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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bryant

Mark 4:1-20--Anxiety Has No Defense Against Our Smallness

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,

and may indeed hear but not understand,

lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

I think of a seed, I think of how God was born small, born into great danger and peril. No place to stay, a tyrant who wanted him dead.

I think of people I’ve known who lived in homes that weren’t safe, neighborhoods that weren’t safe.

I think of the dangers here, tribulation, persecution, deceitfulness of riches and the desires of other thing, and Satan himself hunting us down. With so much danger, with so many other things, so much else that is going on, so much else stacked against us, we are still asked to pay attention to something so small. A seed, a word. And to bear the fruit of that word with great patience and care. To attend to it, as it tends to us.

The future is in this word, this word of Christ to us, in us, for us, but so much of this faith in Christ, this future in Christ is often so hidden, and slow. And so much of this world so loud, so fast, so threatening.

And yet, to bear this life in Christ, this word. To bear it patiently. And to do it with our own smallness.

It has dawned on me more and more that the world, Satan, our anxiety, this wilderness cannot defend itself against our smallness, our attention, the fact that we can always become as small as our need of this word, as small as our dependence on only this, on only hearing.

I've had visions of walking into a great wilderness, a great storm. And with each step becoming smaller, and smaller. Each step forward a step where I'm smaller, and yet further in this wilderness, further through this storm. To become as small as listening, as small as prayer.

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