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The Good Soil

The Matrix of Spiritual Growth in Shalom

Text: Mark 4:26-29

Dr Alex Tang, Sunday sermon, 13 January 2008, Holy Light Church (English), Johor Bahru, Malaysia

 

Text

   MK 4:26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

 

Sermon Statement

The Kingdom of God is shalom. In each of us has a spiritual seed which has the potential to grow. We cannot cause spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes from the spiritual seed and a nurturing soil (environment). The church can be the nurturing environment for spiritual growth. The components of S.H.A.L.O.M. provides the nurturing environment –Story (sharing love), Heart (experiencing love), Action (Acting love), Learning (thinking love), Oneness (living love) and Maturity (growing love).

 

Introduction

Story telling has a long tradition of teaching spiritual truths. Even now, many different religious traditions use story telling to convey a lesson or lessons. Jesus is a master in story telling. He tells parables which are a story with many layers of meaning. To teach about the Kingdom of God, some of the parables he used are:

         The Parable of the Sower (Matt 13;1-9, 18-23; Mk 4:1-9,13-20; Lk 8:4-8, 11-15)

         The Lamp and the Measure (Mk 4:21-25; Lk 8:16-18)

         The Parable of the Growing Seed (Mk 4:26-29)

         The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt 13:31-32; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13-18-19)

Book recommendation: David Wenham, The Parables of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989)

 

Text Exposition

Jesus was teaching on the Kingdom of God. He was using a parable of the growing seed. Jesus was speaking to an agriculture based community who will appreciate fully what he was saying. It may not be so powerful a message if we get our vegetables wrapped in plastic from the supermarkets.

 

(1)   What did the man do?

A man scatters seed on the ground (4:26b)

As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." (4:29)

It is important to note there is a role for human effort in the Kingdom of God. The man is to sow and he has to harvest. However, there is nothing he can do to make the plant grow. People whose livelihood depends on agriculture knew this. They know that there are certain things they can do and they is much they have not control over. I believe that there is a reason why an agrarian society is more religious. They know that in spite of all the advances in technology and knowledge, thee are still elements that they cannot control. Elements like the weather; the rain comes in time or there is enough sunshine. If the rain comes too early, the seeds will not grow, too late and the seeds will have dried up. Too little and the seed with not grow or die and too much, the seed dies. The same applies to sun light.

(2)   What did the seed do?

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how (4:27)

Each seed has its own potential to grow. It does not need the man to do anything. Given the right condition, it will grow because that is what it is designed to do. Thus the man has no role in the seed growing. Nowadays, even with genetically engineered seeds, growth is still the property of the seeds.

(3)   What did the soil do?

All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head (4:27)

It is interesting that Jesus point out the soil producing the stalk, head and full kernel in the head. Thus even though the seed can grow, without the soil it will die. The soil is also important in producing crops for the harvest.

Thus in this parable, Jesus points out the role of man, the seed and the soil in the Kingdom of Heaven. Man is to sow and harvest, the seed has the potential to grow and soil is the nurturing environment for growth.

SHALOM as the good soil for spiritual growth

Last week, we learnt in the sermon that Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is love; love for God, for our neighbours and for ourselves. Love leads to shalom which is the fulfilment of love. S.H.A.L.O.M. is how a church practices love –Story, Heart, Action, Learning, Oneness and Maturity.

Spiritual growth is growing in love. Inside each of us has a spiritual seed that has the potential to grow. Shalom is the Kingdom of Heaven where everything is in harmony. We cannot cause spiritual growth. We cannot will ourselves to grow and mature spiritually. There are no lectures or books we can listen to or read to cause spiritual growth. Spiritual growth has to occur by itself. The seed needs the soil (or nutrients solution if we are thinking of hydroponics) to grow. I will suggest that without the soil, even the Holy Spirit cannot cause the spiritual seed inside us to grow. I will also suggest that the soil is the loving culture or matrix of the church. As the seed grows in the soil, we grow spiritually in the church.

As there are certain ingredients in the soil that nurture the seeds to grow, there are certain components in the church for our spiritual seeds to grow. I will suggest S.H.A.L.O.M.

They are:

·        Story telling- telling the meta-narrative of God’s great plan of redemption and also our own stories and see how our own stories fit into God’s meta-narrative. Hence the importance of testimony telling and sharing of experiences. Sharing love.

·        Heart matters; a call for emotional maturity- acknowledging, embracing, mastering, and detachment from our emotions or feelings. The will include experiential encounters with God (orthokardia). Emotions are important part of our makeup and our spirituality. We are called to love God with our heart, soul and mind. Experiencing love.

·        Action: Incarnational living - narrowing the gap between what we believe and and how we live, thus living an incarnational lifestyle (orthopraxis). An incarnational lifestyle is a lifestyle of love, as Jesus lived out his human life as a sign of his love for us. Acting in love.

·        Learning: transformational living- age appropriate learning of the knowledge of God through the Word, creation, and from others (orthodoxis). Knowing God means receiving the revelation of God. God has revealed himself to us through his Son, the Bible and nature. Thinking love.

·        Oneness in community– development of committed relationships within and without the church. Relationships are very important. Living love.

·        Maturity in Christ. This is our ongoing spiritual growth. Growing love.

 

(1)   Story Telling: Sharing Love

         Pulpit teaching

         Celebration

         Ebenezers (1 Sam. 7:12)

         Christian Year

         Testimonies

         Church archives

(2)   Heart: Experiencing Love

         Baptism and Eucharist

         Normative practices

         Social action groups

         Prayer groups

         Group spiritual directions

(3)   Action: Acting Love

         Baptism and Eucharist

         Normative practices

         Social action groups

         Prayer groups

         Group spiritual directions

(4)   Learn: Thinking Love

         Pulpit preaching

         Teaching classes/seminars/conference

         Discussion groups

         Seminary education

         Quiet time

         Self study of the Bible

         Contemporary issues

(5)   Oneness: Living Love

         Hospitality

         Fellowship

         Makan

         Counseling

         Care and concern

         Cell groups

         Modeling

         Mentoring

(6)   Maturity: Growing Love

         Spiritual friend

         Mentor

         Spiritual director

         Covenant groups

         Servant leadership

         Examining ourselves

         Desert spirituality: Attentiveness and Indifference

         Biblical choices

         Practicing the Presence of God

It is in a church community practicing S.H.A.L.O.M. that the Holy Spirit will be able to cause the spiritual seed inside of us to grow and develop into a fruitful plant.

Conclusion

The Kingdom of God is shalom. In each of us has a spiritual seed which has the potential to grow. We cannot cause spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes from the spiritual seed and a nurturing soil (environment). The church can be the nurturing environment for spiritual growth. The components of S.H.A.L.O.M. provides the nurturing environment –Story (sharing love), Heart (experiencing love), Action (Acting love), Learning (thinking love), Oneness (living love) and Maturity (growing love).

 

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Soli Deo Gloria

               

"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  

 

     
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