Your Daily Lenten Devotional
March 1, 2012
Week 1: Thursday
Mark 4.1-20; focused on 4.1-9
Into the Wilderness
Once again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. A huge crowd gathered; so he got into a boat and stationed himself on the sea, with all the crowd on the shore looking out to sea. He taught them lots of things in parables. This is how his teaching went.
‘Listen!’ he said. ‘Once upon a time there was a sower who went out sowing. As he was sowing, some seed fell beside the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rock, where it didn’t have much soil. There was no depth to the ground, so it shot up at once; but when the sun came up it was scorched, and withered away, because it hadn’t got any root. Other seed fell in among thorns; the thorns grew up and choked it, and it didn’t give any crop. And other seeds fell into good soil, and gave a harvest, which grew up and increased, and bore a yield, in some cases thirtyfold, in some sixtyfold, and in some a hundredfold.’
And he added, ‘If you’ve got ears, then listen!’
From where I am sitting I can see, out in the autumn fields, the farmer harvesting the corn. It isn’t all in yet; some of the fields won’t reach their full growth for another few weeks. But when I walk down the lane, or drive through mile after mile of golden grain gently waving in the wind, there is a strong sense of fulfillment. As far as the farms are concerned, this is the moment the whole year has been waiting for. This is what all the hard work has been about. It’s time to draw it all together and celebrate the goodness of land, rain, sunshine and fresh air, all contributing to the great harvest.
It is not surprising, given that ancient Palestine had an almost entirely rural economy, that the theme of harvest was a powerful image in the ancient scriptures, pointing forwards to the time when God would fulfill his promises at last. What’s more, when things had gone badly wrong–when God’s people had gone away into exile in Babylon–some of the prophets spoke not just of a coming harvest, but of a fresh ‘sowing.’ God would ‘sow’ his people again in their land, so that the new harvest, when it came, would be the result of a fresh act, a renewal of the covenant…
…Now this, I believe, was a very specific and urgent warning to Jesus’ contemporaries. God’s kingdom was going ahead–there really would be a bumper harvest, thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold. But they might not be part of it, however much they thought it was theirs by right, and however much enthusiasm they felt for it at the moment. As so often, however, what was specific to Jesus’ first hearers can then be translated as the message we need to hear, and to speak, today.
Anyone who knows the state of Christian faith and life in the wider world today can be in no doubt that, despite the decline in church attendances in the Western world, the seed is being sown in all kinds of ways. New, enthusiastic movements are springing up all over the place. This parable issues a warning, not least to the leaders of such movements: how deep are the roots going? What protection are you offering against the birds and the thorns? Today’s excitement can easily become tomorrow’s boredom or worse. Some of the ‘new atheists’ were once–for a short while–keen Christians. Evangelists, church planters and pastors, take note.
Grant us, sovereign Lord, to nurture the seed of the word, to guard it and let it grow, and to bring forth a harvest to your glory.
Lent for Everyone, Mark, Year B: A Daily Devotional
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Lent for Everyone, provides readers with a gentle guide through the Lenten season, from Ash Wednesday through the week after Easter. Popular biblical scholar and author N.T. Wright provides his own Scripture translation, brief reflection, and a prayer for each day of the season, helping readers consider how the text is relevant to their lives today.
Used with the kind permission of our friends at Westminster John Knox.