Pastor’s Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 4:3-9 Bible study (October 30, 2023)
Grace and Peace to you in the Name, and by the Power, of our Lord Jesus Christ this morning.
As I write today, it is a beautiful crisp fall morning. How long we have waited to step out our doors, to open our windows, to breathe the scent of harvest, and to prepare ourselves for the time of real cold and hopefully, enough rain to offset this summer's lack. This week there were photos of Death Valley National Park on line that revealed flooded flat basins in this below sea level park. It reflected, in all of its so often harsh hot climate, pictures of the beauty of God's creation even in places that to us seem desolate. We all need to know, that in what seems harsh, difficult, deadly, and sick, God's presence is there to reveal to us the beauty in all things when we allow His Grace and Peace to fill our lives each day. We can not ignore the war raging between two parts of the same family. Thousands are now dead, with the majority of the deaths in the Gaza strip. When we love God above all things, as Jesus calls us to do, then we can see clearly the devastation of hatred, anger, and frustration between these two peoples, and come to know, that even Christians, are heavily divided over who is right in this war. I believe that there is no right in this war, instead it is a war of the history of Israel and their Palestinian half brothers and sisters that has been going on since the time of Abraham in the Old Testament. In the midst of all of this we must pray for peace between these peoples. But, we must also pray for the people of Maine, Tampa, and other places around our nation where the violence of person against person has once again been the cause of multiple mass shootings. It seems to me that the value of human life which I grew up with in the church, is losing its way in our modern gun toting society, where anger finds its first anchor in some lives bringing them to destroy the ones with whom they have disagreements, or in the case of Maine, a mentally ill person sought to do harm to others for reasons that we may never really understand. It all seems pretty grim doesn't it? Yet once again we must remember Death Valley and the seemingly impossible beauty that arose from its extremely desolate desert floor. I work to keep a constant eye out for that impossible beauty which God can provide in the face of any seemingly harsh reality in life.
Today we move forward into another passage from chapter four in the Gospel of Mark Bible study. This Parable of the Sowers and Seeds was never intended to be studied word for word as we so often do when we look at a passage filled with the teaching of Christ. It is important for us to know that Jesus' teaching and preaching to the masses was done using the immediate examples which were around Him, His disciples, and the people with whom He spoke. There would be no other reason for Him so say from that boat lying off the shore, "Look" Something was happening that Jesus decided to draw upon for what he wanted to say. There must have been a sower casting seed into a field right near by. In using such immediate examples was Jesus way of calling out notice of what was a common occurrence in the lives of these people. Something which was of this world, to indicate what held a meaning far beyond this world, into the heart of what it meant to be living in faith, and coming to know that the journey would be sometimes difficult, and sometimes it would be filled with grace and glory too. William Barclay states it this way, "Jesus started from the here and now (the normal things going on around Him), to get to the there and then." Faith is that invisible reality presence in my life.
Another part of this passage is revealed to us when Jesus tells the listener this parable which reveals the connection between the every day here on earth, and its relationship to heaven. So often we think of heaven as that place where only the triumphant saints reside with the angels and the other hosts of heaven. We only see its revelation in the most extraordinary of circumstances in the Bible. Heaven and its hosts are revealed at the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem, or to Jacob as he wrestles with God, or at Christ's Ascent into heaven. There are a few others as well, but they are contained in a very few of the experiences of God's children. But those every day things, like sowing seeds, now that we know about, and how it reveals to us truths beyond ourselves and our self understanding in our relationship with God is what Jesus is teaching about in the common experiences of the story. In Michigan there is a saying "If you seek a beautiful peninsula, look around you." In effect, this is what Jesus is saying, "If you wish to see God, look around you."
When Jesus is preaching and teaching, He is always looking around Himself for a common point of contact with the people with whom he is speaking. His method is to use a story of the common to reveal the greater truth which it contains. What this means is that, knowing the things that He wanted His people to know, Jesus would speak with out plan outside of knowing the themes which were so important in revealing God's grace. As I preach, I work in a similar way, reviewing Scripture for a Sunday's message, allowing that to fill my life, knowing what message I have to offer, and then using what I have experienced which is so often in line with the experiences of the members who come to worship. I can tell you that it can sometimes be pretty nerve wracking some weeks waiting on the Spirit to share that common life experience which I need for proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel. In that the Gospel is always prepared to address the needs of the moment, from the tragic to the the joyous when we allow ourselves to be filled with the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was always prepared with a Scripture. He was, after all, the Living Word of God. And, He was a Master in more than just the leader of His disciples. He was a Master of the seeing in the mundane every day things of this life, the Holiness of God's ways of working in His creation. How do these Eternal Truths of God rest in your life? Have someone read this parable again to you, and listen, just as the people along Galilee did as they listened to Jesus, and found in His story the things that they needed to hear.
Tomorrow we will take a look at Mark 4:10-12, and consider Christ's conversation with the disciples.
Blessing for you today in Christ!