Archive for the ‘Parable of the Four Soils’ Tag

The Renewal of All Things   1 comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65

Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

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Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. 

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it,

and grow in faith and hope and love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

Lord God, use our lives to touch the world with your love. 

Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbors to those in need,

serving them with willing hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O almighty and most merciful God,

of your bountiful goodness keep us, we pray,

from all things that may hurt us that we,

being ready in both body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish whatever things you want done;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 69

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When reading the assigned lessons in preparation for drafting a post, I often notice that one lesson is an outlier.  Today I choose to focus on the outlier.  The theme of God sowing, complete with the Matthean version of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils, is a topic about which I have written and posted more than once.  You, O reader, may access my analysis of that parable by following the germane tags attached to this post.  I also refer you to this post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

Romans 8:18-25 flows from what precedes it immediately:  Christians are heirs–sons, literally–of God, through Jesus, the Son of God.  The gendered language is a reflection of St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, in which sons, not daughters, inherited.  As “sons of God,” we Christians bear witness with the Holy Spirit that we are members of the household of God.

Literally, Christians are “sons of God” or have received the “spirit of sonship” in verses 14, 15, and 23.  We are “children of God” in verses 16, 17, and 21, though.  (I checked the Greek texts.)  These distinctions are obvious in translations that do not neuter the Greek text.  I check genders (male, female, and neuter) via the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002).  My historical training tells me that before I can interpret a document in context, I must know what the document says.

Romans 8:18-30, from which we extract 8:18-25, tells of the renewal of all things.  In the midst of suffering, the future glory of the human race in God still awaits.  The renewal of creation itself awaits.  The sufferings are birth pangs.  Meanwhile, Christians must wait with patience and expectation.

For obvious reasons, I leave comments about birth pangs to women who have given birth.

St. Paul the Apostle understood suffering for Christ.  St. Paul the Apostle mustered optimism in dark times, by grace.  This has always astounded me.  I, having endured suffering less severe than that of St. Paul the Apostle, have found depression and pessimism instead.

I write this post during dark times for the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.  Authoritarian forces endanger representative governments around the world.  Polarization has increased to the point that opposite camps have their own facts.  (Objective reality be damned!)  I have found more causes for depression and pessimism than for optimism.

Yet St. Paul the Apostle, speaking to us down the corridors of time, tells us that these are birth pangs of a better world.  I hope that is correct.  I pray that these are not birth pangs of a dystopia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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Adapted from this post

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This is post #2750 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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St. Paul the Apostle in Caesarea   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod Agrippa II

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXII

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Acts 23:23-26:32

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One motif in the Acts of the Apostles is that attempts to prevent the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ failed.  They created new opportunities for that proclamation instead.

Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast, was the official seat of the procurators of Judea.  The germane procurators were Antonius Felix (52-60) and Porcius Festus (60-62).

Meanwhile, Herod Agrippa II (b. 27 C.E.) ruled as a Roman client king over various territories from 50 to 100 C.E.  Herod Agrippa II, who appointed the high priest in Jerusalem, conducted an incestuous relationship with Bernice, his sister.  Herod Agrippa II, who died childless in 100 C.E., was the last ruler of the Herodian Dynasty.

St. Paul was a prisoner at Caesarea from 58 to 60 C.E.  The conditions were lenient, though.

Tertullus, from Jerusalem, described St. Paul as “a perfect pest” (24:5) for being a Christian evangelist.

St. Paul, as a Roman citizen, appealed to the emperor–Nero, in this case.  Besides, the Apostle’s life remained in danger in Caesarea.

Notice another parallel with Jesus, O reader.  Recall that in the Lucan Passion narrative, a series of people–especially Roman officials–proclaimed the innocence of Jesus.  We read that pattern repeating in Acts 23:23-26:32.

The irony of St. Paul’s appeal to the emperor is that he could have gone free without it (27:32).

Herod Agrippa II’s response to St. Paul has launched many sermons and bad Gospel songs.  (“Bad Gospel songs” is redundant, by the way.)

A little more, and your arguments would make a Christian of me.

–Acts 26:28, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Recall the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils (Luke 8:4-9, 11-15), O reader.  Not all soils are receptive to the seed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

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Fidelity and Spiritual Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXI

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Luke 8:16-21; 11:14-36

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In the Gospel of Luke, the Parable of the Lamp functions as an extension of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils.  Love and devotion to God accumulate within someone and draw others to God via that person.  The light shines.  Also, nobody has any secrets from God.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 355

The lamp in the parable had a spout, a cover, and a rounded body.  This was a small oil lamp.  It belonged on a lampstand, not under a bed or in a jar.  Theologically, a lamp stood for the light of God, shining in the darkness, in this parable.

