flower in rocks

Wasteful Miracles

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65
Romans 8:1-11 OR Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23

With two millennia of practice, Christians have nearly perfected the art of explaining away Gospel demands. Excuse-making is, after all, a human strong suit, and it’s not easy to stop doing what you’re really good at.

A modern variant of the “that’s nice, but it doesn’t apply to me” excuse stresses how different our lives are from those of first century peasants. Farmers, shepherds, and fishermen are, for many of us, abstractions invisibly at work somewhere beyond our personal experience, black boxes in the grocery store supply chain, while the few among us who farm or fish for a living know better than to throw precious seeds along a rocky path, leave ninety-nine percent of the stock loose and unwatched while searching for a stray, or toss nets over the oarlocks and hope for the best without benefit of engines, fishfinder, or radio.

In contrasting my busy, technologically sophisticated modern life to sentimentalized myths of agrarian simplicity, I construct all the distance I need to miss the point – and missing the point is, after all, the unacknowledged point of much contemporary scripture study. I like to imagine that I would never be so wasteful and inefficient as the benighted peasantry of Jesus’ time. Read more

Preparing for the Gift

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

A good farmer is one who knows what he can do and what he can’t. He can work the soil, build compost, mulch, but the growth of healthy plants is always at the mercy of conditions beyond him—the right amount of rain, the right weather at planting time, the right conditions at the harvest. The good farmer knows that a healthy crop is always both the product of hard work and a gift beyond any system of exchange.

We are brought to this paradox of gift and work by the lectionary readings for this Sunday as we wrestle with our relationship with God, the Law, and our hearts. Read more