Tag Archives: numbers

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

3 Things About 10 Ways to Change Your Life!

Have you noticed on your Twitter feed or your Facebook or your favourite blogs lately the frequency of a number in the title line?  I have seen so many tweets like this lately that it got me thinking… Look at these examples (I’m not recommending them they were just the first 3 that came up when I searched Twitter for “10 Ways”.)

Here are my 3Thoughts about posts like these;

  #1 We are more likely to choose to click on a link that starts with a nice low number and a promise to cure whatever problem we may be having in our lives.  I don’t know if I can find any supporting data for that assertion, but I do believe it to be true none-the-less.   Further, I would guess that in general the lower the number the better. 

I like the numbered post as I know it will be clearly divided up with clear title sentences at each number so that I can easily skip the ones I don’t want without fear of missing information I may want.  In fact I will be able to scan really quickly and often save myself reading it at all if the bulet points don’t look valid.  A short list appeals to those with short attention spans which seems to be a growing demographic in the modern society,  and for all of us who like schedules and checklists there is obvious appeal to the idea of  5 or 10ways to do something.  Perhaps the most famous “10 Things” list is from the Old Testament in the 10 Commandments.

#2  The promises made in these titles sound good up front.  Who would not want to look 5 years younger, or become vital in our workplace?  By the same token wouldn’t we all like to be “perfect” in every way?  One of the great promises we might look towards is the promise of eternal life or life in the Kingdom of God.

Luk 18:18-23

18 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 19Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother.” ’ 21He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 23But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.

#3 We are rarely able to follow through with these great plans.  Few of us get beyond the stage of reading the ideas to actually committing ourselves to follow through.  Then of that small number few are able to maintain the effort.

A couple years ago when looking ahead to Christmas time in my messy, can’t have anyone over, home I heard about the FlyLady  http://www.flylady.net.  The idea with this plan is that you don’t have to clean continuously for hours but can acomplish all you need in a series of short stints of work with built in rest breaks.  It was great!  Following their plans for Cruising Through the Holidays I was able to both tidy the whole house and get everything ready for Christmas.  This lasted for most of a year, but then I started erasing their emails without reading them and then I finally just stopped all-together.  The rich young ruler had done pretty well up until the point where he asked Jesus about the requirements, but that last step was just too much for him.

Luke 18.24-43

24Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

But here llies our comfort.  We can work away to eat a more healthy diet, get more exercise, be more organized, or whatever the  latest effort is but we don’t need to beat ourselves up too much about it because,

26 Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’