“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, May 17, 2021

Sow what? A different perspective on the parable of the sower


Galatians 6:7 -  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

A farmer was having trouble with a crop that he was attempting to grow. In desperation, he called the county agricultural office who promptly sent an expert to help him solve his problem.
     “Thank you so much for coming!”
     “We are here to help. What seems to be the problem?”
     “Well, it’s like my field isn’t producing the right crop. I plant the seeds, but never get exactly what I have planted.” The farmer rubbed his chin. “I don’t’ know what is wrong.”
     The expert began to walk through the field as the spoke.
     The farmer continued. “I know the story about the seed falling on rocky ground but as you can see, no rocky ground here. And also about the birds eating the seeds or the weeds choking them out. The birds are always a challenge, but they wouldn’t cause the kind of problem we are having. As you can see, the crop itself looks pretty pure. Not a lot of weeds growing up.”
     “What exactly are you planting?” asked the expert.
     “Oh, just wheat.”
     The expert knelt down to the plants. He brushed his hand across the top of the stubby, short growing, green blades. He picked a few of and studied them.
     Watching the expert, the farmer continued, “The only thing I can figure is that there must be something wrong with the soil. Why wouldn’t it grow, why wouldn’t it produce the right thing, the thing I am planting?”
     The expert took off his hat and scratched his head. “You say you are trying to grow wheat?”
     “Yep. Have been trying to grow it for years. Always get the same result. Most of the farms around here have the same problem. At Friday morning coffee we get together and can’t understand what is up. I mean we all get our seed from the same place. They have a self-service kind of an operation, so we pick out our own seed that we plant.”
     The expert reached down and pulled up a small plant from the field. “Look at this plant” he said as he held it out to the farmer. "Forget about what you are trying to grow and tell me what this plant looks like.”
     “Well, yeah. It looks like grass to me. But all the other farmers are producing the same kind of plants.”
      The farmer stood silently.
     “Let me see you seeds.”
     The farmer reached into a bag, pulled out a handful, and held out his palm covered with the seed.
     The expert shook his head and scoffed. “This is grass seed! It looks a little like wheat, but you aren’t getting wheat because you aren’t planting wheat.”
     “C’mon, you are a farmer. At least I thought you were a farmer. You want wheat to grow, you need to plant wheat seeds. You can’t plant grass seed and expect wheat to grow.”
     The farmer just stared surprised at the expert with open mouth.
     “I would bet that the farmers that taught you how to farm didn’t know the difference between wheat seed and grass seed either…”

In my experience, all around the world, churches are places where people with disabilities are too often not sought out, not invited in, not included and loved like anyone else. How could we literally have generations of Christian communities where this is the accepted practice? Perhaps for generations, the farmers, the leadership of the Christian community, have been planting the wrong seed. The soil, in other words the congregation, is not necessarily the problem. It is the seed that is being planted by the farmer, what is taught and expected from the leadership, that is the problem.


Thursday, May 06, 2021

Suffering and prayer

 I was watching a TV show last night. In it, a couple was separated. As children, there was a scene where they were hiding from school authorities by lying on their backs in a field. At a poignant moment, the boy reaches over and holds the girl's hand. Later, they are best friends. When they are separated from each other, each lays in bed thinking of that event of holding the other's hand. Each  reaches out their hand to a space next to them and thinks of the other but no one is there. They are each completely helpless.

As I watched that, I felt sad. There was nothing they could do but sadly think about their missing friend and whether they would see them again. They could do nothing to help the other and perhaps alleviate whatever they might be facing.

I have been in that place where I knew of the suffering of friends and others that I love. But there was something that I could do. I could pray. Prayer is always a good practice. But particularly when you are in a place where there is nothing else that you can do, God provides something extremely powerful that you can do. You can pray. That is a big comfort! You have the ability to boldly approach God and ask him to intervene in a situation (Hebrews 4:16). You ask him for his will to be done (Mark 14:36). You ask him to comfort and give grace to those who are going through a difficult time (2 Corinthians 12:9). You ask him to help you and those for whom you are praying to not worry (Philippians 4:6).

People will also sometimes say, there was nothing I could do but pray. Can you see that prayer is the first and the best thing you could do? Of course when there are other ways to assist, we should try to do those things. However, prayer should not be minimized.

A hard right turn...

I worry about the direction our country is going in. We are moving away from foundational principles like freedom of speech. I talk about this in my university classes, but otherwise I am not sure what to do. But the Bible tells us what we can do. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 the Lord said the following to Solomon.

...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Notice it says "if MY people, who are called by MY name, will humble themselves and pray..." We have power to change our direction. The answer is not whining and condemnation of others. A major part of the answer is people's prayer.