On Sunday, March 11, 2014, at The Glenburn Community Church, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the morning sermon was interrupted. For those who have been following along in the parallel series in Samuel-Kings (“The Kings of Israel”) and the gospel of Mark (“The Kingdom at Hand”), the previous post, this post, and one more post to come summarize the main points of that sermon from Mark 4:1-20 entitled “Thirty, Sixty, and a Hundredfold.” To those who have expressed their concern for the parishioner experiencing a health crisis in the midst of the sermon, please know that they are doing well and are very thankful for the support and encouragement they have received.
One way to maintain and enhance your spiritual and mental health is to Lower Your Expectations. We tend to believe that somehow everyone who attends a local congregation will share equally in the work necessary. But focusing on the 25% who become faithful followers of Jesus Christ (those who are represented in the parable of “The Sower and the Seed” by the good soil that produces a crop of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold—be sure to see Part One of “Thirty, Sixty, and a Hundredfold”) is insufficient to protect yourself from the frustration, despair, betrayal, and bitterness described previously. A second discipline needs to be practiced if you seek the satisfaction and joy of serving Christ and others.
That second discipline requires that you Limit Your Involvements.
Those who are most often commended for tireless efforts are anything but tireless. We’re worn out. The world around us sees that we bear false witness, testifying by our behavior the exact opposite of what Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We are weighed down, burnt out, emotionally-drained, and more than a little cranky more than a little bit of the time. (At least I know that I am.) What should the world find inviting about a lifestyle that would probably kill most people quickly, since it seems to be slowly killing those who are sustained by God’s provision and protection? (II Corinthians 4:7-11 describes God’s sustaining influence in light of persecution, affliction, and even death…but not when we are willfully damaging our health by carrying Christ’s yoke, others’ expectations, and our own baggage.)
Think about the jobs we are not called to do in this parable.
We are not instructed to become “soil-management consultants.” Some want to plow-up the road, pull out the rocks, and eradicate the thorns. No such activities are prescribed in the parable. We are also not instructed to become “seed-conservation distributors.” Trying to discern the demographics of the good soil, some would pour all our seed only small plots where greater growth seems more likely. In the context of Jesus’ illustration, soil conditioners and crop-yield appraisals do not reach into the dark recesses of the human heart. We cannot know, and therefore cannot “target” the seed as some would recommend.
Then, what we are called to do here?
We are called to do two things. First, “scatter the seed.” Don’t worry about where it lands. In fact, you cannot control where it lands, because of the second things we are called to do: “bear fruit.” Where does the seed come from? The fruit. We bear fruit, and as we live out being branches of the vine, the seed scatters wherever we go. And we are to go everywhere.
But we are not to do everything. For every obligation and responsibility you undertake, ask these two questions: (1) Does this serve the core purposes of connecting persons in relationship to God through Christ? And (2) Is this part of my role/calling as a channel of Christ’s ministry to, and in, and through me?
How, then, do we discern what to do where and when? For whom? By what means? That is the subject of the third part of our examination of this parable. We’ll take that up in the next post.