CELEBRATING GOD'S LOVE FOR ALL PEOPLE

© Broadway United Methodist Church, 3338 N. Broadway St., Chicago, IL 60657

SOWERS TO ALL THE WORLD:

HOW WE GOT OUR NAME

A Gospel Lesson Luke 8:1-15 (The Message)

 

Jesus continued according to plan, traveled to town after town, village after village, preaching God’s kingdom, spreading the Message. The Twelve were with him. There were also some women in their company who had been healed of various evil afflictions and illnesses: Mary, the one called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s manager; and Susanna—along with many others who used their considerable means to provide for the company.

 

As they went from town to town, a lot of people joined in and traveled along. He addressed them, using this story: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.

 

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

 

His disciples asked, “Why did you tell this story?”

 

He said, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. There are others who need stories. But even with stories some of them aren’t going to get it:

 

Their eyes are open but don’t see a thing.

 

Their ears are open but don’t hear a thing.

 

“This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved.

 

“The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.

 

“And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.

 

“But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.

 

 

A Little Broadway History

 

This story is told by Louise Mahan, former pastor of Broadway, at the time of the congregation’s re-building after the fire:

 

I'm the pastor of an inner city church in Chicago, situated a few blocks from Wrigley Field. I became the pastor there in June of 1983, four months after an arsonist burned the building beyond reasonable saving. This was the culmination of two difficult years in the life of the congregation.

 

We spent the first year I was there fighting with the insurance company and trying to heal wounds, the scars of which will last forever. A rebuilding committee and a rebuilding finance committee were formed and began work. Decisions were made to demolish the old walls and to work with an architect on a new building that would better suit our needs and be handicapped accessible. Pledges were made. But for every small victory, we seemed to suffer two defeats. By the end of the second year, we were all discouraged. The burned out hulk still stood, the insurance settlement was woefully inadequate, we were meeting in a church building where we were only tolerated on Sunday afternoons-the litany of woes could go on and on.

 

In July of 1985, I attended the first national biblical storytelling festival in Maine. One of the stories we learned was the parable of the sower. Probably because of the allegorical material in the Gospels, I have always, when hearing or reading this story, thought of myself as dirt. I never liked the story much. But as I learned it and told it and told it and heard it told, it suddenly came to me that I was not dirt, but the sower, and that my congregation was filled with sowers! With great excitement, I took the sower back to the people of Broadway UMC.

 

The first Sunday back we were worshiping on the lawn and I told them the parable. They were immediately engaged by the telling instead of the reading. Then I asked them to line it back to me. They looked at me strangely but I was standing up and they were sitting down so I had some authority, and so they lined it back to me twice. Then I asked them to tell it to each other. With very little encouragement they did so. Then I preached about our being not dirt but sowers, and that we had been sowing seeds for two years and most had fallen on packed down soil or rocky soil or among thorns, but that some had fallen on good soil and we had seen some results of that and that we would see more results in the future.

 

We were all encouraged, lifted up, by the story. We used it over and over. It became our story. We used it in worship, on a big banner, at meetings. Every time we got bad news (which was often) someone would tell the story.

 

We don't need the story much anymore. Our building is going up, and we'll be worshiping in it in the winter of 1987. We'll need a new story for the new people of God that we will be. But I know that without the parable of the sower, Broadway UMC would have disappeared. The story saved us and gave us new life. Thanks be to God!

 

The telling of the stories of the gospel is a sign of the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the world. But, in the end, the possibility of persons and communities hearing the stories is dependent on one thing: the victory of God's love over the legitimate fears that would prevent each person from telling the stories. No other storyteller can tell the stories in the way that you can.