The lamp is Jesus.  In other words, do not hide Jesus.

Luke 8:19-21, adapted from Mark 3:20-22, tones down the critique of Christ’s biological family.  In Mark 3, they think Jesus is out of his mind.  That, explicit in Mark 3, is absent in Luke 8.The Lucan version omits the relatives’ motive for seeking to speak with Jesus.  Therefore, the Lucan version presents them positively.  Nevertheless, the statement of fictive kinship carries over from the Marcan version.  The theme of hearing and doing, present in the Parables of the Sower/the Four Soils and the Lamp, continues here.  The biological family of Jesus functions as exemplars of hearing and doing in the Lucan version.

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox insistence on the perpetual virginity of St. Mary of Nazareth puzzles me.  Of course, given that I reject the Virgin Birth, perpetual virginity predictably puzzles me.  In the Greek language, brothers and sisters can also be cousins.  Or they can be brothers and sisters.

The Marcan version of the story fits well with that Gospel’s theme that supposed insiders are really outsiders, and vice versa.  The Lucan version of the story is consistent with that Gospel’s toning down of the Marcan theme, given that the Acts of the Apostles follows the Gospel of Luke.  So, the eleven apostles who survived the Gospel of Luke could not be dolts if their transformation in Acts was to be believable.  Furthermore, the depiction of the biological family of Jesus in Luke 8 flows from previous material, in which St. Mary knew who her (firstborn) son was, Luke 2:39-52 notwithstanding.

The challenge to we of today is to be members of Christ’s spiritual family, that is, to hear the word of God (what God says) and to keep it.

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“Master,” said John, “we saw a man who was casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following with us.”

But Jesus said, “Forbid him not, for he who is not with you is for you.”

–Luke 9:49-50, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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“He who is not for me is against me, and he who is not gathering with me is scattering.”

–Luke 11:23, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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Critics of Jesus did not understand that God was acting through Jesus.  The healings Jesus performed indicated the presence of the Kingdom of God, not evil. Judgment would come for those who slandered Jesus.

Likewise, when Jesus had removed evil from someone, that person needed to become filled with the word of God (what God said), or else evil would return in greater quantity than it had been when Christ had expelled it.

Luke 11:27 calls back to 8:19-21.  Regardless of how blessed and pious Christ’s biological family was, those who listened to and heard the word of God were blessed, too.  Loyalty to God, present in Jesus, takes precedence over family ties–no disrespect to relatives intended.  This is good news for the vast majority of us not of the family tree of Jesus.

Cutting through the symbolism and Biblical allusions in Luke 11:29-36, the message of these verses is:

  1. Repentance is crucial,
  2. The faith of many Gentiles contrasts with the faithlessness of many Jews,
  3. God seeks to attract all people, and
  4. The Christian life involves the whole body and all human action.

Seeking signs indicates a lack of trust in God.  Receiving a sign and not understanding it indicates obliviousness, at least.  Recall the Johannine version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:1-14), O reader.  You and I may agree that it was an astounding sign.  Yet, recall the events of the next day, too.

Then they said to him:

“What sign, then, are you performing, so that we may see it and come to believe in you?  What work are you doing?  Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.'”  

–John 6:30-21, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

Those who asked that question had fined at the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

We need not seek signs; they are plentiful.  We need merely to pay proper attention, understand plainly, and behave and think accordingly, whoever we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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The Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils   4 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XX

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Luke 8:4-15

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Christian tradition has assigned names to the parables of Jesus.  Some of these names have proven to be partial, at best.  Consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, O reader.  It could have as easily been the Parable of the Loving Father or the Parable of the Resentful Brother.  Think also of the Parable of the Sower.  Although Matthew 13:18 uses that label, Christ focused on the soils, not the sower, in the parable.

We are reading the Lucan version of the parable, of course.  Luke 8 does not refer to this parable as the Parable of the Sower.

Biblical scholarly consensus holds that, in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the explanation of the parable is an addition to the text.  Explanations of parables are rare in the canonical Gospels.

To critique the sower’s technique is to miss the point.  (I have heard priests do this in sermons.)  The sower in the parable follows the standard practice of farmers at the time and place.

