Glory to God for All Things Ode 1 Illustrated

Akathist:  “Glory to God for all Things”   

by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Tryphon (+1934)

 crucifixion2

ODE 1

Everlasting King, Your will for our salvation is full of power.

Your right arm controls the whole course of human life.

We give You thanks for all Your mercies, seen and unseen:

For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be.

Grant mercy to us who sing Your praises, both now and in the time to come.

Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

IKOS 1

john,seth,danCI was born a weak, defenseless child,

but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me.

From birth until now, Your love has illumined my path,

and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity.

From birth until now the generous gifts of Your Providence have been marvelously showered upon me.

I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your Name:

hubble2
Helix Nebula

Glory to You for calling me into being.

Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe.

Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom.

Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world.

Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen.

Glory to You, through every sigh of my sorrow.

Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey, for every moment of glory.

Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

 

See:  Ode 2

At Age 40, What in the World is the Web coming to?

www
A World Wide Web Graphic

Renee Montagne of National Public Radio did   An Ode to the Internet’s Big Bang on Thursday, October 29, 2009, commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Internet.   I wrote a short blog about the World Wide Web being 5000 days old sometime ago.  Though I think of the Web and the Internet as referring to the same thing, I’ve been told that they refer to different things, but the difference has never seemed clear to me.

You can read  Renee Montagne doing her part to read the Ode to the Internet by clicking on the link above.  I just want to point out that 20 years ago the conversation she has in the Ode would have made no sense – and maybe not even 10 years ago.  The conversation references:

YouTube,  Hulu, iTunes, USB, MP3,  GPS,  PDF, LCD, ISP, SMS, cookie wiki, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Paypal, Netflix, iMac, eBay, Wi-Fi, Xbox, and Second Life

I thought the piece was very clever.

It reminded me of a question I heard not too long ago but don’t remember where (Car Talk maybe?):   A man calls his wife from work and when she answers the phone the first thing he does is to ask her a question that makes perfect sense today but 20 years ago would not have made any sense at all.  What was the question?

I also heard a song a short while ago that had a line in it about a person knowing that the girl he liked was serious about him because as they were walking through a park she took his picture with her phone.   That too would have made no sense just a couple of years ago.  It also is a clue to answer the question at the end of the previous paragraph.  The question was, “Where are you?”

telephoneIt made me think of a bit of humor.  After enough car wrecks from people talking on cell phones or text messaging while driving, and after enough people injury themselves by running into things while talking on a cell phone,  some safety minded person will come up with a great method for preventing such accidents: they’ll figure out a technology that will require phones to be land based by attaching them to a wall with a wire.

Paying Attention: Branded to be Just One of the Herd

NewImprovedIt is the sign of our times – our thoughts are owned by corporate America.  Their ubiquitous advertising and sponsorship means we cannot help but have to view or listen to their paid propagandizing.  We are the ones who pay to be brainwashed.   Your favorite football team is on the air and each referee’s call is brought to you by your cellular company, and the 20 yards closest to the end zone is owned by a ketchup manufacturer.  “Sportscasters” are simply corporate spokespersons.    The propaganda never stops playing so that you never forget to go out and spend.   In America it’s patriotic to spend your way into debt so that the economy expands like a balloon.  Is that an empty promise?

I have mostly stopped watching television, not from any high moral standards.  I cannot abide the commercials.   I also no longer tune in to commercial radio.   Talk show hosts, political pundits and Fox News are wasting their breath.   I can still in this country exercise self control and keep my mind free from commercial thought control. 

I am however harassed when on the Internet as banners and pop-ups endeavor to distract me from the content I want to read.   This morning for example the browser homepage had as one of its rotating “news” items:

Spice Up Your Kitchen

It’s where People Always Gather

Why not Install a Flat-Screen TV?

1984Ah yes, in Orwellian 1984 fashion we need to have the TV screens everywhere we are or meet to tell us what to think and what to talk about.   Everyone always feared “they” would be constantly monitoring us, but instead we freely offer our souls, hearts and minds as we endlessly monitor the monitors.  Put that TV in the kitchen if you haven’t already – its there to dominate your conversation.   Perhaps they will soon figure out how to continuously stream those airwaves right into your brain so you won’t even need a TV and thus will never suffer the dreaded television withdrawal.

Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 RSV).

