Matthew 13: 1-23

Illustrated New Resources

  • Even in the Broken Places

    by Rian Adams
    I’m at Ft. Hood at the height of “the surge.” A young Sgt that I know well comes to my office, sits down, and with a straight face asks me for last rites. “Last rites?” “Yes, Sir, this war in my head is too much. I’m going to kill myself. I’ve already decided when, where, and how, so don’t try to talk me out of it.” Five days later, I walked through the doors of the largest mental health hospital in the south. It was Sunday after a chapel service, so I was in clericals. I rode the elevator up a few floors, stepped out, and knocked on the door. The door buzzed and opened. I greeted the guard, then asked a nurse at the nurse’s station where to find Sgt. V. I walked into a large open space with patient rooms lining the wall. As I walked through the common area, one of the patients rushed me. She was yelling, “Father! I knew it! I knew you’d come, I never doubted.” I waved off the concerned guard. The young woman threw her arms around my neck and started sobbing. I disobeyed all the church warnings… and I wrapped my arms around her while she cried. Her tears soaked my the whole shoulder of my shirt. When she stopped, she looked me directly in my eyes and asked me, “Father, will God forgive me?” “Forgive you for what?” “For taking a life in Iraq.” My heart broke… and I said what I believe are some of the holiest and intimate—and tragically underused—words in our prayer book: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent … … of and by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. We said Amen together. Then her eyes glossed over, and she turned around and skipped away as if the whole thing never happened...
  • Protect Your Garden

    by Jim Chern
    A few days later, I’m leaving the center and was closing our front door when I caught him. This nasty ground hog is standing there on his hind legs, helping himself to the third pot of plants (having already helped himself to two others) I just stood there frozen in shock for a moment and the two of us locked eyes with this stare down. I realize now that this is when I lost my mind as I started yelling at the Ground hog “I’ve been blaming the poor deer and it’s been YOU” as I went lunging towards him. What did I plan on doing if I caught him? Well, I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. Of course he waddled away and jumped down one hole (which happened to be at the foot of the massive crucifix we have in front) to which I followed up with “Jesus isn’t going to save your furry butt.” In any event, I spent way too much time googling how to ground hog proof your garden, what can you do to discourage or make it difficult for them to finally searching out “okay how can I ‘take care of them’ -get rid of them permanently?” The most humane way, which this nasty animal has our office manager to thank for showing him mercy, was done by this company called “Fur Patrol” who for a ridiculous fee set traps for four days, caught them and “relocated them” – I say them because they ended up catching 3 ground hogs as well as 3 skunks about 5 weeks ago. They also found the “holes” and filled them in with concrete to prevent their friends and relatives returning...
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 10A)(2020)

    by Scott Hoezee
    The great preacher George Buttrick was once flying on an airplane. As he sat there, he had a legal pad out on which he was furiously scribbling some notes for his sermon the coming Sunday. The man next to Buttrick inquired, “Say, what are you working on there, sir.” “My sermon for Sunday–I’m a Christian preacher.” “Oh,” the other man replied. “Well, I don’t like to get caught up in the complexities of religion. I like to keep it simple. You know, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ The Golden Rule. That’s my religion!” “I see,” Rev. Buttrick replied, “and what do you do for a living?” “I’m an astronomer. I teach astrophysics at a university.” “Ah, yes, astronomy,” Buttrick shot back. “Well, I don’t like to get caught up in the complexities of science. ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.’ That’s my astronomy. Who could ever need more than that, eh?”
  • Love, Which We Call God, Is a Strange Attractor

    by Dawn Hutchings
    The term “chaos theory” was coined back in the 1960s by a mathematician named Edward Lorenz who worked at MIT as a meteorologist. Lorenz was trying to use complicated mathematical formulas to develop models to predict the weather patterns and systems. During the course of his research, what seemed like an insignificant computer input decision, revealed the impact of unintended consequences. Lorenz had rounded off the number 0.506127 to 0.506, assuming that the difference of 0.000127 was so insignificant that its impact would be inconsequential. Lorenz turned out to be wrong. What appeared to be a tiny inconsequential number, turned out to have a significant impact. That tiny number, somewhere in the mere millionths of a difference in barometric pressure, capable of only an infinitesimal impact on wind speed, no bigger than a baby’s sneeze or the beat of a butterfly’s wings, that tiny change, at the beginning of a weather system turned out to be the difference between a blue sky and a monsoon. Lorenz coined the phrase: “Butterfly Effect” to describe this phenomenon. Today, quantum physicists use the butterfly effect to describe what happens when a small change in one place in a system can result in a ginormous difference in a later state. The mere flapping of a butterfly wing has a ripple effect which multiplies over time and changes weather patterns thousands of miles away...
  • What Makes Us Ready to Receive the Word of God

