A good definition of discipleship might be Finding God in All Things. This helpful insight didn’t come from me. It came from Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and he didn’t make it up either. He was just giving helpful wording to what Christians have done since the beginning. In the Scriptures, God makes it clear that he doesn’t live in temples or buildings made by human hands. He himself is the one who made everything, and instead of God residing in places, all places reside in God! God is an awesome being. God holds all things, and is beyond all things. Psalm 139 puts it well:
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in the realm of the dead, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”— Psalm 139
There is no place we can go, no action we can do, no emotion we can feel that is apart from God. Our root faith of Judaism has much to teach us about how to live more deeply in this truth. A central virtue for Jewish faith is to sanctify the daily. We only spend an hour or so in church a week. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t present to us in the other 167 hours of the week. In fact, to have a deep relationship with God, we have to know him more than the 0.5% that church represents in our week.
We need to walk with God not just on Sunday morning, but in our eating, in our working, in the decisions we make. We need to learn how to love God in our quiet, and in our business, in our joys and in our griefs. How do we do this? For today, I want to highlight an image.
The Parable of the Sower
One of the great images that Jesus gives us comes from the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). In this story, a farmer sows seed liberally, indeed wastefully. The seed goes everywhere. It lands on good soil and bad soil. Some of the seeds are eaten up by birds, some are choked out by weeds. Others don’t have enough soil, so they grow shallow roots and wither away. Some fall on good soil and there is an abundant harvest.
Jesus uses this metaphor to talk about the human heart. The seed is the word of God, and these ‘words’ are spread everywhere. He is not talking about the word in terms of the scriptures, but a bigger understanding of the ‘word’ as the presence of God in our world. These ‘words’ do not come like the dramatic presence that Israel saw in lighting and thunder at Mt. Sinai. Rather, these ‘words’ are hundreds of smaller graces that God uses to remind us of his love and presence in the world. These ‘words’ are given to encourage and transform our lives so that we live more and more like Jesus.
This story tells us that God is spreading his presence ‘wastefully.’ It is everywhere. There is nowhere that God is not spreading his ‘words.’ Our call is to listen. But we have to have ears that actually listen and eyes that actually see what God is doing. How do we do that? We nurture the soil of our heart. That is the subject for the next article.