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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Saint Margaret Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112 Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 He got into a boat and sat there... As you probably know, the main part of most church buildings where the people gather is called the nave, a name which is cognate with the English word navy and in Latin actually means boat. The scholars tell us it got this name because the curved roof of most churches looks like the inside of a boat or perhaps like a boat turned upside down. But nowhere in the history of architecture is it suggested that a pulpit should be called a boat, though the beautiful wooden pulpit here in our church building would probably float just fine. Jesus in today’s Gospel account from Matthew, actually does turn a boat into a kind of floating pulpit, as he preaches to the people gathered along the shore. Nevertheless, I have long been fascinated by the manner in which the Gospel writers employ Jesus’ relationship to the Sea of Galilee, around whose shores many of our Gospel stories take place, to advance their narrative or story. The Sea of Galilee clearly forms the geographic, and spiritual, nexus or pivot for large segments of the Gospels. And I know enough about literature and literary technique, to understand that, in narratives such as the Gospels, there is no such thing as filler. Everything has a purpose. Including Jesus’ decision to sit in a boat and preach to the crowd onshore. Jesus of course spends much of his ministry near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, a great freshwater lake or inland sea about a third the size of Balaton, although of a different shape, being more round, which supported then, as it still does today, a sizeable population and a significant fishing industry. Jesus’ disciples were for the most part people who made their livelihood from the Sea in commercial fishing. And, Jesus himself is often found near the shore, first calling his disciples there and later teaching the people of the surrounding countryside. So, it is no surprise to find the Sea of Galilee figuring subtly but importantly in today’s narrative as Jesus begins in Matthew for the very first time to teach in parables. The crowds of people anxious to hear him are such that he, according to Matthew, improvises a boat, presumably a common fishing boat, as his pulpit. And so there he is floating on water with his hearers steps away listening attentively from terra firma. Quite a scene, if you ask me. Water is in a sense everything dry ground is not. It is fluid, ever-changing in its shape, and in some sense mysterious. For that reason, it is probably not for nothing that Jesus begins his teaching in parables from the vantage point of a boat suspended on waters just offshore. For, the parables themselves are in a sense fluid and mysterious, capable of changing narrative shape in the hearing of each new generation. We never tire of them. At least, we should not. And, from his watery pulpit Jesus expounds, not without some irony, it seems to me, about the experience of farming on solid earth, a topic as familiar, and no doubt sometimes as frustrating, to his hearers as is the topic of, say, Microsoft Office to most of us today. His hearers knew well the frustrations of planting and the vagaries

of farming. Then as now, agriculture was a risky business at best. So, the story of the Sower of the Seed which Jesus narrates would have resonated with his hearers. Jesus conveniently offers his disciples, and us, an explanation. The parable is all about hearing and its consequences, he tells us. We hear lots of things in everyday life, of course, whether we are first-century farmers or twenty-first century city-dwellers. Not all of it makes sense. Not all of it is important. Some of it, as we say, goes in one ear and out the other. Some falls on rocky ground or among thorns. Yet the narrative itself, like the waters of the Sea of Galilee, remains fluid enough to fit us still today. The word we hear from Jesus is life-changing and new in each generation. What prior generations planted in us bears fruit today. What we do here in this generation, in Budapest, at Saint Margaret’s, is not just for now. Not just for and about us. But it, like the seeds in Jesus’ story must grow, thirty-, sixty-, a hundred-fold. For someone sitting in a boat, Jesus certainly knew a lot about seeds and soil. Yet it is all in the hearing. Perhaps the single operative word Jesus speaks from his floating pulpit is, Listen. He repeats it twice. That is where the Gospel begins, with listening, onshore of off. With mindfulness of what we are truly about. Pay attention. Listen... Amen. The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs

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