Tag Archives: Parable

Growing Faith

“Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
(Luke 8:8 NRSV)

I really came to faith as an adult. It was a bumpy road of exploration, for a number of reasons. I well remember the time when one of my best friends said to me, “You haven’t gone and got religion, have you Nigel?” That stung.

But the most difficult obstacle for me to overcome was about how to deal with a world-view which I had simply taken for granted up until that point.

I was, and still am, fascinated (amongst other things) by the discoveries of science and technology. Did I have to “unlearn” what I had read in order to be a “good” Christian? Could I read the Bible and still thank God for Charles Darwin? These and a myriad of other questions represented what I then saw as a fundamental clash of world views, and I spent a long time seeking answers.

I do, now, believe that God was working on my heart and mind throughout that time and that, as I explored the Scriptures and learned from others, he helped me to grow a little in my thinking. I began to see the love of God in the pages of the New Testament and in the lives of those around me. It convinced me that the Christian journey is a process of growth for the whole of our mortal lives.

It’s not always an easy journey because it goes to the core of who we are. But if we do embark on it I think that we grow, not just as people of faith, but as human beings.

When Jesus talks about “those who have ears” he means those who are open to the possibility of that life-changing encounter with God. My experience of that encounter has made me passionate for others to experience it, too.

Oh, and, er, God bless Charles Darwin.

Jesus,
open my eyes to the richness of your word,
my mind to the wonders of creation,
my heart to the depth of your love.
Amen

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Mixing it Up a Bit!

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33 NRSV)

“Better to be an honest sinner than a phoney saint;” so goes the adage, and there is a great deal of truth in it.

Jesus mixed with all kinds of people who were far from perfect, and who continued to be far from perfect even after their encounter with him. They were a bit like you and me, in fact.

But that encounter with him did change lives, perhaps especially the lives of those who became his followers. And herein lies the “secret.” Jesus did not turn up on a “battle bus” with political manifesto; nor did he raise an army to change the world by force. In fact, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t want to found a new religion (boy, did we ever get that one wrong!).

What he did do was establish that which we pray about every time we use the Lord’s Prayer: the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven).

The citizens of this kingdom are not primarily those who are holier than the rest of us; who say all the right things and who know all the correct theology. They may be such people but that is not the qualification for citizenship of God’s Kingdom.

The citizens of the kingdom will be ordinary frail human beings who will, despite their many imperfections and their daily struggles, live out the kingdom values in the “little” things of everyday life, as described in the many teachings of Jesus.

Those small acts will be the mustard seeds of the Kingdom, the unseen yeast in the dough which, over time can combine together to transform our world much more than the rhetoric and exhortations of a thousand preachers.

Jesus,
show me the ways in which
my attitudes and actions
may serve your transforming Kingdom.
Amen.

Let’s Have a Party

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
(Luke 15:20 NRSV)

I think that those people who look down their noses when others are celebrating may be in for a bit of a shock in terms of eternity. Amidst the trials and tribulations of his Earthly ministry, Jesus took part in joyful feasts and celebrations, and spoke of them to others.

To love is, yes, to bear the pain of love and the possibility that love will be rejected or abused; but it is to do so with a deep and almost visceral joy which will burst out into celebration when the opportunity arises.

God loves.

The parable of the wayward (prodigal) son who abuses his father’s love is a shocking story of the triumph of love over all that would destroy it. It is, of course, a parable of God’s love for his creation, showing a deep insight into human nature: and it begins with a statement about joy in heaven when we turn and acknowledge our relationship with God.

In the story the youngest son commits a whole list of offences which would have rendered him a complete outcast in may people’s eyes. Yet his father waits patiently in the hope that, one-day, he will return, and is overwhelmed with joy when he does. A great celebration is called for.

The older son, meanwhile, has been bearing a grudge for years and his “righteous anger” bursts out at the news that his brother has returned and that his father has forgiven him.

Many of the parable’s hearers would share the older brother’s indignation, and even consider the father’s actions to be weak or unfair.

But the father’s love for both his sons is undimmed, and both are invited to the party.

The truth is that God’s love for us does not depend on our “worthiness,” but upon the fact that we are his children.

How do you respond to that? Why not come and join the party?

Jesus,
so often you teach of God’s love;
so often I feel unworthy of that love.
Yet I know that I am loved
despite my many failings,
and you have shown that to be true.
Amen.

Soil?

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

And he 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 13:1-9 NRSV)

The parable of the sower.
Well, known, well loved, comforting.
Comforting because I know where I am in that story.
Or do I?

I like to think of myself as the “good soil”,
ready willing and able to take that seed of truth
and bring forth all the fruitfulness it can muster.

But I wonder . . .
Am I really such fertile ground for the word of God?
Do I sometimes take that word and keep it to myself,
drain it dry of its energy and power in the privacy of my inner being?

What if I am the hard, well trodden pathway . . .
not letting that seed penetrate to any depth,
allowing it to sit on the surface
treated as just another morsel by those who are hungry for more?

What if I am stony ground . . .
thinking that I have both depth and solidity,
but really unable to go the distance,
looking OK on the surface but with nothing beneath that?

Or, God forbid, I may even be the thorn bushes,
stifling and suffocating the truth with my own agenda,
my own demands, my own emphases,
squeezing the life from God’s word.

I get confused,
because I think at times I, we, all of us,
no matter how deep our faith and trust,
can take each one of those roles.

But sometimes, too,
perhaps often;
I need to take the role of the sower,
or the one who prepares the ground for the sower;
the one who ploughs,
deals with the rocks,
pulls up the thorns,
Sometimes breaking new ground
to prepare for a harvest that others may reap.
If I can’t always be the good soil, Lord,
I can live with being the ploughman.

But, ironically,
I can only do that
if your seed takes root deep within me.

Nigel Carter