The meat of this [Gospel] story is in the in-between verses, the ones skipped over in our lectionary readings. . . when the disciples pull Jesus aside and ask him why he tells so many parables. And Jesus explains. He teaches the crowds using parables, according to Matthew's Gospel, not to clarify things. Jesus teaches the crowds using parables because it is the way of the kingdom that some will not understand no matter how many times they hear. Some will not get it no matter how many times they see. – Seth Moland-Kovash
Pastor Moland-Kovash invites us to consider this Sunday as a time to invite people to share their first memories of hearing the gospel. What did they envision? What did they imagine? How has it helped them in times of trouble and doubt? Those with ears to hear are those who surround us on Sunday morning in the assembly.
Matthew 13 is the third of five teaching discourses in the gospel of Matthew that are reminiscent of how rabbis of the time taught. The distinctive feature of Jesus’ teaching. . . is that he announces and interprets the coming realm of God. . . .
While today's passage contains a parable proper (13:1–9), the Matthean use of this parable is clear only in the allegorical explanation (13:18–23). Matthew's congregation has become uncertain as to whether the apocalypse will come and is in tension with the traditional synagogue. Most scholars agree that Matthew uses this story to encourage the community to remain faithful even in the midst of difficult times.
This allegorical interpretation explains. . . why some people do not respond positively to the news of the coming of the realm: (1) Some people. . . do not understand the consequences of choosing to respond positively and so the evil one snatches them away. . . (2) Some people. . . initially respond with joy but wither away when suffering comes. (3) Some people are. . . choked by the security that comes from [the] material world. . . Matthew wants his readers to. . . live faithfully, and thus to share in the eschatological world, the realm of God. – Ronald J. Allen
In Isaiah 55:10–11, the prophet emphasizes that God's words (just spoken) are powerful enough to accomplish what those words say; the community can count on this promise. The passage ends by underscoring the total regeneration that will come both to nature and humankind in this renewed world (55:12–13). The sermon could function as such an invitation. This text would be ideal for a summer Sunday when the congregation partakes of the sacred meal. – Ronald J. Allen
Romans 8:1–11 contrasts existence as pictured in Romans 7 with life in the Spirit. Paul uses the word flesh to speak of a sphere of existence that takes place without reference to God. That existence leads to death. . . To be “in the Spirit” is to be in a sphere of existence in which gentiles experience (through the agency of the Spirit) aspects of the coming eschatological realm. The Spirit makes it possible for gentiles to follow God's Law (Torah), that is, to live according to Jewish norms for covenantal life. The Spirit moves gentiles towards Judaism. This passage implicitly asks readers today, “Would you rather live in the sphere of the flesh (i.e., continue your gentile existence) or in the sphere of the Spirit?” – Ronald J. Allen
Seth Moland-Kovash is a co-pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, ELCA, in Palatine, Illinois.
Ronald J. Allen is professor of preaching and New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Homily Service 41, no. 3 (2008): 99-107.