"Tell Me a Story!"#85-42
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 17, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Tell Me a Story!)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: MARK 4:1-20, 26-34
I thank you for joining us. Today people in many lands are observing Father's Day. Let us begin by praying for the care of children: Almighty God, Heavenly Father, You have blessed us with the joy and care of children. Give us calm strength and patient wisdom that, as they grow in years, we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
What makes for a good father? One of my memories as a seminary student ... this goes back almost 50 years; time flies! One of my memories was Professor Arthur Carl Piepkorn telling our class that he had studied what makes for good parenting. Dr. Piepkorn was a very learned man, so when he said he studied something, we knew he did. He had looked at parents in various situations, but he found only one thing that made for good parenting. That was love, simply love. Now the question is how do you show a child, or anyone for that matter, that you love them? My message today is that we show love by spending time with our children, grandchildren, and others, and in that time together, we tell stories. Tell me a story! Do you remember The Andy Griffith Show from the 1960s? Andy was the sheriff of Mayberry, a fictional town in North Carolina. He was a widower raising his son Opie. At the end of every show, you'd see Andy and Opie walking down a dirt road with their fishing poles. They were going off not only to fish but also to spend time together and share their stories. Opie would grow up knowing his dad loved him.
To our own harm, these days many of us are not sharing time and stories the way Andy and Opie did. Bernard Bull is associate professor of education at Concordia University Wisconsin. He has written, Digitized, published by Concordia Publishing House. Digitized is very helpful because Dr. Bull examines how our tech culture has changed our lives. Chapter two is titled, "'Cat's in the Cradle' Goes Digital." That refers to a 1974 song by Harry Chapin. The song is about a father whose son is born while he's away on business. As the boy grows up, he wants to be like his dad. Through the song, the son repeatedly asks to spend time with his father, but his father always answers by saying he doesn't have time now but later we'll have a good time. At the end of the song, there's a sad turn. The dad has become old and wants to spend time with his son, but now the son is too busy. Sure enough, he grew up to be just like his dad. My father-in-law used to say, "They don't learn it from strangers." Dr. Bull gives the moral of "Cat's in the Cradle."
"This song remains a warning to parents around the world to enjoy time with their children and to recognize that they are the model for their children. Yet modern life often values that which happens outside of the home more than what happens inside the home. Modern society and its technological innovations create so many ways to accommodate longer work days and to focus on getting ahead in our careers that we fail to enjoy the God-given gift of family and neglect to take the time to enjoy one another."
Whether it's Andy and Opie going fishing, or you working together around the house, showing up at your kids' events, or eating meals together, and eating together without TV on or your phones in your hand, however you do it, sharing time and stories shows your love.
Jesus told stories. When Jesus began His ministry, He announced, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). What is the "kingdom of God"? Professor James Voelz of Concordia Seminary says it is the "reign and rule of God." That works. The kingdom of God is how God reigns and rules in our hearts. Most of all, the reign and rule of God is about His love for us all. Jesus often taught about the kingdom of God, about God's reign and rule. Sometimes He did it by commenting on current events like the accident when the tower at Siloam collapsed and people were killed (Luke 13:4-5). Or when He and the disciples were admiring the architecture of the temple, Jesus made a teachable moment and spoke about the end of the world (Mark 13:1-2). Other times, Jesus preached; He laid out the truths of God in straight-forward teaching, as He did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). But very often Jesus told stories; they're called "parables." Some of the parables were made-up stories like the story of the Good Samaritan who took care of a man beaten by robbers (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus' stories always had some contact with real life, with the day-to-day life the people knew. This was the way Jesus taught the disciples about God's love, about His gracious reign and rule in our lives. And still today, Jesus' parables have contact with the day-to-day life you and I live.
For example, let's consider the well-known "Parable of the Sower." It's about a man who sowed seed by hand. If Jesus were telling the story today, He would probably talk about a farmer pulling a planter behind his tractor to plant hundreds of acres. As I read the story to you, listen to how lavish, or you might think how careless, the farmer is with the precious seed.
