13. LET OUR HEARTS TAKE COURAGE

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Friday, March 5th

Read Psalm 27.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:14 (NRSV)

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Ann Radmacher

Psalm 27 begins with the familiar words, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The psalmist then goes on to name some very real threats, but dismisses each of them with his trust in God’s protection and strength. Evildoers will stumble and fall… armies and wars will not shake his confidence… he will be sheltered from trouble… he will be lifted up even if his parents forsake him. This is our spiritual invitation for today, to Let our hearts take courage, even when we face adversaries that threaten our well-being.

What adversaries do we have? What causes us to fear?

Some of mine are social, global, and environmental issues; some include my worry for the well-being, safety, and equality of my children and grandchildren; and some are health related, such as the possibility that my cancer will return. But there are also lesser “adversaries” that can seem just as intimidating or threatening. A lack of confidence as I write my book – will it be good enough? A concern that I will upset someone when I write of difficult or divisive topics – will I receive angry responses? I think we all can feel quite vulnerable when we put ourselves ‘out there’, don’t you?

When I was preparing this reflection, I learned that (except for the Apocrypha) the Bible does not include the word bravery, although the word courage is used quite often. Perhaps there is no significant reason for this, but I was blessed to discover the differences between bravery and courage. I hope you will be, too.

Here is an excerpt from one article:

Bravery is the ability to confront pain, danger, or attempts of intimidation without any feeling of fear. It is strength in character that allows a person to always be seemingly bigger than the crisis, whether he is indeed more powerful or lesser than what he is facing. Courage, on the other hand, is the ability to undertake an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the eminent and unavoidable presence of fear. More than a quality, it is a state of mind driven by a cause that makes the struggle worth it. Unlike in the case of bravery, a person fueled by courage may feel inevitably small in the face of peril, pain, or problems. The essence of courage is not the feeling of being capable of overcoming obstacles, but rather the willful choice to fight regardless of the consequences and limitations.Courage is a result of a deep understanding of the matter; a courageous person truly understands what they’re getting themselves into and who or what they’re doing it for. For instance, a courageous man knows he might die if he enters a burning building to save his son. He shivers at the thought of burning to death, but proceeds anyway – because of the love he has for his child.1

This excerpt certainly describes Jesus! And these words can describe each of us, too. We are called to keep helping one another, to keep working for what is right, to keep doing what Jesus calls us to do, even when we are intimidated or afraid.

There may be enemies all around us – real, imagined, or exaggerated – but how might we face them with courage? How can we take on difficult but important challenges despite our fear?

The psalmist encourages us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” The moment we pause to wait for the Lord, we will discover he is already with us. We continue on in faith, trusting we will find our guidance and strength in his presence, letting our hearts ‘take’ courage from God because we cannot generate it on our own. We move forward – not knowing what we may encounter – but knowing the One who is worth it all. We may be shaking in our shoes, but our souls will be centered in certainty.

~~~~~

May we let Jesus continue to call us to new and surprising challenges, trusting that he goes with us, providing everything we need to do the next right thing with unwavering courage.

~~~~~

Our Bible readings for Monday will be Psalm 61:4 and Mark 9:5.

1Read more: Difference Between Courage and Bravery | Difference Betweenhttp://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-courage-and-bravery/#ixzz6mYRbto2K

Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

12. LET US STAND IN AWE

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Thursday, March 4th

Read Psalm 33:1-9.

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
Psalm 33:8

Today our spiritual invitation is to Let us stand in awe. When we think of standing in awe of God, we may think of reverently observing such majestic grandeur as mountaintops, sunrises, stars in the night sky, the planets and universe, waterfalls, oceans, canyons. We may think of gratefully experiencing such unforgettable times as mission trips, altar calls, concerts, births of children or grandchildren.

But perhaps God is most awesome in the ways God becomes small, in the ways God comes to us in our normal daily living. God is in the majesty, but God is also in the minute moment…

This morning I prayerfully journaled about several concerns that were upsetting me, and I wondered when we would finally have answers and brighter days. A few moments later, Jim and I were having our morning devotional time – and the reading spoke exactly to what I was feeling. The words gently instructed me to not just wish and wait for better days, but to be attentive to the goodness that still abounds, to savor the small sweetness of the present moment.

