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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, July 23, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 4:21–34

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. (NRSV)

I have a bit of a preference for the parables in Mark over the similar ones in Matthew. As a writer, I have to admit that I love that Jesus teaches these great ideas through a series of small, short, intimate little stories. Stories, after all, are how we make sense out of our world, how we can use experiences to create understanding through narrative.

In a sense it embodies who Jesus was and is: the incomprehensibly vast brought to a human scale, God reaching to us, to speak to us in words we can hear and understand. I mean, he doesn’t make it easy, we have to work with the parables, but work? It bears fruit.

Here, I’m struck by the different treatment of the lamp under the bushel basket. In Matthew, we’re the light—we’re the ones who show the world what the kingdom of God is. Here, though the idea is similar, there is a subtle distinction that is both a commission and a reminder in that the light (truth and knowledge) both shines out and shines on—it reveals itself, yes, but it also reveals everything else. “Nothing is hidden, except to be disclosed, nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” There’s no hiding, no covering up—it’s all coming out. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, hiding themselves in shame, it’s all to no effect.

We are known by God, who speaks to us in a language we can hear and holds us accountable for what we hear. There’s no dodging. Delay is fleeting—in the fullness of time everything comes to fruition, and things that seem small and unimportant become things of huge consequence.

Even as we are so completely known, we are at the same time completely loved by the one who made the effort to cross the chasm between us when we couldn’t do it on our own.

Lord, thank you for your patience with us. Thank you for speaking to us in a language we can hear, and sustaining us as we try to make sense of it all. Thank you for loving us, even as you know us completely, even the parts we hide in our shame. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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