But He didn’t apparently anticipate American culture where in the midst of every two or three (even in the kitchen!) there will be a television blathering about corporate products you will soon believe you chose to have.  The ideas and the desire were all planted in your brain by the omnipresent and forever turned on TV.   Jesus will not be heard or even noticed above the din of the television.  (In line at the grocery store one day several older teen girls were talking, one was totally amazed to discover that there was an “on” button on her car radio – she was not aware that you could turn it off – why would you?)

Timothy Leary promoted LSD with his “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”  Television wants us to turn on the TV, tune in to whatever is playing, and detach from critical thinking and just absorb.

As the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy sang in their “Television, the Drug of the Nation“:

One Nation under God

has turned into

One Nation under the influence

of one drug

 Television, the drug of the Nation

Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

TV It has been said that commercial radio and television is really about the networks producing a content that will keep you tuned in to the station between commercials.   They do want you to follow the Scriptural exhortation:  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”  ( James 1:22 RSV).    Buy the brand don’t just listen to the commercials.  The effective commercial gets you to give your money to the corporate advertizer/sponsor.  

Not only that, but you then become a walking commercial yourself, brandishing the proper Logo.  You bought the goods so you could advertize their company.  It is paid advertizing at its finest.  You paid to be able to walk around advertizing their product.

Tom Hodgkison,  quoted by Neil Boorman in his BONFIRE OF THE BRANDS: HOW I LEARNED TO LIVE WITHOUT LABELS, quips:

It’s surely the mark of an individual to refuse to be branded. It’s daft to spend money on Nike clothes. The mark of a moron. Anyone who does so has been merely duped by the million-dollar marketing campaigns. To buy Nike shows a sheep-like nature and a lack of imagination and style.

 Who in their right mind would want to be branded, like a cow? A brand identifies you as someone else’s property. It is the mark of a tamed and exploited animal. Brands promise freedom but they deliver the opposite: the worst kind of slavish conformity.

Ahhh…. but this is a free country with a free market – we are free to want and buy exactly what corporate America decides we should crave and consume as well as advertize for them since they are after all our corporate sponsors.

This message brought to you by ………….

Divine Considerateness – How God Speaks to Us

Reading OTAntiochThis is the second and concluding blog in which I am commenting on Robert Hill’s READING THE OLD TESTAMENT IN ANTIOCH.  The first blog was titled Reading the Old Testament in Ancient Antioch.   I ended the first blog with Hill’s comment:

The Scriptures, like the Incarnation, come to us as a gesture of divine considerateness, sygkatavasis—a loving gesture with nothing patronizing about it, nothing to suggest ‘condescension’ … The Incarnation, after all, does not represent a patronizing gesture on God’s part towards human beings—only love and concern.”  (pp 36-37)

So God speaks to us through people, using words, phrases and ideas that we are capable of understanding.    God realizes that His human creatures are not always attuned to spiritual realities and so He adapts His message in the Scriptures to our materialist limits.  It is because God loves us that He finds the way to communicate with us even when it means He has to use phrases and methods (such as anthropomorphic appearances) which don’t do full justice to His divinity.

…that the concreteness (paxetes) of the language is required by the materialism of the listener/reader, that it was particularly necessary in the early stages of revelation history, that in Scripture God uses simple ways of speech to accommodate our limitations, that while the concern in such acts of considerateness is not primarily with the dignity proper to God, we should not remain at the level of banal vocabulary or think of God in human terms, and – eminently—that the prime analogue of divine considerateness is that (other) Incarnation of the Word in the person of Jesus.”(p 39)

rublevtrinityGod speaking to us through human writers using human images was done in fact to prepare all people for the incarnation of the Word in Jesus.  God’s goal is to lift us up to communion with God as Trinity not to get us stuck in literalistic thinking in which we drag God down to crude and banal images of Him as human.

