Let Us Avoid Shallow Faith and Nurture Spiritual Maturity   2 comments

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Peter Bruegel the Elder, 1557


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Hebrews 10:11-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,

then he adds,

I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.

Where there is forgiveness for these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Psalm 110:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.

The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Mark 4:1-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he began to teach beside the sea.  And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and at in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.  And he taught them in  parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

Listen!  A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.  And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

And he said,

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

And when he was alone, those who were about him with the Twelve asked him concerning the parables.  And he said to them,

To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.

And he said to them,

Do you understand this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them.  And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  But those that were sown among the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Often I hear people far to my right speak of how the United States used to a Christian nation.  I do not know whereof they speak.  This was never a Christian nation–certainly not when we had chattel slavery or de jure racial segregation.  There was a time, however, when knowledge of the Bible was more common than is true today in North America.  This decline in biblical knowledge is partially the responsibility of churches, but mostly the fault of people within their homes.  Parents are the first teachers of their children, and people need to correct this and other social issues household by household.  Societal institutions wrestle with the problems that emerge from homes, and to place too much blame on the institutions is to miss the point.

Occasionally I read about a new poll which reveals how uninformed most Americans are about religion.  Actually, many Atheists are some the people best informed about religion, but many regular church goers are woefully ignorant of the Bible and their own traditions.  Many Protestants do not know of the pivotal role of Martin Luther and a high proportion of Mass-attending Roman Catholics do not know their church teaches transubstantiation of the bread and wine.  Many conversations I have had over the years have revealed evidence which confirms these findings.  I have met staunch Southern Baptists who did not know they were Protestants, Protestants who had never heard of Martin Luther, and people who claimed to read the Bible daily yet could not name one biblical king.

These unsettling facts came to mind as I read and typed the Parable of the Sower.  And, while attempting (and hopefully succeeding) in refraining from judging others, I propose that, unless one knows what one believes (trusts in), one does not believe.  One might assent vaguely to something a pastor or friend or family member said, but one does not believe something unless one grasps it first.

When I was an adolescent, I began to examine seriously what I claimed to believe.  I discovered that I gave mere lip service to most of it.  Since then I have been on a continuous spiritual voyage of self-examination.  If I do not trust (a better translation of “believe” in Greek), I do not claim to believe.  At least I can be intellectually honest in these matters.  And I have changed my mind, with the option of reverting to an earlier conclusion.  I am, by some standards, a heretic, although I am really more orthodox than many might suspect.  But there is no canonical examination to pass before entering Heaven, so my opinion of Single Predestination is irrelevant to salvation.  Nevertheless, it is important that I know what I believe, and why I believe it.

To borrow a line from St. Patrick, as Cecil Frances Alexander translated it, “salvation is of Christ the Lord”  (“I Bind Unto Myself Today,” Hymn #370, The Hymnal 1982).  This I have believed.  This I continue to believe.  This has sunk deeply into my essence and informed my thoughts and actions.  My parents planted this seed of the word of God within me, and the plant has yielded much.  And I know why I believe, although sometimes words fail me.  By grace, I believe and know why.  If I am a heretic, I am least a faithful one within the household of God.








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2 responses to “Let Us Avoid Shallow Faith and Nurture Spiritual Maturity

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  2. Pingback: Guide to Posts About the Southern Baptist Convention | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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