Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
13:2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.
13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow.
13:4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.
13:5 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.
13:6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.
13:7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
13:8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!"
In the Baptist church one speaks and the other listens, not only with their ears but with their mouth. I say something and you say amen;, I say something else and you say that’s right…I say something else and you say preach preacher. Many times in our vernacular it is not hard for one to do all of that and still not be listening or understanding the word that is being preached. We as preachers take for granted that you are listening and do indeed understand what we are talking about.
Two terms I want to introduce into this dialogue and it is a dialogue, are Congruence and Empathy. Empathy is the listener’s desire and effort to understand the preacher from you the recipient's internal frame of reference rather than from some external point of view, such as a theory; a set of standards, or the your preferences. The empathic listener tries to get inside the preacher’s thoughts and feelings.
Congruence refers to openness, frankness, and genuineness on the part of the listener. The congruent listener is in touch with themselves. If angry or irritated, for example, the congruent person admits to having this feeling rather than pretending not to have it. They communicate what they feel and know, rather than hiding behind a mask. Candor or truthfulness on the part of the listener tends to evoke candor in the speaker. When one person comes out from behind a facade, the other is more likely to as well.
The relationship between the preacher and congregation develops. The elements of the listening orientation –empathy and congruence are likely to increase as the reflective listening processes continue. These are the ingredients for an open, trusting relationship between Union Baptist Church congregant and Union Baptist Church preacher.
The activity of listening arouses and channels of motivational energy. Because the listener is an accepting and encouraging partner but leaves the initiative for exploring and diagnosing the problem mainly up to the preacher. A normal outcome of the process is that the speaker will recognize new avenues for action and will begin making plans to pursue them through the word.
The truth of the matter is that in the Baptist church the preached word is focus or the main thing. The preacher who takes a higher or more elevated position by the level of the pulpit and puts on garments, that purvey holiness, it makes him or her speaker of the hour. The build up of the particulars or the order of service move the 2 hour session through emotion and feeling propelling it toward the word. We believe that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word is God, and that the word was made flesh in Jesus and dwelt among us, by the Spirit. Therefore the Word is the main thing. If there is no preaching then this is not church. Paul says Romans 10: 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report F39? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Hearing is vital.
Everyone take your hands and place them on both sides of your face, feel and if you have ears say amen. That means that this is the part of the service where everyone can play a part, not the offering but the sermon. Powerful statement: 13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!"
Let anyone with ears listen. My momma was famous for saying “boy, are you listening to me?!” Or she would say “I know that went in one ear…” “or what do you have between your ears?!” Listening is the hardest job for many of us. If you are anything like me the art of listening is truly an art form that I have not mastered. I can sit like you all are right now and my brain will be somewhere else entirely. Take a sermon you don’t like or one that is not speaking to you or me. I start thinking as someone might be doing right now about my turkey that is in the oven or what I am going to eat for dinner or wear to the second service. When the scripture says don’t worry for anything, the birds and the flowers don’t worry about what to eat, put on or sleep. But if you give me a bad sermon, I’m checking out until the Whoop. I am talking to you? Jesus in his statement wants to make sure he has the proverbial room covered and if you have two ears this sermon is for you, as a matter of fact if you have two ears and can hear me for just about another thirty minutes, this sermon is for you and if you have ears and need a better understanding of how this thing called church works, this sermon is for you.
My challenge this morning is that many times when we preach the word and when you promulgate the gospel through your testimony, it just may fall on deaf ears. The worst thing in life which I emphasized in my mother’s analogy is that a person is not listening to what you are saying. As a man I am an expert at listening to what it is that I want to hear. Men say amen, we can turn off our wives; which is not a good thing but we do it. The key to marriage is that one is talking and the other is listening and the one that is listening says I heard what you said. Not only do they hear but they do what you ask them to do. Listening takes work. Reflective listening is even harder, but one has to acknowledge that they heard you and make changes in their life to accommodate the words that you have spoken.
