When a great crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from one city after another, he spoke to them in a parable: “A farmer went out to scatter his seed. As he was scattering it, some fell on the path where it was crushed, and the birds in the sky came and ate it. Other seed fell on rock. As it grew, it dried up because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorns grew with the plants and choked them. Still other seed landed on good soil. When it grew, it produced one hundred times more grain than was scattered.” As he said this, he called out, “Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “You have been given the mysteries of God’s kingdom, but these mysteries come to everyone else in parables so that when they see, they can’t see, and when they hear, they can’t understand. The parable means this: The seed is God’s word. The seed on the path are those who hear, but then the devil comes and steals the word from their hearts so that they won’t believe and be saved. The seed on the rock are those who receive the word joyfully when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while but fall away when they are tempted. As for the seed that fell among thorny plants, these are the ones who, as they go about their lives, are choked by the concerns, riches, and pleasures of life, and their fruit never matures. The seed that fell on good soil are those who hear the word and commit themselves to it with a good and upright heart. Through their resolve, they bear fruit. – Luke 8:4-15 (CEB)
This is a familiar passage. I confess that when I approached it this week, I didn’t expect to find anything. And I don’t know that I did until this last sentence: “Through their resolve, they bear fruit.” This was not how I remembered this ending. And, indeed, Matthew and Mark tell it slightly different. Luke uses the word upomonh, translated resolve here but most often seen as endure.
This caught my attention because this was a theme when I was studying Revelations last year. The seven churches are commended when they endure and chastised when they don’t. Christ is praised for enduring – and we are called to the same, even unto death.
This made me think that it wasn’t luck that finds us in the good soil rather than on the path or among the thorns. God sows God’s Word freely, but we have a role as well. What does it mean to endure in holding God’s Word? And how do we endure the realities of life?
On the path, we endure… the Enemy
On the rocks, we endure… temptation
Among the thorns, we endure… comfort and concern
When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner. – Luke 7:39 (CEB)
Last week, in Withness Community we reflected on Simon’s dinner party (Luke 7:36-50) and the openness of Christ’s table. The woman had no place at Simon’s table, but Jesus welcomed her. This led to a discussion about who is allowed to receive communion in our denomination. The official position is that all baptized believers are welcome to the table. However, I look at the example of Jesus, and I cannot bring myself to set requirements to be fed at Christ’s table.
We spoke of Jesus feeding even Judas and Peter at the table (Luke 22:14-34). And how we are called to settle our differences with our brother and sister before coming to the table (Matthew 5:23-24) – but how the table may also strengthen us to go out and be reconciled – or at least to ask for forgiveness.
And we wondered what it would be life if rather than the table being a moment in our life it overflowed to define our lives. I think this might be what it is like to endure.
Some may hear the Word and it bears fruit with no problem but for most of us, we find ourselves on the path rather than in the field under constant barrage from the Enemy; on the rocks, relying on the feeling of joy or a mountaintop high while finding ourselves deep in temptation; or among the thorns, forgetting God in our comfort (a sin of self-reliance and lack of gratitude) or seem to lose our hope, losing ourselves amidst our very real concerns and problems.
Jesus offers the Word freely, whether found in the Bible or at the table.
Our endurance – on the path, on the rocks, among the thorns, or even on the well-tilled soil – comes from faith and a belief in hope. Endurance in Christ is not a matter of self-will or brute strength. Maybe the strongest and greatest expression of endurance is humility and trust. And, maybe, each time we gather, each time we come to the table, we engage in an act of endurance, gratitude and hope. Thanks be to God.