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paths 15Easter Friday, April 9, 2021

Matthew 13:17-23

So Many Paths – Part IV

Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

The Parable of the Sower is a familiar one and yet . . . we resist changing so that our journey might be a little lighter. We refuse adjustment from our present position even though modification in our living might offer and opportunity for conversion. When we find ourselves traveling a road that seems immutable and absolute we need not fear, for we are graced with the Word that combats all Woe. How do we tune our ears so that we might honestly listen to God’s word? How do we un-muddy our eyes so that might rightly see God’s presence in our lives?

Life gives us surprising obstacles and we lose heart. We lament and complain. We recoil and mourn. Life treats us well and we take credit for all that we have and are. We act with hubris. We become pompous and self-righteous. Once we have set out on a path, do we have any recourse to change? Once we are well on our way, are we doomed to a single outcome?

paths 16The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.

When we hear the Torah, the Prophets and the Gospel we are as free to heed God’s Word as we are to ignore it.

The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.

When we hear Jesus’ parables we are as free to search for meaning as we are to treat these stories as children’s tales that hold no meaning for adult lives.

The seed sown among thorns in the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.

paths 18When we witness injustice we also witness the presence of the Spirit in a hostile and frightening world. We are as free to respond to that Spirit to unit ourselves in God’s grace with Christ’s mystical body as we are to squelch it.

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

When we find ourselves on a difficult path fraught with danger and friction . . . we are as free to ask for, to receive and to respond to God’s grace as we are to remain implacably set in our own rigid way. As we near the end of the Lenten season and prepare to open ourselves to Christ’s Easter joy, let us determine to receive Christ with gratitude, to celebrate God’s presence with delight, and to rest in the serenity of the Spirit.

Tomorrow, a prayer for the journey.


Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

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paths 12Easter Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Matthew 13:1-11

So Many Paths – Part II

How many ways are there to live a life? How many paths of wisdom lead to God? How many times are we called to modify, change or persevere in our chosen journey? Only a close and intimate conversation with God will bring us the answers we seek.

Some journeys look impossible. They are full of traps, and barren of sustenance. We become exhausted just thinking of how we might prepare to travel such a pathway. The heights are dizzying. The precipices terrifying. We begin our journey with downcast eyes and laden heart. We are too frightened to think about the future. When this happens, let us consider that the stony way may be more difficult but that Christ will be all the more present for God knows the treacheries that lurk along the way. The Spirit knows full well that we will tire, that we will seek refuge in a hostile land. And let us consider that when we journey with God, there are always tools available – although we may not see them.

Some seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil . . . it withered for lack of roots.

path 14Some of us travel with blessings abundant. We have few fears, light hearts, and a song in our soul. Yet there is a danger hiding here that we begin to think that we alone are responsible for our good fortune. When this happens, let us be certain to spend time with God each day. Let us give thanks for the abundance of God’s grace. And let us celebrate and share the blessings God has bestowed on us.

Some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

paths 7

Sometimes our journey is a déjà vu of experiences. We know the subtle changes before they take place. We anticipate the loops and curls and we struggle to untangle a series of events that feel all too familiar. We fight to orient ourselves. We wonder how we might move forward rather than spend endless time moving back and forth. When this happens, let us remember to turn to Christ with our questions and fears. Let us consider that God always provides refuge in any storm. And let us celebrate the goodness and love of God.

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to us in parables?”

 

paths 10

Some journeys are shrouded in mystery; we find it impossible to see ahead. Even when we plan well, when we spend time with God, when we do all that God asks of us . . . nothing seems to work until . . . we finally realize that trust is the only necessary commodity we need take on our journey. When this happens, we understand how and where to find peace. We begin to understand that serenity cannot be earned. We see the wisdom of allowing ourselves to fall into Christ’s arms rather than flail against our journey for a lifetime.

Jesus said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted”.

And so we pray: Good and gracious God, we trust you with all that we have and all that we are.

Kind and gentle Jesus, we follow you when we cannot see and cannot hear.

Abiding and faithful Spirit, we lean on you, we rely on you, we look to you for all that we need. Amen.


Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part III

Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

 

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Easter Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Matthew 13:1-9

So Many Paths – Part I

Amos has called us to consider what path we take as we live and work and play and pray throughout our life journey. As we reflect on our celebration of Easter resurrection and joy, let us consider the parable Jesus tells those who follow him. But let us begin with an examination of the journey we ourselves are making.

paths 1Some journeys offer too many choices. We become confused and anxious. We make excuses for never stepping into the world. We shrink from taking responsibility for ourselves. We refuse to see that we have a purpose, or we decide that we do not want to use the gift planted in us. When this happens, let us consider the number of times we have been saved by an unknown force in an extraordinary way. Let us take into account the fact that God knows every detail about us – even details we have not discovered ourselves. And let us determine to trust the force that loves us more than any other that has ever – or will ever – exist.

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. 

paths 2Some journeys terrify us and we shrink from leaving our comfortable place in which have insured that we will never run any risk that endangers anything we stand for. When this happens, let us consider that Amos calls us to step away from a life in which we cling to power and wealth. Jesus shows us that we are not always shunned when we live a life that is out of the ordinary.

Such crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.

paths 3Some paths are familiar and famous.  They look pleasant and easy. They lure us into a false sense of safety and sometimes pride. When this happens we are tempted to forget who made us and why we are here in this time and space. Jesus tells us that he comes from the Father who created us to unite us with him as precious Children of Light.

And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow”.

paths 4Some journeys are undulating and seem as though they never end. They look penned-in and boring. We think of them as predictable and un-exciting. When this happens, we must consider that we have no way of understanding the plan God has in mind for us. We forget that God has placed a potential and a hope in each of us that will heal the woes of the world. We do not remember that we carry God’s word and that no matter the path, God is with us to guide and protect us. What looks like a long and uneventful road may become instead an unforgettable journey.

“As he sowed, some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up”.


Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part II

Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

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Friday, October 2, 2020

Imperishable_Seed[1]1 Peter 1:23

Imperishable Seed

You have been born anew, not from perishable but imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God . . .

We yearn for immortality and yet we are immortal. We want to leave a mark that generations to follow recognize and yet we are part of a chain that has no end and no beginning. We amass material goods thinking to make ourselves secure and yet we receive the gift of eternal guidance and care from the moment of our inception. We ask God for endless gifts that in the end will gain us nothing and yet we ignore the gift of God’s presence that brings us surety, eternity and serenity. We plant perishable seed and leave the imperishable seed to languish.

God says: Comfort, peace, stability. These are the imperishable gifts that many of you struggle to gather about you and to pass on to loved ones. Fame, fortune, power. These are the perishable seed that others of you covet, gather, sow and reap. What you do not see is something that Nature is constantly teaching. What you sow, you will also reap. When you control loved ones they pull away from you leaving you alone. So who is left to you? When you amass wealth you leave little for others. So who abides with you? When you cause chaos and fear you sow distrust and anxiety. So who remains with you? And what is your legacy? You have within you my comfort, peace and stability. If it is fame you seek above well-being you will be disappointed. If it is power you seek before stability you will be disillusioned. If it is fortune you want rather than peace you will be frustrated. You need not amass anything. You already have and already are what you seek.

We have surety in that God never waivers from the lesson of love. We have eternity in our union with God. We have serenity in our relationship with God. These gifts are indescribable. They are given to us freely. All we need do is follow, love one another, and trust in God.


Image from: http://gdwm.org/index.php/2012/03/imperishable-seed-2/

For another reflection on this verse, click on the image above or go to: http://gdwm.org/index.php/2012/03/imperishable-seed-2/

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11: The Teaching

Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019

Modern Corinth

We have before us today the story of who and what we are, what we believe, and how and why we came into being.  This story tells us everything we need to know about why we exist.  It is the teaching that Paul received from Christ, and it is the teaching that he preaches constantly, both to the people of his time and to us today.  Sometimes I need to re-read the story often, especially at the times when the world tests my stamina.  Paul teaches.  We are called to believe.

For a capsule view of the teaching Paul repeats so often we can go to Acts 17 and 18 when he is in Athens and about to depart for Corinth.  He delivers his message as he always does, telling the marvelous story of how we only need to rely on God, how God has come among us to live and suffer and die and rejoice as one of us, and of how we are all brothers and sisters of this God who has risen and who wishes to have us with him in intimate union.  This wonderful message is received in three ways: some scoff, some say they like the idea but are too busy at the moment to hear more, others believe . . . and join Paul in his mission.

We are offered this same opportunity each day as we rise, as we pray, as we work, as we play.  We choose whether we want to poke fun, to be lukewarm, or to become fervent in our dedication to this simple yet amazing story.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening reflection on Acts 16:26 when the disciples are freed from shackles by an earthquake: Just as the disciples were delivered from prison, so were all of us delivered from the prison of sin and death by the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.  In moments of discouragement, let us remember the hope that lights our way to a goal far more wonderful than we can imagine even now. 