That brings me to the preacher of the hour. The angel of this church who preaches to you each and every Sunday, by my calculation it has been for two hundred Sundays not including weddings, revivals, funerals and afternoon programs. He has each and every week, sat down with pen and paper, listening to God’s voice by the unction of the Holy Spirit to ask specifically what it is that God want you all to know on any given Sunday. The key is he has listened to what the spirit says to the church. That is what Jesus says again in Revelation, Them that have ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the church. James says that we should not only be hearers but doers of the word. But in order to do, and do it right one has to hear.
Jesus parable is that the word fell on ground, but each ground was distinctive to the individual parcel. On the Eastern Shore you know about ground and good ground. You ain’t seen noybody trying to grow tomatoes among thorns, on concrete, without water or without burying them. That is contrary to the art of farming. In order for stuff to grow it has to be planted right and in order for the plant to take root it has to be planted right. That is how the word is; it has to be planted in the heart for it to grow. That is the whole challenge today to see number one if your listening. We don’t say it as preachers but we go for the heart, we go for the jugular. We come to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. If I ain’t preaching and you ain’t listening then we both are wasting our time. If on a Sunday morning…
I learned that in order to produce a good sermon the preacher must put in eight hours of work. Between, getting the facts right and pulling out maps, concordances, dictionaries, commentaries and the Bible you will put in eight hours or more. To take eight hours and push it into thirty minutes takes some doing. Sometimes we preach all we know and in one sermon know all we preach. You’ll get that on the way home, but we only have a few minutes to convey the words of Jesus so that you do more than just listen. The worst thing, the most disheartening thing for the preacher, is to preach, ie. On love one another and after the sermon folk still talking about each other…the worst thing for a preacher is to peach on giving and the offering for that Sunday is the lowest its been in months…the worst thing for a preacher is to preach on atte3ndance and the next Sunday its seems everybody stayed home…The worst thing for a preacher is to preach and folk ain’t listening. That’s why in the text Jesus says, in13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!"
I am not going to ask a dialectical question this morning but instead I am going to talk about two types of church folk and call it a day. Simplification of today’s text would be that the preacher went out to preach and the word fell among two types of Christians. Folk who do something and folk who ain’t gonna do nothing. Hears and doers and hearers only. Folk who hear the word, acknowledge they heard it by saying amen and then go to work on what they heard and not only what they heard but what the Holy spirit is saying to them. Other folk, listening and making up in their mind right then and there what they ain’t gonna do. Christians in deed, we talking about folk right here in the chuch.
In the second half of the text Jesus brings to two worlds together. Here is the most important question in the text Go with me to verse 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. Or hear the case of the preacher. Unfortunately sometimes it is hard to distinguish if we translate this text into modernity to tell if those folk were any different from the folk in the New Testament church of today.
Now let’s bring home the difference between hearers around church who only hear and don’t do nothing and hearers that hear and do something with this word. Lets talk about the don’t do nothing folk. If you’re here say amen…Jesus breaks down the parable like this he says,, there are folk who hear, but do not understand and when the word is sown into the heart, the enemy removes the word. You know folk who sit right beside you who, hear the word, it goes in, but they don’t quite understand and some excuse my language knucklehead tries to explain it or says some ungodly thing like…and the preacher might as well cast the word to the wayside. The enemy is like a bird who swoops in and steals the word form you. Bad news after a sermon, losing your job on Monday morning, your wife leaves you on Tuesday…You know folk who sit right beside you…Get happy, shout, but the problem is that they endure for a little while… they stay for a little while… they work for a little while… they sing for a little while… they pray for a little while… they preach for a little while…they on the deacon board for a little while…they pay tithes…but when trials and tribulations come they get offended. Jesus said they are like stony ground. Jeremiah 4 says… The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and (you shall bless yourself in Him.) the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall (you) they glory. For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
Hosea 10 says it like this…Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed (sown) wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.
Finally there is the hearing of the word, void of understanding… where the cares of this life and the striving to gain riches outside of the word, make you unfruitful. The song writer Charles A. Tindley a poor janitor and then the pastor of one of the biggest churches in Philadelphia in the last century… had it right when the world from you withholds all its silver and its gold,, And you have to get along with meager fare, Just remember, in His Word, how He feeds the little bird; Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there. Leave it there, leave it there, Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there. If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out. Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.