Sunday, October 19, 2014

What is THIS parable about?

• Twentyninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, 
the parable of the Sower, and its interpretation.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

Last week I played from “Moonlight Sonata,” asking “what's it mean?” and I shared that you might call a parable a poem that human language does not know how to qualify.
Understanding a parable requires three things: gift, effort, humility...
And the result of wrestling with Jesus' parables:
 you're drawn into relationship with God.
Nevertheless, What's This One About?
What's the parable of the Sower about?

This is a parable about God. God who wants a harvest and who goes about it the old-fashioned way: scattering seeds. (familiar) (today might be planting a garden or growing a lawn) (not the kind of effort as in Creation when God spoke and it happened)
By the way, in scattering seeds, God is taking risks. God does not carefully choose where to plant... and remembering that the seed is the word, this word is going OUT... on the path, among the rocks, among the weeds, in the good soil... and God anticipates a variable harvest.
God is also willing to get God's feet dirty. (different effort than Creation). Which leads to:

This is a parable about Christ. Literally about the incarnation, God not only sowing the seed but BEING the seed... the seed is the word, and Jesus the Christ is the Word. Interacting with the world in its settings, again, not just the good soil, but a message IN the world to ALL the world.

This is also a parable about the Evil One. Jesus speaks of The Evil One in the world, and this isn't the only place. We learn a few things about TEO, the one opposed to the sower and the harvest. And knowledge of TEO is vital for those who wish to stand against TEO.
1. TEO seeks to snatch the word.
He doesn't want people to receive Jesus.
(path/birds/lack of understanding)
2. TEO seeks to frighten or sap those who do receive the word.
He doesn't want people to be disciples.
(rocky soil, no roots, no strength)
3. TEO seeks to mislead those who receive the word, to distract them, to nurture a false word. (worries and false appeal of wealth)

When we gain knowledge of TEO, we can learn about resisting and countering TEO, and
this is a parable about people.
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22)
• So the seed on the path with the birds, snatched away?
Let us accompany the hearer.
• The seed on the rocky soil, with no strength?
Let us encourage the hearer.
• The seed among the weeds, choked out by other things?
Let us teach the hearer.
• Remember it by “Let's EAT” (encourage, accompany, teach)... 
because God has a harvest

Our mission is to share the love of God 
with people in a hurting world...
How great is God who chooses all of this, who chooses us...

Hymn 77 How Great Thou Art

Matthew 13:18-23 CEB
18 “Consider then the parable of the farmer. 
19  Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, 
the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts.
This is the seed that was sown on the path. 
20  As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground,
this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully.
21  Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while.
When they experience distress or abuse because of the word,
they immediately fall away. 
22  As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants,
this refers to those who hear the word,
but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word,
and it bears no fruit. 

23  As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.”

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On the Use of Parables

• Twentyeighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 13:10-17, 
in which Jesus speaks about using parables.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

[I sat down and played the first half page of] Beethoven's Piano Sonata #14 in C#minor, quasi una fantasia, Opus 27 No. 2. 
(you can listen to it by clicking --> here <--) (this is not me playing, by the way) 
(also by the way, props to Mrs. H, my piano teacher from when I was in grade school. You are one of the reasons I LOVE piano music)

What's it mean? What feelings does it evoke?
The name happened 30 years after it was written, and 5 years after Beethoven's death, when a music critic likened the effect of the first movement to that of “moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne,” 
and the name stuck. “Moonlight Sonata”
Contemporary French composer Hector Berlioz called it a “lamentation.”

“It is one of those poems 
that human language does not know how to qualify.”

You might call a parable a poem
that human language does not know how to qualify.

Chapter 13 begins with a parable (first use of the word parable in Matthew).
Then this question from the disciples, why parables? And Jesus' mysterious answer: “because they haven't received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. For those who HAVE, will receive more... and those who DON'T have, even the little they have will be taken away.” 
I don't know about you but that response makes me a little uncomfortable... it bugs me.

But before that, what is a parable?

Historically, parables were treated as allegory: 
representational stories with “secret” meanings.
However, in early 20th century theologian Charles Dodd came up with what is now pretty much the standard definition of a parable: 
a metaphor or simile from common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.