"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." Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Sounds careless, doesn't it? Sowing seed on the road and on an outcrop of rocks? My friend Louie is a farmer. He tells me when a farmer is ready to plant, he programs into the computer exactly where he wants the seeds planted. For example, he programs in 24 rows with 30 inches between the rows. The computer and the GPS make sure that no seed is wasted. But Jesus wasn't telling this story about a careless farmer, but rather about the lavishness of God sowing His saving Word. God doesn't look at whether someone will receive the Word or not. St. Paul says, "God our Savior ... wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). So the sower scattering seed on all kinds of ground isn't careless; it's the lavish love of God to get His saving Word into every kind of heart.
However, the disciples didn't understand the Parable of the Sower. Because the crowd that heard the story had true followers of Jesus and also critics, people out to get him, Jesus spoke cryptically. When the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked Him to explain. That's important. As a teacher, I often slip into stories of experiences in my life. I do that because the story makes a point about the lesson we are covering in class. When I launch into a story, the students stop taking notes and lean back. They think it is entertainment time. No, this story makes a point you need to learn. So when Jesus' critics had left, the disciples asked what the parable meant. In His explanation, Jesus teaches us that people receive the Word of God in different ways. Listen.
"The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown" (Mark 4:14-20)
People receive the Word of God in different ways. The critics don't give it a second chance. The devil is there to keep the Word from their hard hearts. Other people receive the Word enthusiastically but don't grow in it, don't stick with Jesus when discrimination or persecution comes for following Jesus. Still others are preoccupied with the things of this world. These people are like Harry Chapin's song about the dad so caught up in making a career that he didn't give time to his son. In this context I would say to the godly raising of his son. But the good soil, ah, that's what you and I want to be! To be sinners who receive the forgiving and hope-giving Word of Christ! To continue to grow in reverence for the loving rule and reign of God! To be followers of Jesus who produce godly fruit in our lives. May we be good soil in whom the love of God's kingdom grows!
But how does this happen, this growth in the reign and rule of God in us? Jesus has a story about just that. This also comes from Mark chapter four. The setting is that the crowd that listened to the Parable of the Sower has dispersed. The hard-hearted critics are gone. Now Jesus tells His followers that His ministry of the Word is not spectacular, not something that amazes the world, but the kingdom does grow because God's Word works. Listen.
"He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.'"
It is Jesus who scatters the seed on good ground. You, I, and others hear His preaching and teaching. We take it to heart. Like a seed, His Word grows slowly but surely in us. Dr. Voelz says this story is intended to comfort us. He writes this in his commentary on Mark:
"The ministry of Jesus, especially in his preaching and teaching, brings ... the reign and rule of God in a way that is simple and mysterious, and ... leads finally and inevitably to success at the proper time. The narrative is to comfort, to assure those with eyes to see and ears to hear that, despite meager appearances-especially initial appearances of unproductiveness-the fullness of God's reign and rule will be achieved."
That's comforting in these days when many people are full of gloom and doom about the decline of the institutional church. God's lavish sowing of love from His Word makes all the difference in our lives and in the church. The prophet Isaiah put it this way.
"As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Tell me a story! I have one more for today's message, and this is another story from Jesus about seeds.
"Again he said, 'What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade'" (Mark 4:30-32).
The mustard seed, traditionally thought of as the smallest seed, grows into a large garden plant. Don't discount what the Word of Jesus is doing in your life and in the church! Says Dr. Voelz:
"The reign and rule of God in Jesus is not in and of itself magnificent, at least not by normal worldly standards. Its results, however, are magnificent (great branches result), and all peoples everywhere (the birds [in the parable]) benefit greatly. One cannot help but see the worldwide spread of the Christian faith as a fulfillment of this depiction."
Tell me a story! Let's wrap up today's message by going back to fathers. Taking time to be with your children, to tell your stories, and to hear their stories is an important way to show you love them. Andy and Opie went fishing to be with each other and to share stories, but the father in "Cats in the Cradle" was too busy to spend time with his son. So, as they say, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." When the son grew up, he didn't have time for his aged father. Jesus is our Savior from sin and our model for daily life. By spending time with His disciples and telling them stories, Jesus prepared the disciples for what was going to come in their lives. Mark says, "With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything" (Mark 4:33-34). Tell me a story! And make sure to share the point of your story. That's one of the most effective ways we can share the wonderful Word of Jesus with the next generation. Ted and Chelsea Doering have written Myth of the Millennial, a book about "connecting generations in the church." As Jesus told stories to prepare His disciples for the future, doesn't our Heavenly Father's love given to us in Jesus motivate us to tell the next generation how Jesus' Word has worked in the stories of our lives? Here's what Ted and Chelsea say.
