Exploring the Word | Spreaker

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not conformed, transformed (8.21)

Exodus 1:8-2:10
8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”

11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites. 14and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.”

17But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”

20So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

1Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

5The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said.

7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Romans 12:1-8
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Living sacrifice
Spiritual worship


What does it mean to be conformed to this world?

How does that look in your life?

What does it mean to be transformed by the renewing of your mind?

What kind of transformation might God be trying to work in you?

Pray for your partner during the week for God’s transforming power.

There are all kinds of forces in the world that shape us. The way we grow up, our family influences, the people we work and study with, all have an impact on who we are and what we value.

Some of the forces that shape us are obvious and others are much more subtle. Advertising, for instance, is obviously designed to get us to buy whatever is being advertised. The more important and subtle result of the constant stream of advertising is to make us want things in general.

It doesn’t make any difference for our souls if we buy Coke or Pepsi, but it does matter that we crave bottled sugar so much that we forget God’s gift of clean water. It does matter that we spend so much of our time and effort pursuing things that God and our neighbor get only leftovers of our time, energy and money. It does matter that we fret about having enough when eleven million people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of starvation.

There are forces in the world that want us to want things for ourselves and to fear other people. There are forces in the world that are happy about conflict and division. There are forces in our world that want us to believe that our rights, our possessions, our comfort, our desires are the most important things.

God calls us not to be conformed to this world. God calls us not to take the shape of the warped, deformed values around us. God calls us to stand apart, to be different, to take a different form, a different shape. God calls us to be transformed, to take a new shape.

Actually, it’s not such a new shape. In the beginning God made us in God’s image: in the image of love, community, compassion and mercy. Through greed and fear and sin we’ve been bent out of shape. God calls us back to our original shape through Jesus and his cross-shaped love. God calls us to be transformed; to be made new.

That transformation is about a change of mind and heart, a change God brings about inside us when we give up control. In that transformation we learn to discern and discover God’s will for our lives and for the world. It’s not usually an immediate change, but it takes place through prayer and community and ministry. We’re transformed by following God, especially when that’s not the easy thing to do.

Shiprah and Puah give us a great example of not being conformed to the world. Pharaoh gave them a direct order to help kill the Israelites. They could have been conformed to a society that taught them that Israel was a threat, that those foreigners living among them were dangerous and sub-human. They had probably been exposed to that message all their lives in different ways and now that message was reinforced by the command of the most powerful man in the world.

But they were not conformed. Instead of being afraid of Pharaoh, they trusted God. Instead of fitting into hatred, they were transformed by courage into instruments of salvation. They were renewed in love and a small corner of the world was changed for the better.

How is God trying to change you? How will the love of Christ renew your mind?

Thanks be to God.

Abundant grace (8.14)

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2aGod has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
... 29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28
10Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
            This conversation between Jesus and the Canaanite woman has always bothered me. I’m so used to Jesus being all about welcoming people and here he is calling this woman and her daughter dogs. It’s not a very nice story, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

            Still, this time through Matthew’s Gospel the story makes a little more sense to me. Jesus was always clear about his mission. God sent him to call sinners to repentance, to look for people left out of the community. But before this passage he sees his mission as part of his religion: he is a Jew and his mission is to Israel.

We see that clearly a few chapters earlier when Jesus sends his disciples out to preach and heal. He tells them not to go to the gentiles or Samaritans. Instead he sends them out to the “lost sheep of Israel.” The gospel is about welcome for those who didn’t feel welcome in synagogue because of their past or their occupation or other things that kept them away from God. But Jesus felt that the gospel was for the people of Israel, for God’s chosen nation.

Then Jesus meets this Canaanite woman who begs him to heal her daughter. It seems like Jesus doesn’t think she fits into his mission, but at first doesn’t know what to do. Finally he stops to tell her he was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.

She’s not interested in his limits. She’s a mother and she cares about two things: her daughter needs help and Jesus can help her. Instead of being discouraged she simply kneels and repeats her plea for help.

That’s when Jesus tells her it’s not right to give the children’s bread to dogs. Maybe Jesus feels the pressure of too much to do in too little time. He knows the cross is on the horizon and getting closer. Maybe he’s concerned that there are so many lost sheep in Israel that he might not have time to get to all of them.

If I were that woman I would have taken offense. Maybe I would have said something hateful and walked away disappointed. But the woman turns Jesus’ words around. She knows she and her daughter are not the focus of Jesus’ ministry. She is not an Israelite, not a child sitting at God’s table. But even dogs can eat what falls on the floor. This woman knows enough about Jesus to know her daughter only needs a few crumbs from his table to be healed.

Jesus is amazed at the woman’s faith and maybe her words stick with him as he and the disciples continue down the road. I can’t prove it, but I like the idea that Jesus learned something about his mission from the Canaanite mother. After this encounter his perspective seems to open wider. He recognizes that many of the people he is preaching to are not going to listen, but others he didn’t preach to at first will follow joyfully.

