Telling the Secrets of the Kingdom

Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”  Jesus 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.”  (Luke 8:10)

In the 4 Gospel accounts, the word “Kingdom” (of heaven or of God) appears some 115 times.  The Evangelist Matthew uses “Kingdom” the most – 52 times, while the Evangelist John only mentions it twice.  Depending how you count the sayings, Matthew uses parables, metaphors or pithy statements thirteen times (25%) to compare the Kingdom of Heaven to something more familiar to his listeners: a sower of seeds, good seeds, a grain of mustard seed, leaven, a treasure, a merchant in search of fine pearls, a fishing net, a householder and his treasure, a king settling accounts with his servants, a householder hiring laborers for his fields, a king and the marriage feast for his son, wise and foolish maidens and their lamps, a man entrusting his property to  variously talented servants, and the separating of sheep from goats.

These comparisons give us a sense that the Kingdom may be different than we imagine – for all parables require some interpretation, but Jesus does not tell us exactly how the Kingdom is like these many different common scenarios.  The Lord leaves their interpretation open ended, for his disciples to hear and and grasp the hidden meaning.  Yet, He says the secrets of the Kingdom are given to them. The meaning of the ambiguous parables and enigmatic aphorisms are the secrets of the Kingdom of God which Christ is gifting to us.  The parables, metaphors and apothegms often defy common logic or our sense of “justice” causing us to have to lay aside an earthly sense of correctness in order to see or hear the hidden meaning.  They are like photos of a common object, taken from an unusual perspective – it can take us a long time before we realize what we are looking at, if we ever figure it out.

By describing the Kingdom in terms of parables, Christ moves us away from thinking about the Kingdom purely in terms of commandments, rules, regulations, or rubrics.  Christ uses the comparisons paradoxically – the Kingdom of heaven is like… – to give us a sense that it is like nothing we can imagine.  The parables and metaphors of the Kingdom turn out to be an apophatic way of thinking about the Kingdom exactly because Christ doesn’t explain how the things mentioned are able to enlighten us  about the Kingdom.

The parables of the Kingdom have been proclaimed by Christians for nearly 2000 years.  They are the true teachings of Christ, timely in every generation and situation, for the Kingdom of Heaven is not itself changing.  Whether the Faith is prospering or being persecuted, whether the listener is rejoicing in blessings or surviving through suffering, the Kingdom of God remains the same.  It is a reality not affected by our times or by our mental state.

St. Paul whom God chooses to proclaim the Kingdom, discovers that being faithful to God can leave one in perplexing circumstances.  If one believes faithfulness to God is going to automatically yield prosperity, just read 2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9, in which Paul describes soldiers hunting him down to arrest and kill him, and then also suffering personally some “thorn in the flesh” – an affliction he attributes to Satan, perhaps a serious, disfiguring illness which God will not take away from him.  Despite these setbacks, he remains faithful to that Kingdom which can be compared to seeds and sowers, talented servants as well as sheep and goats.

Even in the face of such terrible recent disasters – hurricanes in Texas and Florida, earthquakes in Mexico, wild fires in California, and a mass shooting in Las Vegas – the Kingdom of God remains the same reality revealed to us in the Gospel lessons.  Despite our worries about health care, and divisive politics, policy turmoil, soaring drug related deaths, the Church calls us to remember the Kingdom of Heaven, so that we can remain properly oriented in an uncertain world.   The mystery of the Kingdom, helps us to keep our feet on firm ground, even as the sands shift and the water rises against the house.

The Gospel does give us an answer to current worries – it gives us a vision of the Kingdom of God.  It is just that this insight is not necessarily the answer we think we need to solve all our problems.

The Lord Jesus taught this parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  (Luke 8:5-9)

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Understanding Seeds and Parables

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  (Matthew 13:8-10)

“This tension is present as well in Jesus’ use of conventional proverbial sayings, using ambiguity to involve hearers and reader-learners in interpreting their meaning and to evoke something radically new. For example, Jesus used a familiar farming image of planting seeds that grow: “When the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:29).

The farmer does not make the seed grow but must use his judgment to discern when it is ripe, a judgement learned from his own farmer-father and his previous experience. But here the image is applied to the coming of the Kingdom! The reader-learner is invited to see the kingdom as growing seeds and ripening plants, but how does one judge that a kingdom is ripe?

