That's No Way to Run a Farm
SBS:we are starting into the summer months, try to be here for these Parable sermons.
Sometimes I worry about the church. Not this church, but the church at large. I shouldn’t. It’s not my church. It’s God’s church and he will take care of it.
Jesus stands in a boat because he wants to be heard. A person should be able to be heard when he has a message. Water is a good conductor of sound so he relieves overcrowding and is able to be seen and heard by standing in a boat.
A parable is a saying that is “cast alongside.” You don’t so much explain a parable as you get a parable. A parable is like a joke. Think of a parable like a piece of tape placed on an infant’s finger. It just stays there and no matter how hard you try to get rid of it, it still seems to be there, like a splinter in your mind. You still keep thinking about it.
These parables say something that regular speaking does not say. They drive home points that non-stories don’t drive home. People remember stories. If we can somehow place the point in the story, they will take it away.
This story, like all of the parables, is profoundly counter-cultural. There was no middle class. A person who was fortunate enough to have seed and land to plant it on did not go out and just throw seed around like a crazy person. Seed was usually put into a bag with a small hole in it, and the seed was carefully let out in a plowed area. The seed was not just thrown around on the good ground, bad ground, to the birds, everywhere. The people listening to this would be saying, “That is no way to run a farm.” What response is Jesus looking for from this story? He will tell us later.
At least one of the responses that one might have to this story is to realize that Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God goes on in spite of what we do. That just because your own efforts are not showing any particular fruit, the kingdom of God goes forth. If your own efforts are showing great fruit, the Kingdom of God is going forth. If your church is small or large, the kingdom of God is going forth. When you are seeing lots of results, the Kingdom is going forth. When you are seeing few results, the kingdom is going forth. God’s kingdom is going forth despite what we might think, despite our worries, our concerns, our petty jealousies, our power brokering, our planning, our working, no matter what we do or don’t do, the kingdom of God goes forth.
Jesus is telling us here that our job as Christians is to sow the seed. To go out and tell everyone the bad news and the good news. But if we can tell them this news in a way that will stick with them that is so much the better.
I wanted to close with a parable of my own. Not everyone will get the parable. Perhaps no one will get it. Not everyone has ears to hear. It is not the size of your ears that counts or my dog Mo would be the best at listening to Parables. He not even the best at listening to Stop. This parable isn’t great. It certainly is not anywhere near as good as Jesus parable. But perhaps it will be something that you will take with you and think about.
The students and faculty at Augustine Seminary knew that this was going to be a strange day. It was the day when John Kelly, called by almost everyone JK was to deliver his senior sermon.
JK was a strange sort of a person. He often wore a bandage tied around his leg to New Testament class. When Dr. Moore asked him if he had hurt his leg, he said no. Dr. Moore then followed it up with, “well, I notice that you have a bandage tied around your leg.” JK simply answered “yes sir I do.” He was just a strange dude. He would often show up for class wearing two different shoes. Someone would say to him JK you have on two different shoes, a dress shoe and a sneaker. He would simply turn and say, “Yeah, I know.” He was a strange dude.
He had always been strange, from the very first day when he had arrived on campus carrying his clothes not in suitcases but in grocery bags. He had a nice car and ate out often so we knew that he wasn’t too poor to afford a suitcase, he just liked carrying his stuff in grocery bags. He was strange.
All of the students, faculty and staff turned up to hear him speak in senior chapel. No one knew what in the world he might do. It was sort of like leaving a small child with a screwdriver in a room full of electrical sockets. You knew that something was going to happen, but you weren’t sure that you wanted to be there when it did. There were all kinds of thoughts about what JK might do in his senior sermon.
The day arrived and JK showed up dressed in a nice suit, hair combed, shoes shined and both of his shoes even matched, and not even a bandage tied around his leg. He stood up and gave what is still today one of the most talked about senior sermons at Augustine Seminary. It started like this:
My brother has a thing about typewriters. You may have noticed that when he was here visiting me. He has a thing about typewriters. He came here to see me and brought with him a portable electric typewriter. When he was carrying it on the plane some kids said to him “What is that some kind of old fashioned computer?”
I keep trying to tell him that the age of the typewriter is gone, to give it up but he won’t listen. He just keeps saying that they are going to come back. That typewriters will never be dead. At home he has a two-room work area out in back of the house and he spends a great deal of his time out there working on old typewriters. He orders parts, refinishes typing ribbons, straightens out bent keys, and puts new handles on the carriage returns.
All that work I tell him, it is going to go to waste. There is not one person in five-thousand who even uses a typewriter anymore. I say to my brother You are just crazy, what in the world are you going to do with all these typewriters? My brother has a thing about typewriters. And no matter what I say about how Typewriters are obsolete, about how they will never meet the needs of the people of today, about how today we need something totally new and different, and that the typewriter might have been fine for its time, but that its time is over.
Now all during this time the professors at the seminary are getting more and more nervous. Kind of like you are. Wondering where in the world this is going. As JK went on and on about his brother and his love for typewriters and how many people thought that they were gone and of no use to today’s society. And then, almost as if by magic,
JK finished his sermon like this: My brother has a thing about typewriters. He believes in them, He things that they will always be useful no matter what anyone else thinks. Now me, I have a thing about the church.
Sometimes I worry about the church. I shouldn’t. It’s not my church. It’s God’s church and he will take care of it.
He that has ears to hear, let him hear.