“A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3b-9
Once, when an inquirer at a Bible study, I heard verses 5 and 6 in Matthew 13 with a jarring sense of a great clanging bell deep from within, or at least that is how I still remember it. At the time, the impact of the warning would shortly later be brushed off as if to be forgotten, … proving how apt the warning!
Don’t be that guy (with the attention span of a gnat … )”
A true jolt of a warning, a wake-up call. The shock of recognition at that liability to be someone who could hear and forget–I had no idea! It is still a very jarring concern.
“Don’t burn up at the launchpad” would be another way of putting it.
That night 40 years ago I would immediately demur from identifying myself as a “one” (on a scale of one to five, would you say Jesus is lord of all? ). No, not much soil to take root there. The calling they wanted to project, if they could, was urgent, and a little while later I would learn, was sincere.Some kind of willingness to meet that sincerity halfway got me to the Bible study (along with a smidgen of curiosity about the Bible) in the first place. But a “quick reversion to mean” is the shortest way to evaluate the question, “what just happened there? what was that?”
For within an hour after hearing those words that startled me then and continue to galvanize my being, I was able to say in all honesty (in answer to to question at heart of any Bible study*) that all I could see was that Jesus was a good man.
In retrospect, I can see my knowing mind hearing the Gospel (that parable a nicely nuanced sample there!) and the surface mind responding as shaped by habit, tossing out even the impact of that message, “don’t be the sprout that vanishes in the scorching heat.” The warning itself a blessing.
And perhaps the warning a preparation. The next morning, I would awaken to a feeling of release from a crown of thorns–the end of grieving for a great loss.–I’d been wearing since Easter and here it was October. It fell away, sort of miraculously, sort of naturally. That was a specific defining moment, that later when someone asked if any have remembered what Heaven felt like, I would nominate this moment.
And in trying to describe the sequence of events–the Bible study, the hearing but still not listening, the impact of waking up to a new day, without debilitating sorrow but instead joy–I immediately did take the sequence as more than correlative–there had to be a connection. Pay attention, that is the message now finally received; the message acted on at the time was to rush back to the sincere evangelists and offer to check out what they were saying. They themselves moved along, but other connections were already in place to tend the little sprout.
“Oh, after a while they all become just another religion.” said someone once.
Yet I see now it effectively did have the galvanizing effect of a searing electrical charge. Message received! Don’t be that guy! Oh, dismay, I am that guy … except that this liability has been attended to, I see.
The unheard objection implied by my secularist opinion would have sounded something like,
“but please do not make me stand on a corner and beat a big brass drum.”
*The deeper question proposed to the inquirer at the conclusion of the Bible study,
*”Who do you say Jesus was?”