Summary: A sermon about response preached at an infant Baptism, where the parents were committed, though the family might not be.

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Text: Matthew 13:1-23 - The Parable of the Sower

Introduction 1 The Parable

Let me begin by retelling the parable in a different context.

The football manager went into the youth team dressing room and sat down to teach.

"Once there was a scout who brought in four talented players. The first never did a thing I told him, so he was out.

The next was full of enthusiasm at first, but he didn't like the training. So I had to release him.

The third worked hard and found his place in the team. But he could not stand the pressure of expectation, on top of which the money went to his head and he started drinking heavily and gambling, and was unfaithful to his wife. Despite all I did to try and help him, he failed to achieve his potential.

But the fourth player persevered and kept on learning. After three years with us he averaged a goal a game all season. He became a household name, and we are all proud of him."

And the manager concluded, "Listen, then, if you have ears!"

Recently the England U19 Head Coach Noel Blake commended the 2011 Football League Young Player of the Year Connor Wickham, because not only was he good enough at the age of 17 to play for the England first team, but he is still humble and willing to learn.

No wonder that Sunderland Football Club have paid £8 million for his transfer, because not only does he have talent, he seems also to have the right attitude.

2 The reason to use parables

This brings us to the meat in the sandwich of today's passage. Verse 10: "Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, 'Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?'"

First of all, notice our feelings as we heard the story. There was no pressure to respond. We had to decide how it might relate to us. If I asked four members of this congregation, what did it mean to you, I should probably have five different answers.

If you don't know what the parable is talking about, then it probably makes no sense at all. That, says Jesus, is intentional. Verse 11, "The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them." Until someone knows what the kingdom of God is, nothing else will make sense. In other words, if you are not on God's team, if God is not your manager, then team talks will pass you by.

Jesus developed this, verse 13, "The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand." In other words, the story is like a mirror. If we ask ourselves the right questions, then the parable helps us to recognise what we are like. But if we are not trying to please God and do not want to respond to his teaching, then it will have no effect.

Now the quotation from Isaiah is quite strong. Verse 14, "This people will listen and listen, but not understand; they will look and look, but not see." This is more than just a statement of a regrettable state of affairs. It is God's will and purpose that some should be included while others exclude themselves. God does not want half-hearted people in his domain. He is absolute ruler and he expects sovereign authority over his subjects. If we are not willing to give him that, then there is no place for us.

But the courtiers of this king are wonderfully privileged, as Jesus said, verse 17, "I assure you that many prophets and many of God's people wanted very much to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not."

3 The explanation of the parable

For this parable, Jesus now helps the disciples to recognise themselves in the mirror. Plainly the sower is himself. Jesus tells the message of the kingdom, where God rules. In our day the church tries to do the same. Some people listen, while others do not.

The path, impervious to the seeds, are those who do not listen at all. They are living their busy lives. Perhaps on Sundays they like to wash the car or go shopping, or even drive into the countryside. Or maybe they play cricket or go fishing. They are too busy to stop and think about God. The question is, could we be a bit like that?

The rocky ground is those who will try anything once. Perhaps they explore psychic fairs, or Alternative therapies, or Astrology, or Feng Shui, or Fortune-telling and divination, or Psychic powers, or even The occult. You name it, they'll give it a go. They are keen to explore the Christian faith for a while, until a different experience attracts their attention or the going gets tough. Then they'll try something else. The question is, could we be a bit like that?

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