Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Purpose of the Parables Kinda Got Left Out

Today's lectionary reading from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 contained, or should I say did not contain, yet another one of those curious lectionary edits that left me scratching my head. I include the omitted verses in the bold text below.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 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!’

Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:
“You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
Could it be that Jesus' words, "For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" might be considered too exclusivist to the modern pluralist leaning Episcopalian?

Or is it just a coincidence that for two weeks in a row we get a softer, gentler Jesus presented to the Sunday morning crowd than what the full text might suggest, and that crowd never gets to see the sterner reality facing those who reject Him?


  1. Anonymous1:19 AM

    UP, whoever taught you to cut and paste did you no favor. In the past six of your blog posts, the entire subject has been that wicked church leaving out the portions of Scripture that YOU are smart enough to know are there (your comment about how other Episcopalians probably don't know the Bible is enlightening).

    As a longterm Episcopalian, I am perfectly aware of the sections that are being left out. Unlike you, I am also someone who has read the Old Testament, and noted the parts in the New Testament where Jesus rejects the brutality and bloodshed of the old world.

    If you wish to think of Christ as a sort of Godhead with a whip, there is no one to prevent you from doing so. But when YOU are leaving out sections of the New Testament that describe Christ's love for us, that describe how He lived and died a painful death on the Cross BECAUSE he loved us---remember you are doing the very same thing as those you criticize.

    There are so-called Christians all over the world who get the repentance call, and the fate of those who do not follow Him---but who miss the whole reason for His taking Human Form, and enduring what He endured---because he LOVED us and wanted us to repent. You must have repentance, yes----but only if there is a reason for it, and that reason is the love of Christ and His willingness to bring us to salvation.

    This is harsh language, I know, and I am sorry that it sounds harsh. What grieves me more is that never in one of your posts have I gotten the feeling that you know that you are deeply loved by your Savior, and that He rejoices in your every breath.

    I will pray with my every breath that first you stop writing these dreary cut and paste "what-they-left-out-and-I'm-telling" blogs; and second, that someday you learn that Christ loves you more than you can begin to imagine and comprehend.

  2. Anon, while your comment was directed to UP, let me suggest that s/he bemoans what appears to be an institutional unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of judgment as a the that which necessitated Christ's incarnation and sacrifice. It is that judgment and Christ's atonement which indeed demonstrate His love for us. But His love is meaningless absent God's righteous judgment.


  3. Anon 1:19 am,

    All I did was put back what was taken out and ask the question, "Why?"

    My answer to that question appears to disturb you. Should I not pose the question?

    Changing the subject into a personal prayer for the author avoids the issue of "cut and paste" lectionary readings.

  4. Anonymous1:11 PM

    Anon 1:19

    You aren't going to win with the UP!

    However, you are more than welcome to join the rank and file who pray that one day he will find happiness.

  5. Anonymous2:22 AM

    Do you not find "happiness" in your faith in Christ, in your personal relationship in Christ Jesus and the salvation that is yours both in faith and in hope?
    Are these anons people you know and who are making reference to the person and character of your persona and in-person identity?

    Further, did you ever call the Church (I presume anon meant the denomination) "wicked" because a committee chose to leave out sections - important sections - of various pericopes for the sake of - what, expediency? Don't think so, considering the length of several of the Gospel readings during the Easter season. Or, what, unreliability? Don't think so, or the end of the Matthew Gospel would never make it. Or, what, difficulty? Maybe, but wouldn't that be counter to Jesus' very teaching in the missing section?
    Well, in any case, your do-gooders lay on as much condemnation and judgmentalism as they fear you have. I don't see it. I see your frustration in a Church, mirrored in your own home church, that seems to refuse to be confronted by the Gospel catholic, being quite Marcionite as a by-product. But I don't see you as bereft of the Love of God.

    As I read it, whether the section from this past Sunday is or the coming Sunday is left in or removed, they still identify how Jesus perceived those to whom he was speaking and why he used parables. If we wanted to avoid Jesus speaking that wicked bad old testament stuff then should we not read these chapters from Matthew at all?

    Godhead with a whip?? Wow.
    Well,,,actually,,,,,yes, in the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B. We'll hear it in the next Lenten season.

  6. Thanks Rob+,

    Greater minds than mine have grappled with the question of happiness. The happiness we are to gain when we enter the Kingdom of God is simply beyond our current comprehension. Earthly happiness is another issue, and I assume that Anon and anon are presuming me to be unhappy in the earthly sense of the word. As I like to say, I am insanely happy. I know where joy is to be found. I have experienced the Joy of being in the Lord's arms, I wish that for everyone, and I long for the day when His will is done and His Kingdom comes.

    "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."
    C. S. Lewis

  7. Anonymous6:33 PM

    Well, then, Hallelujah!
    And the anons don't really know you, or perhaps even Really care, else they would have asked you themselves.

    They apparently have a different definition or parameters for joy. Or even happiness.

  8. Anonymous5:34 PM

    RE: "However, you are more than welcome to join the rank and file who pray that one day he will find happiness."

    Oh, I think most of UP's blog readers recognize who is and who is not happy -- particularly those who are not happy with his posts which point out the rank hypocrisy of his church!

    It's fascinating to watch revisionists and liberals in the Episcopal Church get so angry, just because one blogger points out what's left out in lectionary readings and postulates the reasons why.

    All they can do is rant about how unhappy they think the blogger is.


    Keep up the great work, UP! You have a lot of readers in this diocese.


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