Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
While many of us don’t farm – although we may have friends or relatives who farm – we may be more familiar with gardening. These days we are encouraged to “buy local”, and even to “grow local”, which means getting our hands into the soil, planting seeds, and the inevitable work of weeding. This week Jesus takes us into fields and garden patches as he speaks a parable about seeds and soils – especially soils. Some soils are hospitable to the seed, its rooting, growth and fruitfulness, and other soils are not. And when weeds invade the garden, they can take the territory over, and choke off the plant growth. Rocks are another problem, hindering root growth. Nurture and rootage beneath the ground is vital for fruitful growth above the ground.
But like all parables, there is a deeper meaning. And Jesus’ disciples ask him what that meaning is. Parables hook our attention; they – like seeds – land in our mind and sink into our interior soul, and begin to take root. What we need is understanding (Matthew 13:15). And so Jesus uncovers the mystery for his disciples. While he tells stories about seeds and soils, yeast and bread, mustard seeds, buried treasure, and fishing nets, Jesus is offering windows into the great realm of the gracious rule of God, and into the field of our soul. As he explains the meaning of the parable of the sower and the seed, we discover that the story is really about listening, and what it is that blocks our truly hearing the good news, the message Jesus brings to us.
So what is it that hinders our listening? First, even though we may hear the Good News, we may not understand what is being said. And then what we hear fades from our attention, and has no effect. This calls for us who share the Good News – in our preaching, teaching, conversations, story-telling, small group work, worship leading, and music-making and other acts of ministry – to reflect deeply on who the listeners are, what kinds of languages – spoken, culturally, traditionally – they speak. How do we contextualize the Good News in a way they can hear and understand? And how do we pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work as we share the Good News, to take what is said and done and to open the eyes and ears of the soul of others, so that they can see and hear and understand. We always co-labor with the Spirit of God. This work of ministry is no solo human venture.
Rocks also hinder rootage and growth. Jesus says they represent the kind of resistance we and others experience as we listen to what Jesus is saying, and begin to embrace and move with what we hear. Our culture is no friend to the Good News, and our own friends and acquaintances can often discourage us from what they view as “becoming religious or something”. Other resistance can be more violent: some groups and families shun any family member who decides to become a Christian, and even become hostile.
More often it is the weeds – the worries and cares we experience in this world, along with the lure of wealth and possessions – that infest the ground of our soul, and in time choke off the root and the growth of spiritual attentiveness and love for God. We discover that a division exists within us – love of the world and its ways and its things, and love of God. In our western consumer economy we become consumed by anxiety and by desire: anxiety about not having enough, and desire to have more. Advertisements are designed to create this kind of anxiety and this kind of desire.
And so to listen deeply and well to Jesus, to hear and to understand with the help of the Holy Spirit, also means to trust as we experience resistance and push-back from others, and to grow in love and hope as we choose Jesus and the gracious Way of the Gospel, rather than being stifled by the anxiety, worry, and addictive lure of wealth and possessions. These are the kinds of “weeds” which invade the soul and kill off life and growth in our lives and ministry.
This week listen deeply. Ask the Spirit of Jesus to help you hear and understand.
Wander prayerfully through the field of your own soul, and notice how Jesus tends the soils there.
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
- 7/4 Monday: Matthew 13:1-9
- 7/5 Tuesday: Matthew 13:18-23
- 7/6 Wednesday: Psalm 65:1-13
- 7/7 Thursday: Genesis 25:19-34
- 7/8 Friday: Romans 8:1-11
- 7/9 Saturday: Matthew 13:1-9
- 7/10 Sunday: Matthew 13:18-23