Biblical Gardening, Pt 2: Matthew 13:1-43, Luke 8:1-15

Seeds of Various Growths. Weeds Coming Up.

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.
Matthew 13:20-22 (NIV)

Let’s think about door-to-door evangelism.

I participated in a number of “mission’s trips” as both a student and a leader, and whenever it came to evangelism, my gut always turned over. It made something that had been so meaningful to me – a passionate love and adoration for Jesus – into a sports game of sorts. How many people could we “save?” This was merely how I intellectualized it, not necessarily how it was meant to come across. Some people were just so excited about their faith that they needed to share it with others. It seemed like they carried an existential anxiety – that if they didn’t manage to get as many people as possible to convert, then God would view them as utter failures.

Door-to-door evangelism is just so impersonal. “Hello, let us in so we can tell you what you’re missing in your life.” It’s based around this idea of hoping to reach someone who just happens to be on your wavelength – catching someone who happens to be feeling lost. For every one meaningful conversation, there are tens of polite aversions or doors slammed in your face. And these failures are just assumed to be from “the evil world” – people who were unwilling to hear the good news and “had their chance.”

I wouldn’t do it.

I almost got fired for not doing it. I led a mission’s trip to the inner city with some young 9th graders. We did a Vacation Bible School and painted some walls. We cleaned up some of the streets around a church and spent the nights playing intense games of manhunt. But then, also, we had to go door-to-door, preaching the good news. My supervisor heard my discomforts over it, claiming that this type of evangelism wasn’t even “one of the top ten methods” available, but still maintained its importance. I didn’t see it.

But I did do it.

It all stemmed from a parable Jesus told about the seeds and the sower. A sower lays down seeds onto various surfaces. Some fall on the path and are gobbled by birds. Some land in rocks and grow, but then are snuffed out. Others get caught in thorns. And then there are the ones that hit good soil and bloom healthily. This is all meant to be a metaphor for individuals who hear of God. Some immediately disregard, while others take it in. The second example got me though – those that hear it and grow, but are soon snuffed out.

And that was how Bob Lenz’s sermon with his special needs sister and door-to-door evangelism felt. Let’s emotionally manipulate some people in a single moment, without any context or relationship. Let’s get as many immature seedlings as possible, planted among rocks, so they’ll get chocked as quickly as possible.

Relationship. Since when has anything effective been communicated without that human-to-human level. And how can that possibly be done knocking on someone’s door or guilting them into adopting a youngster?

I don’t think it can be.

Levels of Sins: Matthew 11:20-30, Luke 7:36-50

Unrepentant Towns. Rest for the Weary. Jesus Anointed by Tears.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

My sin is worse. Can I balance the scales?

My father’s company laid him off after nearly a decade of work. It turned out to be a small deal; he was nearing retirement age and planned to quit eventually anyway. He figured he should take the severance and run for the hills. No one panicked. My mother asked for a raise and received it. My father got a little part time job to coincide with his semi-retirement. My brother and sister understood the severity of the situation – money is always a problem – but it did not disrupt their respective days. But a pain formed in the center of my chest and grew outward after I had heard. Later that night, I called my mother in a desperate sweat. I told her it was coming back, all my fears, and I knew I could not go through it again.

I meant the dark spiraling of my innate fears. I have written about this before – but all through my life, I over-analyzed the insurmountable details surrounding death and eternity. My triggers are relatively random – any change or negative life event can send my mind swirling around a dangerous pathway. “Episodes” can last several weeks, generally darkening my mood and putting me on the brink of panic attacks. At best, I function without form; at worst, I don’t leave my house. Luckily, I have learned to work through these moments without much disruption, but there is always the constant threat of a relapse. My mind convinces me of a deep nihilism – with death and eternity looming as certainties, well then, why bother at all? It’s terribly trite and incredibly goth. But it feels so real.

Those around me have adopted two strategies to pulling me out of the hole – distraction and praise. The first is obvious; shove something in front of my face that drags my mind into another topic. This works in the short term, but the effect dulls if I overuse it.

So when that inevitably fails after time, my supporters move on to the latter – listing all of my positive attributes so that I will reaffirm the purpose of life. I worked with autistic youth for many years – that always gets a mention. I am an important part of the lives of my friends and families – that is important. Blah blah, so on so on.

But what of my sins? My mind always asks. Isn’t all of that nullified by homosexuality? Isn’t that what you think about me?

Murderers can kill and ask for forgiveness. Pre-marital deviants can pray away their uncouth moments.

But gay is as gay does, and that ain’t going nowhere.

A Nice Story: Nehemiah 1 – 7

Nehemiah is a lesser version of David. Well, that is certainly an assumption on my part, as I did not know either of these men personally, but based on their life stories, the similarities outweigh the differences. Nehemiah comes from humble beginnings as the cupbearer of a king, and before long, he catches wind of the return of the exiles. He approaches King Antaxerxes – his overlord – in order to ask if he can return to his land to aid in the rebuilding effort of Jerusalem. The King tilts his head towards the lowly servant and declares that…!

…It is fine. And so, off Nehemiah goes.

Huh. That was easy.

So Nehemiah returns to Judah and begins rebuilding the walls around the city. However, he barely makes any headway when an opponent named Sanballet threatens violence if they continue. So Nehemiah prays, stations some men to stand guard, and…!

…Sanballet takes his soldiers and leaves. Okay, then.

But then, a continuing famine causes much suffering among the newly returned exiles. What could Nehemiah possibly do?

He prays to God and feeds the poor.

Finally, Nehemiah receives letters threatening the city!

So he closes the gates. And that’s… well that solves the problem.

Maybe there are more differences between Nehemiah and his golden-boy counterpart than it initially seemed. Yes, they both start their journeys as lowly servants and end up rising to become leaders for God. But David did not get a whole lot done without violence, and Nehemiah… well things just go so smoothly for him.

Granted, there are six chapters left for tomorrow’s reading, so it could all go to Hell very quickly. But without any significant foreshadowing, condemnations from God, and apparent bad behavior, it seems like things are looking up.

And I have to say, what a relief.

I hate romances and would much prefer to watch a heavy, thought-provoking movie rather than something light and meaningless. I like my drama gritty and my comedy dark and am often the first person to mock something egregiously melodramatic. Some call me “gloomy;” I would agree.

But not now – not with this. I am happy with the happiness. It is uncomplicated; it works.

Here’s to simplicity – for now.