Texts: Genesis 25:19-34, Psalm 119:105-112, Romans 8:12-25, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Thoughts on Romans
Last week our text from Romans reminded us that we can never be “good enough” on our own. We need God’s grace. This week, Paul takes that thought a step further. We haven’t arrived once we’ve accepted God’s grace and love. In response, we need to ground our lives and intentionally focus on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and operate out of the Spirit’s power. Why? Because it is really easy for us to engage in acts of service or justice and quickly forget why and in whose name we’re doing those things. Before long, it once again becomes about us and our goodness and not the goodness of God. We listen to our own thoughts and desires instead of following the nudges of the Holy Spirit.
Questions to consider:
How does your congregation practice listening for the Holy Spirit individually and communally? Are people reminded of why they love their neighbor and care about helping those in their community?
Thoughts on Matthew
Good soil is recognizably different from poor soil. Good soil is rich and deep and dark and not too sandy or dry, full of the right combination of nutrients. Good soil is able to produce a lush field of wheat or rice or corn, or a forest full of trees, or a vineyard, or a vegetable or flower garden. There also has to be the right amount of water, and there has to be sunlight – just like with water, not too much or the plants will burn up, and not too little or they won’t grow at all. Soil and conditions all have to be right in order for plants to thrive.
There is one more thing that is crucial to creating good soil, and that thing is the ancient practice of letting the fields lie fallow once in a while. Letting the land lie fallow is a biblical teaching and commandment of God to the Israelites to let their lands rest every seventh year, as a reminder that the land belongs to God and that God’s people must trust in God’s providence. Just as the land needs to be worked and planted, the land also needs to lie fallow. This seventh year is a Sabbath year, a year of rest, just as the seventh day is a Sabbath day, a day of rest in the Lord, intended that we may be mindful always to the fact that we belong to God and not to this material world in which we work and play.
It makes a lot of sense that God commanded this, because I’ve read that if you work the soil over and over again without a rest, you will eventually deplete it until it is only able to produce crops are small and weak.
So making soil fertile requires having not too many rocks or shallow, hardened places. It requires that there be plenty of nourishment through water and sunshine and a balanced mix of nutrients. And it requires making time for periods of rest and renewal.
So the question for us who are hearing the Word today is this: How can this idea of preparing soil for planting be likened to the cultivation of our hearts for the reception of the gospel? In other words, how can we have hearts of disciples? What do we need to do to nourish and prepare our hearts so that when the seeds of God’s Word fall on us they will take root and grow? How do we fertilize our soil?
Excerpted by Notes by Dawn Chesser
“Be Thou My Vision”
“Breathe on Me, Breath of God”
“Every Time I Feel the Spirit”
“Trust and Obey”
Giver of all good gifts, you have blessed us with so much. Yet all of that pales by comparison with the knowledge that you claim us as children, as heirs, our divine birthright. Too often, we have overlooked or ignored that gift. As we present our tithes and offerings to you this morning, help us to freely let go of all we possess and that possesses us, and hold fast to the birthright that is our greatest gift. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen. (Genesis 25:19-34)