Just the other day as I parked my van after driving around Northwest Indiana, I heard a sound coming from the back of the vehicle. Obviously curious, I gave a quick eye test to the area where I thought the sound was originating. However, this was the second time I encountered the abnormal sound so I figured that a visit to the auto shop may be in my plans in the near future.
The idea of taking my van for possible repairs generated thoughts about the complex terms that mechanics and auto shop employees use when describing the parts and labor they recommend in order to fix or improve the performance of my van. Most of the time, I understand about half of the terms they use. If they tell me I need new shocks, an air filter, oil change or even a new alternator, I understand. But I'm not sure what pushrod and pullrod suspensions are or what a U-joint is and I definitely don't know what positive crankcase ventilation means. These terms are way above my head and outside my knowledge of cars.
Now midway through summer and entering the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, our worship scriptures have recently focused on some of the parables that Jesus Christ told the crowds of people in ancient Israel. Jesus talked in parables because He knew his audience would better understand the divine meaning of his message if He used words and terms with which they were familiar (unlike my visits to the auto shop). Because many of the people of ancient Israel were farmers or involved in the agricultural industry, Jesus used the words "seeds" and "sower" and "weeds" in parables to express the point He was really trying to convey to the crowds.
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. -Matthew 13:23
Yes, Jesus was able to connect with the crowds of ancient Israel through farming language. However, the concept of Jesus' parables inspired me to think about how differently Jesus would communicate to us in the 21st century. Being that most of us are not farmers (or mechanics), I believe Jesus is finding other unique ways to reach the 21st century mind and heart. But the theme of the seed sower remains impactful to the growth of God's kingdom in our community and the world.
What type of "seeds" is Jesus using to reach us today? Well, the most prominent seed is the Church. Yes, we as a church, an organized and welcoming Christian institution, serve as the impetus for understanding God's words on good soil. We as a church, as well as the greater Christian church community invite all to join us and serve as the best resource to provide anyone who seeks a better understanding of the Bible. The Church serves as a respite to those who wish to avoid earthly temptations. The Church helps its members establish eternal relationships with God rather than temporary stints of joy. The Church encourages us to share our wealth to aid the less fortunate so that they too can feel the love of God and understand His word. And here's also what the Church does - the Church places the Holy Spirit on good soil, creating a culture of love, grace and hope and a reminder that God offers salvation to all of us.
Additionally, in a constantly-changing 21st century, the Church encourages people to ask questions and to have conversations about important issues that may originate from doubt or confusion. Our 21stcentury seeds to grow Christianity in our community and in the world continue to be planted by the Church. Churches are gardens that encourage conversation about important questions. Through prayer or among friends, we are invited to ask questions and each time we do, God hugs us a little tighter and our faith grows stronger.
And don't forget to water your garden!
McCormick Theological Seminary student
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what is seen?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.