The Field I Work
First things first - thank you to everyone that bought hot sauce from us - we collectively have been blessed to be able to fund almost 50 micro loans, support the education of at-risk teens and feed the hungry and homeless in NJ and NY. The power of a single bottle of hot sauce still amazes me!
Everyone has heard the parable of the sower and the seeds before. It’s in the Gospel of Matthew, and it’s a familiar story. It is one of the first stories I remember from the Bible and each time I hear it and take time to reflect on it I am rewarded with more insight, more wisdom, more direction. I listened to the Gospel yesterday and was again blessed with a new way of looking at it. For the first time hearing this parable I didn’t look outward, didn’t choose to blame others, rather I looked inward and was able to see just how I am the ground that the seed is being sown on.
First, the ground trampled underfoot and hard. How many times in my week do I turn a blind eye to the suffering and pain that surrounds me. Not just the big stuff, but the small stuff as well. Have I become so calloused that the ‘rough day’ that my son is having has no effect on me or the hard day at work that my wife needs to talk about is just noise? The seed is sown but do I allow it to germinate or does it get swept away by some unimportant thing? Do I take the opportunity to allow the healing hand of God work through me? Not enough, not nearly enough!
Sometimes I am going through a rough patch of my own, having a hard day and praying for a little comfort. You know how it is - we all have those moments. They’re the “just give me a sign, Lord” parts of our lives. The ground we are traveling on is rocky but we are ready and when the long awaited sign comes we throw all we have at it - water it, give it sun, maybe even sing it a few Contemporary Christian songs. The seed grows but quickly dies and leaves us confused and shaken. “Didn’t I do what you wanted Lord? Didn’t I try to listen to your word?”
At other times it’s my pride that chokes off the seed. The thorn bushes in my own life that I allow to grow in my heart. I have to ask myself “why do I allow these weeds to flourish” The unfortunate answer is because it is simple to do so. If you don’t catch them early, weeds propagate quickly. Sometimes they even look pretty, and then it’s too late. Well, not really, but it sure makes the clean-up harder. What are the thorn bushes in my life? Pride for sure. I don’t like to ask for help and I sometimes resent the offer when it is made. Stupid, I know. But there are others as well - self doubt is the biggest weed in my landscape and it permeates everything I do. My first question is always “how was that?" After I cook a meal, run a meeting, lead a prayer group, fix a broken light switch I am compelled to ask “Was that OK” or “Did that meet your expectations?” Some people probably think it’s because I love to glory in the praise but in truth it’s because I have a hard time believing that I can do a good job, that I can be a positive influence. I know it’s just a light switch, I know that it either will work or not work but I need to hear that it was a ‘good’ fix. There are so many weeds that are growing, that need to be pulled, that I have a hard time believing anything good can grow.
Thankfully there is the rich soil that the seed is sown on. The funny thing is, it isn’t different soil, it’s the same one that was rocky, trampled and weed strewn. The only difference is that it has been cultivated. The rocks have been hauled away and the thorn bushes have been pulled and burned. Preparing the soil can take a long time and is hard work but it is worth it. Who is doing all of this work? The simple answer of course is “I am, with God” but in truth that is only part of it. The work is done with all those people we allow into our lives who make us better just by walking along side us on our journey. They stop along the way with us, pick up a stone or two, help us move the big ones that we can’t move ourselves. They help us clear the weeds. When there is a pile of thorn bushes that we can’t seem to overcome, they are the ones that set fire to the pyre and burn them into oblivion. Finally, what is left is a barren, trampled field, not quite ready for planting. It’s time to plow and Jesus, walking with us each and every step of the way, picking weeds, moving boulders, lifting and encouraging is there.
Jesus takes up the yoke and drags the plow. He says to me, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.
Thank you to everyone who walks the path with me.
Special thanks to Hank who helped me view this parable not only inwardly but also as an opportunity to allow others into the work of making me ready to be the best I can be.
Shout out to a brother in arms on the West Coast making hot sauces and supporting some great charities:
Old Boney Mountain Hot Sauce - Old Boney is in business first to help others then to have fun. If we end up making a few bucks great, but if we don’t, we still will have accomplished our mission. Every bottle sold generates a charitable contribution to our 4 selected charities regardless of our balance sheet. That contribution comes straight off the top!
The Parable of the Sower
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Matthew 13:1-23, NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11: 28-30 (NIV)