Should a pastor stretch the meaning of a passage?

Today immediately after walking out of church , thankfully not in earshot of anyone, my son expressed his opinion about the sermon. “That was the worst sermon I’ve ever heard!” Well , he was in a negative mood ,but he was still able to explain why he thought that. And he also made a good point , that maybe it’s just because he’s heard so many good ones. That comment made me happy .

His negative review was based on the fact that the pastor took a fairly straightforward parable , The Sower, and gave it a whole bunch of extra meanings and applications that I have never heard or read before.

In this Parable , Jesus teaches a lesson about a sower scattering seed that lands in various surfaces and yields various bad and good results. Later he explains the meaning to his Disciples .

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.9 He who has ears, let him hear.” – Matthew 13:1-9

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” – Matthew 13:18-23

My son has been studying the Bible since he was little and listening to sermons so he noticed when the pastor took a different course. To sum it up , he compared rocky and good soils to people and relationships and our tendency to evangelize people we like , the easy ones , but not the ones we don’t , the rocky ones. And that we ourselves sometimes are like good soil and sometimes we are rocky.  I don’t know. It seemed like a stretch to me , but maybe ? What do you think ? Should a pastor add to a parable like that, and sorta use it as a jumping off point to make other points ? What bothered me most was that he never gave Jesus’ explanation of the parable .

This was not the regular pastor, by the way . It was the youth pastor . So I will give him a pass for this one . He’s young and I like him. I’ll have to ask him sometime why he took this somewhat different course. On a good note, I got my kids to church! I’ve been going pretty regularly but I can’t always get them up and out of the house in time. My husband had to stay home to take care of our sick daughter. The trip to town was definitely still worth the effort even with the iffy sermon. In fact, the conversation on the way home may have been even more important than the actual church time.

After church there was more motorcycle riding and I took my camera out and tried to get some good shots. I still have some learning to do with that camera . Here are a few that I thought turned out pretty cool. I did have to edit the lighting on them because I am not good at setting the exposure.

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I hope you had a good Sunday. Tell me about it!

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24 comments

  1. I didn’t hear the pastor’s sermon so I don’t know exactly how he phrased things, but the idea seems a decent one if he said Jesus’ sermon was a bit of a jumping-from point and not that your pastor’s interpretation was what Jesus meant.

    We had someone talk about how she was writing her talk about Jesus, and not behaving like how Jesus taught in order to get it completed. 🙂 It was a pretty good analogy.

  2. It seems like younger preachers often like to come up with something they think is original from a passage. I’ve heard all the parables given lots of twists over the years. I grew up going to Primitive Baptist churches, and they are the worst at finding meaning beyond the literal interpretation. Everything, I was taught, was a “type” or “shadow” of the real truth. It really made Bible study confusing.

    • I agree about the younger pastors. I do understand certain types in the Bible , such as Joseph was a type of Jesus, the parallels are obvious, but there was also literal and practical meaning in his life. A really good Bible teacher is a true blessing. But also I just feel like the Holy Spirit, plus years of study, can finally bring it all together like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. The basic Gospel message is all that most people need to learn, but still they need to be reminded over and over that they are forgiven and to keep following Jesus , not the world . And the more you study the deeper stuff, the more you see how it is all supporting the basic Gospel! People are sinners in need of a savior. They never get it right. Failure after failure even when they are the CHOSEN people of God! Just like us. But where do you stand nowadays?

      • I honestly don’t know, PK. This is something you and I could talk for hours on. It used to be my favorite subject; in fact, my old blog was entirely devoted to theology. After reading your post, I think I’ll write a little about my background. But just a little!

      • If I recall correctly, when I first found your blog, it seemed to include satire making fun of Christians. But I don’t think I’ve seen you post anything like that lately?

      • You’re right, but I was really only making fun of the more extreme types. My wife is a very committed Christian, and I often had her read those posts to make sure she didn’t think they were offensive. In any belief or group, you have the quirky things that are easy to laugh at.

  3. I’ve heard bad sermons before. Sometimes they get a little carried away. It’s always best if we all just stick with Jesus and what He is saying. I pray your daughter is healed. Those motorcycles look like so much fun! God bless you all!

    • I think I was listening closely but he was pacing the stage and I am easily distracted by movement. And he was wearing red tennis shoes. Haha! But to me it seemed like he skipped the part about what the passage actually meant and moved straight into a vaguely related application of different soils. Grace is doing better. Thank you for the prayers! I pray that you are feeling well today.

  4. Yes, I agree with you and hate it when someone goes away from what the text meant in a sermon. Even though some of the other things he says are true, they still cannot be said as a result of reading that scripture. Sadly the whole idea about a sermon is that you just listen and nod. No debate allowed! As for your son: good for him!

  5. Sounds like you had some teachable moments. And I love your son’s positive explanation of his opinion! And the fact that he HAD an opinion showed that he was listening, and these days that’s saying a lot!
    Yes, a younger pastor needs to be cut some slack (a.k.a. grace). He may have assumed everyone had heard the original interpretation numerous times and was trying to hold the attention of the congregation.
    His “new idea” is an interesting point, and causes me to ponder. DO I just look for the “fertile soil?” I hope not! Mainly because I can’t read people’s hearts and therefore should make no assumptions about who is fertile soil and who isn’t. The person I may see as a “lost cause” could turn out to be someone who has put on a hard front but who ends up responding with a true commtiment.

  6. Should you stretch the meaning? Not so far as to be unable to make a reasonable connection to the text. Lots of good comments since I read your post early this morning, before I began my own work on John 10:1-10 for next Sunday. A while ago, before preaching became my day job, I had heard that it takes about 100 sermons to figure out what you’re doing. In my experience, 5 1/2 years in, I would say it could be closer to 200 sermons. I would also say that good preachers are ones who are always working on learning to be better at what they have been called to do. I could go on, and on, cuz poor preaching (i.e. disconnected from the text, and/or leaving out a connection with sin and salvation being the two most frequent marks) is a pet peeve of mine.

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