    by Terrance Klein
    “Shaggy dough.” When did I miss the lesson on how to recognize shaggy dough? I cannot convince myself that it is coming. For the longest time—so it seems—the flour and water stay skittish. Surely that is as much a culinary term as “shaggy.” They do not want to come together. Some of the flour enters the lump of dough, but mounds of it stick shyly to the sides of the bowl. With spatula in hand, I watch both clock and dish, ready to intervene, but the bread hook knows its business. The dough grows and gathers what is left of the flour, even from the sides of the bowl...
  • God's Abundance

    by Jim McCrea
    I know of one family whose father was physically and emotionally abusive to his children. One time, the young son of that family was called aside to talk to his parents. They asked him, “Do you know which of you children is our favorite?” Even though he was young at the time, that son knew that was a terrible thing to ask. But his mother demanded an answer, so he guessed one of his sisters. The mother was shocked. She said, “No. It’s you!” Then he was left with no idea what to do with this information since he would have much preferred to believe his parents loved all their children the same...
  • The Abundance of God as an Invitation to Generosity

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    The sun is extraordinarily generous, giving huge parts of itself away every second. Scientists tell us that every second, inside the sun, the equivalent of 4 million elephants are being transformed into light, an irretrievable, one-time gift. The sun is giving itself away. If this generosity should halt, all energy would eventually lose its source and everything would die and become inert. We, and everything on our planet, live because of the generosity of the sun. In this generosity, the sun reflects the abundance of God, a largesse that invites us to also be generous, to have big-hearts, to risk more in giving ourselves away in self-sacrifice, to witness to God's abundance...
  • Of Soils and Souls

    by David Sellery
    Substitute “soul” for “soil” and the lesson becomes even easier to understand. The sower and the seed are constants. The soil is the variable. God and his word never waver. God constantly reaches out to us. He spreads his word far and wide. How we receive his word, how we nurture it… those are the variables that lead either to a life of fulfillment or a life of frustration. But there is a significant anomaly in this parable. Souls are not soils. They are not inert. Soil cannot choose to be barren. But souls can. Soils don’t make themselves a desert. But we can choose to make a desert of our souls. Unlike soils, souls have a will. They can choose to receive the word or reject it. They can choose to nurture the word or starve it. They can choose to bear fruit or turn to dust...

Other New Resources

Recommended Resources

[Based on requests from several members (although I am reluctant to do so since my favorites may not be those of others), I am listing here some of my own favorite resources. Hopefully, members will have the ability to rate all of the resources on a 5-point system soon!! FWIW!!]
  • David Allan Coe and Matthew 13: The Perfect Country and Western Parable

    by Richard Bryant
    "Jesus has told the perfect country and western parable, speaking to every aspect of our lives and the condition of our souls. He’s covered the rocks, the thorns, the sand, the heat, every emotional, physical, and psychological aspect of our lives. He’s telling our story. In Matthew 13, Jesus is telling our story. That is why these words resonate with us and that’s why we need to hear it played on our spiritual radios..."
  • Observe the Seed

    by Jerry Fuller, OMI
    ("Tom Sullivan was born blind. His parents in an effort to protect him from the perils of the outside world built an 8 foot fence around his yard. As a little boy he was smart and energetic. He felt trapped by the fence and longed to get out – especially when he heard the kids down the street playing baseball..." and other illustrations)
  • The Parable of Environments

    by Sil Galvan
    Ben Weir, the Presbyterian missionary who was for so long a hostage in Lebanon, speaks movingly about worshiping while in captivity. Every Saturday night, he saved a piece of bread from dinner, and on Sunday morning he would eat that piece of bread and feel moved by the sense of communing with God's people all over the world. Even in prison, he found a way to celebrate being in the presence of the Lord.
  • The Sower, the Seed and the Soil

    by Sil Galvan
    ("My father was an avid baseball fan. I grew up in New York City and was able to see the greats play at the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field and Yankee Stadium. Many a Saturday was spent with my dad cheering on our favorite team. As much as I loved the game of baseball, alas, I was born female at a time when girls watched more than they played..." and another illustration)
  • Proper 10A

    by Bill Loader
    (always good insights!)
  • Seed and Soils

    by D. Mark Davis
    includes lots of Greek exegesis
  • Sowing the Seeds

    by David Russell
    ("Think for a minute: who was Michael Jordan's grade school coach? Who was Billy Graham's junior high Sunday School teacher? Who was Albert Einstein's third grade math teacher? Who gave Eric Clapton guitar lessons? Who got Bill Gates interested in technology? Who plants the seeds of future greatness? It could be anybody. It could be us..." and other illustrations)
  • Letting Go

    Illustration by Ron Sebring
  • Exegetical Notes (Matthew 13.1-9,18-23)

    by Brian Stoffregen
    (excellent exegesis)