Jesus continues to tell parables about the mystery, the surprises and the glory of the kingdom of God. But he also tells harsh parables about bad tenants and guests refusing to go to a feast.

These parables are about how Israel’s leaders have turned away from God; how they have rejected God’s rule and taken power for themselves. These parables are also about how God will welcome new people who will appreciate the gift of grace and respond with love. Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, but his calling goes out also to the lost sheep of every nation, to you and to me. His calling goes out to others who have never heard of Jesus before.

In two of the most important stories toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus seems to have moved completely beyond the limits of family and boundary. In Matthew 25 Jesus describes what will happen when he judges all the nations of the world. He will separate the world’s population into two groups, not based on nationality or religion but based on how they have treated the poor, the hungry, the sick and those in prison. In his final words to the disciples after his resurrection Jesus tells them to make disciples of all nations.

I won’t go all the way and say this Canaanite mother is the key to this change in Jesus’ language, but she is part of the story. Maybe Jesus finds out that the dogs are more grateful for the crumbs on the floor than the children are for fresh bread hot from the oven. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with kids; I know I once took my mother’s wonderful cooking for granted.

A father told me his oldest son was visiting after his first year living on his own. The son went to the refrigerator to get something to drink and was shocked at the abundance and variety he had always taken for granted. Because he now knew what it was like to provide for himself, he could appreciate in a new way how much his parents had provided for him all his life.

The same thing happens with our faith. Those of us who have grown up believing in Jesus, sometimes take his love and grace for granted because it’s always been a part of our life. Sometimes we even feel like faith is an obligation and burden. We feel like kids, bored by the table we eat at everyday.

Meanwhile there are hungry dogs drooling for a crumb of good news, a crumb of Christ’s hope. There are people you know who wake up each day longing for something more in life. People are starving for hope and love and community, but they don’t know where to look for it.

Often I’ve noticed the people most excited about their faith are people who meet Jesus later in life. The most excited disciples are people who weren’t used to the bread of life so they can still recognize what an amazing gift it is.

For a congregation like ours, where most of us have grown up in a church it’s a challenge to recapture our sense of wonder. It can be hard to feel the joy of God’s amazing grace because it’s just what we’re used to.

The best way to rekindle our joy is to bring new people into the community who can share their wonder with us. I don’t mean just bringing people from a different church into our church, though of course, every disciple of Jesus brings important gifts to a new community. I mean bring people who don’t know Jesus at all into the community of faith. Think about how to introduce people to Jesus for the first time and start a new relationship; then watch as the spark of interest becomes a flame of faith. Be inspired by the amazing things Christ can do in a new believer.

Another way to get excited about Jesus is to open our eyes to new perspectives. Just because we’ve grown up with Jesus doesn’t mean we can’t still see him with fresh eyes.

Each week at the Shake it Up CafĂ©, our vacation Bible school, there’s a “carry out,” something we ask the kids to do during the week ahead. It’s kind of like homework in faith building, but more fun. So here’s our carry out for this week: spend some time in prayer each day. Pray for God to shake up your life with joy and excitement. If you do that each day with an open heart I think you’ll be surprised by what you see at the end of the week.

Let’s give that process a jump-start right now. Pair off with someone sitting near you. Tell them one thing you would like prayer for so you can grow more enthusiastic in your faith. It can be really general like: “I want to feel God’s love in my heart.” Or it can be very specific like, “I need help dealing with the confusion I feel about miracles in scripture.”

After you’ve shared something, I’d like your partner to pray briefly with and for you out loud, but softly. Often, it helps to hold hands when you pray together. The prayer doesn’t need to be long or elaborate, but try to open you heart and spirit to each other and to God. Don’t worry if it feels uncomfortable to pray like that at first; many of us haven’t grown up with much intimacy or spontaneity in our prayer life. God will take whatever we offer and work with it. Once your partner has prayed switch roles so you both have a chance to share and to pray. Today, we’ll just take about two minutes each. Then I’ll close us in prayer together before we move on to the next part of our service.

Monday, August 8, 2011

saved by grace

Matthew 14:22-33
22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Reading Romans 10:5-15
5Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

            One of the key questions in human existence is how to live a good life. We ask that question in different ways. Religiously we sometimes put it in terms of how to please God or how to be saved. In this passage, Paul talks about righteousness and salvation.

            Paul talks first about “the righteousness that comes from the law.” His summary is brief, scriptural and to the point: “The person who does these things will live by them.” In other words, we become righteous by doing the right thing, by following the rules. We say the same thing in different ways: actions speak louder than words.

