Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 60: Numbers 30-32; Psalm 50; Luke 8

What does good soil look like?
I love to garden, and when we get to Jesus' parables about sowers, about planting and harvesting, I get excited. For the most part, I think that I "get" him in these teachings. In Luke 8, when Jesus teaches about the sower going out to sow seed it provokes in me a cascade of feelings or familiarity. The teaching is more than just an exercise of drawing meaning from story. I am in the story, and the story is a part of my life that Jesus is using to illustrate God's way of calling us into being. There is the texture of the seed in the hand: all that potential, all that hope for food at the harvest. There is the texture and nature of the soil, the medium of growth. There is the good soil, there the shallow ground...there the birds waiting for their share and there the thorns and weeds with their choking claim already staked out. This sort of teaching is the sort of teaching that seems so straightforward. Good soil? Easy, that is a soul that is properly prepared and open to God's Word. Bad soil? Another easy concept...that is a soul that is not properly prepared, and thus not really open to God's Word.

And that is where the potential for great damage to our understanding of the Good News, if you will, takes root. What sort of person do we equate with being "good soil?" Who is it that fits that profile? What sort of criteria would you use to evaluate a person as being the sort of person who presents a "good soil" character for which the bountiful harvest promised in the Gospel is an appropriate reward?

For Jesus, the good soil for the kingdom's planting is found in a series of encounters that follow the teaching. Here's the thing: it is necessarily those closest to him that fit the bill. His mother and siblings come to visit him, but can't reach him. One of the followers closer to him alerts him to this fact. Jesus tells the crowd that the ones who listen to God's word and do it are his family. Even biology must cede pride of place to fidelity to God's Word.

We don't find much good soil among the disciples closest to Jesus. He chides them for lack of faith when the boat they are in becomes storm-tossed while he sleeps. Their awe-filled response seems appropriate, but they have already experienced Jesus' ability to do great works...why worry about perishing when you KNOW the son of man is with you in the boat? It isn't until we meet the Gerasene demoniac, hear the desperate plea of Jairus for his daughter or catch a sight from the corner of our eye the surreptitious hand of the woman with the flow of blood reaching out to catch the hem of Jesus' robe that we meet, if you will, the "good soil." Imagine that...good soil found in the possessed, the dead and the unclean. The seed of the Word falls on the heart of a man plagued by demons, and he is exorcised and restored. Did we see that one coming? If this raving person is good soil, then who else might fill the bill?

Then, his power flows out from him in response to the hopeful need of a woman who is willing to risk all to simply grasp at a few threads at the edge of the garment of the teacher. She is healed and made whole, and clean, in that instant-and knows it. Jesus doesn't even have to pronounce the good news to her. She already is the good news. Finally, we meet a little girl-really her body-and Jesus takes her hand and says, "Little one, wake up." The seed takes root, and she blooms with new life.

If it were not right in front of us, would we have picked out the demoniac, the unclean woman and the dead little girl as God's own good soil? If not for the outcomes noted, then perhaps not. It is one thing to resonate to a parable, and quite another to take God's hand as we are led to see with new eyes just how profoundly the Word can take what we don't value too much as the very signal illustration of how God intends to make a witness.

Today, look around. Where is the good soil? Now look again, and invite God to open your eyes to see what you missed on the first pass. You might be surprised.

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