The disciples came up and asked Jesus, “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.” [Mt 13:10-13, The Message]
I’d like to believe that Jesus was a farmer. Now I know that most people think that Jesus was a carpenter since his Daddy, Joseph, was a carpenter. However, the Bible doesn’t really tell us what Jesus did before he called his first disciples. So we can believe what we want to believe and I’d like to believe that Jesus was a farmer.
Why? Because when we look at Jesus’ stories he spent a lot of time talking about soil and plants and harvests and very little time talking about woodworking. In fact, the only woodworking references I can think of are a story about people running around with planks in their eyes as well as a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Whoever, the latter is also a farming reference So it only reinforces my point! Jesus was a farmer. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!
I imagine Jesus sitting on a hillside watching the sunset with his disciples. He’s wearing a big straw hat and a pair of blue jean overalls. His skin is browned by the summer sun. His eyes sparkle like deep pools of water. And as they watch the majestic red and purples of the fading light on the horizon, Jesus points to the farms and fields below and begins to tell them stories:
This is the way God works in our world. See that mustard plant over there? It’s a big old scraggly weed, isn’t it? It’s hard to get rid of, but lots of flavor. Did you know that it starts out as a tiny seed? You can barely hold it between your fingers and yet, it grows and grows and grows into a big old bush. Big enough so that birds make nests in it branches and find shade underneath it in the hot summer sun.
God works that way, too Just a little bit of God goes a long way. God is tough and tenacious, like that mustard plant God can survive anything: drought, torrential downpours, locusts. If God is in you, you can survive anything, too. The good news is that you only need a little bit of faith, a little bit of hope, a little bit of love, and God will grow it into a force to be reckoned with. That’s the way God works in our world. That’s the way God works in you, too!”
Jesus continues with another story: “See this loaf of bread I have in my hands. Now I know that many of you are fishermen but surely, all of you have seen your momma making bread. I’m not taking about those flat pita loaves that they make quickly, bake in small round ovens, and sell in the marketplace for practically nothing. I’m talking about the kind of loaf that takes a little more time and effort; one of those big, fat yeasty ones that has to rise twice and smells like heaven when it’s baking in the oven. The kind you want to eat with homemade preserves or maybe just a little dab of butter.
Did you know it only takes just a pinch of yeast to make that loaf rise? It takes a whole lot of flour and water and handful of sugar to get things started. But once that yeast begins to do its work it makes the whole loaf come alive.
God works that way, too. Just a little bit of God goes a long way. God is tough and tenacious. Like that little bit of yeast, God has a way of spreading through our lives until there is no place where God cannot be found. The good news is that you only need a little bit of faith, a little bit of hope, a little bit of love, and God will grow it into a force to be reckoned with. That’s the way God works in our world. That’s the way God works in you, too.
The good news of our gospel lesson is that God is resilient and powerful. Just a mustard seed portion of faith, just a pinch of hope and love, is all it takes to get something growing and moving in our lives. God is one tough cookie. God is hard to get rid of. There are many things in this life that are temporary and fleeting, but God is not one of them. There are many things in this life that can easily slip through our fingers, but God is not one of them.
The good news of our gospel lesson is that a little bit of God goes a long way. A little bit of God can start something big in our lives because God is a force to be reckoned with! God has a way of finding the good soil in our lives and producing a harvest that is thirty, sixty, a hundred times more than we expected.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans put it this way: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in ALL of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom 8:39]
That’s the kind of God I can believe in! It’s not a God who sits up in heaven in comfy throne chair, deciding who’s gonna get punished next! It’s the kind of God who takes our hopes, fears, joy, and tears our passion, pain, triumphs and shame, and makes them into something beautiful and holy. It’s the kind of God who desires that we have life and have it abundantly. It’s the kind of God who promises to be the farmer of our lives who will grow a beautiful garden in us if we only allow God to plant that first seed. When that first seed is planted, watch out! Big things are going to happen! That’s the way God works in our world. That’s the way God works in us.
While the disciples are munching on that fine loaf of bread, one of them asks Jesus a question: “Farmer Jesus, why do you always tell us stories? Wouldn’t it be easier to give us a lecture on how the kingdom of God works? A Powerpoint presentation would be AWESOME! Or how about making a list of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Disciples? That would be great!”
Jesus, rolls his eyes ever-so slightly, and the faintest of chuckles is heard coming from his mouth. “Son, that’s the way the corporate world operates, but, as you already know, I’m trying to do something different. I’m trying to help the kingdom grow in the lives of those who will take the time to hear what I have to say. A lecture or a Powerpoint presentation works fine for all of you, because you’re already on board. You’ve been given insight into God’s Kingdom. I think you’re starting to understand how it works. But that’s not true for everyone.
I tell stories because stories are like that mustard seed. They have a way of taking root in people’s lives and often germinate long after the parable is told. Stories are like that pinch of yeast. They help to expand people’s minds and make room in their lives for God’s kingdom to grow. So that’s why I tell stories. And, guess what? If you tell the same stories I have taught you, those who hear them with share them with others. You will reach more people than you can possible imagine: thirty, sixty, a hundred thousand times more than a lecture or a Powerpoint presentation.”
Jesus understood the power of stories to change people’s lives. I’m not sure why the Church still doesn’t get this, but if we told more stories people would be more receptive to the good news we have to share. If we spent less time judging people and telling them they are going to go to hell, the seeds of the kingdom might stand a chance of taking root in their lives.
I find this immensely encouraging because everyone has a story to tell. You don’t need a theology degree to tell a story. You don’t even have to be good at it. You just have to be willing to share with others the tale of how God’s grace got a hold of you and never let you go; the tale of how Farmer Jesus has grown a beautiful garden in your life that has fed you through droughts and storms.
In its simplest terms, this is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. If we are willing to do this, on a weekly if not daily basis, the harvest will be miraculous. We will change the world. So, maybe our task this week, is to think about our story. After three weeks of hearing parables from Jesus, maybe we need to create the parable of our lives and how the kingdom of God has worked within it.
But we aren’t finished yet. The sun is still setting over the horizon and Jesus had one more story to tell his disciples: “Friends, it’s starting to get late. I know you’re tired, and we’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow, but let me leave you with one thought God is the greatest treasure you will ever possess. As we walk this road together there will be lots of temptations along the way. Some of you are going to make some bad decisions that will take you to places you never intended to go. But the good news is that if God is your treasure, if God is your heart’s desire, no matter where you go, or what you do, God will be with you. God’s gonna stick to you like glue.
So, do whatever it takes to make sure God is your treasure and not something else. Do whatever it takes to keep that tiny seed of God planted in the soil of your life. You’ll never regret it. And once God gets a hold of you, I guarantee you, miraculous and surprising things are going to happen!” AMEN
Copyright ©2017 by David Eck