“Consider carefully what you hear,” Jesus continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you-and even more.”
It’s the middle of a series of stories Mark tells about stories that Jesus told. Three seed stories, a lamp story, and a measuring story.
Each of the stories feels like a stand-alone story, a nugget of truth open to debate.
Sorry. For those of you following along, on Monday I suggested reading the story of the sower. I almost plunged ahead, leaving us both without reflection on the soils.
Because that’s the parable, right? We’ve labeled it as the parable of the sower, but the lesson is really about the soils.
Or is it?
The parable of the sower and the four soils is the first of five short scenes, or parables. The sower, the oil lamp under the bed, the measuring container, the growing seed, and the mustard seed. Read alone, studied individually, preached as a string of pearls, we can find lessons about how we are supposed to behave.
“Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine” is a memorable lesson, telling us to be bold about our light. Whatever that is.
But what if this series of stories isn’t exactly about us, or about our ability (and obligation) to do more, to work harder, to be more faithful?
Mark has been, I’ve suggested, telling us stories about Jesus. He’s been clarifying our picture of his power in many situations, of his response to challenges, of his character. Up to this point, however, what we’ve heard from Jesus have been quick responses. (Where we’ve been so far.)
Mark has said that Jesus’ work was preaching. Now, after choosing twelve, we hear some of the preaching. These stories may be what he was telling them about the kingdom that was at hand. And in stories about seeds that grow from nothing, that persevere, and that transform everything, the disciples get a picture of a kingdom that isn’t about domination. So do we. If we listen.
If you think Lent’s just about giving something up, it will be a long battle with willpower. But what if Lent’s actually about learning to follow God?
Lent For Non-Lent People is a seven-week guide to learning to listen for God. In this short book, I help readers use the season of Lent to learn to focus on God. If you’ve read it before, it’s time to get it out. Ash Wednesday is March 2. If you haven’t, I’d love you to take a look.