The word of God (what God says) is for everybody.  The sower sows these seeds everywhere, therefore.  But not everybody receives or welcomes this word.  Some of the seeds go to waste.  People may be distracted, rootless, or deceived.  Spiritually rootless people have shallow faith; it may die for the obvious reason.  The deceived mean well but follow the wrong master.  The distracted are too busy for God.  Yet the seeds that land in rich soil prosper spiritually.

The parable asks each of us, “What kind of soil are you?”

When God is the sower and we are the ground, we are called to be good ground.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

Some saints spoke and/or wrote of the importance of not only praying, but of becoming prayer.  They described the fourth category of soil in this parable.  They described the state of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So, I ask you, O reader, what kind of soil are you?  And what kind of soil do you aspire to become or remain, by grace?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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Being Good Soil IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Protector of all that trust in thee,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:

increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;

that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal,

that we finally lose not the things eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 188

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Isaiah 12

Psalm 25

Acts 9:1-18

Mark 4:1-20

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Isaiah 12 flows directly from Chapter 11.  The first words of Isaiah 12 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) are,

In that day….

To understand what day that is, one must back up into Isaiah 11.  “That day” is the ideal, peaceful future that will follow “the Day of the Lord.”  In Christian terms, one would describe “that day” as the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Furthermore, “that day” also refers to the return of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.  This text describes a time in our future.  Isaiah 12 praises God, who was faithful, is faithful, will continue to be faithful, and dwells among us.

Psalm 25 and Acts 9:1-18 add repentance to our stable of topics.  Divine forgiveness of sins, another related topic, exists also in Isaiah 12.

We read the familiar “Parable of the Sower” in Mark 4.  I prefer another title, “Parable of the Four Soils,” which I read in a commentary.  The parable seems more concerned with the soils than with the sower and the seeds.  The parable invites each one of us to ask,

What kind of soil am I?

What kind of soil are you, O reader?  Do you have shallow faith that cannot endure trouble or persecution?  Do the cares of the world strangle you faith, as it may be?  Does faith never take root in you?  Or do you have deep faith?  Depending on your answer, O reader, you may have another reason to repent and to seek forgiveness.

We mere mortals need not wait until the time of the fully realized Kingdom of God for God to dwell among us.  God is always present and accessible.  The Quakers are correct; each of us has an Inner Light.  Many of us seem not to know that, though.  Others know about their Inner Light and ignore it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Grace, Part I   3 comments

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

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 42:1-17 or Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Psalm 48

James 5:12-20

Mark 4:1-20

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At the end of the Season After the Epiphany or the beginning of the Season After Pentecost (depending on the year), we finish hopping and skipping through three books–Job, Deuteronomy, and James.  If we pay attention, we notice that Job granted his daughters the right to inherit from his estate–a revolutionary move at that time and place.

Overall, when we add Psalm 48 and Mark 4:1-20 to the mix, we detect a thread of the goodness of God present in all the readings.  Related to divine goodness is the mandate to respond positively to grace in various ways, as circumstances dictate.  The principle is universal, but the applications are circumstantial.

Consider, O reader the parable in our reading from Mark 4.  The customary name is the Parable of the Sower, but the Parable of the Four Soils is a better title.  The question is not about the effectiveness of the sower but about the four soils.  Are we distracted soil?  Are we soil that does not retain faith in the face of tribulation or persecution?  Are we soil into which no roots sink?  Or are we good soil?  Do we respond positively to grace, which is free yet not cheap, or do we not?

Job 42:11 tells that all Job’s “friends of former times” visited him and “showed him every sympathy.”  (Job is a literary character, of course, so I do not mistake him for a historical figure.)  I imagine Zophar, Bildad, Eliphaz, and even Elihu, who went away as quickly as he arrived, having realized their errors, dining with Job in shalom.  That is indeed a scene of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Destiny II   3 comments

Above:  Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast created man in thine own image:

grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil, and to make no peace with oppression;

and, that we may reverently use our freedom,

help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice among men and nations, to the glory of thy holy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 18:1-11

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Mark 4:1-20

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What do we want to be as individuals, communities, organizations, governments, societies, countries, and a species?  Do we want to be loving or hateful?  Do we want to be cruel or kind?  Do we want to be compassionate or heartless?  We will reap what we sow.

