Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.
Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:1-9 (NRSV)
There is a great debate among Christian thinkers and theologians regarding free will. Some say that we humans have been given free rein over everything, which would negate the truth that God is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing.) Others say that God controls us much as we humans would play a game of the Sims, with every breath and every thought and every action preplanned. But God didn’t make us to be robots, and He’s not playing a video game. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Wisdom would probably dictate that there is an element of mystery in that God does allow us to do our own things, and to screw up…to a point. Suffice to say that God finds ways of using our free will to do His will, even if we don’t quite understand how that works.
As we learned in this week’s sermon text, (Matthew 13:1-9) God sows His word everywhere, lavishly, generously, almost wantonly, everywhere and on everyone. Yet the word doesn’t always grow where it’s planted. Sometimes we get discouraged when we plant the seeds only to find that they wither and die and don’t grow. When we get rejected or mocked for being Jesus followers it can be discouraging. Sometimes life gets us down too and we get discouraged. We wonder, “What’s the use in following Jesus”, when our circumstances can be so awful. Or sometimes we get so caught up in material things and so obsessed with God’s gifts that we forget the Giver.
Some have made the comparison that our journey as a Jesus follower is more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s a long haul kind of thing. Like any other relationship or achieving any kind of goal, being a Jesus follower requires effort. God is in control, but He’s not going to do everything for us. God expects to hear from us- all the time. He expects dialogue with us. He wants us to surrender everything to Him, especially those parts of us that aren’t pretty or that need work. My grandmother once told me, “It’s OK to be angry with God. Let Him know about it. He is bigger than your anger.” Nothing is off-limits between us and God, because God knows us inside and out anyway. He’s just waiting for us to admit to ourselves what He already knows.
In our culture of instant gratification, it really is countercultural to be a Jesus follower- to wait on God, to follow His rules, and to live according to His expectations. Our culture says, “NOW!” and “Me first!,” while Jesus says, “Wait,” and “Others first.” It’s not easy to wait. It’s not easy to put other people before ourselves. Following Jesus is not always an easy thing to do, but it is worth the effort. Better yet, He is patient with us, and He forgives us when we fail. Every day is a new day He gives us to wake up, put on our Baptism as daily wear (to quote Martin Luther) and try again.
Are we the “good soil” on which God’s word can grow and bring forth a good harvest? Are we willing to plant good seeds everywhere, trusting that our work for God’s Kingdom has a good purpose, and that it’s God’s work and God’s harvest?
Keep on planting.