Trust, Persistence, and Good Dirt
#TrustPersistenceGoodDirt is the podcast for June 17, 2018. Parables about the Kingdom of God require trust, persistence, and good dirt. There is a lot going on in these little parables. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark #Mark4 #Trust #Persistence #Results #BusinessModel #Baseball #Bunting #CampusMinistry #KingdomofGod
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (for our Deaf and H/H brethren)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/17/2018 The 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 4:26-34.
Jonathan was not fast. He was the slowest, most plodding boy I had ever met, even though he was 10 years old. When he hit the baseball, I could count on there being plenty of time for the kids in the field to make their own mistakes, but still get the ball to first base before Jonathan got to first base. That is an out in baseball.
Even though he lacked skill, Jonathan was hardworking and dedicated. He wanted to be a good baseball player. He wanted to do well. When he was 10, he didn’t have the skills. All I could do as his coach was teach him the game: how to bunt and hit, how to run bases, and how to throw and field his position. Other than that, Jonathan was well meaning and disappointed in his results.
The spring after Jonathan turned 11 was different. When Jonathan hit the ball, it went farther, though not far. His bunting, which is to let the ball hit the bat and go a little bit in front of you, was excellent. His throwing was more accurate. The biggest improvement by far was his running. God gave Jonathan longer legs over the winter. His strides were nearly twice as long as they had been. As a consequence, Jonathan ran like the wind. He went from being the slowest kid known to modern baseball history to the fastest kid on our team-in one winter.
The other day, I got a facebook message from a former student from when I was a campus minister. We will call this student ‘Katie.’ Katie didn’t say very much in campus ministry. She wasn’t picked to be the leader of anything. She would come in to the ministry office and we would say ‘hello’ and maybe a few other things about her life, but nothing that I remember as too spectacular.
Katie messaged me to tell me that she really appreciated all that I had done for her as her campus minister. I didn’t remember doing anything but trying to be the best Christian I could be for all of my students. I was just the same day in and day out that I could be.
As his coach, I had not control over Jonathan’s growth. I had no promise of the results that we got when he was 11. I had no plan for Katie other than doing everything everyday intentionally for Jesus. There are so many variables in ministry and living the life for Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel for today we have two parables about the Kingdom of God. In the first, the Kingdom of God is like a person who sows seeds day and night. He checks the seeds to see if they are going to grow, but he has no idea how it happens. Then, he reaps the harvest when they do.
In the second, we are told that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is tiny when planted and then it grows into a large bush. It is fair to say that we all understand the idea that the Kingdom of God is in the details, the small things we think that are insignificant, which grow into large results. We have all heard sermons and homilies on this throughout the years.
These two parables tell us something else: being a disciple in the Kingdom of God requires trust, persistence, and good dirt.
Both of these parables are about the growth that is anticipated in the kingdom of God. We anticipate that people are going to become Christians. We anticipate that our churches are going to grow. Yet, growth is not our focus. If making Christians were like building a car or crafting a beer, then we would have plans and recipes that would be easy to follow and we would be geared toward results.
Instead, we are dealing with human beings and faith. We are asking people to trust in a person they do not readily see. If there is a business model for faith, I am skeptical. In over 30 years in ministry I can tell you there is only one consistency: God. The Lord is faithful. The results we intended are usually never the results we get. The goal is not numbers, but faithfulness to do what he has called us to do is the goal, whatever the results.
There were no guarantees that Jonathan was going to run fast and be an incredible bunter. There were no guarantees that he was going to bunt with the bases loaded and two out to break a game wide open like he did with his skill and speed. He did, in fact. All I could do before that was to show up, teach what I knew to be true, and trust that someone would catch fire.
There were no guarantees that Katie would be encouraged by the words that I spoke or the times that I listened. There are so many others that heard and nothing happened. All I could do was get to the campus, faithfully give the love that I am called to give, and trust that God will do the rest.
[There were no guarantees that anyone would join me for Mass in the park. All I could do was show up, set up, and celebrate Mass in the park.]
God does what God does. He has a mission and invites us to join that mission. We have to trust that what he tells us to do we have to do. He will take care of the results. No matter how many times we get up in the middle of the night to check on the crops, they are going to grow or not grow. We can only be sure that they wouldn’t grow at all if we had not planted the seeds. Planting seeds takes trust in God. We are called to be a trusting people.
The planting of seeds, spreading the Gospel, also demands persistence. When you are not assured of results, you have to be persistent to get out there and do it again and again until you see something happen. Especially when you are not sure if those around you are receptive to your message, you must be persistent. We are persistent because we do not know who will respond, or when. There may be someone we are not expecting who needs to know God’s love. God is persistent. The Kingdom of God is persistent. The planter of seeds is persistent. We are persistent people.
Lastly, Jonathan and Katie would not have grown unless they had been open to the seed. They had to be good earth to grow. Sometimes, our work in ministry has nothing to do with us, but has everything to do with the dirt. Sure, we have to be good dirt, too. We have to be open to being trusting and persistent, but those who hear have to be open to the teaching. Jonathan was and he became a good ballplayer. Katie was and found comfort and lessons in the University Ministry Office.
The message to the disciples and to us is this: we must trust that God knows what he is doing and will make things grow. We must be persistent and ever sowing seeds of the Gospel to people of whom we are not aware. We must be good earth and know that unless someone is soil ready to hear, they will not grow.
Trust God. Be persistent. Be good earth and look for good earth. When you do, you are the kingdom of God. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian