Tag Archives: change

Not Freedom From/ Freedom To


On Friday afternoon, I was IMG-20110407-00025near the high school office and there was a small group of recent graduates there. Two of the boys were wearing their hats, which is against the school rules. When I asked them to remove their hats they looked at me with a touch of, “we aren’t students here anymore, we don’t have to follow the rules” in their expressions. Being rather congenial individuals they did remove their hats. Over the years there have been many who immediately do something they were not allowed to do as some sort of proof that they are free of school and its rules!

Rather than continuing with Elijah today, we join the church in Galatia reading letters from Paul. Paul had been in correspondence with them for quite a while. There were issues in the church with the false teaching that salvation could only be achieved through first believing, and then performing acts to qualify. In the first 4 chapters of Galatians we read of Paul trying to beat it into their heads that we are saved by faith alone, and not works; that there is no human action needed to add to Christ’s sacrifice in order for us to receive salvation. In his notes on Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Scott Hoezee equates this part of Galatians with saying, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”(“Proper 8Ccenter For Excellence In Preaching”)

In today’s reading Paul almost seems to be saying the opposite. “Don’t just stand there, do something!” (“Proper 8Ccenter For Excellence In Preaching”) He moved on to explain that we are now free of the law, by which he is referring to the complex series of religious laws called the Torah, but that being free of the law doesn’t mean that we are free to do anything we want with no limitations. The fact that my Mother’s residen
ce has a soft ice-cream machine that is in operation 24 hours/day would allow me to eat ice-cream cones continuously, but that would not be correct use of that freedom as it would end up making me sick. When, through Christ, we were freed, we were not freed from something, but we were freed to something. We are freed to, “through love become slaves to one another.” Paul sets up a comparison between the law, and freedom in the Spirit as our potential guides for living.  The law may be characterized as being; a dictator, demanding, condemning, and unable to grant freedom. While the Spirit is the source of the power to cope with desires of flesh and it signals liberation. (Cousar)

I guess the overall theme or question of today would be, “Just what is freedom?” If we were prisoners, freedom would be having the gate opened and walking out. In North America, we talk a lot about our freedom. In theory we are all free to get an education, find a home, work, play, form groups, and speak out about things we feel are important. We are free to meet here today and we are free to go as a group to a public park and have a picnic. Freedom, however, is not a guarantee of an easy ride, it is not necessarily our ticket to continual joy and celebration. When the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt they sang songs  and danced with joy, but then they went on an epic 40 year journey full of frustrations, challenges, and years of uncertainty.

            Paul said, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence. Live by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16) Just what is this flesh to which Paul refers? Sarkos, or flesh, is an interesting term which Paul uses as the foil to the Spirit. Flesh is, of course, the stuff on our bones, but in the New Testament, the expression ‘desire of the flesh’ is often used to refer to making decisions according to our self-interest, deciding in favor of human action, or our base animal nature.

            Paul gives two lists in this letter. First he lists the things that we should not be doing despite our freedom. These things, the works of the flesh, reproduce themselves almost slavishly, like addictions and the flesh is passive and powerless.  Paul lists: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these.” (5:20)

Unlike the works of the flesh which reproduce themselves, the fruit of the Spirit may be cultivated and grow and flourish. The Spirit is active, it is power. The fruit of the spirit is Love. It doesn’t say fruits of the spirit are, and then make a list, but rather the fruit of the spirit is love, and then continues with eight more terms all of which can be wrapped up in the first word. The following things both go into love and come forward from love; joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

A world, or a nation freed from all law would be anarchy, a frightening prospect. But the idea of living in a world with no laws is only scary only if you assume that it also means everyone being perfectly self-indulgent, thinking only of themselves with no thought to the effects of their actions on others.  When a prisoner is released they are free to go and live well and build decent honest lives for themselves. They are equally free to go out and reoffend and get themselves thrown right back in prison (Nettleton). “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) Live in the Spirit.

Malala Yousefzai is a young woman from Pakistan with an amazing story. Growing up, she attended the school her father ran. When the Taliban took control she was worried that they would force the closure of the school which educated girls and boys. At 12 years of age, she began to write a blog for the BBC under an assumed name. Later the Pakistan parliament awarded her a prize for her work and that brought her name forward.

“When she was 14, Malala and her family learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her. Though Malala was frightened for the safety of her father—an anti-Taliban activist—she and her family initially felt that the fundamentalist group would not actually harm a child.

On October 9, 2012, on her way home from school, a man boarded the bus Malala was riding in and demanded to know which girl was Malala. When her friends looked toward Malala, her location was given away. The gunman fired at her, hitting Malala in the left side of her head; the bullet then traveled down her neck. Two other girls were also injured in the attack. The shooting left Malala in critical condition, so she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her swelling brain. To receive further care, she was transferred to Birmingham, England.

Despite the Taliban’s threats, Yousafzai remains a staunch advocate for the power of education.” (http://www.biography.com/people/malala-yousazai)

Think for a moment about this statement I found this week. Half of the world is redoing their kitchens while the other half are starving. (Don Delilla)

We are free to redo our kitchens, but we are also freed so that through love we may work to feed those who are starving. It doesn’t mean we can’t do things for ourselves, but rather than letting those things consume us, we need to rely on the Spirit and focus our lives on the fruit.

Hoezee, Scott. “Proper 8Ccenter For Excellence In Preaching”. Cep.calvinseminary.edu. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 June 2016.

Nettleton, Nathan. “Laughing Bird Working Ahead”. Laughingbird.net. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 June 2016.

“Malala Yousefzai”. Biography.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 June 2016.

Hitting the Road With Jesus


the-long-road-home          Today we leave behind the devil and his temptations and take to the road. For Jesus, the road is his ministry and the road to Jerusalem which will end with the cross and the resurrection. And for the Israelites, it was the road to the Promised Land. When Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope, he dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean in St Johns, Newfoundland with the plan to run across the country. Terry began his run with a ritual, just like we mark the seasons of our lives with baptism to represent the beginning of life in the family of God, graduation as the end of a journey for education, and the beginning of a whole new journey.

            In Joshua, we read about the second celebration of the Passover. The night before they began the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites followed God’s directions to mark their lintels and door frames with the blood of a lamb and to follow certain procedures in their meal. This ritual, called the Passover, marked their houses, allowed their children to live, and marked the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land. They were free, no longer slaves, but transitions in life aren’t instantaneous! They include space (the road) and time (for us 40 days, for Israel 40 years). When Moses led the people out of Egypt they surely expected to travel directly to the Promised Land, but they were barely through the sea when they began to complain. Rather than 250 miles in one month they were destined to lead an unsettled existence in the wilderness for 40 years. The miles multiplied as the time went by, they needed the time to make them ready, “to grapple with the promise of God to see the Promised Land” (“A Plain Account: A Free Online Wesleyan Lectionary Commentary” 2016)

          After all their time in the wilderness, they finally crossed the Jordan. We meet them there this morning. Keep in mind that these men, women and children were not the same ones who had left Egypt. Not a single one had ever been to Egypt, they were never slaves, and they were born and raised in the wilderness. They had never known a settled life, had never grown crops, and they had not carried out the ritual of Passover. The first thing they did in the Promised Land was not to set up defences, not to charge the nearest city, but they repeated the ritual that had begun their journey. Though Passover has been celebrated ever since this ritual marked the beginning and the end of their transition to a new land and a whole new way of life.

          Congregations with pulpit vacancies are on the road to renewal. From the final services and farewell parties, they head into the wilderness stage of the vacancy. There is no way for to know how long the search will take. There are so many steps to go through: dealing with various supplies in the pulpit, committee meetings, review the membership rolls, reflection on priorities and vision, writing of the congregational profile, and then considering candidates. During vacancies in the churches to which I have belonged, I was always torn between feeling frustrated at how long it took and concern over finding the correct person. In a paper on Joshua 5:9-12 Hannah Beers said, “our desire to know the final outcome limits our ability to see how God is working in the present…Throughout the wandering Manna was miraculously provided for by God and the Israelites did not want for food.” (“A Plain Account: A Free Online Wesleyan Lectionary Commentary” 2016), and “On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land,” (Josh 5:11).

A Broken Stradivarius

One of the greatest ambitions of any violinist is to play a Stradivarius. Meticulously handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari these very rare violins produce an unrivalled sound. So you can imagine the excitement of acclaimed British violinist Peter Cropper when in 1981 London’s Royal Academy of Music offered him a 258-year-old Stradivarius for a series of concerts.

But then the unimaginable. As Peter entered the stage he tripped, landed on top of the violin and snapped the neck off. I can’t even begin to imagine how Peter Cropper felt at that moment. A priceless masterpiece destroyed!

Cropper was inconsolable.  He took the violin to a master craftsman in the vain hope he might be able to repair it. And repair it he did. So perfect was the repair that the break was undetectable, and, more importantly, the sound was exquisite.

The Academy was most gracious and allowed him to continue using the Stradivarius. And so night after night, as Peter drew his bow across those string, Peter was reminded of the fact that what he once thought irreparably damaged had been fully restored by the hand of a Master craftsman. (“A Broken Stradivarius | Stories For Preaching” 2016)

 

While Terry Fox never got to dip his leg in the Pacific Ocean, God was at work. Through Terry’s days on the road and his struggles he inspired the nation and a generation. For 3,339 miles, from St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost city on the shore of the Atlantic, he’d run through six provinces and now was two-thirds of the way home. He’d run close to a marathon a day, for 143 days. No mean achievement for an able-bodied runner, an extraordinary feat for an amputee. He raised $24.17 million on his own run. The first memorial Terry Fox Run was held in September of the year he died. More than 300,000 people walked or ran or cycled in his memory and raised $3.5 million.  The master craftsman was definitely at work on this road with Terry (Schrivener 2016).

Remember that the master craftsman is also working on our own roads of life: through relationships, jobs, education: from endings to new beginnings; on our journey to forgiveness, and to Easter; God reminds us of our identities as his forgiven children through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Lent prepares us for and Easter prepares us for the transition through death to the new lives waiting for us, but we can’t get there without the pain of Good Friday.

 

 

“A Broken Stradivarius | Stories For Preaching”. 2016. Storiesforpreaching.Com. http://storiesforpreaching.com/?s=A+Broken+Stradivarius&submit=Search.

“A Plain Account: A Free Online Wesleyan Lectionary Commentary”. 2016. A Plain Account: A Free Online Wesleyan Lectionary Commentary. http://www.aplainaccount.org/#!Joshua-5912/bhul0/56d3c27c0cf2154b8027d5fc.

Schrivener, Lesley. 2016. “Terry Fox & The Foundation – The Marathon Of Hope”. Terryfox.Org. http://www.terryfox.org/TerryFox/The_Marathon_of_Hope.html.

The World In A Cart: The World In The Word


When I was thinking of a topic for a post today I was thinking about the future, the repitition of semesters here at work and the changes I make over the years in teaching the same courses.  It came to the fore yesterday when I was looking all over my classroom for 6 envelopes with little slips of paper in them.  This is a partenting activity that I have been doing for years and it is still one of the best activities we do.

Together these thoughts led me to look back at what I posted on this blog two years ago today.  That is what you will be reading below.  Enjoy.

When I was in high school (can’t believe I just wrote that) if I wanted information about the world I would dig out an atlas or the encyclopedia.  There was lots of information there, but it was not necessarily up to date.  Today I wheeled the world into my classroom in one of the school’s Mac-carts.

Ideally the students would all have a netbook or laptop all the time.  This isn’t the case yet at my school but still there is a huge change.  Today in my class I had students in contact with community agencies in several cities, looking up how to make tied baby blankets, researching statistics on childhood obesity in Canada, writing project proposals, designing websites, designing stickers to go along with a calendar they are making and more.  In some other classrooms and schools children are using programs like Skype to talk with students and teachers in other countries and even working on group projects with kids all over.

Has it made things better, this globalization in our education system?  It has to be more useful for kids to be planning projects for the community and or with people in other countries than drawing and colouring maps.  Does it matter if I know the GDP of a country from three years ago when I can find out the economic reports from last month?  The internet lets us keep up with a quickly changing world.

There are some things that don’t change.  God doesn’t change, the Bible doesn’t change, although it is are easier to hunt for particular sections and quotes using the computer.    When you open an atlas there is information about a lot of places but it is not the world.  When we open the Bible and read God’s word that really is the world!

 

When the Layout Changes!


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If you use websites like Facebook, Twitter, and even WordPress you will be all too familiar with the experience of loading up a page and being confronted with a whole new format!  Today when I logged onto WordPress and hit the button for Write a Post, the image on the screen, the location of buttons and tools etc. were completely different!  It is the computer equivalent of walking into your living room to find that all the furniture has been rearranges and some of the things you use regularly are hidden from view.  Do we survive it?  Of course!  Do we like it? Absolutely not!

This is not to say that we don’t quickly adapt to the new layout and months later we probably don’t really remember what it used to be like.  Every time Facebook changes the format there is a several day flurry of complaints.  We are creatures of habit and regardless of how we may pride ourselves on our flexibility, change causes anxiety.

Seen From a Different Angle/ A New Point of View


One of my best friends has Multiple Sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair now for over five years.  Before that there was a lengthy period during which she used a scooter and only stood to transfer from one seat to another.  My point is that it has been close to ten years since I have seen my friend standing up.  For the most part I never really noticed this.  I was aware, obviously, of the chair but didn’t really think of seeing my friend any differently.

The other day I happened to be visiting her when she was getting a chance to use her stander.  For those who may not be familiar with physio-therapy tools, this is a device which levers you into a standing position and holds you there.  For the first time in such a long time, I saw my friend standing on her feet and I realized how much my idea of her had changed.  I was taken aback and immediately commented, “I forgot how tall you are!” 

Sadly, this was not an instance of miraculous healing.  She was back in the chair before I left and had not been in any way able to walk around, but still…

As I was driving home that day I reflected on what had happened and realized that this experience has transformed my view of the stories of healing in the New Testament.  I took the place of the men who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing, even risking life and limb to get him up on the roof and lower him down to Jesus.  They knew they hoped for healing for their friend’s body, but imagine how meeting him at the door of the house when he walked out on his own!  How much their view of him must have changed, and how much their friend’s experience would have healed them!

There was no change in my friend’s physical condition that day, but I will never again read the  following passage in the same way.  I have seen it from an different angle and my point-of-view has been forever changed!

 

 

 

Mark 2

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Willing Faith : “If Ye Know These Things, Happy Are Ye If Ye Do Them”


Getting Active For The Climate

As you now know, I recently read Day 289 from The Message//Remix:Solo which was entitled “Getting Our Way”.  This was a reflection on Galatians 5, more specifically 5:16-17, 19-23.  Following the Bible text are suggested ideas to think about, pray about, and ideas for living out the message.

“LIVE

Hold one of the following words in front of you today; exuberance, serenity, willingness,compassion, conviction.  Let the word permeate what you do.” Willingness seems to be an easier focus to handle than either exuberance or serenity.  It brings to mind years and years of hearing my father quote, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them!” John 13:17  It was basically his way of telling us to get off our butts and get into action. It isn’t enough to know what the right thing to do is if you don’t then go ahead and do it!  If we know that smoking will kill us then clearly we should not do it.  If the traffic light says to stop then you had better stop.

Most of us watch, listen to, or read the news.  We know about a great many things going on in our world.  We know there is great famine in the horn of Africa, we know that there is discrimination, we know that there are people in our own towns who do not have adequate shelter.  We take great pride in educating our children.  We learn about history so that we see the paths to avoid based on the results of prior civilizations.  And yet…how do you get from knowing the right thing to actually doing something about it?

One of the ways is to find a group of people who are on the same page as you are.  It is much easier to stand up and say no to something like hydro-fracking with a group of people than to be a lone voice.  Social pressure on a single person to sit down and shut up can be immense and too much for most of us.  Luckily there are organizations whose purpose is to help people to go from outraged to willing. To mention a few:

  • KAIROS Canada

  • Green Peace

  • PWS&D Presbyterian World Service and Development

  • 350.org

  • One Campaign

  • Amnesty International

 For every international or national organization there are usually two or three local groups, either branches of the larger cause or working for more specific local issues.   “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead  Be willing, be one of the few!

IT IS TIME TO GROW THE GLOW OF HUMANKINDNESS : LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF


It is time for change in our world.  It isn’t that this in new information or a new situation, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  I have been struggling with what to write, or whether to write at all about my reaction to the past week’s news stories.

One day last week I was driving to school in the morning and listening to a young Canadian girl talking about how happy she was that Moammar Ghadafi was dead. News reports were talking about huge parties which had broken out in Libya and among Libyan populations in other places worldwide.  While I understand that it is a huge relief that the dictatorship is ended and that people will naturally celebrate a victory after a hard-fought battle for freedom, how did we come to a place where we are teaching our children to celebrate a person’s death?  Whatever else he became, Ghadafi was a man, someone’s son, husband, brother, father etc.  

Also last week news articles came out about a young man in Ontario who committed suicide.  Sad at any time, this case was made more visible by the fact that the 15-year-old had been keeping a blog in which he was very open with the struggles he had with depression and being gay. He spoke of how hard it was being the only openly gay young man at his school and the fact that it was too hard to wait for “It to Get Better” (check out the It Gets Better campaign fighting against suicide amongst LGBT teens)

On the heels of all of this I just watched an episode of Harry’s Law in which the lawyer Harry Corn was the defense lawyer for a teen blogger who was being tried for murder as a result of the suicide of one of her targets.  While she had “outed” the girl on her blog, used terrible expressions to refer to her, and even went as far as to encourage her readers to let her know that they “knew” she was gay, she was found not guilty of murder.  There were no punches pulled that the bullying had been horrific, nor about the results,  and statistics on this problem were brought forward in the trial.  In her closing arguments Harry pointed out that it really took a whole community to create such a huge tragedy.

When Jesus was with us, during his ministry, he already knew change was needed.  Jesus was a change maker, a boat rocker!  He taught us that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds.  Second only to that was to love our neighbours as ourselves.  The stories from last week represent what my students might call “epic fails!”  We need to spend a lot more time actively working to show that we love our neighbours, even the ones with whom we do not agree!  We can each start on our own, and we can join with groups like the Humankind one at my school with campaigns like Grow the Glow, anti-bullying days, Ally weeks etc. 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting For The Light To Change


http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4747872021I am sitting in the library at my school waiting for the machine to warm up so that I may laminate some posters,  and it has me thinking about all the time in our lives we spend waiting for lights to change.

 

The most obvious is waiting for traffic lights. The red light interrupts our journey and sometimes seems to go on for ever. I expect we would find a direct correlation between how much of a hurry we are in and the slow change. Of course there are people who don’t wait, they just rush heedlessly through that red, or speed up for the yellow. Many times, more due to the alertness of the other drivers, this works out for them, but it can often lead to crashes which, in the end, make them far later than they would have been.

 

We wait for the light on coffee makers to let us know that our caffeine is ready. Again, when in a hurry, people often sneak their cups in the flow. This is so common that many manufacturers have designed pots that sense when the pot is removed and pause in the brew cycle. Those sneaked cups have two effects; they are much stronger than a regular cup from the pot, and they make the rest of the pot weaker for everyone else.

 

When picking up my daughter at closing time at her work, I wait for the lights to turn off. When I want to go to a store I wait for the open sign to light up. On New Year’s Eve people wait for the lights to come on in the Big Apple to announce that the new year has begun. At the end of a long sleepless night we may watch for the sunrise. And we Christians watch for the Son-rise on a whole new earth and heaven.

 

And so we wait. Given how often we have to wait for things, you might think that we would have gotten really good at it! Infants and young children, in Freud’s Id stage, don’t yet understand that they may have to wait for gratification. As adults we are much better at waiting than when we were young, and yet…

 

I guess the way we handle waiting depends on what we do in the meantime. Drumming fingers, constantly checking the clock, or pacing will do nothing but build stress and waste time. If we take the time to do something els the time may pass without us really noticing. We could use the time for a prayer for those people in our lives who need God’s special help.

 

There is really no way to cheat on waiting for Christ to return. We aren’t supposed to just stand still looking up at the sky, we are meant to make use of the time to make the present earth as much like the kingdom of heaven as possible. As we wait for this light to change, let us pray as Jesus taught us.

 

Our father in heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done
On earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
Forever!

Amen

Rainy Summer Days For A New Generation


When I was a kid/teenager, a rainy day in the summer meant a total overhaul of plans. As my normal form of transportation at the time was on foot or on my bike, both of my normal ways of getting together with friends were suddenly very unpleasant. Plans for the beach or the like were cancelled. I probably curled up with the telephone, to talk at length with my friends, and a good book.

Today was a rainy summer Tuesday. My daughter got up had something to eat and tidied a bit while waiting for her friend to be dropped off by car. They then proceeded to watch tv and play video games the whole day. Basically, it was business as usual for her. I am sad to say that going outside and being active is not in the usual cards for my kids. They do it sometimes and enjoy it, but only rarely.

For me, the rainy day involved getting wet going to and from the car when dropping off my other daughter at work, doing some housework, and curling up on the chouch with my kobo (the good book in the new century). For me the real change is the number of times I fell asleep on the couch while reading.

Seed Packets Redux: Part 2


As I was driving up to Montreal last week I drove past countless fields at various stages of planting.  Some fields were bare, with the earth prepared and awaiting seed, some were newly planted with a bright fresh crop of green or yellow covering them, some were burned over and likely to be left fallow for the summer, and between them all there were wild areas with an abundance of plant life most would call weeds.  What do we see when we look at ourselves, our congregations, families,colleagues etc.?  Do we  see fertile ground awaiting seed, rows of plants growing to bear seed, or a tangled mess of weeds?

Living Faith 4.2.1 says, “The Spirit enables people to receive the good news of Christ, to repent of their sins, and to be adopted as children of God…the Spirit enabled us to believe.”  Living Faith 6.1.2 “God brings us to faith in many ways. We may have trusted in God from childhood; or our faith may have come later in life.  Faith may come suddenly or only after a struggle to believe.” 
Given these statements, it is clear that it is not really you and I who are bringing people to faith.  The job of sowing faith is the work of the Spirit through the Word.  It is with this understanding that we come to the parable of the Sower and the Seed this morning ( Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23).

Have you ever prepared a garden bed?  There are many things that need to be removed; sod, old patio stones, weeds, and rocks in the ground.  Whether in our own hearts or those of others we’ll need to remove preconceptions and prejudices against Christianity and or the church as an institution, negative prior experiences, hurts, and fears.  Some of us have built up walls around our hearts which may take considerable care to break down.  Sledge hammers are never called for, and it is important to save all we can of the soil.  Our primary tools for this work are our open minds, our love, compassion and our listening skills. Once cleared, we add fertilizer of some kind in order to aid in the growth of the plants.  Here we apply such offerings as Sunday School, Bible studies, service groups, book clubs, VBS, and of course heartfelt weekly worship.  Even if all hearts are already prepared to receive the Word, care needs to be taken over time to watch out for and remove any weeds which may come up and attempt to take over, and the weeds are many and insidious.

I can easily justify my lack of follow-through in my garden at home.  After all, if I don’t support the local farmers by buying their produce I am contributing to the economic decline, right?  The problem is, at the end of the day I will still have the hearty crop of weeds there reminding me daily of my failure.  There will, however be another spring and another chance to get the job done properly.  Those of us in the church would do well to
remember that only ¼ of the seed in the parable turned out to be productive.  Numbers are not everything!  The number of people in the pews on Sunday, the number of children in Sunday school each week, the total number of families and members, don’t need to cause stress.  When they are high we may be on the top of the world and feel that we are truly doing the work of the Kingdom, and when they are low we may fear for the survival of our congregation.  Even if our programs or events seem less successful than we would like, so long as one plot of soil was readied, or one seed planted we have done well.

Whatever Kingdom gardening we may be doing, we need to remember to take time out to praise and worship the Father who has sown the word in our lives, the Son who is that word, and the Spirit who inspires us to listen.

Living Faith is the Statement of Christian Belief of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and can be downloaded at http://www.presbyterian.ca/resources/online/2447