In the Ditch
Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
When I was a teenager and you could still go quail hunting here in the Midwest, one of my favorite fields on my father's old farm had a tree in a ditch standing all by itself. It was a magnificent water oak that provided much needed shade for cattle in the summer and acorns for the wildlife in the fall. I asked my dad one day, ''Did you plant that tree? How did it get out here in a ditch with nothing around?'' Dad replied in his usual taciturn manner, ''Birds.''
I recalled that oak tree in the ditch when I read today's parable. Looking closely at the original text, I noticed the part that says ''some seeds fell on the path and the birds came and ate them up'' actually says ''some seeds fell alongside the way…'' This is actually huge.
''The Way'' was the name the earliest followers of Jesus used to describe themselves. The term ''Christian'' was originally pejorative and would not be used for sixty years after the resurrection. During those early decades, followers of Jesus were called ''people of the way.'' So what Jesus is implying here is that some of God's Word which is Christ dwelling in us, did not fall directly on the path of following Jesus. It fell alongside the way. What happens next? Birds come along and eat those seeds.
In terms of language, things get a little technical with the birds in this story, but I can tell you the birds in this story are morally neutral characters. They are not evil. What do birds do with seeds anyway? Some of the seeds become fuel for flying. Other seeds make it all the way through and get planted in a ditch somewhere like that oak tree.
This parable is so widely misinterpreted, we need to take a minute to address the things that it is not. Fundamentally, this is NOT about anything you can do.
It is too easy to exhort your congregation by saying, ''You want to be good soil so the love of God is planted in you and you bear good fruit.'' Personal c ...
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