Our 14-week summer series on the parables of Jesus has gotten off to a great start by Chris – both in his sermon on Sunday and with the first week of writings. This summer we will be sharing back and forth, each of us writing a week at a time … again, with Fridays as a preview, followed by Monday to Thursday discussing the topic preached on Sunday, along with a series of questions for discussion and meditation.
On the theme of “Story”
To some extent, we have addressed these ideas previously in sermon series a number of years ago, though neither of those collections were specifically on the parables of Jesus. Rather, we have talked in the past about how the Bible from beginning to end is one big story. It starts with a sort of “once upon a time” idea, and ends with a sort of “and they lived happily ever after.”
The challenge and need of our lives (and our stories) is to get aligned with this “meta-story” of God’s work from eternity past to eternity future. And Jesus’ parables are essentially this: describing and giving wisdom to listeners as to how to have values systems and lives that are aligned with God’s kingdom.
So this is a great and timeless theme. These are not just cute little ditties that make Jesus look like a storyteller extraordinaire. No, these teachings draw us to consideration as to how we align our entire life story and priorities with God’s priorities.
Looking Back to the Past Week
I have always loved the story of the Sower and the Seed. I distinctly remember a sermon series on this topic that was very influential in my life in my formative years.
The pastor who delivered these messages had some great illustrations on the things that take the seed away before it can be sown and find root and produce fruit. This theft of the “Word” (the Seed) is identified in the story that as from Satan, who is like the bird that swoops in and snatches the seed away.
My home church (the one I visited just last Sunday for the retirement of a dear pastor friend), had a metal roof when I was a boy. And sure enough, when it rained hard, it made quite a noise. I recall the pastor saying that it always seemed to pour just at the moment of the application of the message. And what would people do at that moment? Look at the ceiling! It never leaked and there was nothing to see; but sure enough, the seed was taken away by the distraction.
If the rain didn’t ruin the sermon, the municipal building across the street would do so! As in Williamsport to this day, whenever there was a fire or ambulance call, the siren in the building immediately across the street would blast. There always seemed to be an emergency right at the moment of the application of the sermon.
I have long noted the pattern that computers and copy machines and everything of the sort that helps a church service happen, will break down on a Sunday morning at a rate multiple times higher than on the other days of the week combined! And when Satan fell from heaven, I’ll tell you where he landed – in the sound system of churches! If anything can go wrong to distract, it will.
Looking ahead to Sunday and the coming week
We are going to look at a pair of passages – in Luke 12:13-21 and Luke 14:25-33. These will involve a total of three parables: the rich fool, the builder of a tower, and a king facing war. The common theme is trusting God over material assets, and counting the cost of discipleship.
Too many people are susceptible to two conflicting ways of thinking within Western society today: finding one’s person identity in consumerism, hard work and success, or, putting out little effort toward accomplishment, believing that life is simply “random” … not worth the effort.
The gospel challenges the first group by reminding us that human identity cannot be circumscribed by possessions or worldly gain (“building a bigger barn”). The gospel challenges the second group by reminding us that God has a sovereign plan, and that demands our participation (“counting the cost”).
So we will see you Sunday, if you are in town this week (remember that the great kids summer program begins). And if you are away, track with us through the readings, as there will be a series of four probing questions based upon these texts that we will look at on Monday through Thursday.