To ask the question differently, what kind of soil (as in the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils in Mark 4) do we want to be?  If we are the wrong kind of soil, we can, by grace, become the proper variety of soil.  We humans do have some agency; our choices help to shape our future and the future of those nearby and far away, for generations to come.

May we choose well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2019 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN AND COFOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE

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Being Good Soil, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church,

being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and

the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Amos 8:11-12

1 Peter 2:1-6

Luke 8:4-15

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Hell is real–a reality, not a place with geography and coordinates–I affirm.  I also argue that God sends nobody there.  No, people send themselves there.

The reading from Amos 8 is one of the more difficult passages of the Bible.  Divine punishment is in full strength, punishing collective disregard for God with divine silence.  The divine judgment consists of giving people in times of trouble what they desire in times of affluence and spiritual indifference.  In other words, be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.

The word of God (what God says) is readily available.  It is proverbial seed in the story usually called the Parable of the Sower yet properly the Parable of the Four Soils.  The sower sows seeds in the usual manner for that time and place.  The emphasis in the parable is on the types of soil and on the fate of the weeds cast upon them.  The story encourages us to be good soil, to be receptive to the words of God.

Being good soil entails focusing on God, not on distractions, or idols.  The definition of “idol” is functional; if an object, activity, or idea functions as an idol in one’s life, it is an idol for once.

Perhaps the major idol these days is apathy.  In much of the world the fastest-growing religious affiliation is “none.”  Atheism and its militant variation, antitheism (to use Reza Aslan’s word) are chic.  Ironically, many atheists and antitheists know more about certain religions and holy books than many adherents of those religions, with their corresponding sacred texts.  These atheists and antitheists also understand less simultaneously.

God remains in charge, though.  Whether that ultimately comforts or terrifies one depends on one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Seeds of Faith   Leave a comment

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, your never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth:

We humbly ask you to put away from us all hurtful things,

and to give us those things which are profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

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Joshua 24:1-15, 24

Psalm 12

Acts 17:21-31

Luke 8:4-15

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As Joshua 24 reminds us, we should revere God, who has done much for us out of graciousness.  Nevertheless, many of us do not, and not always out of ignorance.

The so-called Parable of the Sower is actually the Parable of the Four Soils.  The emphasis in the parable falls on the four types of soil.  The explanation of the parable in Luke 8:11-15 is clear; only one of the types of soil is good.  If we expect the spiritual path to be Easy Street, circumstances (and God) will disappoint us, but we will have only ourselves to blame.  If we are easily distractible people, that is also a problem.  If we yield to certain temptations, the seed of faith also fails to take root.

May we nourish the seed of faith and be good soil.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Being Good Soil, Part II   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24 or Daniel 4:1-37

Psalm 7

Matthew 14:10-17 (18-33) 34-35 or Mark 4:1-25 or Luke 8:4-25; 13:18-21

Ephesians 4:17-24 (26-32; 5:1-2) 3-7 or 2 Peter 2:1-22

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Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

–Ephesians 4:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Much of the content of the assigned readings, with their options, functions as commentary on that summary statement.  To borrow a line from Rabbi Hillel, we ought to go and learn it.

The commission of (First) Isaiah might seem odd.  Does the text indicate that God is commanding Isaiah to preach to the population but not to help them avoid the wrath of God?  Or, as many rabbis have argued for a long time, should one read imperative verbs as future tense verbs and the troublesome passage therefore as a prediction?  I prefer the second interpretation.  Does not God prefer repentance among sinners?  The pairing of this reading with the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation seems to reinforce this point.  I recall some bad sermons on this parable, which is not about the sower.  The sower did a bad job, I remember hearing certain homilists say.  To fixate on the sower and his methodology is to miss the point.  The name of the story should be the Parable of the Four Soils, a title I have read in commentaries.  One should ask oneself,

What kind of soil am I?

Am I the rocky soil of King Zedekiah (in Ezekiel 17:11-21) or the fertile soil of the betrayed man in Psalm 7?  A mustard seed might give rise to a large plant that shelters many varieties of wildlife, and therefore be like the Davidic dynastic tree in Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Nebuchadnezzar II in Daniel 4, but even a mustard seed needs good soil in which to begin the process of sprouting into that plant.

One might be bad soil for any one of a number of reasons.  One might not care.  One might be oblivious.  One might be hostile.  One might be distracted and too busy.  Nevertheless, one is bad soil at one’s own peril.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-6-year-d/

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