PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Currently, it’s a crisp negative one degree Fahrenheit outside and everything is covered in a blanket of snow. While the scene is beautiful, there’s no immediate indication that the weather is causing the earth to “bud and flourish.” But in about a month, a yellow burst of hundreds of daffodils will announce the coming of spring and prove my assessment wrong. God’s Word provides nourishment, even when we don’t see or feel its effect.
The snow covering every inch I can see provides a compelling visual representation of the widespread reach of the Word of God. In every season, God’s Word is dispatched to the earth. It does not change in purpose, essence, or effectiveness. In the falling of winter snow and in the downpour of summer rain, nothing is left untouched.
The fundamental role of God’s Word is to bring flourishing, fruitfulness, and sustenance to the world. Only God’s Word can do this.
In the summer and fall, a good bit of my time and energy goes toward making sure my garden is well-watered. Despite my diligent efforts to make sure my plants have what they need to thrive, no amount of water from my hose can produce the same results as a good rainfall. Everything is more vibrant and more alive after it rains, and I know I’ll have a ripe harvest of fruit and vegetables in the next few days. The flourishing of the earth is not just what God declares about his word, but what he desires from it.
Our text makes a point to say that God’s Word yields both seed for the sower and bread for the eater. Based on what I see in Jesus’s discipleship strategy and the life of the early church, these are not dichotomous categories. Jesus’s first followers were sowers and eaters. They carried his message while being nourished by it.
Unfortunately, the current discipleship model of many churches is based on the sowing of a few and the consumption of many. We must recognize that God’s Word puts something in our mouths and something in our hands at the same time. It’s not an either-or scenario but a both-and reality.
When we talk about the Word of God, we’re not just talking about the Scriptures, but the Word made flesh–Jesus himself. He gave his disciples a template for sowing and eating, using the language of abiding and friendship.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Many of us have a misguided perception of what it means to abide. I’ll never forget hearing one of my seminary professors say to our class: “Abiding doesn’t just mean lying on the floor of a dark room alone. There is no abiding with God without participating in the mission of God, because God is on mission.” You cannot really be with the Word and in the Word without being propelled out by the Word. Nor can you sustain the mission of the Word without regular communion and consumption of the Word.
Jesus continues on to say,
“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:14–17)
There’s a bit of a paradox going on with the first two sentences here: friends-not-servants who do what Jesus commands. This is meant to catch our attention. Being friends with Jesus does not mean we disobey him, but we are invited to obey him in a new way. Servanthood and friendship both include obedience and selflessness, but only one includes intimacy.
Dr. Craig Keener writes that “by obeying, they continue to make themselves more open recipients of God’s love, ‘abiding’ and persevering in ever deeper intimacy with God.”
Obedience without intimacy results in legalism.
Obedience from intimacy results in friendship. A friendship that yields seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.
The Word invites us to the table and the field. So sow generously and feast lavishly, regardless of the season. It will not return empty.
Lord, thank you for your Word. I agree with our text today in prayer: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is your word that goes out from your mouth: It will not return to you empty, but will accomplish what you desire and achieve the purpose for which you sent it.”
Help me to receive your Word as both bread and seed. Following your example, Jesus, show me what it looks like to feast at the table and sow in the field. Amen.
Inviting the Holy Spirit to guide me, I ask myself these questions:
- What does sowing and eating look like in my life? Am I prone to default to one over the other?
- What does my relationship to the Word (written and incarnate) look like? How does it align (or misalign) with today’s text?
For the Awakening,
Anna Grace Legband