"When the Word of God goes out, it does not come back empty (Isaiah 55:11); you are not alone nor must you have the exactly right answer every time. God is going to do His work! There is a generation in need of the goodness of the Gospel. They are scraping to find meaning in life. Friendships, jobs, and a long line of relationships have let them down. But the Gospel will not. This is the importance of what you have to share."
Tell me a story! Amen.
Reflections for June 17, 2018
Title: TELL ME A STORY!
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and that was Dr. Dale Meyer. Now joining us from his home in Texas, here's Pastor Ken Klaus. Hello, Pastor!
Ken Klaus: Hello Mark, good to be with you. In a couple of weeks, Mark, our listeners in the United States are going to be celebrating Independence Day. With that in mind, I wanted to talk today about how a Christian relates to his or her government, especially in times of disagreement.
Mark Eischer: I recall you said once how your two nephews had given up watching football because some of the players had been staging a protest during the singing of the National Anthem, so is that how you'd like to begin today?
Ken Klaus: No, actually not. You see, the choice of kneeling in protest or standing with your hand over your heart in respect is a right guaranteed to every citizen who enjoys a nation in which there's freedom of speech.
Mark Eischer: Okay.
Ken Klaus: Understand, I have some definite personal opinions with respect to flag and anthem but, officially and publicly. I agree with Evelyn Beatrice Hall who said I disapprove of what you say but, I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Mark Eischer: In the 13th chapter of Romans, St. Paul writes, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."
Ken Klaus: And we need to remember that when Paul penned those words under the Holy Spirit's direction, Nero was the ruler of Rome.
Mark Eischer: And church history tells us Nero was responsible for the deaths of both St. Peter and St. Paul. There are also accounts of how he persecuted Christians; he even went so far as to cover them in pitch and use them as human torches to illuminate his garden.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, the man could be a monster. But what Paul wrote about believers being subject to the authorities even applied to Nero. Mark, you mentioned Peter ...
Mark Eischer: Right.
Ken Klaus: and he also had something to say about this in his first epistle. Peter said, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good ... Honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the emperor."
Mark Eischer: In other words, Peter is saying, honor the man who would eventually order his own death. That's a tall order.
Ken Klaus: It's one of the reasons that Christian believers stood out. They respected the people in authority. They did so not because the person was intrinsically good but because in respecting their ruler they were showing respect for the Lord.
Mark Eischer: All right, but what if the emperor demands that they do something that goes against God's Word?
Ken Klaus: Well for believers, when the words of an earthly ruler go onto one side of the scale and God's words are on the other side of the scale, God should always win out. As Jesus' disciples said, "We must obey God rather than men."
Mark Eischer: What are we to do then, when we disagree with what government officials are doing?
Ken Klaus: Now, if you don't like somebody in office, or many of the things they're doing, or the laws that you see being passed, find someone you do like-someone that does have the laws and is headed in the direction that you would like. Go to that person's campaign headquarters, volunteer to work, get involved. But, we don't get involved with civil disobedience. We don't undermine the purpose and the person so that we may accomplish our rules and our wishes.
Mark Eischer: And if people say, "Why not?"
Ken Klaus: Well, my theological answer would be because God said not to. You bring dishonor on Him when you do that. And there's a practical answer to the question, too.
Mark Eischer: What would that be?
Ken Klaus: Whatever you say or do against someone in office becomes the new standard. When your candidate is elected, the opposition who hates him will do as you did-or something worse.
Mark Eischer: And everything just continues to go downhill from there.
Ken Klaus: Exactly. You know, President Franklin Roosevelt had polio. He didn't try to keep that a secret, but he also didn't want to be defined by his illness. Back then, for the most part, the press respected that and didn't publish photos of him in his wheelchair.
Mark Eischer: You know I can't imagine any leader today who could enjoy that kind of respect or privacy.
Ken Klaus: There you have it. God's people may disagree, even disagree strongly, they're free to disagree, but everything they do must be done with respect.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)