These moments of answered prayer or divine insight are when I am most filled with awe. I sense that God is SO close, listening to my small self, and assuring me of God’s amazing love and guidance. God is most likely always creating these “I am with you, I hear you, I will help you” moments! And how many of them do we miss?

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:1-10 NRSV)

How can we not be filled with awe?

God is the infinite, beyond-all-knowing, eternal, ever present, awesome Creator of the universe.

God is also the infant, fully-human Jesus, the Spirit moving within us, the words we hear or read or pray, the humble sacrifice of love, the lessons found in nature.

God is in the sheer silence but also the quiet whisper.
God is in the waterfall but also the dewdrop.
God is in the snowstorm but also the snowflake.
God is in the mountain but also the pebbles in the stream.
God is in the cathedral but also the cottage.
God is in the gospel choir but also the birdsong.
God is in the powerful sermon but also the inner question.
God is in eternity but also in this very moment.

~~~~~

May the Spirit help us to notice, appreciate, and be filled with awe today, as we find the presence of God in the majestic grandeur, as well as in the humble lowliness of our everyday moments.

~~~~~

Our reading for tomorrow will be Psalm 27.

Photo by Karen, Outer Banks, 2016

Bible verses found at https://classic.biblegateway.com/

11. LET US PRAISE

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Wednesday, March 3rd

Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.
Isaiah 12:5 (NRSV)

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
Psalm 67:3 (NRSV)

…and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”…
Romans 15:11 (NRSV)

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

Hebrews 13:15 (NRSV)

Years ago, I was attending a Christian concert when the woman next to me was overwhelmed with joy and lifted her arms to the heavens. I was touched by her enthusiasm – until she reached over and pulled my arm up, too. Evidently I wasn’t as visibly moved or excited as she thought I should be. After that moment, my growing enthusiasm was diminished by my greater annoyance. My praise turned into an inner pout. 😉

Our spiritual invitation for today is to “let (us) praise you… let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…” God IS so incredibly good, and worthy of our praise. I like to think of praise as a mutual outpouring of joy and love. We thank and glorify God for who God is, and for all God does. Out of love for us, God accepts our praise and inspires more love, adoration, and awe in us.

But how do we best praise God, even those of us who are a little more inhibited (or a little more annoyed)?

I love the example of St. Therese of Lisieux. Very humbly, and with sincere love…

She loved flowers and saw herself as the “little flower of Jesus,” who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God’s garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title “little flower” remained with St. Therese.1

Like St. Therese, we will praise God by living our lives in reverent gratitude and by being our true selves in God. We best praise God by living as God has created us to live; by genuinely shining as God has designed us to shine. Our praise can be singing loudly in the shower, or whispering thanks as we rock a grandbaby to sleep. Our praise can be writing beautiful poetry, or stumbling over simple words of prayer. Our praise can be serving one another through our unique vocations, or being still on our back porch. Our praise can be lifting our hands to the heavens, or standing in quiet joy. Discovering who and how God made us to be and live may be the most genuine and grateful praise of all.

~~~~~

God in perfect wisdom and creativity has formed us beautifully and uniquely. Today, may we let God reveal to us more of our true selves – and then may we praise God by being and living that way.

~~~~~

The Bible reading for tomorrow will be Psalm 33:1-9.

1Saint Therese, “The Little Flower” | Society of the Little Flower – US

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

10. LET LIGHT SHINE

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Tuesday, March 2nd

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Isaiah 2:5 (NRSV)

Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
Psalm 4:6 (NRSV)

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
Psalm 31:16 (NRSV)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 (NRSV)

Here in the northern hemisphere, the daylight hours are increasing, and my spirit is lifting. The sunshine brings forth warmer days, new growth, and brighter surroundings. Oh, there are gifts to be found in the seasonal darkness, but I rejoice when the days grow longer!

The Bible speaks often of light – the shining light of God, as well as the light of love we reflect from God’s light. God’s light can guide us through the wilderness… illuminate our way in the darkness… reveal our imperfections… heal our wounds… enlighten our thoughts… shine hope on our future… and simply brighten our souls with joy, peace, and love. Our spiritual invitation for today is to let God’s light shine on us so that we may let God’s light shine through us onto others.

