First, a follow-up from where my Sunday benediction left off.
One of the most charming and delightful teachers in Eastern Mennonite Seminary, when I became a student there, was Wendy Miller. She specialized in the spiritual life and spiritual practices. Once when she was leading a workshop on meditation, we were seated in a circle, facing center. She invited us to get comfortable on our chairs, close our eyes, and breathe deeply and regularly.
I woke up some time later, terribly embarrassed !
Wendy came by, understood exactly what had happened, and said, “Obviously, you needed the rest.” What a blessing.
In her book, Invitation to Presence, she writes,
“Hear Jesus speaking to you, Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
“See yourself walking away from your workplace, your house, all that you are responsible for, and walking down a path toward a quiet place where Jesus is standing, waiting for you. Notice what you are carrying with you; as you come to Jesus, release it all in his presence. Hear him saying, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me....
“He knows the direction to go, he knows the direction of the Lord of the field. Jesus invites us to shoulder the light end of the yoke, so that we will stay close to Jesus, moving where he walks, pausing when he stops.”
She goes on to give instructions for resting our bodies, reflecting on all that our bodies do throughout our activities of daily life. She continues:
“Our bodies are a gift from God, a dwelling place for God’s presence, nurtured and sustained by God’s care and provision.... [A]ppreciate the gift your body is to you.”
These words of guidance are part of her larger theme, “Opening our attention to God.” She notes, “As we come to a place and time for prayer, we often discover that we are full of activity and noise inside. Our body may be in place, but thoughts... have captured our attention and led it off somewhere else.... [W]e are absent while present.”
Where are you (spiritually speaking) ?
Where does God wants you to be ?
Our gospel lesson for this coming Sunday is Jesus’ parable of the sower sowing seed. He told the crowd that, depending on where the seed falls, it either gets eaten up immediately, or it grows but then fails, or it grows and the new plant develops its own yield of grain.
Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables ?”
Maybe, over the years, you have many times been told this parable and the way Jesus went on to explain it. Or maybe this is your first time to really think it over.
Imagine being a member of the crowd that heard Jesus tell this story of the sower and the seed for the first time. Do you believe that you would have grasped its meaning right there and then ?
Maybe you grasped it immediately and started following Jesus, growing to “bear much fruit” for him.
If you’re anything like me, however, instead of instantly understanding his truth and quickly joining Jesus on his Way, you go through numerous “wrong places” where the seed (God’s message) will not bear much fruit. Eventually, we pray that we will take root in “good soil” to begin to become the pleasant planting God intended us to be. Eventually, we come ‘round right and “yield.”
I have long wrestled with the doctrine of predestination, the notion that “what will be will be.” When Jesus answered his disciples’ question, why he spoke to the crowds in riddles (parables) like this one, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah: “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.” (Isaiah 6: 9-10)
[Some of us, in our Sunday School classes this week, studied Isaiah’s mystical vision of the LORD on the heavenly throne, and God’s call to Isaiah, which comes just before this passage.]
Where are you (spiritually speaking) ?
Are you in place to “bear much fruit” for God’s sake ?
If not, do you feel you are doomed to be in the wrong place forever ?
Or can you choose to go take root in good soil ?