If it is ripe, a harvest requires cutting down and threshing. What does that expect of reader-learners?”  (Charles F. Melchert, Wise Teaching, p. 244)

St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Sower of Seeds

In Luke 8:5-15, the Lord Jesus tells the following parable:

“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?” And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

 

St. Cyril of Alexandria writes about the types of persons represented by the three types of ground upon which the seed of the word fell. Concerning those of the first kind he says:

No sacred or divine word will be able to enter those who have minds that are hard and unyielding, for it is by the aid of such words that the joyful fruit of virtue can grow. Men of this kind are highways that are trodden by unclean spirits, and by Satan himself, and they shall never be producers of holy fruit, because their hearts are sterile and unfaithful. (Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, Homily 41)

The second kind have

a religion without roots…when this kind of person goes out of the church, he immediately forgets the holy teachings he has heard there. And as long as Christians are left in peace, he keeps the faith, but as soon as persecution arises, he will be ready to take to flight in search of safety.

This holy Father finally exhorts us not to allow the cares of this world to choke the tender shoots of faith and commitment as soon as they sprout from the soil of our hearts and minds. We must not be deceived, thinking that thorns and new shoots can exist side by side.” (Archbishop Dmitri, The Parables, p. 14)

God’s Word is a Seed

5096763138_3435941b81_n“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)

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich finds deep meaning in the parable:

“The field signifies the human soul; the various parts of the field signify different human souls. Some are like the ground alongside the path, others like stony ground, yet others like patches of thorns.

Others, though, are like good ground, well away from the path, clear of stones and thorns. Why does the sower not cast his seed only on the good ground, rather than along the path or among the stones and thorns? Because the Good News of the Gospel is common to all, not secret and not confined to just one group of people, as had been the case in much dark and ‘magical’ teaching among the Greeks and the Egyptians, that had as their goal more the acquisition of power over a man, or by one group of people over another, than the salvation of the soul. ‘What I tell you in darkness, that speak you in light; and what you hear in the ear, that preach you upon the housetops’ (Matt. 10:27).

Thus the Lord commands His disciples; the Great Sower commands the sowers. God desires the salvation of all human souls, for ‘He will have all men to be saved’ (1 Tim. 2:4), ‘not willing that any should perish’ (2 Pet. 3:9). Were the Lord to have sown His divine teaching only among good people, the wicked would have had the excuse that they had never heard the Gospel, and would have ascribed their perdition to God, not to their own sinfulness. No-one will ever come to perdition through God’s fault, for God is righteous and no sort of fault can approach the light of His righteousness.” (Homilies, p 214)

Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC        (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
 ( BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Even if we think that some people have hardened hearts, hearts of stone or heads full of rocks, we are to share the Good News with them.  Even if we think they will never produce anything but thorns and weeds because we can see that in their lives, we are to live in such a way as to be light to them and to provide them with the seed of the Gospel.  It doesn’t matter what they are like, the Sower of Good Seed sends us into the world to continue His ministry.

Confession: Preparing the Garden of Our Hearts for God’s Seed

In Luke 8:5-15, our Lord Jesus Christ tells the parable of the sower of good seed:

“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Then 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 to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’ “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones 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. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

Saint Gregory Palamas (d. 1359AD) comments:

“The Word which brings about the salvation of our souls is analogous to seed. Just as farmers first cultivate the earth with the plough, then sow seed, so must we prepare ourselves beforehand to accept the heavenly seed, by which I mean the word of spiritual teaching. But we are not inanimate, unfeeling earth which is cultivated and sown by others, but living, breathing, rational ground. For that reason we must make ourselves ready by means of repentance. To give you an indication of the starting point of repentance and the cultivation of the soul, it is what those who approached John’s baptism did on their own initiative: ‘They went out’, it says, ‘and were baptized in Jordan, confessing their sins’ (cf. Matt. 3:5-6, Mark 1:5). The confession of sins is the beginning of this cultivation, the start, that is, of repentance and preparation to accept within us the saving seed, the word of God, which is able to save our souls. Ploughing the ground was devised by farmers as a means of extracting wild roots from deep down in the earth, and rendering it capable of receiving our seeds and plants. Confession does exactly this for the reasonable field, our heart. It digs up the evil passions concealed within it and throws them out, making it ready to take in the sacred seeds and suitable to grow a fine harvest of virtues. Just as, after Adam’s transgression, the earth began to bring forth thistles, thorns, and other useless plants (Gen. 3:18), so man’s heart bears shameful and evil passions and thoughts, and the sins which they in turn produce.” (The Homilies, p 460)

(see also my blog Bearing the Cross: Putting Your Hand to the Plough)

The Nature of Good Soil

In Luke 8:5-15 we read the parable of the sower, who sows good seed but its yield is dependent on where it is planted.  Jesus said:

“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.”