What are the best ways to let the light of God shine for someone? One important way is to let God control our dimmer switch…

My usual image of the light of God’s love is one of incredible brightness; one that shines with infinite joy and delight. I see that type of light shine from the faces and through the voices of the Gaither Vocal Band in concert, or the sheer joy that radiates from a community gathered to celebrate a special occasion, or even the beautiful smile that beams from someone who is happy to see me. This light is so bright, so full, so powerful – a vivid display of the goodness of God’s love!

But when life is hard for someone, we do not bless by pretending that it isn’t, shining bright lights of joy and delight. I have a friend who attended a funeral for a dear one who died tragically. The minister spoke as if this senseless death was the best thing to happen to this young man and his loved ones gathered there. My friend struggled to find the God she knew was there to comfort and heal.

These are the times when we let God turn down our brightness, to let us become like a small candle flame; to become a light that gently warms, comforts, and signifies hope. We ask God to let us shine enough light to help and soothe, but not to diminish the darkness that reverently acknowledges and quietly honors the sorrow or despair. The light of God’s love has no need to diminish or discard this much-needed time of grief or pain. God’s healing will come as a gradually brightening light over time.

I think of Jesus, whose light wasn’t always the bright light of enthusiastic joy. His light was the care and comfort he offered to those who were suffering or grieving. His light was the anger against injustice. His light was the feeding and filling of those who were hungry. His light was the love shown in the silences against his accusers, in his words of salvation to the criminal hanging next to him, and in his words of forgiveness for the people who hurt and crucified him – including all of us.

We shine the light of God’s love not to bring attention to ourselves, but to reveal the goodness of God. We may become the illuminating light of a lamp when people are searching and seeking. We might become the soft glowing embers of love for dear ones gathered near. We could be the focused beam of a flashlight for someone who feels lost or unsure. When we let God’s light shine upon us and within us, God will then guide and control the brightness of the light that radiates from us, with all sensitivity and goodness.

~~~~~

May we let the light of God shine upon us, be absorbed within us, and then radiated from us, always with the intensity that will best enable others to see themselves as beloved.

~~~~~

The readings for tomorrow will be Isaiah 12:5, Psalm 67:3, Romans 15:11, and Hebrews 13:15.

Photo by Karen, taken at Swan Creek Metropark, Toledo

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

9. LET US BE GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Monday, March 1st

Read Galatians 5:22-26.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25 (NRSV)

Last summer I wrote a blog series about cairns, the stacks of rocks we often find creatively assembled along hiking paths.* The cairns are so simply beautiful, and they often serve as guideposts for our way. Today our spiritual invitation is to “let ourselves be guided by the Spirit.” Certainly the Spirit can guide us far better than any cairn could!

But how DO we know that we are on the right path, that we have truly let the Spirit guide us? As we see in this passage from Galatians, the right path is less about our location or direction, and more about the spiritual fruits we bear while we journey onward. If we are following a path that leads to greater love, joy, or peace, we are being led by the Spirit. If we pause along the way to share patience, kindness or generosity with someone, we are being led by the Spirit. If we choose to leave a path that has diminished our faithfulness, generosity, or self-control, we are being led by the Spirit.

The right path is any journey that helps us to bear and share the good fruits of God. An unexpected turn can become a peaceful scenic view. A few minutes lost in the woods can become a time of quiet sanctuary and trust. A well-worn path can become a place to encounter a new friend. Even a trial or two, a stumble or a storm, can become fertile soil for new seeds to become future fruits.

Perhaps you are fortunate to be receiving and offering good fruits of the Spirit on your journey today. If not, is it because you need to find a new direction – or have you simply stopped noticing or nurturing these fruits? Is a weariness suggesting that it is time to leave this path, or to pause and replenish on it? Do you feel stagnant because spiritual fruits are not welling up in your soul, or from neglecting to let them flow out for others? Do you remain on your current path because it is the right one, or because you lack courage to change direction? How might both the blessings and burdens along your path nurture new growth within you?