Illustrated Resources from 2017 to 2019

  • Relax and Pray

    by Phil Bloom
    The obstacles in our lives can seem like thorns and sharp pebbles, but God will bring the harvest. This is powerfully illustrated by the Lord of the Rings. If you remember the novel or the movie, it follows Frodo the Hobbit - a halfling, three feet tall. Frodo has to take the Ring of Doom to the one place it can be destroyed. He struggles to get up the mountain and Samwise has to carry him the final stretch. Frodo arrives at the ledge where he can throw away the ring. He cannot do it. Samwise pleads, "Please Mister Frodo, throw it in the fire. Just let it go!" Of course he can't. In the end the ring has to be torn from him - along with his ring finger.
  • Not Successful but Faithful

    by Jim Chern
    About a week ago, Police Officer Nate was working an overtime shift when he was directed to respond to an emergency call. He arrived to discover that an elderly man had collapsed and stopped breathing. The cop happened to be just around the block and was able to arrive in just a few seconds where he was able to perform CPR on the man until the fire department and emergency squad responded. A few days later, while on patrol again, he was called back to Police headquarters for an unknown reason. When he walked into the station lobby, a younger man was standing there waiting for Officer Nate. It turned out that this man’s father was the one that Officer Nate had done CPR on and he just came by the station hoping to thank the man who had saved his father's life. Officer Nate was happy and excited, and went forward to shake his hand just as the man explained that his father passed away the very next day. Officer Nate, said that as he apologized for being excited to meet the son of the man he saved only to learn he died the next day - the guy said to him "No, I appreciate you so much. Because you brought my dad back and I was able to fly in from Florida to say goodbye to him one last time before he passed."...
  • Sowing the Seed

    by Delmer Chilton
    When I was in college, I worked on a tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina. It was in the early days of mechanized tobacco harvesting, and we worked on a contraption pulled by a tractor through the field. Four people sat on low seats a few inches from the ground. We “picked” the leaves off the plants and put them in a conveyer belt system that carried them to a platform about 10 feet in the air where the “stringers” tied the leaves onto the tobacco sticks to be hung in the barn for curing. One day, the harvester was malfunctioning. The conveyer system wasn’t working properly and leaves were dropping out behind us. We kept stopping and starting while trying to fix the machine. There was a precocious 6-year-old boy watching us work. He observed our troubles for a while and then walked up to the farmer and said, “Well, you can’t elevate’em all, can you Mr. Virgil.”
  • What Stories Do to Us

    from Claretians
    Katty now knows the day and the place where part of her ceased to live. It was fifteen years ago when she was five years old. She was in her bedroom when, in the living room outside, her parents were berating her older sister Marivic because she got only a passing grade in three subjects. Why was Marivic not like Tonette, her older sister, who was their pride always getting the first honor in her class? They shouted, "Maybe you are not our child at all!" her father had said.
  • The Indiscriminate Farmer

    by Jim McCrea
    In the year 2000, Paramount released a movie called “What Women Want” which starred Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt and Marisa Tomei. The premise of the movie was that, after a chauvinistic advertising executive gets electrocuted in a bathroom accident, he is suddenly able to hear the thoughts of nearby women. Unsurprisingly, he initially uses that power to take advantage of those women. However, over the course of the movie his ability to read the minds of women gradually changes him and he becomes a better person...
  • Planting in the Soul

    Quote from Thomas Merton
    Every moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in her or his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men and women. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.
  • Dr. Ayaz Virji and the People of Dawson, Minnesota

    by Nancy Rockwell
    The Washington Post carried a story today, by Stephanie McCrummen, about a Muslim doctor and his family who have been living in Dawson Minnesota for five years now. Ayaz Virji, 42 years old, and his wife Musarrat had been charmed by the welcome the town gave them three years before, when they were looking for a place to raise their three children, a place where Ayaz could practice what he calls dignified medicine. They were the first Muslims ever to live in Dawson.
  • Proper 10A

    from Sacra Conversazione
    In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus has said that those in whom is words take root will “bear fruit.” Hence, although fleetingly and precariously in each human being, the Messiah comes: “If anyone will heed my words, I will come today.” How do the words of Jesus take root and flourish and eventually bear the fruit of compassion and justice? It happens in a response, a response to an over-the-top gift.
  • The Wisdom to Survive

    by Shannon Schaefer
    I’m reminded of a few lines from Wendell Berry’s “A Vision” and leave them here as hope and benediction, a new lens through which to see our parable: If we will have the wisdom to survive, To stand like slow growing trees on a ruined place, Renewing, enriching it, If we will make our seasons welcome here, Asking not too much of earth or heaven, Then a long time after we are dead The lives our lives prepare will live here, Their houses strongly placed upon the valley sides, Fields and gardens rich in the windows.
  • Of Seeds and Souls

    by David Sellery
    Substitute “soul” for “soil” and the lesson becomes even easier to understand. Souls are not soils. They are not inert. Soil cannot choose to be barren. But souls can. Soils don’t make themselves a desert. But we can choose to make a desert of our souls. Unlike soils, souls have a will. They can choose to receive the word or reject it. They can choose to nurture the word or starve it. They can choose to bear fruit or turn to dust.
  • How Can You Not See It?

