Pastor’s Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 4:13-20 Bible study (November 6, 2023)
On this beautiful morning may the hope that is ours, that has strengthened the Saints in Christ for 2000 years, bring that very same strength of faith and hope to your day.
Yesterday we celebrated All Saints/Day of the Dead by placing an Ofrenda on the main floor of the worship space decorated with flowers and offering the worshipers an opportunity to place notes and pictures of their Triumphant loved ones on the Ofrenda. It was a beautiful way to remember those who have joined Christ in His Heavenly Kingdom, who have gone before us. Though this is the first time that we have done this on All Saints Day, it certainly has made the day even more significant for all of us.
Coming up at Church. Next Sunday we will celebrate the 90th birthday of our member, Della. After church we will have a reception on the patio. On the 19 of the month we will have a pumpkin pie fellowship on the patio after worship, as we come together to give thanks to God for the abundant blessings of the nation in which we live. The last Sunday of November is Christ the King Sunday and the end of the current church year. We will start a new church year on December 3, which is Advent 1, and the day on which we share a chili luncheon after the worship service. That Sunday is also our Gospel Music Sunday. I hope that you will be able to be with us on that day as we begin our period of preparation for the celebration of our Lord's birthday on Christmas Eve. This year we will be purchasing a herd of goats through the ELCA Global Barnyard to share with a family or small village to increase their food supply and economic security. We would be happy to have you contribute for this purpose. During Advent we also bring gift cards to the church for their distribution to families in need before Christmas. At American we are diligent about our reaching into the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Today we continue our bible study of the Parable of the Sower and the seeds in Mark 4:13-20. As a beginning comment, let me say that in Mark we often see that the disciples are being a bit slow to pick up on the meanings of Christ's parables. This is a characteristic of Mark. The disciples and the people around Jesus would know well about the casting of seeds as a way of planting a field. Today all of that is mechanized, or, if we are doing our home garden, we don't just cast seeds on the ground, instead, we would normally take great care to get them deep enough, but not too deep, appropriately separated for room to grow and produce. But for the seed sower in Jesus' day, casting the seed would mean that it might fall onto all of these different types of soil. Now we will take some time to consider all of the different types of soil about which the parable speaks.
The side of the road. This packed harder than hard area, trampled by the sower, the sower's animals, and wagon wheels would not be a viable place for the seed to take root and grow. The sower, will inevitably run into some seed making it to that area along side the field. The sowers are disciples, believers, and Jesus in the case of this story Jesus tells, so even Jesus knows that there will be hard hearted people who be unable to receive His Word. They are closed to the possibilities that the Word of God can bring to them. These people have no interest in allowing faith to steer their lives. This indifference make it nearly impossible for the Word to penetrate into their sense of self. We need to understand that this is exactly what has happened to people who may have had faith, but even more to those whose lives have always been closed to Christ's Word. Staying away from the church for a year or longer during the pandemic created in many people who were formerly faithful and active, a sense of being able to care for themselves and their emotional and spiritual needs. Their hearts and minds have become closed / hardened to the Word of God for their lives. The seed of the Word which once fed their lives no longer falls on an open field with good soil, now it comes to rest on lives which seem to have little or no interest in their life with Christ.
Next is the rocky ground. We have all seen it. Fields which yield tons of big rocks every year as they work their way to the surface. They stand in piles alongside of the field they were taken from. But if there are too many rocks, seeds may sprout in the limited soil, and then whither as the sun heats the rocks and the plants fail due to the lack of depth in the soil. There can be great enthusiasm about becoming a Christian, but that enthusiasm fails when it becomes obvious that this faith journey is going to take more than just speaking the words "I believe". Coming to Christ means that there is a call to full time involvement in the relationship. No wonder Jesus talks about the believers as those who wait for the bride groom to arrive with varying success. It is always wonderful to have those who are new to the faith in Christ to join our churches, but then they discover that there are big commitments to be made, and sacrifices are called for, and there is always work to be done, and all too often, when this happens, their faith shrinks and disappears. I remember taking our first four children to a Canadian park on Lake Huron called the Pinery. It was beautiful, but when it came time to go for a swim, the lake bottom was so full of rocks, much of the excitement and pleasure which we had expected fell away. Sound familiar? The joy of knowing the Savior always brings us to the mutuality of the relationship, and giving thanks for the victory of Christ over evil, which brings us to the fullness of God's Grace and Forgiveness. This means we must say thank you with our very lives if we are to truly receive the Gifts which Christ brings to us as free gifts of God's Grace.
The soil full of thorns. Boy do we know thorns in the desert! Though some cactus use those thorny plants as a nursery for their early growth and protection from the desert hot son, little else is able to make it in such thorny circumstances. These thorns which make our journey with Christ difficult, are the ones where we are so busy that we really cannot commit fully to this relationship with the Lord. Work, play, commitments with friends, cleaning the house, doing the yard work on the weekend, and many more things that we choose to do, all too often finds us too busy to be involved in our life of faith in the ways which please our Savior. Isn't it just so easy to stay in bed on that one day each week. After all, didn't Jesus? Lives in the 21 century are complicated and busy. I get that. What we have learned in the church is that 80% of the work for Christ's Kingdom gets done by the busiest 20% of the members. We are going to see that these are the people who are the good soil for the seed of Christ's Word.
Yes, finally, the good soil, deep and rich, filled with every good thing that brings about incredible growth. The place where there is the right amount of sunshine, warmth, moisture, and nutrients to nurture and grow the seeds. The ones who are the good soil for Christ's Word, take the time to hear, receive it openly, and take action to share the bounty of what the seed has produced. The busiest people I know in the church always find the time to do more. They are truly that wonderful good soil. In our hymnal we have a song, "Lord Let My Heart Be Good Soil". As an opposite to the Pinery Park's rocky beaches, the golden sand of the the Lake Michigan bottom was great for digging in your toes, or diving down to grab a handful of that wonderful sand bottom.
It seems that there may be so many who are unable to have a productive relationship with Christ according to this parable. Yet the call is still there to sow the seeds of God's Word where ever we go, by our words, and through our actions. In Christ's day the sower could do little more than cast the seed, and then wait of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to provide the right environment for that seed to germinate and grow, and produce its fruit for the well being of all people. The same is true for us. It is by the power of Jesus Christ that people come to believe. We are the sowers of the Word, but through Jesus Christ, the LORD grows the harvest.
Enjoy the imagery of the Sower and Seed. Let it fill your senses. It will open your heart to so many possibilities for Sharing the Gospel with others.
I am sowing seed for Christ,
In His Name and By His Love, Pastor Kim