This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for September 9 2018.
The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9 + 18-23) has long been a favourite of mine and one that I have found pastorally valuable. It is essentially an explanation of why people respond differently to the ‘word of the kingdom’. This ‘word of the kingdom’ is the gospel, the news of God’s acting in the world, and more broadly any shared teaching about God’s character, ways and will for humankind.
The first of the four scenarios in this parable concerns seed scattered on the compacted soil paths around the field. This seed is eaten by birds and of course never grows. This represents people who hear the word but don’t understand it, and serves as a warning to people to take care when they reject Jesus and what he taught. It is one thing to reject Jesus because one dislikes him, but quite another to base that decision on a misunderstanding of him.
I would like to suggest a course of action in this for Christians – we who have understood ‘the word of the kingdom’. Often enough we hear criticisms of Christianity that display the critic’s ignorance of what they are speaking about. Perhaps this is an occasion for Christians to speak or write to these critics – not so much to persuade them to agree, but to clarify the faith so that they don’t critique it in ignorance. It might make a difference.
Paul’s word’s to Timothy come to mind here: “the Lord’s servantmust not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2Tim. 2:24-25).
Why not take up this challenge next time you see some point of the Christian faith being challenged in ignorance? It might make a difference.
Give it a go!