Chrysostom expresses his own deep appreciation of scriptural koinonia (my note – fellowship, communion).  For him the biblical authors are the means by which communication (omolia  my note, discourse or homily) with God occurs, a communication which can be withheld…”  (p 36)

The Scriptures are thus the means by which God communicates with us.  For this reason the Antiochian Fathers were concerned with making an accurate reading of the text.  They tended to shy away from allegorizing every text (something more common in the Alexandrian tradition), but they felt they were called to discover the Holy Spirit’s intended meaning in a text so realized that it was necessary to get beyond the literal reading of the Scriptures at points to be able to see what God was revealing.   The “spiritual” reading of a text would be seen as the literal reading of the text if that is how God intended for us to read it.  Chrysostom says,

“’There is a great treasure stored up in the Scriptures, concealed beneath the surface,’ he tells his congregation in Homily 45; so there is need of study so that we can learn the force hidden beneath the surface.”  (p 153)

So when, where and with who is the proper time to study the Scriptures in order to drink deeply of the living water stored in them?  Chrysostom answers,

ScriptureAny time must be considered suitable for discourse on spiritual topics.  If we have a precise realization of this, we will be able while relaxing at home, both before eating and after eating, to take the Scriptures in our hands and gain benefit from them and provide spiritual nourishment for our soul… This is our salvation, this is spiritual treasure, this security.  If we thus strengthen ourselves each day – by reading (anagnosis), by listening, by spiritual discourse (dialexis) – we will be able to remain unconquered, and render the snares of the devil ineffectual.”  (p 184)

We render ourselves capable of hearing God’s voice by a frequent and regular reading of God’s Word.   The continual reading of God’s Word opens our hearts and minds to recognizing God’s voice and thus allowing God’s Word to implant itself in us and to bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God.

 

 

Reading the Old Testament in Ancient Antioch

Reading OTAntiochI intend in this blog and the next to offer a few quotes from Robert Hill’s READING THE OLD TESTAMENT IN ANTIOCH and to give some commentary on them.    Hill is perhaps the leading translator into English of Patristic writers in the Antiochian tradition, such as Theodoret of Cyrus and John Chrysostom.  I am ever grateful to him for making so many texts available in English which I would otherwise not have been able to read.   I have read so many of his translations which he so richly annotates that I feel as familiar with his writings as with the Fathers themselves.  Hill offers critical notes to his translations, taking the position that modern scholarship offers a standard for understanding the  biblical texts against which the Fathers must be compared, and often not favorably.   While I appreciate his comments and the insight they give into the Patristic writers, I must admit that I read the Fathers precisely because they are not modern scholars.  I am ever intrigued with what use they make of the biblical texts a thousand years before the Reformation and the Enlightenment came to dominate and define the issues of biblical study.   Their assumptions and the fact that they could insightfully read Scripture with none of the tools, concerns or information of the modern scholar make them particularly valuable to me because they help free Scripture from modern prejudices and interpretations.  We are forced when reading the Patristic commentaries on Scripture to see the Word of God from a viewpoint outside the limits of our own experience.

 I sometimes wonder whether Hill misses the point that the very reason the Orthodox today so love the Patristic writers is because they are not post-Reformation and post-Enlightenment.  They offer us the worldview which shaped our Tradition in antiquity, and thus they offer us some glimpse into the timelessness of God’s Word.  However, Hill does at one point acknowledge why Chrysostom and the Fathers are not much interested in the modern scholarly obsession with textual analysis:

(p 83)

OTPatriarchs
Old Testament Patriarchs

“Their deep conviction of the divine inspiration of the authors of Old Testament books, prophetai, was also generally … a deterrent from scrutiny into diversity of authorship and layers of composition of these letters  sent by God and delivered by Moses or David; the history in a text was of greater relevance than the history of that text.” 

 

In other words the Fathers were more concerned with God’s revelation than they were with the mechanics and history of how God chose to deliver His message.   They were in fact believers!  They accepted that the Scriptures were inspired and to be read as revelation from God even though they come to us through human intermediaries and have a history of their own.  All Scripture is inspired by God – it is of the Holy Spirit and thus not corrupted by who actually inscribed it.   Theodoret comments regarding the fact that some Psalms may have been written by someone other than King David,

“…but I for my part have no strong view on these points: what does it matter to me whether all come from (David) or some come from them,  as long as it is clear they all composed under the influence of the divine Spirit.”(p 80)

 The Antiochian Fathers read the Old Testament as if

“God communicated his revelation through a process of omilia (my note – homilies!  –  discourses) in which could be seen a gracious gesture of sygkatabasis  (my note – divine considerateness) akin to that visible in the Incarnation of the Word in the person of Jesus.” (p 85)

nativity6God speaks to humanity on our level, in ways and through people that we can understand.   He does this because He loves us and wants us to understand Him.  This results sometimes in later generations experiencing some confusion and even doubt about God when reading texts written for an early time and thus written more concretely; for example when God in Scriptures takes on anthropomorphic characteristics, He does this not because He is a male or a human but because that is the only way the humans long ago could relate to Him, but later generations sometimes read these early revelations too literally.