Today is a good day to pause and reflect on our journeys and the ways we can foster spiritual fruits in abundance. With the Spirit guiding us each step of the way, we can sow plentiful seeds, nurture tender saplings, harvest a rich abundance, and produce fruits that are both greatly savored and generously shared.

~~~~~

May we let the Spirit guide us so that with every step we are planting, nurturing, or bearing the precious spiritual fruits of God.

~~~~~

The Bible readings for tomorrow are Isaiah 2:5, Psalm 4:6 and 31:16, and Matthew 5:16.

*If you would like to read the Cairn series, the first post is here: Cairns for Our Journey (Introduction)

Photo by Garrett Sears on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

8. LET IT BE DONE…

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Friday, February 26th

And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.”
And the servant was healed in that hour.

Matthew 8:13 (NRSV)

Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 15:28 (NRSV)

In these two Let passages, we see how Jesus incredibly brings healing to different people in different ways. In Matthew 8, the centurion’s servant is healed of paralysis. In Matthew 15, the Canaanite woman’s daughter is freed from a demon, even after Jesus initially seems critical of the woman’s request. There are other verses that describe the many ways Jesus healed people, but these two verses include his words, let it be done… “Let it be done for you according to your faith… (and) as you wish.” This is our spiritual invitation for today.

If we were to ask Jesus to heal us today, how might we ask to “let it be done” according to our faith? How would Jesus’s words transform our prayer?

Jesus always wants to heal and help. Jesus heals us in ways we may not even know we need. The answer to our prayer may not be the one we think we need; sometimes our healing comes with an unexpected result. In his pastoral care, Jim has witnessed healing when people find a place of acceptance and peace with their suffering, or when they find relief from pain and anguish with the sweetness of eternity. When we ask according to our faith, we are entrusting Jesus with our outcome. We open ourselves to let him heal us in the ways he sees best, for in faith we have learned and experienced his incredible goodness. This brings us peace.

How might we ask for healing, to “let it be done” as we wish?

Jesus’s words help us to clarify and perhaps narrow what it is we are asking. Do we truly wish for physical healing even if that means difficult rounds of chemo, or hours of painful physical therapy? Do we sincerely wish for emotional healing even if that means speaking words of forgiveness to an enemy, or journaling a terrible experience, or facing our inner fears? When we ask Jesus to heal us as we wish, we are invited to first examine the true intention of our prayer. This brings us focus and clarity.

What would you ask of Jesus if he were to let it be done according to your faith – trusting Jesus for the outcome?

What would you ask if he were to let it be done as you wish – trusting Jesus for the process?

~~~~~

May we let the perfect, tender love of Christ Jesus freely work to heal us – according to our faith and as we truly wish – leaving our outcomes and processes in his holy and healing hands.

~~~~~

The Bible reading for Monday is Galatians 5:22-26.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

7. LET US GO ON…

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Thursday, February 25th

Read Mark 1:35-39.

He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns,
so that I may proclaim the message there also;
for that is what I came out to do.”

Mark 1:38 (NRSV)

Jesus and his disciples have had some very busy days traveling the countryside, teaching and healing people. As his fame spreads, more crowds come to him for help and healing. So, on this day, Jesus gets up to have a quiet time of prayer in the early morning darkness. But the disciples search for him, and upon finding him tell Jesus that everyone is looking for him. And Jesus responds with our invitation for today: “Let us go on… so that I may proclaim the message… for that is what I came out to do.”

We have a mission that includes sharing the love of God. We have work to do that includes reaching others with the salvation news of hope, healing, joy, and peace. Today we are invited to be mindful of our mission as we go about our daily living. We never know when someone may be needing an act of kindness, an encouraging word, the healing of forgiveness, or the assurance that they are beloved by God and by us. When we begin to watch and listen for the needs around us, we will discover many opportunities to be compassionate, understanding, and helpful; we will have opportunities to reveal and share the love of Christ.

Notice that Jesus first takes time – early in the morning – to center in God through prayer. Yes, even as we have a mission, we also need to replenish and refresh our spirits in God. We are invited to rest, but not to “rest on our laurels” (to be satisfied with your achievements and not to make an effort to do anything else).* Do we see a need but then excuse ourselves? “I have already helped someone else this way” or “I donated to this cause a few months ago” or (one of mine) – “I write about my faith; do I really need to speak of it?” In our prayer time, we can ask God for strength, courage, motivation, or any help we need to serve God’s mission well.

