A Shift in Expectations


S (Scripture): Mark 4:26 Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 27 He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.”

O (Observation): While this text may seem mostly about the process of evangelism, I think this text lends itself more to the mystery of God’s divine action.  Regardless of the action of the person spreading the seed, God is the one who makes the seed grow.  

A (Application):  I put a lot of pressure on myself when I started out my days as a pastor. I learned, rather quickly though, that despite my efforts and despite my hopes, I was not the one in charge of developing faith in others.  I believed that if I had the right tools and the right efforts, I would see a correlation between my efforts and the number of people that came to faith (or came to strengthen their faith).   That has not always been the case. 

Do I give up?   Certainly not!  

Instead, my expectations have shifted.   My role is to continue to plant the seeds, but God is in control of the divine mystery of figuring out when the stalk, the head, and the full grain in the head are ready.  God is in charge of the harvest, even though I put effort into planting seeds or gathering the grains.   

Have you put unrealistic expectations on your shoulders?   When you think it’s all up to you, or the leadership in the church, or the pastor, you will be disappointed, just as I have been disappointed in myself from time to time.  But when we give this burden over to the Lord – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we experience a release like no other, and we become blessed to receive new and experienced followers of Christ into our fold.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to remember that this world is your field to be planted by us, but that YOU are the one who mysteriously brings about faith in each one who calls you “Lord.”  Amen. 


“I Would Plant a Tree…”


S (Scripture): Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, 50 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, 51 and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

O (Observation):  Jesus is gearing up his followers to be ready for his second coming.   He has been telling his disciples that his own death is pending, but that one day he will come back.  And in the meantime, his followers are to be ready for his coming again.  

What does Jesus want for his followers, while he is gone from this earth?  For them to be serving, caring for each other, and the world.  This is how his servants will act.  This brings blessings beyond measure…beyond what we deserve. 

A (Application):  Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.”  The validity of that quote is in question, but the sentiment still holds true.  This is something “like” Luther might have said.   Why?   Because of scripture verses like Matthew 24:45-51.  

Luther was very big on going to the sources – the scriptures – relying less on tradition than scripture itself.  

In this case, we can focus on two things:  vocation or fear.   I choose vocation.   Why?  I think focusing on the blessing and joy of following a calling allows me to sense my baptism sparking my motivation for doing good in the world.  I choose not to focus on the fear, for fear only motivates out of anger and lasts but a short while.   Following a calling lasts a lifetime.   

(A caveat about fear: as a parent, I can get angry at my children for doings things that put them in harms way.   That may be Jesus’ motivation here, too:  keep the disciples from hurting their souls.)

These are Jesus’ words, so the difficulty is how to emphasize the threat he makes.  To be cut in two?   Really?  Perhaps this is the expression of Jesus’ disappointment.   

But I tend to lean on the promises of blessing found in planting a tree, inviting my neighbor over for a meal, cutting my beighbor’s grass, etc… even if the second coming were to happen tomorrow, for that is the constructive piece of this warning.  

Don’t wait!   Listen, today, for what God is saying to you!   Then, discern what does God want you to do?

That all starts with taking time each day to listen to the Lord.   How is that going for you?  Do you need encouragement?   Do you need help?   

Look at the Tools Section of this blog for a starting point.  Read 1, 2, or all 3 suggested texts for the day.   Journal on your own.  Comment on this blog.    Find your niche that works for you, so that you, too, can dig daily into the scriptures, and hear the Word of the Lord.  

Blessings to you, faithful servant!

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us all to find our callings, by spending time with you, daily.   Help us to serve our neighbors, joyfully, regardless of the day of your Arrival.  Amen.