July 20, 2019

July 20, 2019

July 20, 2019
Luke 8:5-8
by RuthAnne G. Henley
Pastor of Draper Circuit
New River District

An Insecure Security

In June of 2015, a major pharmaceutical company in Illinois discovered that its customer database had been electronically compromised despite a multi-tiered security system. Some 50,000 records were stolen and held for ransom. If the demands went unmet, they would be auctioned on the dark web. This was not that hacker’s first such crime, nor is he alone in the world. Many security systems are hacked before they hit the market and are sold with known vulnerabilities.

The hard lesson in that is that your computer’s security system is not as safe as you might think. But what is safe in this world? We should be diligent about where we place our trust.

The Prophet Amos issued a strong warning to the wealthy and well ensconced of Samaria when they refused to recognize the plight of the Jewish people. The poetic prophecy rang out with deep reverberations in Amos 6:1:

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion

And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria,

The distinguished men of the foremost of nations,

To whom the house of Israel comes.

Like the Pharmaceutical company, the Samarian powers paid a high price for considering their security forces unassailable. Ignoring the pleas of the Jewish people and the warnings of the prophet cost them their place in the world. Like all mortal powers have and will, they tumbled out of control and into insignificance.

Amos was not the first to recognize the link between moral accountability and lasting security. In the scalding lyrics of Psalm 52, David wrote:

Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man?

The lovingkindness of God endures all day long…

But God will break you down forever;

He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent,

And uproot you from the land of the living.

We are all exposed to evil in this world, and each of us hears the cry of the oppressed, marginalized and persecuted, though many among us tune out the sound. The lessons of Amos and David are often lost on us as we bask in the comforts of our lives. And why not? We earned the comforts we enjoy, didn’t we?

Put all of that in your pocket for a moment, and walk with me to the parable of the sower as recorded in Luke 8:5-8:

“The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

I wonder how many of us see the absurdity of this picture. As the pastor in an agricultural community, I can assure you that sowers do not generally step out of their houses and immediately start scattering seeds along the road and across the field to the prepared ground. They wait until the turned and ready soil is before them to begin the process of planting.

But this sower doesn’t wait.

Ready or not, here it comes. While the opportunity to receive the grace God is planting into the soul is universal, only the opportunity is universal. The growth is a matter of each soul’s willingness to receive, protect and nourish the grace of God that has fallen upon it. Soil doesn’t have any choice about its preparation, but the human soul does. What are we doing to nourish the grace that has fallen upon us?

What are we doing with the prevenient grace that is calling us home to the faith? What are we doing with the justifying grace that leads us into a full relationship with the Father through the sacrifice of the Son by the agency of the Holy Spirit? What are we doing with the sanctifying grace that is working in us to cause us to live out the holiness and justice of God?  

Today, when we hear the cries of the needy – the impoverished, addicted, marginalized, incarcerated and unwanted-unborn among others – what will we do? If our souls are right with God, we will hear and move to their defense. If our souls are unprepared, we are among the vulnerable.