Lectionary Year A
July 11, 1999
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
(JFC) A. DESCRIPTION OF AUDIENCE
I preach for a vacationing pastor. She's been there for nearly 2 years.
preaches excellent sermons, so much so, that I happily drive the 18 miles
to this small town many Sundays for worship. She has been preaching this
summer through the Matthian lections. The congregation is very healthy,
rather strong and quite enlightened. Several farmers and several Garden
Clubbers are among the older members. Professionals among the younger
members. They have a rather new Director of Christian Education, so, we
expect some emphasis on youth work and children's ministries, as well as
(JFC) B. INTENDED GOALS FOR THE AUDIENCE
I hope to inspire these people by giving them additional insight into
realistic teachings that are full of hope. The thesis might read, "Evil
happens, yet we can live through it with God's help and, could you believe,
we can eradicate some of its effects on future generations when, not if,
when we get on with recognizing and participating in what God does to make
(JFC) C. ADDRESS
Jesus tells a parable and He also interprets it. He enables listeners to
hear, really hear what He says and, what's more, what He means. He speaks
the native language of His constituents. He talks about seeds sown and
ground onto and into which they fall. Galileans back then clearly understood
His story. He speaks our language, too. Remember when we were in
elementary school and planted a seed in a paper cup of topsoil?
I. God's Roles Identified in this Parable
Today's text reveals God as good in that from Divine favors we get
opportunities to grow and in an ordered environment and we get the Kingdom of
God, too! God generates us so we can grow. We all too often take this
gift for granted. Recall an even in your earliest childhood. Now,
sometimes, we wish we could return to such stages of life and maybe even want
to remain there or some such period for extended times or even forever.
The orderliness of the universe began in Genesis 1's saga. Recall it.
Recount the orderliness of creation. Illustrate it.
God's Kingdom, as Matthew perceives it, is a great gift from God. Psalm
45:6ff tells of God's Sovereign Kingdom. Jesus and John the Baptist both
believed it to be imminent. See Rev. 1:6. Its few attributes include its
unshakeableness (Heb. 12:28), its eternal character (II Peter 1:11) and its
heavenliness (II Timothy 4:18). The Kingdom is already and not yet.
II. Creation's Hardships
The created order in which we live, has, though, some bearers, some evil,
some difficulties. W. Somerset Maugham contends, "There is no explanation
for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the
universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it is senseless." Evil
happens. Adversity is a given in finite lives. Athletes, most recently,
Mia Hamm, Team USA Soccer, and Shaun Casey of the streaking Cincinnati Reds
baseball team, have advised, "Deal with it." We, as responsible Christians
have to acknowledge these barriers first. They include difficulties through
which God enables us to grow, such as, hardness (pathways on which seeds
fall), heat we get ourselves into at work, etc. (the sun's heat), rocky
roads (rocky terrain into which some seeds fall), shallowness (too little
soil to produce healthy seeds), and thorniness (the stickers and briars into
which some seeds fall and get choked). We think of some hard heads, some
hard hearts we have known. We think of some heated arguments in which we
have engaged. We think of some rough ways we have had to traverse through
life. We think of some shallowness we have both noticed in others and
demonstrated by ourselves as well. We think of some sticky wickets we have
encountered. Now we can "deal with them."
The environment might not be the protagonist we meet in life. It might be
something real God lets us encounter to make better.
III. Cultivating Creation - Our Response
We think of some good soil. Jesus puts the good soil as the climax of this
parable. It takes precedence. It produces fruitful harvests. It needs
tending, watering, weeding, raking, hoeing, etc. God has, according to
some Psalms and Isaiah and Jeremiah, to list only a few, smoothed out the rough
places and leveled the uneven topography. Now, it is up to us to carry on
A Spanish essayist and philosopher, Jose' Ortega y Gasset, believed, "I am I
plus my surroundings and if I fail to preserve the later, I fail to preserve
myself." If we fail to improve our environment with the Good News, we miss
(DH) C. ADDRESS
A SERVICE FOR THE WORSHIP OF GOD
July 11, 1999
CALL TO WORSHIP:
Pastor: Your word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
People: Your decrees are our heritage forever, they are the joy of our
Pastor: Let us worship God!
