Church of the Good Shepherd

The Parable of the Sower


Words matter … because what we think about God matters.

But words don’t always have to be used in the same way.

I love you because you are a faithful friend, beautiful …

Shakespeare Sonnet #18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

When it comes to opening up windows to the heart of God … the Bible, more often than not, tells us stories.

1.   How Do Stories Work?

Soren Kierkegaard – Direct communication is important for conveying information, but learning is more than information, especially when people think they already understand.  People set their defenses against direct communication and learn to conform its message to the channels of their understanding of reality.  Indirect communication finds a way in a back window and confronts what one thinks is reality.  Parables are indirect communication. (From Stories with Intent by Klyne Snodgrass)

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our inform Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise


As Lightning to the Children eased

With Explaination kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind –            - Emily Dickinson

A.  Stories Capture Our Imagination

From Piper’s Biography of C.S. Lewis:

Tolkein pressed the analogous truth for Christianity. And Lewis did the same years later: “A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread: he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating, and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist.” 19 In other words, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” 20

B.  Stories Reveal

-          The best stories aren’t JUST stories

-          They tell us something about the world around

“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.  Children already know that dragons exist.  Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be slain.” - G.K. Chesteron

2.  The Word Matters

Faith Comes by Hearing / Worship Comes by the Word

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ” (Romans 10:17, ESV)


Worship does God's story and invites you to participate with him.

- Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative

by  Robert Webber


The common tradition of the church's worship in Word, Table and song, practiced faithfully and communicated CLEARLY in every context of the world. - Robert Webber

I once understood the gospel as God asking me to let him into my narrative, to find room for him in my heart and life.

But now I realize that God bids me to find my place in his narrative.

In God's story, he, with his own two hands--the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit--recapitulated and reversed the human situation so i can now live in him.

Rome coming to an Area vs. Gospel coming to an Area

Earthly Kingdoms come by coercion & force / shock & awe

-          Can’t stop to listen well

-          Leaders talk, soldiers fight and the conquered listen to new terms


-          You knew they were there

-          Specific Tactics to crush the opposition

-          Light trees on fire to flush Guerrilla Warriors

Only 2 sorts of people left after the invasion:

-          People participating in the Roman Rule

-          The Dead


- Foolish Message

- Foolishness of Preaching

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ” (1 Corinthians 1:18–25, ESV)

3.  Learning to Hear

#1  Let the Word Get Under Your Skin (v.4, 19)

Seed on the Path

-          Listen with Intellect only

-          The Word lies on the surface

  • “hears the Word … and does not understand it”
  • Understand = Get It
    • Let it get under your skin

It has to get personal

Not just a thought you kick around on the top of your head

But something that can take root.

#2  Make the Word Your Foundation (v.5, 20-21)

Emotional Reaction to the Word = JOY

But unchanged intellectual foundation.

Rock = Other worldviews / Ways of Thinking

-          They didn’t really make the Word of God their foundation

-          They added the Word of God to their own foundation

  • So they fell away when their self-made foundation shattered
  • That shows that they really worshipped what was lost in the heat

Saw selves as “A Sufferer In Need of A Solution”

Not as “A Sinner In Need of A Savior.”


#3  Guard Against A Divided Heart  (v.7, 22)

The Soil is Shared

THORNS = Worry, Money, Cares of this world

Always in Doubt, Always Anxious

Can’t Go Back … Can’t Go Forward

"It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity." Frederic D. Huntington

#4 Listen With Confidence (v.8, 23)

The Word produces fruit

Never a 1:1 Ratio






You aren’t the gardener … you are the soil.

Your job isn’t to pull thorns and remove rocks.

Jesus is the gardener.

  • He wore your thorns as a crown.
  • He was buried under a rock … and that stone was rolled away.

Your job isn’t to be the gardener of your own heart.

Your job is to receive the seed.

If you’ve received it today …

-          Prayer for Faith

-          Baptism

If you’re thorny and choked out …

-          Fill your heart with the seed of the Word

-          Beg God, the good gardener, to come

-          Stay in His presence


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