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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, July 10, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23         

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (NRSV)

To me, approaching this passage to write a devotion is daunting. When I was little, it was a silly scene in Godspell, but this parable hasn’t retained that silliness for me as an adult, with its images of being eaten up by birds, withering away after being scorched by the sun, being choked by thorns, or even of falling on good soil and bringing forth grain. That’s all so overwhelming to me—I don’t want any of those unfortunate fates or to have the pressure of bearing so much grain on my own!

What strikes me is the focus on “the one” who experiences any of these outcomes or who hears the word but does not understand it. To me, the key is the challenge of hearing the word and trying to understand it in solitude. From being a member of a local reading group based on the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast (which is hosted by two Harvard Divinity School graduates, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, who use traditional forms of sacred reading to glean wisdom from the text), I’ve learned that trying to understand a text is better done in community because, as our local group community guidelines say, “Alone, you can lose faith, or your rigor can lapse. Community makes it all possible.”

As part of the church, I do not have to seek this understanding alone. Instead, I am supported by a much larger community that engages in this study and learns together while supporting one another. Thanks be to God.

Holy Trinity, I offer thanks to you for the blessing of community. May you strengthen me in my faith as I engage in understanding your word with all of your creation. Amen.

Written by Katrina Buchanan, Editorial Assistant

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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