    by Michael Simone, SJ
    People often encounter the same experience in different ways. Discussions on social media illustrated this starkly in the spring of 2015, when millions argued over “The Dress.” Many saw a two-tone dress of indigo and black material. Almost as many saw instead a dress that was white and gold. Because the photo was poor, the viewer’s brain had to supply important information about light and shadow. Those who assumed the photo was taken in bright light saw a dress of indigo and black. Those who assumed low light saw a dress of white and gold. So deeply do we rely on our brain’s ability to supply information in this way that those who saw the dress one way found it very difficult to perceive it in the other.
  • Spare Not the Seed

    by Carl Wilton
    I just finished reading a remarkable new autobiography: Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. Hope is a college professor, a research botanist. She’s also a mighty fine writer. She’s writing, here, about seeds: “A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature – moisture – light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance — to take its one and only chance to grow.

Illustrated Resources from 2011 to 2016

  • God, the Crazy Farmer

    by Keith Anderson
    ("My last call took our family to the suburbs of Boston, right along the Interstate I-95 corridor. And I mean literally right along it. You could see the highway from the church's front door. Everyday when I took the dog on a walk, I would walk underneath the highway. Now, highway overpasses are forsaken places--with their fair share of graffiti, broken glass, and litter, and the smell of car exhaust wafting down from the highway above. And yet, even there, in the cracked concrete overpass, life takes root...")
  • Life in the Spirit (Week 2)

    by Phil Bloom
    ("The life of Venerable Matt Talbot shows how humility leads to productivity. When he was twelve he got a job helping a wine merchant. He started 'sampling the wares' and within a year became addicted. He lost that job, but got another one at a whiskey store. He spent most or all of his wages in pubs. Running up debts, he pawned his possessions including shirts and boots...")
  • Proper 9A (2011)

    by David Brooks
    ("A young graduate, asked to tell of the person who had made the greatest impact on him as he went through school, said without hesitation 'the janitor'. A pause, and then the interviewer pushed the question: 'Are you sure? It was not a teacher, or a principal, or some other leader?'... ")
  • Parable of the Sower

    by Sally Buckley
    ("A story tells of someone at an airport overhearing a conversation between an elderly man and his daughter. After the usual emotional farewells, and pronouncement of love etc. he hears the man say 'I wish you enough' and in response the daughter repeats the phrase and leaves. The elderly man was obviously very upset, but the man draws him into conversation and asks about the phrase he heard...")
  • The Parabler

    by Christopher Burkett
    ("Shouldn't this parable be called the Stupid Farmer – all the silly places he throws the seed! And of course, if anyone is a fool in the story, it is God. He's the reckless, wasteful one. He's the one who tells us to speak, to go to every nation, to cover the world with the Word. And he doesn't seem to care whether anyone is listening or not..." and discussion of Venus de Milo statue)
  • God's Word Yields 'A Hundred, Sixty or Thirty Fold

    by Drew Christiansen
    ["Right through my teenaged years and through my early twenties, my grandfather kept a Victory Garden behind our home. In midsummer, when he took his midday break, he would carry a picnic basket to the kitchen doors and back porches of our block with the riches of his harvest, various kinds of greens (lettuce, escarole, Swiss chard, sometimes dandelion), zucchini, occasionally delicate zucchini flowers to be breaded and sautéed, eggplant—the queen of vegetables—varieties of beans, peppers and tomatoes..."]
  • Quiet Miracle

    by Jim Eaton
    You never know. One day a pastor in in a small town got a call from a funeral director. A man named Vic had died. He was 95, no children. All ministers get these calls from time to time. He planned for a small funeral, a few folks. I can hear the funeral director talking to him: “Low key, there isn’t much family but they just thought there should be something.” So he prepares a few readings, a brief meditation. Imagine his surprise when he got to the funeral home and couldn’t find a place to park within a block of the place. Imagine him wondering what was going on when he saw all the out of state license plates, when he saw the line at the door and went around to the side, when he discovered the funeral director rushing around, setting up chairs. Imagine him standing up to speak in a room warmed by packed bodies, with the side room full as well. And finally, listening as person after person got up to speak, learning that the man was a legend in Alcoholics Anonymous. Sober for 55 years, his gentle testimony influenced thousands of people. He took produce from his farm and fed people in need. He paid people's tuition at school. Everywhere he went he touched people with generous, humble service. You never know...
  • Sowing Seeds

    by Vince Gerhardy
    ("Who's heard of the Pareto Principle? I'm sure you have but maybe not by that name. In the early 1900's, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, observed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people and 80% of a country's wealth was held by 20% of the people. Pareto even applied this to his garden where he found that 80% of his peas came from 20% of his peapods. This has become known as the 80/20 principle...")
  • An Outrageous Indulgence

    by Terrance Klein
    ("George Swanson Starling spent most of his adult life in Harlem, working as a train porter, but the Black American had been raised in the racially segregated South, picking fruit for pennies an hour in Florida groves. Like many of us, George had envisioned a very different life than the one he got. Isabel Wilkerson writes in her Pulitzer-prize winning The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration:...")
  • Sowing the Word of God

    by Kirk Alan Kubicek
    ("In 1888 Vincent van Gogh painted 'The Sower', an important work in the history of art, and surely a scene related to our story here in Matthew. One sees the sower, practiced in the art of sowing, deliberately planting the seed in the soil. For van Gogh the color yellow symbolized faith, triumph and love. The color blue represented the divine – and so he combines these colors so they seem to move together, showing the relationship of all living things...")
  • What Kind of Sower?