The Scriptures, like the Incarnation, come to us as a gesture of divine considerateness, sygkatavasis—a loving gesture with nothing patronizing about it, nothing to suggest ‘condescension’ … The Incarnation, after all, does not represent a patronizing gesture on God’s part towards human beings—only love and concern.”  (pp 36-37)

Next: Divine Considerateness – How God Speaks to Us

Tradition: The Ship of Salvation’s Sail not its Anchor

Paul3cSt. Paul’s Epistles represent an interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel.  St. Paul is steeped in the Jewish Scriptures, and the Tradition which interprets those Scriptures.   It is the interpretation of the Torah which causes such tremendous conflict between Jesus and the rabbis of the Pharisaic Tradition.   Paul follows Jesus in interpreting the Scriptures of Israel and does so by claiming that he and Jesus are in fact the faithful interpreters of the Tradition.  It is Jesus who is the fulfillment of the God-inspired Tradition; thus Christianity is faithful to Tradition and the correct interpreter of this tradition.   Tradition, like Scripture, is not  made holy by being carved into stone, but rather by being interpreted within a community, by being the heart of the community’s relationship to God and the world.  Tradition is thus alive and constantly relating to the world, not written in stone and frozen in some past understanding.  For St. Paul Tradition is dynamic, creative, vivifying and renewing and keeps people focused on the goal – where God is leading us to, not the past and where we were.   Tradition is not the ship’s anchor, but its sail.   It consists not of repeating past teachings, but of interpreting God’s Word for the current generation.

When a tradition is handed on unchanged it loses its potency and has little meaning for the present. Some would go so far as to say that an unchanged tradition is dead, it has been killed…a vibrant tradition must be not only a conserving (conservative) force, but also an innovative one. The past tradition needs to be revivified for a new cultural and historical context….The only hope for survival lies in a tradition’s ability to provide a fresh word of hope in a new situation…this dynamic can be described as the interpretation of tradition; what gives a tradition its life is an effective interpretation for a new time and context. The success or failure of such interpretation (or re-interpretation) can result in either the life-giving continuation of the tradition, or its lifeless end… In addition, in a situation of crisis, fraught with uncertainty, entrenchment seems a safe path to walk… To those in the Galatian community, who would revert to the tradition unchanged, Paul emphasizes that this tradition must not be merely mimicked. It cannot be simply passed on unchanged, the community in Galatia needs to hear the word of God’s radically new thing, of God’s revelation in Jesus, of the end of order. For this community Paul ‘defines and defends the radically new in terms drawn from the old’… That is why abandoning the tradition is not an option for him. However, that importance is evident partly in the ability of the tradition to provide a fresh word of hope for a new situation…. He transforms tradition so that it continues in the living world.  (Sylvia C. Keesmaat, “Paul and His Story: Exodus and Tradition in Galatia”, Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel)

Lazarus and the Rich Man (2009)

St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom

Commenting on Luke 16:19-31, the Gospel Lesson about Lazarus and the rich man, St. John Chrysostom wrote in praise of Lazarus, a man for whom Scriptures lists no virtues, and whose only known characteristics are poverty and disease.   Lazarus’ poverty and sufferings are contrasted with the unnamed rich man who lived a life of luxury.  The Gospel lesson is a challenge to any who see their own prosperity as being a guarantee of God favoring them.  The blessed man in the parable – the rich man –  stunningly is not in the end the one favored by God.   Wealth is no indication of virtue or of God’s favor.   Chrysostom sees in Lazarus though the more hidden virtues of  long-suffering patience coupled with his having a thankful spirit despite his poverty.  In other words Lazarus is not a complainer, nor bitter about his situation in life, but rather keeps faith in God like Job despite the cruelty of his life experience.

