What is a parable? What is a sower?

The Sower - a painting by Van GoghThe Bible has been around for a long, long time. It existed even before it was written down! In those days the Bible was passed along as stories; stories told around the campfire at night or where ever people gathered.

Stories have tremendous power.

 
Time Out. Talk about… What do you like best about stories?  A speech bubble

Stories teach us. Have you ever had a story grab your attention, or spark your imagination, or evoke a strong emotion? That’s what stories can do! Jesus was a master storyteller. He often taught using a type of story called a parable.

Time Out. Talk about… Kids: Tell the adults what a parable is.  A speech bubble

(They’ve probably forgotten. If you don’t know, read on!)

Jesus often taught using parables. There are over thirty parables of Jesus found in the Gospels! This month the 1st – 6th graders (the Cool Disciples) at FUMC (First United Methodist Church) in Ann Arbor, MI, are doing a Rotation on the parable known as the “Parable of the Sower.”

A parable is a story that teaches a special lesson with a hidden meaning. The word parable has its origin in the Greek word paraballein, which literally means, “to throw one thing down alongside another.” I’ll bet that when Jesus got in the boat to start teaching the crowd, he looked around and what did he see in the distance? Someone doing some farm work; perhaps someone sowing seed.

Time Out. Talk about… How was seed sown in Jesus’ day?  A speech bubble

Sowing, not to be confused with sewing (which is done with a needle and thread) is another word for planting seed. In first century Palestine, farming was an important occupation. Sowers carried shoulder bags full of seed and scattered the seed by hand, walking along the length and breadth of their fields throwing fistfuls of seed out across the soil. Everyone in the crowd knew farming in this manner. Jesus’ use of this well-known image – a farming technique – helped his listeners understand the less familiar concept that was the hidden portion of the parable. I’ll bet you’re expecting a question about the hidden meaning… you’ll have to wait until next week for that discussion! (Okay, check it out here.)

Our parable is called the “Parable of the Sower” but it could be called the “Parable of Soils.” It chronicles the hand-cast seed as falling on four types of soil. Watch this three minute video which has no words, just music. Watch it once and listen. Watch it again and let your kids tell the story. Enjoy!

(If reading this in an email, you can watch this video on YouTube.)

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Photo credits:
The Sower, a painting by Vincent van Gogh, is in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Video by RodTheNey, who licensed this under a Creative Commons License.

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