Weekly Meditation - 16th July 2017
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
When I was a child I read a very exciting mediaeval adventure story called 'The Woods of Windri' by Violet Needham. The main protagonists were a girl called Magdalen, and a slightly older boy called Theodore. Magdalen had the daily task of learning a Psalm in Latin, and Theodore used to help her. One of the passages began with the words 'Lucerna pedibus meis' - a lantern unto my feet; the children later used the phrase as a password, and when Theodore was lost and in danger in the forest, it became his prayer. The words made a huge impression on me.
Years later I discovered where those words came from - they are part of verse 105 of Psalm 119. Magdalen was fortunate in not having to learn the entire psalm, for it is the longest in the Bible, and it seems to have been written by someone who just could not stop saying how much he loved God’s word. At the time he was writing, God’s word would have been mainly just the Law – those books of the Bible that we tend to find most impenetrable, irrelevant and dry, yet which filled this writer with such delight that he bursts out 'they are the joy of my heart' (verse 111)
Verse 105, 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path', epitomises the message of the entire Psalm. Like Theodore in the forest, when the ground beneath us is unsteady or challenging, and the way ahead is hard to find, the Bible – God’s Word – is our guide, our comfort and our spiritual illumination.
We are never more in need of such help than when we are under attack, either through our own struggle with sin, or when Satan seeks to rob us of our joy and security in Christ. And we have far more to turn to than did the writer of Psalm 119, for we have the entire Bible, full of God’s wisdom and his gracious words to us.
Today’s gospel reading from Matthew 13 shows us how easy it is not to take hold of the word of God. It tells the sad story of how the precious seed goes astray – landing on the path and being eaten by birds, finding no depth of soil in which to grow, being choked by weeds. We mainly consider that the parable applies to those on their way into the Christian faith, and so it does. But we ourselves can also take heed of the warnings not to let anything rob us of the guidance that God’s word affords.
We are warned first of all that what we read in the Bible can bounce off us, like the seed that fell on the path; it has no impact on us at all; it has fallen on deaf ears. That happens if we shrug off what we read because it is uncomfortable, unpalatable, not what we want to hear. We refuse to allow it even to begin to take root in our hearts.
Next we learn that God’s word can fail to reach any depth in us. We read the bits we like, or we apply what we read to others instead of ourselves. God’s word has no lasting effect on our lives.
Then there is the seed that grows well but becomes crowded out by weeds. That is how our life can be when we allow the world – its pains and its pleasures – to dominate our thinking and actions, instead of letting God’s word speak to us.
Only the seed that falls on good ground provides a positive image of a fruitful life in which the input of God’s word overrides all else.
Of course, there are times when we fail to live up to this standard, and when our Bible reading becomes routine or even non-existent, and seems to say nothing to us at all. Then it is good to turn to yet another of our lectionary readings – Romans 8:1-11. It is like a candle being lit in a dark place. 'There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.' (verse 1) What words of comfort for when we feel we do not measure up, for when we doubt our salvation or think that the way ahead is too difficult. Jesus has already gone before us, paid the price and given us his Spirit, so that we cannot fail. In the midst of our striving, never let us lose sight of Jesus who is the ultimate Way (John 14:6), the Light of the World (John 8:12), and the Word of God (John 1:1).
Written by Susan Thorne