Getting Through? 15th Sunday OT
Matthew 13 in an invitation to consider whether God is getting through to you.
His simple story of the sower catalogues some of the things that can go wrong. If the seed doesn’t grow, why? Grace and beauty and truth are all around us. What keeps them from getting through?
Consider the hard ground on the pathway. We can be hard, and we can be hard in such a way that God can’t get through to us. Some of us begin to think of being hard as a virtue, but it’s a mistake to confuse hardness with strength. Shutting people out is done out of weakness and fear. It’s what you do when you can’t cope otherwise, and people can become very hard when they’ve been hurt too often, or frustrated too long, and the defenses have become impenetrable. Human connections become an unacceptable risk, and the pain and risk are walled off. So are beauty and love, but that’s a price you’re willing to pay. It’s probably not a decision you made; it just sort of happened over time. Now you feel cut off from people, from everything. In a strange way you even feel cut off from yourself. That seems strange: how could you be cut off from yourself? The answer is that your truest self is in God, in love, and you’ve built a wall to keep it away. Anyway, it worked. Now nothing gets through. And by the time you realize that’s a problem, it’s hard to see how to fix it. Can it even be fixed? Yes, but not without feeling some of that pain you’ve been avoiding. Hard things don’t break gently, they shatter. But it’s worth it, because the pain to which you become vulnerable when you tear down that wall is nothing compared to the good that can finally get through to you.
The next example is the ground that is rocky and shallow. Things can begin to grow here. Beginnings can happen, and they may look very promising. But despite all the signs of life, despite all the good beginnings, it never really goes anywhere. Is that you? Do you have a long list of good beginnings but nothing deep and lasting to show for them? It’s all about roots and depth. The good intentions are there, but not the depth,and so the growth you want doesn’t last. In the heat of the day, Jesus says, these new shoots are scorched and wither. You can’t tell whether the roots are deep enough until the hard times come. You see two plants side by side in the same soil, same heat, same dryness, and one withers while the other survives. What’s the difference? Roots! A lot of people have been scorched by life. You might think your roots are deep enough until the real heat hits. Don’t give up. Just dig a little farther down. One more good beginning, but this time in better soil. It’s not the most impressive, quickest growth that endures. It’s the slower, deeper growth.
The third way Jesus says that God can’t get through to you is if His message gets choked out by thorns. There are more varieties of thorns than I could ever describe here: what are yours? What’s in your life that’s competing with the most important, the most fundamental, the most real movements of the spirit? Any sin that’s in your life is a thorn bush, competing with the growth God wants to bring. They are irreconcilable. One cannot advance without the other suffering. Gardeners know that here there can be no peace. In the end, one will win, and one will die. Grab those thorns and pull them up. It won’t be pretty. It’ll leave a big hole. It’ll heal.
Other competitors may not be bad in themselves, not sinful. They’re good things that just get out of proportion. Could be work, play, any obsession or enthusiasm that eclipses more important things. Maybe you can cut that thing down to size, get things back in proportion. Maybe you’ll decide that you can’t do a good job of that, and that you’re better off without it at all. Either way, you’ve got to get things in balance. That’s work that’s never done. It’s work of constant, persistent, patient adjustment.
Only you can know if God is really getting through to you, and you can only know it with serious reflection and prayer. We live in so much grace - is it getting through? Is it making a difference? Is it bouncing right off the surface? Is it flowering and fading in shallow, rootless soil? Is it scorched by the things that hurt you? Is it crowded out and choked by less important things?
Growing things takes constant attention and adjustment. When the field or the garden take a turn for the worse, you don’t panic or freak out or give up. You make an adjustment, keep an eye on things, and if they get better you still know there’ll be more adjustments later. That’s life, right?
Today, why not tackle the question behind Jesus’ parable: Is God getting through to you? Are you growing in a real, deep, difference-making way? What can you do to make it better? Matthew 13 gives you some great ideas. Figure out what helps you grow, and what gets in the way. I know if I don’t get out in the woods, to a place that is really natural and pure, something inside me starts to fall asleep. I walked beside a lake down at Ondessonk Friday night, watching the moonlight sift through the clouds onto the water, hearing the sounds of forest life interrupted by the distant laughter and cheering of campers, and suddenly I was back in touch with something I never should have lost touch with. Suddenly something was getting through.
I know a little more now about what nourishes life in me. What do you know about yourself? Where do you find the beauty? What feeds the life of your spirit? What helps you get back in touch with what’s real? Let’s have a little more of that, and a little less of the static. Abundant life is the gift of our God.