* HYMN 345       There Is Sunshine In My Soul
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Have mercy on us, O God, for we often live according to what our hearts
desire and not according to what you desire. We set our minds on things
when you want us to set our minds on you. We prefer our own misery over the
abundant life that you offer us in Christ through your Spirit. Forgive us,
Gracious God, and enlighten us through your Spirit that dwells in us. Let
us taste the joy once again that only comes from you and through you, that
comes from our assurance that you do not condemn those who are in Christ
Jesus, who is our Lord. Through Him and for His sake we pray. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON
NEW TESTAMENT LESSON
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
SERMON       "Hole in the Soul"
* HYMN 58       Fairest Lord Jesus
UNISON PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Loving God, you have given us our daily nourishment and now we pray again
that you would nourish all your people everywhere with your daily bread.
May these gifts and offerings we present to you today become your feet, and
your hands, and touch many lives in your name, so that the seed you have
sown may increase abundantly. We pray this in Christ's name and for his
* HYMN 325       He's Got The Whole World In His Hands
A Sermon Outline
"HOLE IN THE SOUL"
I. The Struggle of Human Beings
"There's a hole in my soul that's been killing me forever
It's a place where a garden never grows
There's a hole in my soul, I should have known better,
cause your love 's like a thorn without a rose"
• I first heard that song 2 years ago -- driving back and forth a lot
between a friend's ranch and downtown Austin -- come home late at night --
try to stay awake in the car with music blasting -- seemed like every time I
got in the car and turned on the radio this particular song was played -- at
first I thought it was pretty silly -- "hole in my soul" -- the more I heard
it, the more I began listening, the more I listened the more I began to
wonder -- hole in my soul ... what is a hole in the soul?
• The parables of the NT are very much like hearing a song, on the one hand,
and really listening to it, on the other- first they may seem a little
strange, or more than a little strange, but the more we hear them read, in
church or at home, the more we read them ourselves, the more we begin to
wonder -- what these parables all about? -- I suppose one could say in a
colloquial way, that the parables grow on you with and over time -- and
every time we hear these parables, these strange stories about God and God's
Kingdom, we might learn a little more, understand a little more, grow a
• Now, at first glance the parable that we just heard from Matthew's gospel
appears to be talking about the human struggle for life and for living ...
simply for making it
- God has sown us on this earth and into this life which is full of almost
insurmountable obstacles at every turn we take
- there always seems to be someone or something to come along and make our
- either we struggle to get on our feet and someone, something knocks us
- or we enjoy the fruits of our hard work and labor, that we accomplished
something, but almost immediately the joy is spoiled by nagging doubts ...
did we do our job well enough, could we have done it better, what will
others think, are we good enough ... ?
- or our efforts are often spoiled by our own concerns and worries, by the
pressures of the day to make a living, to make ends meet, to fit in with the
crowd, to hang out with the popular folks, to meet that deadline or else ...
• And the harder we struggle and relate our own lives to the parable in
Matthew's gospel, the more we discover that the lyrics of this silly rock 'n
roll song take on a familiar ring of truth with respect to our own lives:
There's a hole in my soul, it's been killing me forever, regardless whether
I am aware of it or not, it's a place where a garden never grows.
• We work hard, we plant seeds in our lives, in our children's and
grandchildren's lives, but how often do we see the garden grow the way we
want it to grow, how often do we see it grow at all? ... and more often than
not our lives are like the song suggests: thorns without a rose.
II. The Struggle of God
• On the other hand, perhaps we are merely being presumptuous when we assume
that this parable is all about our lives' struggle, about us, about how hard
we work without adequate compensation (be it that we complain about not
earning enough money or about not receiving any gratitude from others) ...
Perhaps this parable of the sower is not so much concerned with the holes in
our souls at all ...
