Mark 4:26-34 – Struggling with Stories

Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Words for the lesson:
Scripture | Stories | Struggle | Scaffold | make Sense | Stick

Who here likes stories?
What are some of your favorite stories? (get answers from kids)

Why do you think Jesus explained scripture in stories?

I think it is because stories make us think. Do any of you know the story of the Dutch boy who saves his country by putting his finger in a leaking dike? He stays there all night, in spite of the cold, until the adults of the village find him and fix the hole. (wikipedia) This story makes us think of a few things:

1.  What would I have done if this was me?
2. Did this story really happen?
3. Is there some meaning to the story that  I should hold onto?

Stories challenge us.  They allow us to build narratives for ourselves. This, I think, is what Jesus wants us to do with his stories/parables.

One of the truths I have discovered over my life is that for me to really understand something, I have to be able to teach it.  And interestingly, the best way for me to learn how to teach it, is not to be taught it at all – at least at first. Huh? How does this work?

Well, research says people learn a subject better when the first thing they have to do is struggle with a lesson on their own, before they know anything!

Imagine the only addition you understood was how to add a number from 0 to 9 to another number from 0 to 9. Then I told you to try and figure out how to add a number from 0 to 99 to another number from 0 to 99. It would be tough!

What this research says is that if you struggle, trying to figure it out on your own first, before you have a teacher tell you how to do it – you will learn the lesson better. Even if after struggling with it, you fail to do it right and come up with horribly wrong answers!

The key here is that you struggled first with the problem.  When you are finally taught correctly, your brain already has wired in the places where the learning needs to go. Think about a puzzle, where you have put in all the pieces around the right one, but don’t have the piece you need.  When you find it, you know exactly how it fits. These surrounding puzzle pieces are called a scaffold.

Struggling and maybe  getting the wrong answer is like finding the surrounding pieces to your puzzle.  You don’t get the right one, but when you do, you know exactly how it fits.

So when your brain builds a scaffold for how to add bigger numbers,  you understand where they puzzle fits – and you really learn it.  You can say – this piece goes here.  That number goes there.  The teaching lessons go in places in your brain that make sense to you.

Think of parables stories as a way Jesus is challenging you to struggle with scripture – to build your own scaffold about what he is teaching and to put your own puzzle together to explain the story.

This is important.  First you hear a story – then you struggle with what it means, because it isn’t straightforward – then you struggle more as you try to build your own personal scaffold around it. It then starts to make Sense.  And then it Sticks!

And the awesome part of this is, because you might build your scaffold one way and I might build it a different way, the meaning of the scripture story might come out different for each of us.  Both interpretations can be correct and beautiful in their own way – making sense to each of us in different ways.

How amazing is it that Jesus is able to speak to each of us personally in this  way – 2000 years after his life! Because we take his stories and are able to synthesize or make sense of them each for ourselves.

This struggling with difficult stories is not a comfortable way to learn. Actually, it is very frustrating.

What grade are you going into?  (Get answer)

Imagine your teachers saying “Okay – just go figure out this out” – whatever they are teaching. Ick! That sounds like a terrible way to learn. Isn’t it easier, just for them to teach us exactly what we need to know?

Who here likes knowing the “right way to do things” when we are learning?

(raise your hand – ME!!!)

Most of us!

But this Struggle with the Story / Build Scaffolding / and making Sense or Synthesizing of what we are studying allows us to really, really learn – and not just superficial learning, but something that we can keep with us.

This is why Jesus spoke in parables.  Sometimes they don’t make sense to us. Sometimes we explain them wrong when we are working through them. Sometimes they seem so simple as to be silly.  But Jesus is a super teacher – not one that spoon-feeds us the lesson, but gives us the opportunity to learn it deeply – and in doing all of this, get to know and love him better.


Other S words: Scatter Seed, Sprout, Sickle, Sermons, Son, Sundays, Servant, Simple, Surprising, Scandalous, Struggle, Scripture, Spoke in Stories, not Straightforward, Scaffolding, (Synthesize ) make Sense, make Stick!

Trinity and The Great Commission

Trinity / Three / The Great Commission / Teach / Talk / Tell His Story

The Gospel (MT 28:16-20):

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Trinity / Three
Today is called Trinity Sunday.  Ask the kids if they know what the Trinity is and see if they can explain it.  The concept of God being Father (God in Heaven above us), Holy Spirit (God with each of us), and Jesus (God as one of us) is tough to understand.  My favorite story which I think clarifies how the Trinity works is the three blind men feeling an elephant.  I might draw a picture of an elephant to illustrate.

Related image

One blind man said an elephant was like a snake, as he held the trunk.
The second thought an elephant was like a tree, as he hugged a leg.
The last said an elephant was like a wall, as he put both hands  on its side.

Which is the right description?  God is like this – bigger than we can easily understand – and sometimes we experience him in one of the three persons of the Trinity.

The Great Commission
One of the most important things Jesus told us is in this gospel is

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean we are to walk around splashing water on everyone?  Maybe bring a bucket and toss water on random people we meet?

“I baptize you….and you…..and you!”

Do you think that is what Jesus meant for us to do? (let kids answer)

What do you think he meant for us to do? Well he says it pretty clearly in the next line:

Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.

But to teach, we first have to learn – that’s why you come to church on Sundays. That’s why we read and learn the gospel and bible stories.

Who likes to have stories read to them?  You know what?  Even I like to have someone read to me.  Or better yet – I love it when someone tells me a story about their experience.

Our stories connect us. And when we learn the stories well, it is less like a teacher in a classroom and more like speaking with a friend Telling us a story!

If there are any brother/sister pairs or kids who are obviously close friends, you might ask “Do you have any good stories you experienced together?” or else “Do you have any good stories about you and a friend?”

After the story, ask, “Don’t those stories make you feel closer to your friend?”

That is what Jesus is speaking of when he says go and make disciples of the nations.

He wants us to meet people in our day to day lives and share His  story. Share how God has impacted your life. Share the stories from the bible. And become friends with these people. And as you do so, you will create new stories together.

When you have this relationship, it is no longer like throwing a random bucket of water on a person in the street and saying “You’re baptized!”. Instead it will be like friends having a water war, laughing, and playing, and creating stories together. Doesn’t that seem like a great way to share the Gospel?

Sharing our experiences and knowledge of Christ in this loving way is exactly what God, the Three-in-One, the Trinity wants us to do as we teach and talk about him to others in our lives.  And as we do so, Jesus will be with us

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Value of LinkedIn

This is edited from my reply to this question from the  CodeProject forum:
“How much effort should you put into maintaining a LinkedIn profile?”

In terms of business profiles, LinkedIn is the the top dog currently. A basic profile is good enough to set and forget for most people.

My view is that it is essential for anything where you often need to reach out to people. Top reasons for needing a profile that is often updated:

1. Sales – Reach out and discover people who you might do business with.
2. Consulting – Public recommendations provide evidencethat you know what you are doing.
3. Thought leadership – Lots of people read the content on LinkedIn
4. Looking for a job – A LinkedIn profile can make you look more professional

Since people also often jump jobs, it is also an easy way to find lost business associates and friends. This is additionally helpful to me since I only lightly use Facebook.

If you are a developer and are happy with your job/career, I wouldn’t do anything more than the minimum with LinkedIn.