    by Anne Le Bas
    ("Just this week a report came out in the media about the singer Lily Allen, who got married in her local parish church recently. Her young life has been, to outward observers, a bit of a mess, a wild life. Many people assumed that when she opted for a church wedding it was just for the pretty setting, but that turned out not to be the case at all...")
  • A Surprising Look at the Sower

    by Lynn Miller
    ("Usually when you see the work of American Regionalist artist Thomas Hart Benton, you will see scenes of American life and landscape. But in 1942, Benton created eight paintings on the dangers of the brutal totalitarian governments of the Axis powers. His work The Sowersshows three hulking figures sowing skulls. The figures sow with the expectation that more skulls will grow from these 'seeds'...)
  • The Good Soil of Suffering

    by Paul Nuechterlein
    David Artley is the well-respected, suspender-wearing Kalamazoo County resource-development director, known for his ability to raise funds and secure government grants. But Thursday, Artley showed a more personal side, one he rarely reveals publicly. In front of more than 250 people at the annual Nehemiah Assembly, Artley told the story of how he was abused as a child while growing up in Detroit and how it stole away his childhood. As an adult, he found himself divorced twice and an alcoholic, living in a cardboard box without any place to go. Now, Artley, 66, who has been sober for decades and recently bought a condominium, told the gatherers that helping people find housing is his passion. David Artley’s passion to find housing for homeless people is a perfect example of good soil. The seed of God’s Love found good soil in David’s life and is increasing it a hundredfold. And I think his whole life is good soil, including the abused child who ended up homeless as young adult. The good soil began being cultivated when the 8 year-old David told his mother that his cousin was sexually abusing him, and instead of helping him she called him a liar and severely beat him with a stick. That’s where the good soil began to be turned for the seed of God’s love...
  • Ms. Good Soil

    by Larry Patten
    ["In Monty Python's uneven and (wonderfully) irreverent The Life of Brian, the filmmakers mocked how we misinterpret and muddle Jesus' message. For example, take Jesus' 'Sermon on the Mount'. In the film there was something completely different from what Jesus proclaimed and what the distant crowd heard. As Jesus spoke, way, way, way in the back, a voice asked: What did Jesus just say? I think it was, 'Blessed are the cheesemakers'...")
  • Snailed

    by Larry Patten
    ["Echoing the agrarian concerns of Matthew 13, was the cilantro's demise because of: Birds eating the tender leaves? Rocky ground preventing healthy growth? Each day's scorching sun (an issue here in California's Central Valley)? The presence of thorns? No times four. My wife, after observing the cilantro's failure, simply stated, 'Snails'..."]
  • Stone Heaps in the Sun

    by Andrew Prior
    (includes several quotes)
  • A Blessing with Roots

    by Jan Richardson
    ("Tug at this blessing and you will find, it is a thing with roots. This is a blessing that has gone deep into good soil, into the sacred dark, into the luminous hidden. It has been months since the ground gathered the seed of this blessing into itself, years since the earth enfolded it. Sometimes that's how long a blessing takes...")
  • The Sower

    by Nancy Rockwell
    ("So, friends, every day do something that won't compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands...")
  • The Abundance of God As An Invitation to Generosity

    by Ron Rohlheiser, OMI
    ("Scientists tell us that every second, inside the sun, the equivalent of 4 million elephants are being transformed into light, an irretrievable, one-time gift. The sun is giving itself away. If this generosity should halt, all energy would eventually lose its source and everything would die and become inert...")
  • The Parable of the Soil

    by Leonard Sweet
    ("One of the most important vestiges in the church's farm system is summer camp. How many of you here this morning ever went to church camp? My favorite church camp song? Deep and Wide. But almost any 'camp song' you pick is a motion song. In other words, it comes with all sorts of hand and body motions...")
  • Sowing the Seed

    by Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
    ("Fred Craddock tells the following story: 'I was called back to Oklahoma while in Atlanta. The voice on the phone just began by saying, "Ray died." He was a friend of mine in a little church where I had served. It had been years and years and years. We were good friends. "Ray wanted you to come and have his funeral, if you could." "I'll come," I said....")