There is another let verse in which Jesus speaks of his mission. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…”1

In what ways might Jesus free us, show us, and release us to serve God’s mission? Do we need to be released from our desire for comfort, security, or ease? Do we need to be cured of our blindness to the plight of others? Are we being oppressed by such powers as doubt, or fear, or lack? When we pray that God will enable us to “let us go on” in our purpose and mission, in what new ways might we be set free? Jesus has come to do all of these – for us!

~~~~~

May we let Jesus inspire us to take enough time for prayer and reflection, to never stop pursuing God’s purpose and mission in our daily living, and to let Jesus free us from all that hinders us from doing so.

~~~~~

The Bible readings for tomorrow are Matthew 8:13 and 15:28.

1Luke 4:18.

*definition from Cambridge Dictionary

Photo by Florin Bică on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

6. LET IT BE SO NOW

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Wednesday, February 24th

Read Matthew 3:1-17.

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way
to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Matthew 3:15 (NRSV)

People were coming from Jerusalem and beyond to be baptized by John the Baptist. John’s powerful call for people to repent, as well as his critical warning for the Pharisees and Sadducees, stemmed from his humble awareness that “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize… with the Holy Spirit and fire” (verse 11). So we can imagine John’s surprise when Jesus comes to ask John to baptize him!

When John questions Jesus, we hear Jesus’s invitation for us today: Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus gives several gifts in this. Jesus honors John by affirming all that John has been doing and saying. He also becomes one with us by participating in the sacraments that we are called to practice. And Jesus honors God by fulfilling God’s purpose and God’s call to righteousness. In the same way, we are to follow his example. We are to honor one another; we are to keep the sacraments and other spiritual practices that deepen our love for God and humanity; and we are to fulfill God’s purpose and call to righteousness.

Perhaps our greatest invitation is to see how Jesus never took advantage of God’s favor, nor did he seek any privileges over the rest of us. Jesus became one with us; he was never concerned about himself or his personal gain. In many ways, Jesus lived a life that was more difficult than the lives we are privileged to live. In a few weeks, we will even remember how he became one with the criminals who were being crucified.

Today, our “Let it be so now…” invitation is to keep the practices and sacraments that draw us closer to God; that bond us as equals in this community of humanity. Our invitation is to examine ourselves for the ways we may be blinded by our privilege, or may rely so much on God’s merciful goodness that we do not fully grasp or repent of our sinful ways. Our invitation is to emulate Jesus’s selfless example, and to recognize that even as we are dearly beloved, we are no more loved than everyone else.

~~~~~

May we let Jesus inspire us to keep our faithful practices, to follow his example of righteousness, and to grow in our love for all of humanity.

~~~~~

Our Bible reading for tomorrow is Mark 1:35-39.

Photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash

Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com

5. LET US GO TO BETHLEHEM

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Tuesday, February 23rd

Read Luke 2:8-20.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:15 (NRSV)

The earthly life of Jesus began with Mary’s first LET: Let it be with me according to your word… (Luke 1:38).* Through Mary’s willingness to let God use her life as the mother of Jesus, our own lives have been forever blessed. Another Let is found in the story of Jesus’s birth, in the words of the shepherds after they had been greeted by the angels: “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” This is our spiritual invitation for today.

Let us also go now to Bethlehem – and revisit Jesus as a tiny baby, born humbly in austere surroundings. As we envision Mary holding her precious infant, marveling at this little life, innocent and helpless, we may wonder if she could know all that would be in store for him… and her. I am reminded of one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Welcome to Our World.” Chris Rice’s lyrics bring tears each time I hear them. I picture Jesus as an innocent, helpless baby who would one day bear a cross, wear a crown of thorns, and endure a terrible suffering and death.

Fragile finger
Sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart
Whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
1

When I was young, I imagined that Jesus could bear the hardships of his life – even his death on the cross – better than I could, because he held super powers as God’s son. The more I began to understand Jesus as fully of God but also very fully human, the more I have appreciated how much he must have worried, agonized, suffered, and endured terrible pain. Growing in this humble awareness and profound gratitude has kindled my deeper love for him.