• The more we read the text, the more we might realize that it is not we who
work hard, who plant, who sow the seeds in other people's lives and in our
own ... the more we listen, the more we are faced with the sower who is the
Divine Gardener of our human souls, God Almighty.
• And look at the struggle of God who desires to plant a divine seed into us
human beings ... what a struggle ...
- God has sown us on this earth and into this life and God appears to
encounter almost insurmountable obstacles in us at every turn our lives take
- we always seem to be susceptible to someone or something that comes along
and makes our lives miserable rather than being susceptible to God's word
- we struggle on our own to get on our feet or let something knock us down
rather than holding fast to the outstretched arm God offers us in Jesus
- we let nagging doubts destroy the fruits of our labor rather than
remembering that God proclaimed that everything God made is good and worthy
of praise ... including our work, indeed including our very lives and our
very selves. God made us, and God made us good!
- but we let our own concerns and worries bog us down when God's Holy Spirit
wants to lift us up over and over again.
• God works hard to plant seeds in our lives, in our children's and
grandchildren's lives, and often we see the garden grow by the power of the
Divine Gardener's hand. Under the shelter of God's all-encompassing love we
discover that a seed is sown into the heart of every single human being ...
every human being regardless of age, gender, color of skin, social status or
• And the harder we see God struggle for us and on our behalf, the more we
discover that parable, like the lyrics of this silly rock 'n roll song take
on a familiar ring of truth with respect to our own lives, but all of a
sudden with a new tune:
There's a hole in my soul, it's been killing me forever,
but now I am aware of it,
it's a place where a garden can grow in spite of our resistance,
by the grace and mercy of God, the Divine Gardener of our souls
• Looking at the parable of the sower in this way, we might say that our
lives are like roses, perfect, but roses without thorns.
III. The Struggle of God and of Human Beings
• On the other hand, perhaps we still have not really listened to the words
of the parable ... perhaps we might consider a third way of how to read it
... perhaps the parable of the sower does not speak merely about our human
struggle, nor exclusively about the struggle of God on our behalf ...
perhaps the writer of Matthew's gospel knew something that we are in the
process of discovering ... that the struggle that concerns our lives this
very day, today, now in this moment, and the struggle that pertains to life
eternal cannot be separated ... they belong to each other, just as God and
human beings belong to each other.
What the writer of this gospel knew was that God does not wish to do all the
work but that God wants us, you and me, to participate in the activity of
sowing, planting and growing together ... side by side as partners.
• The more we read the text, the more we really listen, the more we might
realize that the Divine Gardener of our human souls is able and willing,
always, all the time, to fill the holes in our souls if and whenever we open
our hearts to God and offer our lives as fruitful fields to be planted with
the good things of God.
• God is able and willing to fill the void in our hearts, if and whenever we
let it happen ... and if this sounds strange, if this is hard to understand,
then we got it right ... then we begin to understand that this parable will
keep working in us and tug on our hearts and minds until we are ready again
to hear it and listen to it once again ... like a song that grows on you
with and over time, a song that you just cannot get out of your head.
• And the harder we see God struggle for us and on our behalf, and the more
we are willing to open our very lives to be plowed and cultivated through
God's Holy Spirit, the more we discover that the lyrics of this silly rock 'n
roll song take on a familiar ring of truth with respect to our own lives,
but all of a sudden with a new tune that is down-right outrageous, a tune
that has never been heard of before:
There was a hole in my soul, it seems like it had been killing me forever,
but now the killing has stopped.
All of a sudden this hole has been changed
into a marvelous place of awe and wonder
where a garden can grow by the grace and mercy of God,
and where I am the one who assists the Divine Gardener
in the struggle to keep this garden up.
• Looking at the parable of the sower in this way, we might say that our
lives are not like thorns without a rose, and not like roses, perfect, but
without thorns, but like roses with thorns.
Have you looked at a rose with thorns lately, I mean really looked at it?
Maybe you want to go buy one on the way home, put it on your living room
table and look at it for a while. A rose with thorns ... what a wonderful,
what a beautiful living thing.
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