Illustrated Resources from 2008 to 2010

  • Response to the Good News

    by Jimmy Allen
    ("The good ground of response to the seed of the gospel is beautifully demonstrated in the experience of Helen Keller...")
  • Letting Go, Letting God: Holding Out in Seedingly Stony Places

    by John Auer
    ("Stephen Mitchell implies, in another of our Words for Meditation, the sower may even be drawn to the “’seedingly stony” places – where it is hardest to hold out! After all rocks and stones are who we are – the third rock from the sun – and especially in Nevada!...")
  • Power of the Seed

    by Phil Bloom
    ("There was, however, one man who saw things differently. His name was Norman Borlaug. He went to India not with a shipload of food but with a seed called Sonora 64...")
  • How Grows It?

    by John Christianson
    ("Harley was in the Navy in World War II. Like a lot of young men he had trouble making the transition to civilian life. He became one of those human tumbleweeds, drifting from bar to bar and from jail to jail...")
  • Preparing a Place

    by Daniel Deffinbaugh
    "About five years ago I decided to make a concerted effort to explore the spiritual disciplines associated with Saint Benedict by becoming an oblate of the Order. Since that time I have tried to prepare a place for the reception of the Sower's seed in a variety of ways..."
  • The Rush To Judgment

    by George Hermanson
    ("When there is no center to our moral universe all is at risk. Yeats, the poet, put it this way: 'Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity...")
  • Preaching Helps (Proper 10A)(2011)

    by Scott Hoezee
    ("In preaching on Mark's version of the Parable of the Sower, Tom Long claimed that Jesus preached in these confusing parables in order to make people deeper thinkers about what the gospel is all about....")
  • Abundant Possibilities

    by Kate Huey
    (includes several good citations)
  • Parables

    by Michael Phillips
    ("William Willimon recounts an incident when he was a young preacher complaining to an older pastor about the problem of needy or transient people showing up at the church and asking for a hand out. He proudly told the older pastor that he felt a responsibility not to waste the church's money...")
  • Getting Grounded

    by Jan Richardson
    (She talks about her prayer life during an upcoming Benedictine retreat. See also Daniel Deffinbaugh's comments on the same topic above.)
  • Sowing Abundantly

    by James Standiford
    ("Hope Morgan Ward, the United Methodist Bishop of Mississippi, was the guest Bible Study leader and preacher at our recent Annual Conference session. Her daddy was a Carolina farmer. She said he valued careful planting practices, using quality seeds, and working in good soil..." and other illustrations)

Illustrated Resources from the Archives

  • Of Seed and Soil: The Parable of the Sower

    by Mark Adams
    ("My uncle told me that for years after my grandfather's death, people would come to the farm and ask to fill their pick-up trucks with the rich soil from the floor of the stalls in the barn. This is because any gardener worth his tomatoes knows that the most important factor in reaping a good harvest is not the quality of the seed or even the weather conditions...")
  • And the Seed Will Grow

    by George Anderson
    ("Some years ago my wife and I decided to plant a prairie in some open land near our house. We put in the various kinds of grass seed and wildflowers that grow in prairies and eagerly waited for results. The first year we had nothing but a fine crop of weeds...")
  • Out of Our Minds: Blooming Where We Are Planted!

    by John Auer
    ("Tom Roberts, editor of National Catholic Reporter, invites is to learn from our gardening – the very task of tending the earth God gives us in the beginning. Hear how he uses "nonchalance" in ways we speak of God's grace in our lives...")
  • Relentless Mercy

    by Phil Bloom
    ("A recently published book titled Triumph describes how Jesus' teaching has taken root during two thousand years of history. H.W. Crocker gives it that title not because the human beings who make up the Church are so glorious, but because God's grace has done marvelous things...")
  • The Sower

    by William Cowper
    ("Ye sons of earth prepare the plough, Break up your fallow ground; The sower is gone forth to sow, And scatter blessings round. The seed that finds a stony soil Shoots forth a hasty blade; But ill repays the sower’s toil, Soon wither’d, scorch’d, and dead...")
  • Generous Sowing

    by Tom Cox
    ("In ancient Egyptian tombs, archaeologists have found grains of wheat and corn still viable after thousands of years. Seeds can wait years for the right conditions to germinate. When that moment comes, they spring forth in seemingly impossible places...")
  • Seeds of Greatness

    by Tom Cox
    ("Who was Albert Einstein's math teacher? Or athlete Sonia O'Sullivan's coach? Bono's music tutor? or Pope John Paul's religion teacher? Answer: we don't know - but we are eternally grateful...")
  • Precious Seed

    by Charlene Fairchild
    ("Sir James Simpson was a Scottish doctor in the nineteenth century who was also a courageous scientific pioneer. In fact, his own experiments cost him his life....")
  • A Farmers's Parable: The Sower and The Seed

    by Richard Fairchild
    ("in the world of advertising, there is a theory that divides people into different groups based on their supposed lifestyles. According to one theory of classification two of these groups are the 'belongers' and the 'achievers'...")
  • Good Listening

    by Vince Gerhardy
    ("What does it mean to be a good listener? In the first place, a good listener is open to the Word of God. As the minister prepares himself to preach the Word, so the listeners must prepare themselves to receive it...")
  • The Different Ways of Responding to the Gospel

