Toorak Uniting Church

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Broadcasting: Foolishness & Hope

Genesis 25?   Matthew 13: 1 – 9
Rev. Ian Brown
10 July 2005

Let us Pray:

Gracious God open our hearts to be fertile soil for the seeds of your words of grace. Tend and nurture in us those seeds that have taken root so we might bear the fruits of your compassionate love. Through Christ our Lord and teacher. Amen.

"A sower went out to sow seed"
in Jesus day they used a technique known as broadcasting.
You can picture how it works, the seed is thrown by hand, it lands where it falls and grows if it’s lucky.
Broadcasting has different connotations these days, but the principles are very similar; the material, news, entertainment is all out there, some may tune into it, some may even enjoy it if they are lucky!

And since we know that the role of the Church is to be involved in a work of broadcasting too I’d like to play a little with the idea of broadcasting as a medium for the sermon.
A "newsy" format applied with these two bible stories, Jesus parable of the sower and the story of Jacob and Esau.

"In news not exactly ‘just to hand,’ Esau is a bloody fool!
Editorial policy here would normally require the filtering out of such coarse language, but the descriptor here is merely accurate! Esau is reported to have sold away his blood right, the rights of the first born son to inherit.

In a further shocking development it is reported that this ancient Middle Eastern patriarch has in fact sold out to his own brother, simply to fill his stomach with a red lentil stew.
Tensions are reported to have been simmering since their twin birth, now Jacob; whose name appears to mean ‘supplanter,’ has tricked his way into the family fortune.
Come on Esau, if your brother is named ‘supplanter,’ you ought to have seen this coming! Wake up to yourself!

Plots, intrigue, family tensions and warring tribes – one must wonder – is it genetic, or is there something in the water over there? Who will get the resources, who has the upper hand, whose needs will be met, isn’t there enough to share?

Last weekend "Live 8" had the world’s attention with a cry for a new focus to fix the underlying causes of poverty. This week the ‘G 8’ leaders have been the focus as they’ve talked about what to do with our world’s wealth. Who will get the resources, who has the upper hand, whose needs will be met, is it fair for some to have rights and some not and isn’t there enough to share?

God’s Church ought to be on the side of the poor, even though it’s often been the other way.
Research indicates that of the 212 direct references to poverty in the Christian Scriptures only one seems to imply that poverty is a natural state in God’s creation. "The poor you will always have with you" is Jesus retort to a purse minding Judas, whose complaint was about a money wasting woman.
Again, the distribution of resources – who decides and who has their hand in the till? Who will get the resources, who has the upper hand, whose needs will be met, who has the right to have their needs met and isn’t there enough to share?

Now in industry and agriculture all across our land the important buzz word is efficiency.
‘World’s best practice’ and national benchmarking are all the go!
Encouraging producers to ever greater efficiency, productivity, flexibility, profit. More and more of everything is the goal!
By contrast, we don’t like waste.
Waste is the enemy of efficiency and so it must be a bad thing!

A farmer went out to sow seed. Some fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among the bushes and some on good soil.   What a waste!   The birds get some, some plants wither, some are choked by weeds. A scandalous distribution of a valuable resource!
It wouldn’t happen today, we don’t waste like that.
In our thousand acre grain fields, huge tractors pull complex and precise air drill seeders.
They plant at the right depth, the correct distance apart, each single seed. They grow in neat rows, no paths, no rocks and the weeds are knocked out with deadly efficiency.

The farmer expects a good return.
We expect healthy growth and fabulous fruitfulness, and definitely no waste whether it’s in the wheat fields, in our gardens or with our investments.

But I think that makes it hard for us to really hear Jesus story.

That and the fact that we are being conditioned more and more to take our view of reality and truth from 20 second sound bites makes it even harder.

So let’s move to a more interpretive probing of the texts.
In this parable Jesus seems to suggest that in the kingdom of God there is much waste. The seed of God’s word goes everywhere, broadcast indiscriminately so that much of it is wasted.
There’s a pattern like this all through Jesus life.
Jesus is born and the magi – were they really wise men, I wonder? – they spill the beans to Herod, who has hundreds of innocent boys slaughtered, lives are wasted.

The magi waste costly gifts on a poor mother and baby.
Jesus wasted time in the temple as a boy, he wasted time speaking to multitudes when only a handful would really follow him. And then he told stories of God’s extravagant love for the undeserving – prodigals, late workers, prostitutes, and the sick and lame.
Then Jesus wastes his own life!
He gives it for people like us!

Is this the most efficient use of God’s resource?
Who will get these resources, who has the upper hand,
whose needs will be met, isn’t there enough to share?
Is there enough to waste?

God is the divine waster when it comes to giving and sharing of his grace and love. Here is an immensely challenging example for us!
In Jesus day farming was a much more simple affair;
there was less invested in putting the crop in and many odds stacked against it’s success. Today’s farming requires massive outlay so some of the odds are reduced..

Perhaps it’s a parallel with God’s kingdom and the spreading of the Gospel. There are many odds stacked against its success – many barriers to the seeds of God’s good news taking root in people’s lives and bearing fruit.
We can invest much to help the process along and try to reduce the risks, but in the end that’s how life is. Some seed will find fertile soil and some will not, some will get picked off or strangled out by other interests.

Can the G 8 leaders fix all the world’s poverty, no!
Of course some of the good ideas will fall on stony ears,
Some of the solutions will be thwarted by other greedy interests, some seeds of hope strangled by competing and conflicting groups. But the seed should be sown generously anyway! Because, by God’s grace some of these seeds of hope will fall on fertile soil and bear much fruit.

The real miracle of the story – the miracle of nature and of God’s kingdom is that some seed will flourish and will bear amazing amounts of fruit. This is how it is with the kingdom of God, says Jesus.

Between Jacob and Esau words were spoken like tools, engineered for an outcome, to change destiny, to make a difference. Words have power and consequence.

World leaders know the art of words too!
Some might wonder if they know anything else!

Words do have power and consequence and much hope for Africa’s future rests on the seeds sown at this conference of words.

Many words will be spoken here today, some are wasted, some intend to grow and won’t, some might bear fruit, we speak and hope anyway.
Our texts today tell us that God lets our words have power, just as God’s word has power. God speaks and creation comes into being, Esau speaks and losses his birthright.
The Word of God goes out with great generosity and has incredible power to reproduce and produce abundant fruit, and after a simplistic fashion, leaders speak and the world’s most vulnerable may either live or die.

This Biblical pattern warns that, like Esau we will reap the harvest that we sow. We see a contrast of two opposite paradigms. One, with it’s squabble over rights and resources and Jesus model with its generous sharing, a broadcasting of God’s good news to all and it reinforces the principle of us being responsible for how we respond and gives us a generous pattern to follow to be generous sowers too.

Why does God share like this?
Why is God so undiscriminatingly generous?
Why does God give without bothering to reduce the risks – to all and sundry – to you and me, and to every one?
All we can say is that’s the way God is.
The Gospel is that there is more than enough, even to be wasted.
God wants the best for us all.
And that, surely, is GOOD NEWS!   Amen.

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2005

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