Has this ever happened to you? You get an e-mail that explains a situation and then asks for a response. It seems simple and straightforward and you reply. But as soon as you press “send” you realize you didn’t read the e-mail carefully enough and missed a key piece of information.
If it makes you feel any better, this happens to me a lot. Far too often I have to send a follow-up email with “oops” in the subject line.
I am preaching on the Parable of the Sower this Sunday, and I’m thinking about Jesus’ question, “Are you listening, really listening?”
Jesus used everyday examples of bread, coins, sheep, and seeds to tell parables. Yet there was always a twist, something culturally unexpected, like a shepherd that would leave ninety-nine sheep unguarded to go off and find the one that was lost. His parables surprised and confused people.
This was intentional. Jesus wanted them to listen deeply and hear something different in what he was saying. His listeners had perceptions of God or God’s kingdom that weren’t true, and his parables challenged these perceptions. If they listened, really listened, they would hear the truth about God, and that truth would change how they lived and bear fruit in their lives.
Jesus still uses everyday things to tell parables–like the Parable of the Simple Email. This parable isn’t about how I respond to emails; it’s not about how I respond at all. That’s the surprise. It’s about how I listen.
The parable invites me to slow down and listen more carefully to others, not just to their words, but to them–to listen under what they are saying and hear what they’re experiencing. He wants me to hear what’s true: that they’re sad, lonely, excited, at peace, afraid, or losing hope.
Jesus calls me to listen with him.
Some truth can be too much to bear. But he promises to bear it with me, helps me pray for them, and teaches me how to respond.
He sows the seeds of his kingdom everywhere. And if I listen, really listen to the parables in my life, I may recognize my false perceptions and be changed. And that change, Jesus promises, will bear fruit.