For this was the achievement of Lazarus, too: he did not give anyone money, either—how could he, being short of necessary nourishment? He did not visit prisons—how could he, being incapable of standing up? He did not visit the sick—how could he, exposed as he was to the tongues of the dogs? Yet  independently of these things he carried off the prize for virtue for bearing everything nobly, for uttering no harsh word despite seeing a cruel and inhumane man feted and feasted while he himself was subjected to such awful troubles. Hence the one whose condition was no better than a corpse, Joblying neglected in the gateway of the man who was then rich, was welcomed into the bosom of Abraham. Along with the patriarch who had achieved so much he was awarded the crown, was publically acclaimed and given a place in his company despite having given no alms, stretched out no hand to the wronged, welcomed no strangers, was capable of demonstrating nothing else of this kind, but only giving thanks for everything and carrying off the bright crown for endurance. Thanksgiving and sound values are a great achievement, as is patient endurance practiced amidst such awful difficulties; it is a greater work than anything. On those grounds Job also was crowned… After all, it is no slight merit to hold back a soul in distress from committing any sin; it is comparable with martyrdom, it is the acme of good things.  

Evolution: Descent with Modification

YourInnerFishThe debate regarding whether the Theory of Evolution is compatible with Christian belief has been driven by those who are at the extremes of the possible positions.  I have followed this debate with varying degrees of interest, attempting to understand the nuances of the issues as well as the positions of the hard core polemicists.  Neil Shubin’s book YOUR INNER FISH: A JOURNEY INTO THE 3.5 BILLION-YEAR HISTORY OF THE HUMAN BODY was recommended to me as a good book to read for understanding why so many scientists are convinced that evolution is true.  The vast majority of scientists involved in fields related to biology do accept that evolution is true, and they do think there is so much evidence supporting the Theory that they can speak about it as fact.   (see the NY TIMES Book Review “Evolution All Around” which does take scientist Richard Dawkins to task for mixing up theory and fact).

I found Shubin’s book to be an enjoyable read and comprehensible for me the non-scientist (though admittedly I have read enough in this field to be familiar with the concepts).   I would recommend this book to any who want to understand how evolution works in theory and how the current known facts about human life do give solid support to the theory.

kidsWhat Shubin does so well is to show that “evolution” fundamentally means that all living things reproduce in the same basic way: “descent with modification.”    Any of us with the most basic knowledge of genetics or DNA understand that every human child receives from his/her parents a set of genes – half from the father and half from the mother.  Every human child is thus clearly a genetic descendant of his/her parents (thus the Genesis reproduction law – according to their kind).  However no child is genetically identical to either parent – thus descent with modification.   Descent with modification is visible everywhere in which we can see life.  Even those who accept a notion that the earth is less than 10,000 years and that all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve have to admit there is tremendous variety in humanity today – not one of us is a clone of Adam or Eve, but rather we each share the genetic diversity which belongs to all humanity and makes each of us genetically unique;  in Shubin’s words: “all of us are modified descendants of our parents or parental genetic information.”

That is evolutionary fundamentalism.    Of course evolution has other ideas which are more controversial – especially speciation.   But in other works I’ve read there are known examples of biological speciation – where offspring are genetically different enough from their parents so as not to be able to reproduce with their parent’s “species.”   The offspring though sharing the genetic recombination of its parent’s genes, have such a genetic makeup that they cannot reproduce with others genetically similar to their parents but can reproduce with others genetically similar to themselves.  The offspring may even look identical to their parent but have in fact become a separate species.   And when given the millions of years which science says life has had to evolve, it is easier to understand how small changes through large periods of times can lead to speciation – where though two life forms share a common ancestor in their distant past, they no longer even look anything alike and have undergone the steps and stages macro-evolution.  Just a few examples of how long ago science is seeing significant changes in life on earth according to Shubin:

1)    Multicellular creatures first appear in the fossil record some 600 million years ago. 

darwinius2)     In fossils which are 385 million years old, we find only things that look like fish, while in fossils 365 million years old we find amphibians.  Somewhere in that time period animals with necks and ears and 4 legs emerge.

3)    The teeth structure of mammals and the mammalian way of chewing emerge in fossils between 225-195 million years ago.

4)    Structures associated with primate color vision first emerge in the fossil record 55 million years ago.

Shubin writes:

The oldest many-celled fossil is over 600 million years old.  The earliest fossil with a three-boned middle ear is less than 200 million years old.  The oldest fossil with a bipedal gait is around 4 million years old.  Are all these facts just coincidence, or do they reflect a law of biology we can see at work around us every day?”  (p 184) 

Shubin offers pretty sound evidence that if evolution theory is true regarding  human life evolving from singular cell life forms 600 million years ago then certain evidence should be found in the fossil record of specific time periods and scientists should be able to make certain predictions about when in the fossil record to look for specific physiological developments.    What Shubin shows is that in fact in both the fossil record and DNA record we find the evidence exactly where it should be if evolution is true.    This gives incredible support that the Theory of Evolution is giving us an accurate picture of how life emerged and evolved since it first appeared on earth.

