Monday, July 17, 2017

Good Soil/Bad Soil: Hearing and Living the Word of God

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the farmer sowing seeds, which is found in Matthew 13. A farmer scatters the seeds over his whole property and some fall on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and yes, some of the seeds fall upon good soil. The twelve Disciples who are with him don’t understand his message so when they are alone they ask him to explain.

Jesus patiently explains the meaning of what he had hoped they might understand:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. (Matthew 13:18-23)

The bad soils are the temptations that lead us astray, the things that are more important to us than the word of the Kingdom, the things that suck the life out of us. These are the things that make wealth, power, principalities more important to us than the Word of God, than the Kingdom of God, that make it tempting to ignore evil. It is often easier and safer to go along to get along, to avoid rocking the boat.

In this way we avoid the pain and persecution that often come to us when we do what is right. All we have to do is look at Jesus and his life to see what can happen to one who puts God above all else. Years ago, when I was going through a conflict with some very important people in a church in another state and, feeling persecuted, I complained to my wife. In her wisdom, and trying to help, she replied, “just remember what they did to Jesus. My response to her was, “that’s not helpful.” Not helpful, but true, and we do our best to follow Jesus, no matter what.

Those who are like good soil, Jesus says, “receive the seed and it grows.” They follow Jesus, no matter what! And they often pay a high price. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in a German prison when he was 39 years old for fighting against the oppression and evil of Hitler and the Nazis; Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up the systemic racial oppression in the United States and was accused of being a communist, thrown in jail, and later assassinated when he was 39 years old. There are many others throughout the world, in cities, towns and villages who have followed the Master and paid a price in prestige, persecution and sometimes even death. And yet they did it anyway—no matter what!

If we choose to follow their example, if we choose to follow Jesus, how do we become good soil? We do as they did.  We do as Jesus teaches us: We continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers. We seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as our selves, and we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305-305)

No Matter What!

Becoming good soil also means that we strive to have friends who will be honest with us, who will tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. We learn to talk with and respect people with whom we disagree and we learn not to dismiss those of different denominations, religions or political persuasions as sinners, evil, stupid or liars. It will not be easy, but being like good soil, following Jesus, never is, it’s just worth it.

We are called to be like Jesus, even if they do to us what they did to Him.

God has called us to be Good soil, to hear the Word and to understand it, to “bear fruit and yield one hundred fold, sixty fold and thirty fold.

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