    by Bruce Goettsche
    ("Recently a drug manufacturer announced the study results of a new wonder drug for migraine headache sufferers. The research showed that within one hour of taking the drug a whopping 70 percent of the test patients had little or no pain...")
  • Ordinary 15A (2005)

    by Andrew Greeley
    ("Once upon a time there were two commodity brokers. One of them dashed on to the floor of the exchange and cornered the other. 'Sell!' he shouted. 'Sell'...")
  • Ordinary 15A (1999)

    by Andrew Greeley
    ("Once upon a time a couple of years ago an investment broker had a splendid idea - that the internet would in a few years be a huge success. He decided he would advise his clients to invest in, etc...")
  • The Generosity of God

    by Bruce Green
    ("Anne Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek describes this as the fecundity of God. She watched the egg case of the Praying Mantis open and thousands of small insects come forth. God’s wastefully generosity stands in contrast to our careful distribution of what we consider to be ours...")
  • Living Parables

    by Sarah Hallstrand
    ("there was this farmer who who was getting up in years and found it difficult to turn the hard Tennessee clay in order to sow his garden. The old man wrote a letter to his son who is in prison and mentioned his predicament. 'Dear Bubba, I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my potato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot...")
  • Proper 10A (2002)

    by Roger Haugen
    ("Archbishop Tom Morgan spoke to us one evening. He had told me earlier that he didn't know what he would say to us since we would have just concluded the election of the Bishop and a full and tiring day. He began to tell us about the Anglican experience of the last few years...")
  • Don't Drill that Seed

    by Mark Haverland
    ("Harvard University has the largest endowment in the world. Billions of dollars! They hire four investment firms to invest one fourth of this endowment. Each year, they fire the firm with the worst record and hire a new one in its place..." and other illustrations)
  • God the Reckless

    by Mark Haverland
    ("I read an article the other day entitled Why Your Dog Pretends to Like You. It turns out that dogs evolved from wolves about 100,000 years ago. Some mutated genes enabled them to mimic human emotions closely enough to encourage us to think they liked us...")
  • Don't Weed! Make Sapce to Deal Inclusively...

    by Rex Hunt
    David Ranson is an Australian Catholic priest. In a recent article in the publication Eremos, on reconciliation, Ranson records a comment by the Buddhist Dalai Lama. When asked did he hate the Chinese, the Dalai Lama replied ‘no’. ‘He remarked that the Chinese were indeed dominant and that he had no possibility of overthrowing them by might. Were he to hate them therefore no change would occur in the Chinese. But change would certainly occur within him. His own heart would become more tense, bitter and rigid. The only way forward then was to let go of the hateful feelings that might arise. In the space that ensued perhaps there was a greater possibility for peace’...
  • Soil and Mirrors

    by James L. Jelinek
    ("In Buddhism, when a man is ordained priest, he is given gifts for the journey, one of them a bowl with which to beg for food and also, when empty and clean, to strike as a gong to lead him into silence...")
  • Fertility Facts

    by David Leininger
    ("There are times when someone speaks to me that they may as well be talking to a wall. For whatever reason, I do not hear what they are saying. The seed is falling on the path. There are times when an idea comes to which I latch right on with enthusiasm but there is no follow-through...")
  • Soon May it Come

    Narrative Sermon by Piers Linley, OP
    ("I live here in Galilee -- in an insignificant little village called Nazareth. We are all peasants here. It's very difficult to scratch a living around here -- our land isn't of the best. That was taken over years ago by the local bigwig in Sepphoris, the neighbouring town. I'm one of the lucky ones - I've got my ancestral plot still...")
  • The Sower and the Seeds

    by Edward Markquart
    ("Now, I have to make this a contemporary story. I have to tell it in my language, my culture, my century. Jesus said, "I am sitting in the middle of winter time, January or February, and I was reading my Burpee Seed Catalogue. I often read the Burpee Seed Catalogue and look for good ideas for gardening...")
  • A Seedy Sermon

    by Jim McCrea
    "a few weeks ago, my wife and I rented The Aviator, which is the story of mega-millionaire Howard Hughes. Early in his career, Hughes decided to produce and ultimately direct an epic movie about Royal Air Force fighter pilots in World War I. The movie was called Hell's Angels. To make that movie, he assembled the largest private air force in the world..." and another illustration
  • The Parable of the Sower

    by Philip McLarty
    ["William Farmer, who was one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world, once said, 'A parable is a simple story, using concrete imagery, to make a single point'. Simple as that: 'A parable is a simple story, using concrete imagery, to make a single point'. Parables are not intended to be allegories (where one thing represents another). They're not to be interpreted metaphorically. They're not similes, or analogies, or paradigms, or riddles..."]
  • Ordinary 15A

    by Paul O'Reilly, SJ
    "One of my brother Jesuits is a cardiologist ­ a specialist heart doctor. In fact, he is probably the most respected specialist heart doctor in his country. After a stellar academic career, he became at 33 the youngest professor of cardiology in his country's history..."
  • I Ain't No Farmer, But