Archbishop Anthony Bloom comments:

“The word ‘humility’ comes from the Latin word ‘humus’ which means fertile ground. To me, humility is not what we often make of it: the sheepish way of trying to imagine that we are the worst of all and trying to convince others that our artificial ways of behaving show that we are aware of that. Humility is the situation of the earth. The earth is always there, always taken for granted, never remembered, always trodden on by everyone, somewhere we cast and pour out all the refuse, all we don’t need. It’s there, silent and accepting everything in a miraculous way making out of all the refuse new richness despite in spite of corruption, transforming corruption itself into a power of life and a new possibility of creativeness, open to the sunshine, open to the rain, ready to receive any seed we sow and capable of bringing thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold out of every seed. I said to this woman ‘Learn to be like this before God; abandoned, surrendered, ready to receive anything from people and anything from God.’ ” ( Beginning to Pray, pg. 35)

Prayers for the Increase of Love & the Uprooting of Animosity

Christ the Sower of Seeds

 

The St. Tikhon’s GREAT BOOK OF NEEDS  has prayers to be inserted in the Divine Liturgy “for the increase of love and the uprooting of hatred and all animosity.”  I’ve used these prayers not only in Vespers but in other services as well as I find them very moving.  The imagery of love being a seed planted and needing to be nurtured while animosity and hatred are the thorns and thistles which choke out love calls to mind the Parable of the Sower ( Luke 8:5-15 ).  I think the petitions of this service can be readily adapted by individuals in personal prayer involving these same issues of love, hatred and animosity.    These prayers are also good for communities which have experienced the divisiveness of a political campaign in which the candidates vindictively hurled all manners of slurs and name-calling against their opponents.  We in the church need to be reminded that all in the church are to be treated as brothers and sisters in Christ.

A SERVICE FOR THE INCREASE OF LOVE

AND THE UPROOTING OF HATRED AND ALL ANIMOSITY

AT THE PROSKOMEDIA:

O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Who gave a new commandment to Your disciples, that they should love one another: Accept this offering for the remission of all the sins of Your right-believing servants.  And by Your Holy Spirit renew in us love for Your goodness and for neighbor, which has waxed cold in us.  Establish this with strength in our hearts, that, fulfilling Your commandments, we seek not on earth our own ends, but that which is to Your glory, the building up of our neighbor, and for salvation. 

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE DIVINE LITURGY:

That we may be cleansed of our sins and transgressions which have dried up in us love for Him and for our neighbor, and that it may be established by the power, action and grace of His Most-holy Spirit, and rooted in all our hearts, earnestly let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be planted and rooted in us by the grace of His Most-holy Spirit the new commandment of His New Testament: that we love one another, and not merely satisfy ourselves, but rather always strive for His glory and the building-up or our neighbor, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be uprooted in us hatred, envy and jealousy and all other passions which destroy brotherly love, and that there may be planted unfeigned love, fervently let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be kindled in us the fervent love of God and our neighbor by the grace of His Most-holy Spirit, and thus burn out to the very roots the passions of all our souls and bodies, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be uprooted in us the passions of self-love, and rooted instead the virtue of brotherly love by the power of His Most-holy Spirit, with broken and contrite hearts let us pray to the Lord.

That we may not love the world and that which is in the world, but rather have true love for God and His glory, and that we may love that which is profitable and for the salvation of our neighbor, so that we may ever gaze on the good things prepared in heaven, and that we may seek these with all our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

That truly we may love, not just our friends and brothers, but also our enemies, and do that which is good to those who hate us, with the power, action and grace of His Most-holy Spirit moving us, let us pray to the Lord.

That we may examine ourselves, condemn ourselves, and ever looking upon our own transgressions, humble ourselves before God and before everyone, never judging our brothers or sisters, but loving them as our very self, by the power, action and grace of His Most-holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.

That we may imitate the burning love of the Christians in ancient times for God and neighbor, and that we may be their heirs and successors, not only in word, but in true action, by the power, action and grace of the Most-holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord. 

That He may keep us immovable in the True Faith, in peace and the unity of burning love, increasing in all virtues, and preserve us unharmed from all soul-corrupting passions, by the power, action and grace of the Most-holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord. 

TROPARION, Tone 4:

You bound Your Apostles in the bonds of love, O Christ, and have firmly bound us, Your faithful servants, to Yourself, that we may fulfill Your commandments and have unfeigned love for one another, through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Only love of Mankind.