Let us go to Bethlehem today, and hold in our hearts this tiny, helpless baby who is truly one of us. Let us love this child who only lived in love and truth, and was tortured and killed for doing so. Let us be deeply grateful that God’s love was shown both incredibly and intimately. Let us always remember that Jesus was fully human, so we never forget how much we are divinely loved.

~~~~~

May we let the Bethlehem story remind us today of God’s infinite goodness, shown to us in the tender infant Jesus, so that we may grow in gratitude, awe, and devotion.

~~~~~

The Bible reading for tomorrow is Matthew 3:1-17.

*For another reflection on Mary’s LET, you may revisit this Advent post: Advent #10: Love In The Limbo.

1Artist: Chris Rice; Album: Deep Enough To Dream, 2001

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Bible verses are from BibleGateway.com

4. LET US LISTEN

THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – Monday, February 22nd

Read Matthew 13:1-23.

Let anyone with ears listen!”
Matthew 13:9 (NRSV)

God’s good word of love, guidance, and mercy is generously sown everywhere through a variety of ways. In the parable of the sower, Jesus uses rich symbolism to show us how God’s word is a seed, promising and filled with potential, but the places where it lands are not always conducive for growth. He ends with the instruction to Let our ears listen to this word of God! This is our spiritual invitation for today.

I know I have been like all these different soils at various times in my life…

Some of the seed falls on the well-worn path, where birds quickly snatch the seed away. The path speaks to me of normalcy; our usual routes, our regular paths that we routinely walk without much thought for new possibilities. When we are comfortable like this, we may receive the Word but have no motivation to absorb it or to change our ways, and soon it vanishes from our thoughts.

The rocky ground is described as shallow soil filled with stones, where the word may be received with joy but cannot form roots. When trouble comes, the seed quickly dies. Perhaps the stones are like the obstacles and hurdles that keep us from letting God’s word deepen in our souls. Some of our obstacles might be our busy lives, our daily cares, our inner doubts. We feel blessed by God’s loving word, but then another trial or hurdle comes our way, and soon we are more focused on the rocks than the seeds of goodness around us.

The image of thorns describes the distractions and cares of our world. Thorns bring to mind attention-getters that snag us away from the word, such as the desire for success, the fear of scarcity, the concern for our image, the stress of careers or other responsibilities. We receive the seed and it begins to root, but these thorns creep in again to choke our tender sprouts so they wither and die.

Finally, there is the good soil, where the word is heard, accepted, and bears much fruit. What makes good soil in us? Our good soil needs the nutrients of prayer and reading, the waters of refreshing gratitude and joy. Our good soil needs the aeration of quiet, open spaces to breathe. Our good soil even includes the breaking down as compost those things that are no longer useful for us.

When Jesus explains why he speaks in parables, he refers to Isaiah (44:18), “They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand.” This brings to mind another Let verse in which Jesus tells his disciples to listen.

In Luke 9, Jesus has just healed a young man by freeing him of an unclean spirit. While everyone is amazed and astonished at what Jesus has just accomplished, he turns to his disciples and says, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.”1 This seems like such an odd statement in his moment of miracles and awe. Of course, the disciples did not understand, but they didn’t even question his words. In fact, in the very next verses we read about the argument between them as to which of them was the greatest.

Jesus’s truth-telling came between conversations of “Look what Jesus can do for us!” and “What can he do for me?” We love to absorb the glory and the miracles. We want to hear about a right hand seat and the guaranteed favor. We eagerly hear the words of love, forgiveness, eternal life, and hope. We are not as comfortable hearing about sacrifice, pain, torture, or death. We would rather ignore words of warning, rebuke, teaching, or truth. But in the story of Jesus, every word is important. Every moment is part of it all.

What are the ways you find yourself distracted, missing the words of Jesus? What might God be trying to tell us today that we don’t want to hear? How do you hear Jesus finishing this sentence: “Listen! You need to hear this…”?

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May God open our hearts and our ears to listen, and open our souls to absorb and nurture every seed of God’s good word.

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The Bible reading for tomorrow is Luke 2:8-20.

1Luke 9:44 (NRSV)

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from BibleGateway.com