    by Ray Osborne
    ("I will never forget my first experience at planting tobacco. If you've never planted tobacco you probably have never seen a tobacco setter. A tobacco setter is a contraption that in a way resembles a - well - Come to think of it - it doesn't resemble anything!...")
  • Proper 10A (2002)

    by Joe Parrish
    ("A story is told about the writer of the once highly acclaimed book Moderate Drinking: The New Option for Problem Drinkers. Audrey Kishline, author of that book, fell off the moderate drinking wagon herself and took up the bottle again in earnest...")
  • Sowing the Mysterious Seed

    by Stephen Portner
    ("At any rate, I tried to break out of the typical indifference to my neighbor mode one day as I was walking to the Lightstreet post office. It seems that whenever I am walking to the post office, this one gentleman would be returning from the post office. He walks rather rapidly so if you are going to say anything to him, you need to be quick about it...")
  • The Seed Within Us

    by Ramona Soto Rank
    ("Who in your life is determined to have life and grow against tremendous odds? Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Ralph Abernathy, the Freedom Riders of the civil rights era, the Pullman porters who formed a union, many nameless people who suffered indignation on a daily basis...")
  • Get a Grip

    by Barry Robinson
    ("A man once came to Buddha with an offering of flowers in his hands. Buddha looked up at him and said 'Drop it!' The man couldn't believe he was being asked to drop the flowers. Then it occurred to him that perhaps Buddha was asking him to drop the flowers that he had in his left hand...")
  • The Reckless Sower

    by James Somerville
    ("Fred Craddock tells a story about the time he got a phone call from a woman whose father had died. She had been a teenager in one of the churches he had served as pastor twenty years before, and he would have sworn that if there was ever a person who never heard a word he said, that teenage girl was it...")
  • Planting Good Seeds

    by James Standiford
    ("Joyce Rupp writes that many people are always thinking they will be happy 'when'. She states, 'Today I am going to put aside my', 'When this happens' and my 'If only this could be' and my 'When things get better' and my 'As soon as I have this'..." and other quotes)
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?

    by Billy D. Strayhorn
    ("This morning I want to start with a short quiz. True or False? Grass seeds can't be planted in hot weather? False. It just takes more work to keep the ground damp...")
  • What Kind Of Soil Are You?

    by Billy D. Strayhorn
    ("I read about a primitive tribe deep in the south American jungles. Anthropologists learned the most important role within the tribe was the "keeper of the flame." Since fire is so precious and it takes such effort to recreate, one member is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the flame alive...")
  • The Parable of the Soil

    by Alex Thomas
    We make judgements in life too quickly. Carl Michalson in The Witness of Radical Faith (Abingdon Press) has a cute story about jumping to conclusions. He says: When my daughter was very small, she came in with a tear in her pants. My wife was annoyed with her. I have a patient wife, but my daughter had done this so often that at last my wife said, "Now you go into your room, take off those pants, and sew up that tear." The poor kid had never had a needle in her hand in her life. A little while later my wife saw the pants in the middle of the bedroom floor. She went in and looked around and there was no little girl. But she saw the light on down in the basement. She went to the basement door and called down, "Are you down there running around with your pants off ?" A big voice came back, "No, lady, I'm just reading the gas meter."
  • What Kind of Soil?

    by Alex Thomas
    I was taken this week with a little piece by Sid Milton called What Money Can't Buy: A bed but not sleep. Books but not brains. Food but not appetite. Finery but not beauty. A house but not a home. Medicine but not health. Luxuries but not culture. Amusement but not happiness. A crucifix but not a Saviour. A church pew but not heaven.
  • Some Random Thoughts

    by J. Barry Vaughn
    (Scroll down the page for this resource.)
  • Life Is Not Always Fair

    by Keith Wagner
    ("Some years ago, a boy in a small Florida town heard that the Russians were our enemies. He began to wonder about the Russian children, finding it hard to believe that they were his enemies. He wrote a short note: 'Dear comrade in Russia. I am seven years old and I believe that we can live in peace...")
  • The Parable of the Seeds

    by Roslyn Wright
    ("I recently saw "Batman Begins", full of questions about the nature of justice and revenge. One line in the movie stood out for me, something like this: 'It is not what's underneath that counts, it's what I do that shows who I am'....)
  • Seeds of Needs

    by Douglas Wysockey-Johnson
    "Anna Hovde began with her reading a cover story about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, after a typical day at home. –which led to her contacting an aid organization called People to People, which led visiting Ethiopia to volunteer..."
  • Sowing

    by Tim Zingale
    ("It is a story about my Grandfather, Grandpa Spachtholz, and my brother. Grandpa loved to garden. He grew up in Germany and worked in a greenhouse, but when he came to America, the job he got was working for the telephone company because he knew tools...")
  • Proper 10A (2005)

    by Tim Zingale
    ("Bonhoeffer once said: 'God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother/sister, in the mouth of a man/ woman. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him/her...")

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