KONTAKION, Tone 5:

Kindle our hearts with flames of love for You, O Christ God, that being inflamed by this, in heart, mind and soul, we may love You with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, and that keeping Your commandments, we may glorify You the Giver of all good.

PROKEIMENON, Tone 7:

I will love You, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my foundation

My God is my helper, and I will hope in Him.

            EPISTLE:    1 JOHN 3:10-24

            GOSPEL:    JOHN 13:31-35

AFTER THE GOSPEL:

O Lord our God, in Your mercy, as You are good, look down upon the ground of our heart in which love has dried up, cruelly overgrown with the thorns of hatred, self-love, and innumerable transgressions.  And as You are the Source of all good, fervently we entreat You: having released a drop of the grace of Your Most-holy Spirit, richly bedew it that it may bear fruit, and make it increase, out of burning love for You, the root of all virtues—the fear of You—as also vigilant solicitude for the salvation of our neighbor, and the uprooting of all passions, evils of various forms, and hypocrisy, and as the Lover of Mankind quickly hearken and have mercy.

O Master Who gave a new commandment to Your disciples that they should love one another, renew this by the grace of Your Most-holy Spirit acting in our souls and hearts, that we will never become selfish, but always endeavor to please You and strive for the salvation our neighbor and pay close attention to that which is beneficial, we pray You, the merciful Giver of all that is good, hearken and mercifully have mercy.

You gave the first and greatest commandment, that we should love You, our God and Creator, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and a second, like it, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, and that on both of these hangs the Law and the Prophets.  Having taught us to fulfill these commandments in deed, convince all of us by the grace of Your Most-holy Spirit, that pleasing You, our Savior, through the salvation of our neighbor, we may receive Your promised blessings, for, fervently falling down before you, our Master and Savior, we beseech You, quickly hearken and mercifully have mercy.

That we may be perfected in Your love, O our God, constrain us, by the grace of Your Spirit, O Master, to have sincere love for our neighbor.  For, to suppose that we have love for You, but hate our brother or sister, is a lie and to walk in darkness.  Therefore, O Merciful One, that there be kindled in our souls and hearts love for You and for our brother or sister, we pray You, as You are merciful, quickly hearken, and as You are compassionate, have mercy.

O All-compassionate Lord, by the Grace of Your Most-holy Spirit, establish in us Your Love, that we may truly love, not only our brothers, sisters and friends, but, according to Your divine command, our enemies, as well, and do good to those who hate us, striving sincerely for their salvation, we pray You, O Wellspring of Good and Abyss of Love for Mankind, quickly hearken, and, as You are tenderhearted, have mercy.

Communion Hymn:

The Lord said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love each other, even as I have loved you.”

Bringing the Seed to Fruition (2000)

Sermon Notes on Luke 8:5-15 from 15 October 2000

Seeds are not magical dust that bring about some magical change in the soil itself.

To some extent, we don’t even have to keep praying for more seeds, for it is not the quantity of seeds which brings about the abundant growth either, good soil brings to fruition a few seeds as well as the many.

It is not the case that the good soil gets the most seed, for in the parable Jesus tells us that SOME seed falls on the good soil, it is the same SOME that fell on the path and on the rocky soil and among the thorns.   The sower is generous to all, he does not withhold the good seed from the unproductive soil, just like God gives rain and sunshine even to the wicked.

We are also struck by the fact that it is not the sower who gives the seed growth, for he merely scatters the seed.  The ability for the seed to come to fruition and bring an abundant harvest lies, at least in Christ’s parable, in the soil.   So it is the intimate relationship between the seed and the soil which is critical.    God has marvelously adjusted the seed and the soil which receives it to work together to bring forth the abundant harvest.   God has created a marvelous world in which His Word and we who receive it work together to bring forth a wonderful harvest for God. 

The divine seed grows in us or remains prepared for growth, independent of our human actions.  This gives each of us and the entire world great hope.  No matter how bad a person appears to us, as long as that person lives, there is in him or her that seed and hope of salvation.   So our parable is a parable of hope for ourselves and for the world.

And knowing that that divine seed is planted in our hearts and minds and souls, may be good reason for us to meditate on what will it take for that see to gestate in us and produce its fruit.  A pregnant mother takes precious care of that seed growing in her.  A mother often organizes her life around and in relationship to the child she bears.    So we too should learn from the pregnant mother how to care for the seed of God in each of us.    