            This view of righteousness is true because being righteous, doing the right thing has to include action. Laws and rules are good, and society can’t function without them. The Law Paul talks about is the Law of Moses, which is the rules and values God gave to Israel. That means they are not only a reflection of the values of the people of Israel, but a reflection of the society God wanted Israel to be. Following the law is a good thing, especially when we’re talking about God’s law.

            At the same time while our actions are important they don’t tell the whole story. It’s possible to put too much emphasis on rules and behavior. Life is more complicated than a set of rules. Laws and rules work well as a guide to life (if they are good laws), but they require interpretation and an open heart to adapt to changing circumstances. Sometimes we forget this and put too much confidence in the law itself.

predestination and calling

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
1   O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2   You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
          you discern my thoughts from far away.
3   You search out my path and my lying down,
          and are acquainted with all my ways.
4   Even before a word is on my tongue,
          O LORD, you know it completely.
5   You hem me in, behind and before,
          and lay your hand upon me.
6   Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
          it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7   Where can I go from your spirit?
          Or where can I flee from your presence?
8   If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
          if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9   If I take the wings of the morning
          and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10  even there your hand shall lead me,
          and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
          and the light around me become night,”
12  even the darkness is not dark to you;
          the night is as bright as the day,
          for darkness is as light to you.
23  Search me, O God, and know my heart;
          test me and know my thoughts.
24  See if there is any wicked way in me,
          and lead me in the way everlasting.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

            This passage from Matthew always catches my attention. On the one hand, I’m not a huge fan of judgment and burning evildoers in the furnace. On the other hand, this is about the best example passage for our Presbyterian tradition of predestination, and I value that heritage. Plus, this passage inspired our first hymn, a classic Thanksgiving favorite of mine.

            Predestination is part of our tradition that we often sweep under the carpet. At the same time, it’s one of the beliefs Presbyterians are known for, so it’s important to be familiar with the basic idea. Predestination means that God knew and decided our eternal destiny long before we were born. Like the wheat and weeds in the story there is nothing anyone can do to change the outcome. No matter how you tend the plants, wheat is always wheat and weeds are always weeds.

There’s something about having our destiny fixed that rubs us the wrong way; it’s an insult to our sense of freedom and fairness. The problem with predestination is the judgment part. God judges people without any regard for what they have done. Some are wheat and some are weeds. It seems unfair and cruel.

            But the God we meet in scripture is loving, not cruel. The God we serve loves us so much that he sent Jesus into the world to call us back home. The God we know takes on our sin and defeats it once and for all. In the end, judgment is about redemption; God judges to save and redeem. God uses judgment to break human pride and selfishness so grace can flow freely for everyone. I believe that when everything is said and done God’s love will win and even the thorniest weed will be transformed in love.

bearing fruit

Romans 8:1-11
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law — indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

            Ok, who are the characters in this story Jesus tells?

            Who do you think each of those characters is in this room?

            Today Scott, Taylor and I are sowing the word and we are all the soil. We don’t normally think of soil as active, but in this story the soil is very important. Jesus talks about four different kinds of soil. He talks about the path where the seed can’t sink in but instead gets eaten by the birds. There’s some rocky soil where the seed grows quickly, but doesn’t have enough soil to grow strong. Then there’s soil where there are thorns that choke out the grain. Finally, there’s good soil where the grain grows plentifully and multiplies.

            There are lots of things that can interfere with the growth of God’s word. One of the obstacles Jesus specifically mentions is understanding. The Bible can be hard to understand and as someone entrusted with sowing the word, one of my most important jobs is helping you understand it. Without understanding the seed can’t sink in and grow.

A farmer doesn’t just plant seeds; he or she also takes care of them and nurtures them. Preparation, care and tending the soil and the new growth are just as important as sowing the word. But it’s not just my job; the elders of the church are responsible to help develop educational opportunities so we can grow in understanding. And each of us is responsible for actively engaging in our spiritual life, for understanding and applying the word to our life. The soil isn’t just a passive part of the story; Jesus calls us to work on being better soil.

The first question the passage has for us is what kind of soil we are and how we can be better. How can we become good soil to receive, nurture and grow God’s word in us? What gets in the way of that growth now and how can we remove those obstacles to growth?

             Let’s take a few minutes to discuss these questions in groups. We aren’t just one type of soil. We are partly good soil, and partly choked by thorns. We’re partly so short on understanding we can’t grow and partly enthusiastic but too shallow to endure. If one of these kinds of soil really resonates with you I invite you to move to that group. Like I said, we are all responsible for engaging with the word, so whichever group you think is going to help you most is the place you should be. If you stay where you are, that’s fine too, since we each have each kind of soil in us.


            Our role in becoming better soil and my role with other teachers and worship leaders here in sowing the word is only the first part of the story. You are not just soil to receive the word; when you receive the word it grows in you and the grain that grows is an important part of the story too.