Blastomeres
Blastomeres

If one still doubts that the complex human body could ever have emerged from a single cell, consider the following.  When in the mother’s body the fertilization of an egg takes place, the fertilized cell soon splits into two IDENTICAL cells.  These two cells then divide and form 4 identical cells.  This cellular division continues as the embryo grows into a fetus and then into a baby.  All the cells in a human body are identical, but some form into the nervous system, others into the circulatory system, others into skin, bones or other organs.   It is not the cells themselves that differ, nor does each specialized cell contain DNA unique to itself or its function in the body.  Rather in each cell genes are being turned on or off to cause different cells to specialize so that a complete human with trillions of cells can form and function.    From a one celled egg emerged a complete human being.   As Shubin notes the component parts work together to form a complete human being:  cells with no brains, containing nothing more than chemical proteins or enzymes, are able to work together to form the human.  This is a true miracle.

Shubin in his book looks at three different functions of the human body: smelling, seeing and hearing, and then traces the development in the fossil record of the corresponding human body parts (nose, eyes and ears) that make these senses possible.   In each case, the evolutionary signs indicating the development of these senses appears precisely where it should in the fossil record; again giving credence to the basic framework of the Theory of Evolution.  Shubin avoided polemics with anti-evolutionary folk.  He simply states the fossil and DNA evidence that we currently have and then shows how it does in fact fit in and support the Theory of Evolution.  It answers the questions science raises, though not necessarily the questions of philosophers or theologians.

The Good Seed of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower 

GospelAnd the Lord told this parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it.  And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.  ( Luke 8:5-15)

Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce in his book  THE MESSAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT offers the following thought:

Jesus has been repudiated by the religious leaders; his works of mercy and power have been put down to demonic possession. In reply, he affirms that for those who deliberately ascribe to Beelzebul the work of the Spirit of God there is no further hope; to them the plainest teaching about the kingdom is henceforth meaningless because, like those to whom Isaiah preached in his day, they have rendered themselves incapable of seeing, hearing or understanding (13:13-15). But to unprejudiced hearers his message comes home, like good seed falling into good soil, and they see and hear things which prophets and righteous men longed in vain to see and hear.

ChristTeachingBruce connects Jesus comments about being able to hear and being able to understand directly with the teaching of the parable.  The Parable puts the teaching into graphic terms comparing hearing to soil receiving seed.  The message however is powerful for it connects in graphic parable Christ’s warning about those who make themselves incapable of hearing and comprending the Word of God.  Jesus speaks in parables to illustrate the fact that the people have become like the various unproductive soils in His story.

Weary in Well-Doing

And let us not grow weary in well-doing,

for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.

(Galatians 6:9 RSV)

Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti

One of my favorite poems of all times was written by the English Poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).  

It is a poem on being out of sync with God:  wanting to do something when that isn’t His will, and coming to rest at the moment God calls us to act.   It is wearisome just doing the daily toil, doing the next right thing. 

For the Christian there also is doing the right thing at the right time – practicing wisdom and discernment.  This is a whole new level of action which can wear one out – for you might know what the right thing to do is, but then you have to discern when God wants you to act.  This means not just doing what one wants or thinks is correct, but doing what God wants and doing it in God’s time.  This requires kenosis, self denial in order to discern God’s will and do it at the right moment. 

Some think Christianity (religion) is a crutch, but they have no sense of how discerning God’s will is constantly being weighed down by carrying a burden, not being held up by a crutch.   

WEARY IN WELL-DOING      

 I would have gone; God bade me stay:

I would have worked; God bade me rest.

He broke my will from day to day,

He read my yearnings unexpressed

And said them nay.

 

Now I would stay; God bids me go:

Now I would rest; God bids me work.

He breaks my heart tossed to and fro,

My soul is wrung with doubts that lurk

And vex it so.

 

I go, Lord, where Thou sendest me;

Day after day I plod and moil:

But, Christ my God, when will it be

That I may let alone my toil

And rest with Thee?

CommunionApostles