Sometimes we think that our church is very patriarchal, and indeed all is given to us from our father.  But we receive the Word of God in ourselves and in love are asked to bring forth the good fruit of God.  Here, we must be like the loving mother.  Indeed the Mother of God becomes for us the very image of what each of us must be to fulfill the good promises of Christ’s parables and teachings.  She indeed is the one in whom the Divine Seed blossomed and brought forth the salvation of the world.

The Sower, the Seed, the Soil (1997)

Sermon notes from 19 October 1997  on Luke 8:5-15

Creatio of Adam & Eve

GEN 2:7     “then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”  (NRSV )

“then the Lord God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human being became a living creature.”  (R. Alter, Tr.)

Hebrew  –   ‘adam’ from the adamah   – the human from the soil

The intimate relationship between the seed and the earth,  it is this relationship which characterizes the different types of humans:

 The seeds on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

 The seeds on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.

 As for the seed that fell among the thorns, these are the ones 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.

 But as for the seeds in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

The Divine Seeds have been sown in every person on earth.    There is no human being created who does not have the Divine seed within them.    Each is created in the image and likeness of God.   Each has the potential of having the Divine Life bring forth fruit – bring forth more life in their own lives.   Each person is a garden in which the life-giving power of God is planted.

What defines the types of people on earth is the relationship each of us has with the Word of God, whether

 we attempt to keep the divine seed far from our hearts

 or,  we value the seed only in times of  prosperity, ease and success

 or, we want the divine seed to be just part of the mix of seeds in us, but really fear maybe  we’ll be missing out on something if we get rid of the weed seeds

 or we allow the divine seed to take root in us.

For now we get (please excuse the pun) to the root of the matter.    For Christ, the Son of God,  the one who enlightens every human who comes into the world, taught us that there does exist in the world a seed, a life giving light, that is different from all other seeds and lights which humans experience.   And that life and light is from God.   It is divine, and it is to be valued above everything else on earth.   The Lord God taught us to seek this divine seed out and never to be satisfied until we have it planted in our hearts, until our hearts become a well tended garden, in which we are the laboring gardeners tending to the plant which God is causing to grow in us.

 Isaiah 55:10-11:   “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The Sower and the Seed (2002)

Sermon notes from October 2002    The Sower (Luke 8:5-15).   How can we apply this Parable to our daily lives?

Today’s Epistle Lesson:     (2 Corinthians 6:1)  As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.   [Working together with him, do not let the grace of God which you have received be for nothing].  

Today’s Gospel Lesson:      (Luke 8:11-15)  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”      

So how might we apply the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-15) to our lives if we accept the notion that the “seed” is the Word of God?  Let’s take the example of the Gospel Lesson we heard two weeks ago:   (Luke 6:31, 35)   Do unto others as you would have them do to you.   …..    You must love your enemies and do good (…because the most High himself is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked)

Now let’s think through the two Gospel lessons:

{Luke 8:12} “The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”     

Example of Luke 8:12 –      Jesus could not possibly have meant for me to love my enemies.  They’ll just take advantage of me.   I’ll get no justice if I love my enemies.  They won’t get what they deserve if I love them.  They’ll never learn if I love them.  I understand what Jesus was saying, but it doesn’t apply in this case.

{8:13} “The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.”     

 Example of 8:13  –    I tried to love my enemies but they didn’t understand what I was doing.  Certainly, I’ve tried to live by the words of Jesus, but I’m worse off now then I was before.  I apologized but he didn’t forgive he only gloated that he was right and I was wrong.   I really do try to love my enemies, but I can’t forgive her, anybody else I can forgive.
 The convicted child rapist who has asked me to pray for him: We pray for him by name at each liturgy and we pray – for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, visitation, and for the pardon and remission of sins for ____   But do I really mean it?   Do I really want him to be forgiven by God and by us or do I really hope he rots in prison forever?

{8:14} As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones 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.   

 What difference does it make whether I love them or not, I really don’t have anything to do with them anymore.  My life is so much better now, I really don’t care what happens to them.   Things are going good, so I’m certainly not going to revisit old wounds.   You know I have enough concerns with the stock market the way it is, I can’t be bothered with loving an enemy.  Everything in my life was going just fine until they came along, and now everything is a mess, so don’t ask me to love them.

{8:15} But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.    

Example of 8:15 –   In as much as it is possible for me, I will live at peace with those around me.  I really can’t stand him, but I will pray for him and his family.  She got what she deserved, but I will help her anyway.  I hear you Jesus, you tell me to love as God has loved me, but I find it hard and I don’t really want to do it, but I will at least listen to you and think how to apply this teaching to my life, no matter how I feel about it.