Knee Jerk Devotional: January 20, 2021

Mark 4:1-20


He went back to teaching by the sea. A crowd built up to such a great size that he had to get into an offshore boat, using the boat as a pulpit as the people pushed to the water’s edge. He taught by using stories, many stories.

“Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward a welcome awakening. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”

He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.

“The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.

“And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

“The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

“But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”

Today I finally understand part of the reason the Daily Office is so important to my spiritual life. I thought that maybe it was for the routine. Discipline is something that I am really lousy with and I thought, well this is the way. “I will read, write, and process each day,” I thought and this will be a good discipline.

But, here we are on inauguration day in the United States and the temptation is to write about that and give you my thoughts on the politics of the day. But, you know what, that’s so shallow and easy. I am sure when I scroll the Twitter or Facebook there will be posts from other pastors or pundits saying, “If your pastor doesn’t talk today about the inauguration then change churches,” or some such nonsense.

It turns out that the Daily Office provides a touchstone and a rootedness in the Scriptures that helps us realize there is something more important than the news of the day. It presses us into the eternal.

This is one of my favorite parables that Jesus shares.

The question is so front and center: How will I respond to grace? How will I respond to the message of the gospel?

More and more I think about a question that raises up my own mind about this parable: “How will I cultivate my life so that it produces fruit? What work do I need to do to cultivate the soil of my life so that it’s ready to multiply?”

The reality is that all of us go through seasons where we struggle and the frustration is real. We see the weeds of life growing. Worry and stress begin to crowd out our faith. Hope can be hard to come by at times. It feels like we may be losing the plot.

The fact of the matter is that we have to work at keeping the soil of our souls tilled and ready for the Word. I am coming to think that this is the work of sanctification. Sanctification is a $10 word for “growing in our faith.” The Apostle Paul calls it, “Working out your salvation in fear and trembling.” Which is just another way of saying that we have responsibility to grow in our faith.

What are you doing to make sure that the soil of your soul is ready to love well? Because, that’s the fruit. When we love our neighbor and love our enemy we are practicing the ministry and mission of Christ. We will produce all kinds of fruit. There will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. We will declare with our words and lives the excellencies of Christ.

What’s the state of the soil of your soul?

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