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Summary: In this simple parable the great physician offers listeners a straight-forward heart exam.

(A note to those reading this material: This manuscript follows the presentation of the material as it was originally given. What may be difficult to tell by just reading the original text is the presence of a thick, southern accent – deliberately used in the introduction to make the material more lively and enjoyable for listeners – and to put them in the mood for some good old-fashioned southern gospel preachin’…)

Good morning patients. I’m your doctor and I’m here to administer a test this morning. I think you will find this test quite useful. Think of it as a pulmonary examination. It’s a check-up on your heart.

But before we get too far into the test, let me alleviate some of your concerns. How much will this cost? Now, I know, some of you are working on a tight budget. After spending $100 Friday night on a dinner out, a movie and a baby-sitter; and then spending another $250 on groceries at Wal-Mart, you’re not too high on big doctor bills. But I think you’ll find my rates fairly reasonable.

I did have one rather high bill last week. This old boy came in to see me; he was complaining of frequent headaches. So I did a little looking in his ears, in his nose, down his throat. I told him, you’ve got a head cold. Get some rest, some chicken soup and gave him a prescription for an anti-biotic. But he wasn’t sure that’s all there was too it. He told me I needed to get more research and testing done.

I stepped out of the exam room and grabbed my black Labrador retriever. She came into the exam room with me, barked at him quit a bit. That old retriever can get pretty excited. Then I took her out and grabbed my daughter’s kitten, fluffy. I waved fluffy over his head a couple times and threw her out of the room.

Then I told this old boy, “like I said, it’s a head cold. Okay, go settle up with the receptionist. That’ll be about $1200.”

“$1200? Are you kidding? What for?”

“Well, its $50 for the office visit, $150 for the lab work and $1000 for the cat scan.”

Those prices can add up. But today, we’ll consider this mission work – I’ll be rendering my services for you with someone else picking up the tab. But before we begin. I have to make sure we’re speaking the same language. There are a few medical terms we’ll need to review.

I’ll introduce you to the fancy medical term, we’ll all say it together, and then I’ll explain what it means. Simple enough. The first one is probably one you already know: Artery. Artery. That’s the study of paintings. See how that works? Easy. Next: Nitrates. These are cheaper than day rates. Cauterize. That means to make eye contact with a girl. Bowels. Letters like A, E, I, O or U. Bleeder. That’s what your wife’s checkbook is… a bleeder. Barium – What we doctors do with patients who don’t take our advice. Pregnancy – no joke here. My wife continues to insist that when you’re pregnant, nothing is all that funny. Gangrenous – An honest description of most health insurance companies.

Easy enough? Now that you’ve got some medical terms under your belts, you’re ready for your test. It’s pretty straightforward. It’s more of a mental and moral check-up than a physical examination. And you can find it right there in your Bible. Look at the gospel of Mark – chapter 4. Let’s read this little heart-check together:

“He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.’” Mark 4: 2-8

Now what we just read is what most modern theologians call a parable. And it’s a pretty well known parable – or story. Most people have heard it at least a couple times. Now when Jesus gives the people this parable he’s actually giving them a way to do a self-examination. This isn’t just some nice little story that Jesus used to impress people – he took a very important truth from the spiritual world and translated it into an easy to understand, familiar setting story. Everyone who heard knew what a sower was; they knew what seed was; they had walked on roads; they had tried to plant gardens in rocky ground and soil filled with weeds and thorns. This was easy for them to understand – on one level.

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