveway, in the bushes, or on the hard dirt I had not tilled

·         Some of those still might make it, like I said before

D.      The parable tells us about the sower as well

1.       The sower spreads the Word of God widely and generously

2.       Without pre-supposing anything about the hearers

3.       Of course, Jesus wants the Word of God to flourish, to grow widely and wildly

4.       So he spreads it generously

a.       Not just placing the seeds carefully among the tilled and prepared furrows

b.      Also giving the other places a chance

i.         Some of the seeds that fall among weeds or gravel  might make it

ii.       Some of the seeds that land on concrete or hard soil might be moved from there by wind or water and end up on fertile land

5.       Jesus spreads the Word of God without deciding first who will receive it well

a.       By the grace of God the word is available to all

i.         Even those who might, at first seem un receptive

ii.       All have the same opportunity to hear and receive

b.      Of course, the Word will take root and flourish best in rich, fertile, and prepared soil

c.       But even when it falls among places that seem unreceptive at first

i.         God’s Word can flourish even under more difficult circumstances

E.       Listen … the good news of the gospel is that

1.       Jesus/the sower has come among us full of life and truth to teach and preach the good news of the Kingdom of heaven

a.       God’s word is available to all

i.         Not only those who are open and receptive

ii.       But even those where growth may require more work, even a struggle

2.       And as his followers …

a.       We should also sow God’s word and God’s word widely

b.      Not trying to presuppose where it may grow the best and easiest

i.         But in places where that may look unreceptive at first

ii.       …places that may take a little more work

3.       Because some of the seeds we sow won’t grow as quickly or noticeably as grass seed

a.       We may see the fruits of our labor right away

b.      In fact, we may never see the fruits of some of the seeds we sow

c.       So we should never hold back on:

i.          sowing the seeds

ii.       Showing hospitality to strangers

·         WPC – somebody came to church last week because somebody invited him from the sidewalk the week before

iii.      Welcoming and inviting people to come among us

iv.     Sharing with our neighbors from our abundance

·         Food pantry, clothes closet

v.       Especially those who work with children and youth

·         From time-to-time you may see the fruits of your labors

·         When a teenager or young adult remembers your kindness when she was a child

·         Or sees you when he’s playing basketball and remembers you coming to get him for Sunday School when he was a child

4.       If it wasn’t for somebody taking the time to reach a kid who needed some work, unreceptive

a.       I probably wouldn’t be standing here today

i.         If not for patient and attentive Sunday School teachers, youth advisors, and a pastor

b.      What about you or somebody you know?

5.       Listen … Jesus sows the seed of the gospel widely and even wildly

a.       So may it be with us.  Amen

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Matthew 11:25-30

I.      Way In

A.   Front page of the newspaper, “Are You Smarter Than a 5-year-old? – I’m told there’s also a TV show by that name

1.    A 5-year-old? I probably couldn’t even do as well as that

2.    I could tell you about several times lately that my 4-year-=old son has

a)    Outsmarted me

(1)  At Target recently – the 3 of us

(2)  Kazy went looking in one direction

(3)  Pauly and I went in the other

(4)  She told us to meet her in a few in the household area

(5)  Went back, couldn’t find her

(6)  Asked Pauly to help me look for Mommy

(7)  He told me that he thought he “just saw her”

(a)  “over there”

(b)  I followed his direction

(c)  Until we ended up in the Toy Dept. – Power Ranger & Transformer aisle

(8)  Knew the store better, maneuvered me to the Power Ranger section

(9)  Sharp kid, if I say so myself

b)    More than once lately he has taught me grace

(1)  “Just do centers”  See the Welcome Table blog for this

(2)  When there’s something wrong, go tell somebody

(a)  Right, Daddy?

B.   Right, Son – When there’s something wrong, go tell somebody

1.    But it’s not always that simple, right?

a)    Not always…

b)    Don’t’ we sometime rather want to wait to make sure we can’t handle it on our own?

c)    Besides, somebody else may be disappointed if we ask them for help

d)    Shouldn’t we be able to handle this?

C.   Bridge

1.    Have you ever carried a burden like that?

a)    Sick, but don’t want to bother anybody with it

b)    A problem, something you need

(1)  But too ashamed of the need to have to ask anybody

2.    Keep that burden in mind, and listen to what Jesus says again

II.    Tell the Story

A.   Jesus cover a lot of ground in today’s Gospel reading

1.    he thanks God for revealing his lessons to the infants; the unprivileged, sinners, tax collectors, the poor, the homeless

a)    I.Q. and special statues are not the ways to God

2.    “knowing” God indicates intimacy and choice

3.    Acknowledging the relationship between the Father and the Son requires that we accept a mystery, because the actual workings are beyond our comprehension

a)    So the make-believe-game skills of infants and children are more helpful with this than skilled scientific brains and systems

B.   Focus today is on the last two verses (28-30)

1.    Jesus’ invitation

a)    To those who are weary/tired, carrying heavy burdens

(1)  come, and I will give you rest

b)    Take my yoke

(1)  Learn from me

(2)  I am gentle and humble in heart

(3)  Here you will find rest for your soul

(4)  My yoke is easy, my burden is light

III.   So What

A.   Jesus asks the ones who are tired:

1.    Come to me, everyone is invited, especially those who are tired of bearing up under such a burden

2.    I will give you rest

a)    Not laziness, but rest, as in Sabbath rest (there is a difference)

b)    Not promising that there will not be any burdens

(1)  Rather – a shared burden

(2)  Exchanging the heaviness of bearing a burden alone

(a)  Now it’s a shared burden

B.   Yoke

1.    implies shared burden

2.    not something Jesus imposes, but something he wears himself, a burden he shares with us

3.    traditionally used to make a team out of two oxen

4.    Jesus says, “become my workmate, learn how to pull the heavy load

C.   Learn from me

1.    learn not just to think but to do

2.    learn not only by listening but by watching

D.   Along our journey

1.    we are not alone

2.    the burden is not ours alone to bear

3.    Jesus calls us to be his partner, he’s on the other side, “he has our back”

4.    Learn his ways by walking with him

5.    we’re all yoked together, on the same team, I hope you have felt his presence in others when you have known sadness or pain, and when you have known great joy, too

E.   Shared burden

1.    Christ the Lord

a)    Takes up our burden of sin and guilt

b)    Forgiveness – we do not walk alone

2.    The Body of Christ

a)    Bearing one another’s burdens

b)    Companionship and fellowship – we do not walk alone

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