“You need to see a cardiologist…”
Have you ever heard those words? For those who know me and what I eat, those words would be the punch line of a joke. To the extent that I can, I try to eat as much clean, organic food as I can. I eat the kinds of foods that from time to time, you’ll hear we should be eating… lots of fish, rich in healthy fats, very little red meat, multi-grain oatmeal every morning, no white bread, LOTS of vegetables. So when my doctor called and shared that I needed to see a cardiologist… I thought, HOW is this possible?
Fast forward to today’s message centered on Genesis 9-11 and Mark 4… after reading the passage in multiple translations and reflecting on the meaning of these passages, it hit me pretty hard… this message has all to do with the condition of the heart! In the Genesis reading, Noah needed to be open to hearing God’s Word, and in Mark, the Parable of the Sower finds a sower scattering seeds in obedience and wisdom. These seeds, as does in practice, fall on different surfaces. The seeds that end up on a hard surface like the sidewalk cannot germinate and take root, for there is no soil… these seeds are left vulnerable to animals for food. Those seeds that fall onto stony ground may begin to germinate due to the presence of soil, but are doomed to die as the roots lack the depth of soil to grow and thrive. The ground covered with brush competes with the new growth from seed for water, nutrients, and space, and ends up killing off the new growth. It is only the seed that falls upon good ground that bears fruit and thrives.
In the Parable, Jesus explains the four possibilities.. .the four paths the seed can take. It illustrates the seed as the Word of God… what happens to the Word once it is scattered has to do with the condition of the ground, but relating the reading to our lives, it has all to do with the condition of our hearts when in the presence of the Word of God. How will it be received is the question.
Consider the hard ground as a heart that is hardened by sin… that heart hears the Word, but does not listen. The Word, therefore, is bound to die as it cannot take root. The stony ground offers the potential of growth… the heart hears and listens to the Word, and yet, the heart remains unchanged. When strife occurs, faith disappears. The brush-covered ground also offers the potential for growth, but when a heart is consumed with so many other things besides those that are pleasing to God, these things of the world take time and attention away from God and the potential of the Word eventually dies. However, the good ground offers the fertile foundation in which growth is expected… the heart the can hear, listen, and understand the Word with results that are pleasing to God… this is the heart that is saved.
Therefore, how we, as humans, receive God’s Word is really a matter of our heart condition. As wonderful a gift as the Word is, It must be received properly if there is any chance of change and growth… it’s all about the condition of the heart! As for MY physical heart, the doctors have encouraged me to continue to eat what I’m eating… “Good stuff” in the words of one cardiologist. For now, at least, I need to work on getting my heart in better shape, through exercise, so my heart can receive the nutrients I’m passing into my body more effectively. Talk about timing with this passage… God, HOW do you do it?? I am in awe of your amazing abilities and grace!
Sweet Jesus, help us to see the Holy Spirit as the Master Gardner who waters hard, dry ground and softens our hearts to Your Word. Continue to work our stubborn and closed hearts and prepare them to receive the Gospel… for a well-prepared heart is better able to receive You in the fullness of love and happily obeys Your commands. Please be patient with us as we commit to removing the weeds in our life by pulling those weed-like idols from our hearts that would otherwise make Your Word meaningless to us. Amen.