That is,
a story using a familiar setting,
also awkward or unexpected,
and “sticky”
(recall Iyaz's song, Shawty's like a melody in my head that I can't keep out, got me singing now, 'na na na na' every day, like my iPod's stuck on REPLAY...)
A parable will make you go “Hmmm?” and ruminate on it. 
What does it mean? Do I 'get it'?

A parable is like a living thing, like music...
It is evocative, demanding interaction, 
and defying being neatly qualified and quantified.

Back to Jesus' answer... 
Understanding a parable requires three things:

One, it's a gift. Jesus says that some have received and some have not.
(gifts are not given equally... some have athletic gifts, some music, some business, etc... 
and gifts are given to be shared with others)

Two, understanding requires effort, pondering, attention.
Those who are not willing to wrestle for an answer won't get an answer, also those who give up. Understanding is reward.

Three, understanding requires humility, for you have to put ego aside and say maybe multiple times “I may be wrong...”

Such are the disciples Jesus seeks: 
humble ones who will follow and persevere, and share their gifts.

And the result of wrestling with Jesus' parables (remember they're sticky, like music that sticks in your head and invites you to remember)... the result is that you're drawn into relationship with Jesus, drawn into relationship with God.

We get the picture that those who persevere gain more understanding,
they grow and mature and draw nearer to God,
and those who do not persevere or who lack humility, 
who try to go it alone, well, they are like someone who tries to hold the wind, or cling to sand... it will escape them.

Be in relationship with Jesus. 
Listen and wrestle and nurture and persevere.
And praise God for understanding and relationship.

Hymn 314 In the Garden

Matthew 13:10-17 CEB Oct. 12 / 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
10 Jesus’ disciples came and said to him,
“Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?”
11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. 12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them. 13 This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand. 14 What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them:
You will hear, to be sure, but never understand;
and you will certainly see
but never recognize what you are seeing
15     For this people’s senses have become calloused,
and they’ve become hard of hearing,
and they’ve shut their eyes
so that they won’t see with their eyes
or hear with their ears
or understand with their minds,
and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them. [Isaiah 6:9-10]

16 “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear. 17 I assure you that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn’t.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


World Communion Sunday
Twentyseventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
on Matthew 12:38-50, 
in which Jesus speaks of signs and family.  @FirstUMCBville  @kerrfunk

I'm a runner, many of you know. 
Because fitness, goal setting, prayertime.
99% of my running is solo, but yesterday I went to the Bville Park 
and ran a 5K (3.1 mi) for Branches Domestic Violence Shelter 
(only of its kind in 5 counties, serviced 2000 victims last year) 
(October is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention month).

It always encourages me when I run with others
and I know that my presence also encouraging other runners.

There was a presentation by Krista Fink, runner and DV survivor (and author of “Silent No More” (you should check it out, I'm going to) ). She talked about the support and new family she had (in other survivors) as she ran away from DV.

You never know by looking at someone exactly what their life circumstances are... (victim of DV, loved one in prison or addicted, hospitalized, dead...)

Jesus says expand. Expand your circle of family of love to more, without judgment. Include the stranger, the outcast, the different...

The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus' expansion.
They didn't want expanded, they wanted familiarity, comfort, control. Predictability.

Certainly Jesus was outside their familiarity, comfort, control, predictability.
Life is messy, not necessarily predictable, 
and sometimes you gotta roll with it.

Example: Ninevites, ungodly. 
God sent Jonah to preach, and they repented.
Unexpected! We should praise! 
Guess what, though, they'll be the judges of you. And what you see right now (that is, Jesus) is greater than Jonah.

Example: “queen of the south,” decidedly an outsider, 
sought godly wisdom from Solomon. 
Unexpected! We should praise! God adopts her!
And what you see right now (that is, Jesus) is greater than Solomon.

Discipleship is call to expand kingdom, to wade into the unexpected...
Who knows, maybe others will become part of God's family.

After all, Jesus came not for a few family members, but for more.
And he did not let adversity, neither threats nor death, stop him.

And so we reach out our hands to others, 
not asking if they've washed their hands properly... 
we reach out to the broken, the abused, the sick, 
the imprisoned, the foreigner, the neighbor... 
with the love of Christ, 
that the family of God may expand.

prayer and invitation to communion