Devotions on Mark 4:1-34
January 11-17, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
“He began to teach them many things in parables” (Mark 4:2)
Multiple choice or essay, which kind of exam do you prefer? Most of us will go with the multiple choice. On the whole it is an easier test. We have a one in four chance of getting the question correct even if we guess. Essays demand that we arrange main points and string thoughts together—that can be challenging. Even the teachers and professors like multiple choice exams because they are easier to grade.
There are a lot of us who like our religion plain and simple; black and white. We like our religious leaders to tell us what is right and wrong, what we are to support and what we are to oppose. Give us a list of rules that we can obey and a measuring stick with which we can judge ourselves and others.
Jesus doesn’t work that way. He speaks to us in parables—word problems. We are challenged to go through life wrestling with the issues of life and seeking to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us commands like, “Love one another.” “But how?” we ask. Jesus responds, “Look at the need, survey your talents, start loving and I’ll lead you the rest of the way.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have accepted the invitation to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We love God with both faith and thought; with both our minds and our hearts.
Divine Teacher, grant us knowledge, understanding and wisdom, as we seek to respond to the challenges of life and the needs of others. May we use the gift of our minds to your glory. Amen.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed some seed fell on the path” (Mark 4:3).
Farming practices were primitive at the time of Jesus. Even so, the sower displays an extravagant use of seed. He throws it everywhere with little regard to where it lands. It is a far cry from the minutely controlled, GPS guided planting system used by many farmers. It is this extravagance—abundance—that is the main point of the parable.
Many people focus on the types of soil that the seed falls on. Mark even includes this explanation in his gospel. When we do this, however, the focus of the parable changes from being on God, the sower, to us the soil. The message changes from a word grace—receive God’s abundance, to a word of law—get you soil prepared.
Hear the gospel message! God is an extravagant God. God is extravagant in God’s forgiveness, love and grace. Blessings upon blessings have been poured into our laps. Let’s celebrate God’s abundance. The Holy Spirit is already at work plowing, picking rocks and pulling weeds in the soil of our lives.
Divine Gardner, thank you for your extravagant care of our lives and the nurturing of our faith. Amen.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
“Other seed fell on good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8).
The church was packed with people from the small town, from across the United States and even from other countries. Hundreds of people gathered together to remember Lester Holcomb and to celebrate his life. Lester had worked on the assembly line his entire life and he had taught Sunday school for over thirty years. During the memorial service the pastor invited people to share a few comments about Lester. One after another people walked to the front of the church and shared how Lester had taught them Bible stories, shared his faith with them and helped them to become disciples of Jesus. Lester would have been surprised at the number of lives he had touched.
When the seed lands it produces significant amounts of grain. When the gospel enters our lives not only are we changed, but we are used by the Holy Spirit to share God’s love and grace and to touch people with the gospel of Jesus. We do this by our words and our actions when it is convenient or inconvenient. The results are beyond our imagination and they are caused not by the goodness of the soil but by the power contained in the seed.
Loving God, thank you that you use us to touch other people with your love and grace. May our lives be open conduits for your Spirit’s movement and may our lives be fruitful for you. Amen.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
“Is the lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lamp stand” (Mark 4:21)?
Jaylene hid under the covers with a flashlight in her hand reading a book. She was supposed to be sleeping but she really liked to read. When her mother walked to her bedroom, she noticed a light flickering under Jaylene’s door. Shaking her head in frustration, Jaylene’s mother opened the door and said, “Jaylene you can see the light even when it’s under the covers. Now please close the book, turn off the light and go to sleep.”
During a baptism at many of our congregations, the pastor lights a small candle and hands it to the baptized or a member of the family and says, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” From the moment of our baptism our light is lit and we have been commissioned to shine brightly with God’s love and grace. There are times when our light may grow dim. Our words and actions may not always convey God’s love and grace. We might not follow closely to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This does not take away from the fact that our light has been lit. We don’t need to light the fire, nor do we need to stoke the fire. All we are called to do is let the fire of our lives, as disciples of Jesus, shine.
O Holy Light, shine in our lives, shine through our lives. Pierce the darkness of our world and bring light to those who live in darkness. Amen.
Friday, January 15, 2016
“The seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how” Mark 4:27).
James was a skilled gardener who took pride in the flowers that painted his backyard in a palate of colors. James was troubled, though. A rose-bush was dying and no matter what he did he could not coax it back to health. For a period of time James was so intent on trying to revive his rose-bush that he ignored the splendor of life that was around him.
Life is a miracle. We don’t understand it. Children are born with a beating heart and a thinking brain. Animals have instincts. Seeds sprout and grow and we really can’t explain how it happens. The miracle of life, unfortunately is not what usually catches our attention. We usually concentrate on the dying rose bushes of life: the plunging stock market, the panhandlers on the street corners, trouble in the Middle East and tornadoes on the plains. We certainly should not ignore these issues. They are causes for prayer and at times actions. Neither should we allow the day’s troubles keep us from rejoicing in the miracle of life. Not only do we have life, but we also have new life—a gift through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
O Breath of Life, thank you for the miracle of life. May we never forget how precious it is nor be blind to its wonder. Amen.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God …. It is like a mustard seed” (Mark 5:30-31).
How odd to compare the kingdom of God with a mustard seed. After all a mustard seed is small and the bush is not attractive. In fact there are places where the mustard plant is considered a weed. It would be more appropriate if the kingdom of God was compared to a mighty redwood, or a majestic elm. Jesus didn’t mix his metaphors, though. His comparison was intentional.
The kingdom of God has the potential of the mustard seed. It can start small, but it grows to be sizable. The kingdom’s potential for growth is enormous. There is no pride in its greatness, though. The kingdom of God isn’t for show. It isn’t meant to impress. Instead there is a humbleness that is inherent in God’s kingdom. It is a humbleness that sprouts from loving service and the care for others.
O Holy Spirit, here are our hands and feet, our mouth, eyes and ears. We offer to you all that you have given us that you might use it to serve others, to bring them into your family and to honor you. Amen.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
“Yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs” (Mark 4:32).
One spring Connor was cleaning out his garage and came across an old package of seeds. The picture on the bag had faded so that Connor had no idea what kind of seeds the package contained. On a whim Connor decided to sprinkle the seeds on a bare patch of land and see what came up. Within several weeks Connor had a small flower garden of poppies, snapdragons, petunias and daisies. Connor would never have guessed the beauty that was in that package.
Mixed in with the joys and pleasures of life are the problems and challenges. Sometimes those problems and challenges are too big for us and they even appear to be too big for the Lord. At least, we think they are too big for God. We carry our imagination of what God can do in a faded flower packet. We don’t expect much and it doesn’t seem to be enough. God surprises us, though. God moves in ways beyond our imagination and nothing is too great for the Lord. Every time we think that God can’t’, God does, and every time we think that the situation is too great for God, God shows us that the kingdom of God is greater still.
Almighty God, thank you for your power and might in our lives and in our world. Move in us and through us to accomplish your will. Amen.