Tag Archive | parable

Is It Over Yet?

Thanksgiving. Is it over yet? There are two parts to the word. THANKS: I think we did that last Thursday. And today is GIVING Tuesday. So we’re finishing up with THANKS-GIVING today. Good. It’s not over yet. I still have time to blog about “Thanksgiving.” 

I spent the first and third weeks of November this year at our Christmas Mountain timeshare to avoid distractions and concentrate on writing. I’m working on my next book of hymn reflections. I’ve chosen to write reflections on hymns related to four themes for this book: PEACE (my special word for 2018), WALKING WITH GOD, GOD’s FAMILY, and PRAYER. So far, I’ve completed the first two sections and I’m in the middle of the third section now. 

Some of the hymns about being a part of God’s family are commonly sung around Thanksgiving. One of the reflections I wrote this month is for “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.” Since Thanksgiving isn’t really over yet, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this hymn as a Thanksgiving blog post. Then I’ll go online to make special donations to a couple of my favorite charities – New Moms and Casita Copan. HAPPY GIVING TUESDAY!

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TUNE:  ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR
COMPOSER:  George J. Elvey 
(1816-1893) English organist and prolific composer of church music.
AUTHOR:  Henry Alford (1810-1871) Anglican priest, highly esteemed Greek scholar, and hymn writer.
SCRIPTURE:  Mark 4:26-29 Parable of the Seed; Matthew 13:24-43 Parable of the wheat and tares

“THE LODGING PLACE of a traveler on his way to Jerusalem” is the English translation of the Latin inscription on the tomb of Henry Alford, the author of this hymn. He followed in a long line of Anglican clergymen in his family – five generations of them. He was a precocious child. Before he reached the age of ten he had written several poems in Latin, as well as the history of the Jews, and a series of outlines for theologically sound sermons. He became a noted preacher and scholar. His most significant work was an 8-volume compilation and commentary, “The New Testament in Greek.” His hymns and poems are considered his lesser contributions, and many critics considered them an unfortunate distraction from his more scholarly endeavors.

His most famous hymn is “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.” He wrote it for “Harvest Home,” a fall festival in England comparable to our Thanksgiving in America. The first verse of the hymn thanks God for another successful harvest. But then the hymn changes its focus to the harvest imagery Jesus used in two of his parables – the seed that grows into a fruitful plant and the parable of the weeds (tares) that grow in the field along with the wheat. By the last stanza, “harvest” refers to the final days of the earth.

In addition to the history and meaning of this hymn, I have a significant personal association with it. When I was 15, my grandmother died on the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving. My piano teacher teacher (our church organist) had been working with me for weeks to prepare me to play a fancy arrangement of “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” for the offertory for that Sunday evening church service. That Sunday afternoon, I knew I had to stop thinking about my grandma’s death. I had to stop crying, get myself ready for church, and go play “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.” Our neighbor lady, a retired missionary, was the guest preacher for that evening. She sat next to me in church when she wasn’t at the pulpit. She even gave me her handkerchief. (I guess I ran out of Kleenex.) Once I started playing the offertory, I could focus on being thankful to God – not so much for the harvest, but for all these friends in church who cared about me and my family, the “family of God.”

Now whenever I hear or play this hymn, I think about being thankful to God for all the blessings we receive – good friends as well as good harvests.

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The Message of Two Cornstalks

Abbey posing with our two cornstalks

This morning as Mim and I were walking Abbey I asked Mim if she had any ideas for me to write about in today’s blog. She responded, “How about the two cornstalks growing next to the road at Whispering Winds? Remember Jesus talked about seeds that fell on good ground.”

It’s actually been kind of fun watching those two stalks of corn grow this year on the edge of the lawn, right along the roadside. Last winter the snowplow scraped the edge of the lawn as it barreled along Highland Road. A few chunks of sod were torn out of the lawn. We added some soil and sowed some grass seed over the damaged area in the spring, but as dry as the spring and summer was, the seed never germinated. Last year there was a cornfield across the road. (This year it’s soybeans.) Somehow a couple kernels of corn found their way onto our patch of open soil that had been unwelcoming of the grass seed. The corn sprouted easily, and two proud stalks of corn have been growing all season. Mim decided to mow around them to honor their persistence. Despite the drought in our area of Wisconsin, these two plants of field corn have done fairly well. The wildlife (raccoon, probably) have enjoyed a good harvest.

So what did Jesus say about seeds? In Matthew 13:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying, “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on the rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Jesus’ disciples asked him what he meant by this story. Apparently, it wasn’t just about growing corn to feed the raccoon family. In verse 23, Jesus explained, “But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit…”

So, what is God trying to tell us by having two cornstalks grow on the good soil on the edge of our lawn at Whispering Winds? Perhaps, it’s as simple as “Take time to smile at the little miracles we see all around us.” Or maybe, to some people driving by, the message is “Bloom where you are planted.”  Or to others, it’s “See. God really watches out for the needs of her creatures, even the raccoon.”