The other citations all direct us to reflect on what to do when we are discouraged.  Psalm 126, along with Baruch 4:22-23 (I have trusted in the Eternal God for your welfare, and joy has come to me from the Holy One . . . With mourning and lament I sent you forth, but God will give you back to me with enduring gladness and joy) and Isaiah 55:11 (My word shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it).

When we become discouraged we only need to remember The Teaching: God has come among us to walk with us, to bring us release and peace and even joy.

They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.  (Psalm 126:5-6)

Let us join Christ in the song, let us join Paul in the harvest, and let us join one another in peace and joy.

Amen.


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 20.5 (2009). Print.

For more on Paul in Corinth click on the image above or go to: http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=14&Issue=3&ArticleID=1

Written on May 20, 2009 and re-posted today.

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Luke 8:4-15: Living as an Engaged Listener

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Vincent Van Gogh: The Sower

This familiar story has much to teach us not only about our capacity to instruct others but about the way we engage the mysteries of God’s kingdom.  Commentary tells us that this parable “can serve to encourage those who have looked at their failures and who have forgotten that some seed will yield abundantly.  What is important is to realize that this is a parable, and therefore is not a simple illustration of a point being made otherwise.  Rather, a parable is the message, and a message offered in such a way as to elicit listener involvement in its meaning.  With parables listeners bear heavy responsibility for what is heard and understood; quite often the message is not obvious nor available to casual, unengaged listeners . . . In the interpretation (8:11-15) the parable is made into an allegory, i.e., a story in which each item in the narrative is made to represent something else.  Most scholars agree this interpretation represents the situation of the early church in its missionary preaching to a variety of conditions.  As an ‘explanation’ of the parable, however, the interpretation is less than clear”.  (Mays, 939)

We always want answers to our questions in the same manner as we warn a meal in a microwave oven.  We hit a few buttons and we have our desired result.  Listening for and to God’s voice is not so swiftly done.  In order to hear the wisdom of scripture we must settle ourselves, read the words before us, and then grapple with the “less than clear” interpretation given to us.  As the commentary points out, even when we are active, engaged listeners we will not clearly discern the message we know is being placed before us.  And so we look for more clues.

In Matthew 13:18 Jesus seems to be saying that the word goes out to four kinds of hearers: those who will never accept the kingdom’s word, those believe for a little while and then lose heart and fall away, those believe but who are too anxious to act, and finally those who hear the word and produce fruit abundantly.  We see roles defined and demarcations made; the mystery becomes a bit more clear for us and we are less uncomfortable.  Yet we know there is more.  We understand that with this story – as with all stories that Jesus tells – we are given the opportunity to clear away some of the fog that always clutters our view when we are kingdom-seeking.  We are given the chance to examine our failures and successes without being judged.  Knowing that there is more to be found than these simple equivalents of soil and people, we return to Luke’s Gospel . . . we concentrate and read again.  We lean forward a bit as if to physically engage ourselves with these verses in order to wrestle more clarity from them . . . in order to dispel the fog that impedes our vision.  We pray as we read each verse.

Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you . . . and we offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving for this story that shows us that although we work hard at conveying God’s message of love, we will not always succeed.   We marvel at this God who is so patient and willing to give each of us all the time we need to find our way to him.  Thus one of the mysteries of the kingdom is revealed.

But to the rest [the mysteries] are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand’ . . . and we offer a quick prayer of petition that stony hearts be softened and stiff necks unbent.  And we marvel at this God who is so merciful and loving that he waits endlessly for us to finally listen and hear . . . to finally see and understand.  And here is another mystery of the kingdom revealed.

The image of sowing and reaping was common in Jesus’ day and so the story of the sower was easily understood on a practical level.  What was challenging for Jesus’ listeners then – and what is just as challenging for us today – is to engage with the mysteries Jesus offers to us, to enter into the inscrutable ways of the kingdom, and to willing accept the heavy responsibility of living in this swirling fog of trust, fear, compassion, mystery . . . and love.   This is a message Jesus gives his kingdom-builders.  It is a message we are called to live.

Mays, James L., ed. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 28, 2011.

Image from: https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:The_Sower_-_painting_by_Van_Gogh.jpg

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