The Rev. Randy Knutson
Matthew 13: 1-9; 18-23
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Listen to this…Sermon 2014.07.13 RRK
I want to begin by thanking so many of you who came to my ordination two weeks ago, for the great turn out of people and for the gifts of a stole and Amazon credit by our Vestry. And I especially am thankful for the greetings of welcome and encouragement by many of you as my ministry among you includes being your Deacon. Thank You!
“Jesus went out and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into the boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables.” You would be right to think that after our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land last January, I can not hear these words, or similar ones in the same way again. For now I know what this place looks like and what is embedded or implied in the words themselves.
For you see, Jesus was from Nazareth and we went there. It is now a bustling city, with a number of places commemorating his life, but back then it was a back water community, cut off from surrounding areas by a mountain pass. We can understand why Nathanael said to Philip, before his introduction to Jesus, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It was such a small, unsophisticated, place. Can anything good come out of Victor? Of Thornton? We know Jesus was born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem and we went to these two cities, drank in the historical depth and present vitality of them both. But after he was called into ministry, after his Baptism, Jesus did not stay in Nazareth, but instead went all around the region of Galilee, especially around Lake Galilee, which we also visited, and the city of Capernaum. Of this place, Matthew says “He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum.” This is the ancient city along the lake that is described by Mark as the town of Jesus or appropriately, where to start looking for Jesus, if you wanted to find him. It was his new home. And this is what you would see if you were to travel there. You would see the ruins of a wonderful synagogue, made of stones, whose walls mostly still exist. One section for the men and the other for the women. The ornate decorations that were once part of the building are carefully sorted and preserved nearby, the work of Franciscans, who for years, worked to excavate and bring all of these pieces together for everyone to see. Next to it are the ancient ruins of the city, the bottom half of the rooms and houses, made of stone walls packed closely together. One of these is the house where Peter’s mother in law is said to have lived and where Jesus cured her. We don’t know for sure, but perhaps Peter and Andrew and therefore, James and John were from here. Above this house, in the tradition of the church, is a modern church building, put there to preserve this holy site. But it is not built ‘around’ Peter’s mother in law’s house, but above it, hovering on supports, like a flying saucer. If you are fortunate, and we were, you can go into the church and look into the ruins of the city and the very spot venerated since at least the 4th century as Peter’s mother in law’s house. Then, literally a stones throw (from Rt. Field to Home base) is the sea of Galilee. So this could have been the setting of this teaching. But there is much to be learned from this.
Jesus had no amphitheater to go to meet and teach the crowd. No doubt he had visited the synagogue and taught there; it was but a few hundred yards from the lake shore. But he is teaching not in that building, but outdoors, where, everyone, ALL, men & women; Jew and Gentile, could hear his words. So with this first parable in Matthew he is literally DOING what he is talking about: the sower is spreading seed, the Good News of the Kingdom everywhere, to everyone!