From Sunday’s (1/22/12) Forum handout:
Jonah is a prophet, but he is unlike any other for whom a book is named in the Old Testament. Some (e.g. Jeremiah) heard the word reluctantly but then fully embraced the ministry to which God called them, but Jonah tries his best (and his worst!) to avoid doing God’s will: he is a caricature of a prophet. The book opens with God’s call to Jonah: “Go at once to Nineveh … and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah’s reaction is to try to escape God’s presence. When called a second time, he does travel to the capital of Assyria, and its residents repent of their waywardness. A message of this book is that God does care about other peoples, even those who are Israel’s enemies.
Obviously this is a story, but it is one that teaches; it is a parable. It illuminates an issue of its time, the waywardness of Israel. God is central and powerful. He can favour whomever he chooses, even hated enemies of the past.
Chris Haslam, Revised Common Lectionary Commentary
Note: a link to this Commentary is provided on our Blog (click on “Commentaries” in the right sidebar). Both Stan and I have made and continue to make use of this resource in our Bible studies; thank you Chris Haslam.
On Sunday (9/18) we heard a story. “The kingdom of heaven is like . . . .” (Matthew 20:1-16) The parable ends with these words of Jesus: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” The discussion within the Forum spoke to the issues of entitlement, love of neighbor, ego, pride, and placement in the Kingdom. Nothing was resolved; but, engagement with Jesus’ story and the unsettling wind of the Spirit around the table and within us was exhilarating.
With the words about the first and the last and the generosity of God commanding our attention we take a look at this Sunday’s readings (9/25) and discover Paul’s admonition: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Is it just a happy accident that these two readings occur on successive Sunday’s in our lectionary? Is it more? What is the Spirit saying to you and me about humility, about honesty, about graciously accepting God’s generosity without judging who should be first or last or wondering if someone is getting more than they deserve or more than we are getting? What is the Spirit saying to you as you take up Jesus’ parable, his story (read Philippians 2:5-11), and Paul’s admonition?
Leave a comment, continue the conversation. Hear what the Spirit is saying.
And [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” Matthew 13:3-9 See also Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Is it about the sower? the seed? the soil? How do you hear it? Consider these questions about the parable and Jesus’ interpretation of his parable.
- Tell me more about the sower. Who is the sower? Is it only Jesus? Is it we who follow Jesus? Is it only the baptized? Can anyone sow “the word of the kingdom”? (v. 19)
- Do you recognize these areas (path, rocky ground, thorn infested ground, good soil) in the world around you? In the people around you?
- Do you recognize these areas in yourself? Is it possible that in ourselves, in our “field,” we will find these areas? Will we find a path, rocky ground, thorn infested patches, good soil? All 4, just 1, a combination?
- Are we to understand that we are to sow the seed (word of the kingdom) as wildly and extravagantly as “the sower”?
- Is it possible for soil to change? How? With what help? Over how long a time? How would you apply this knowledge to you? To the people around you?
- Do you know anything about composting? Can the thorns be composted? Will this compost enrich the already “good soil”? Will clearing the thorns help that soil recover in order to receive seed (as good soil) the next time around? Will there be a “next time around”?
These are a few of the questions that occur to me as I hear the parable. I encourage to leave a comment. Let’s continue the conversation begun in the Forum on Sunday.