The Beaten Path

(Excerpts from a sermon by Rev. R. Leigh Spruill, St. George’s Episcopal Church, July 10, 2011: Taking the Plow to the Beaten Path)

Jesus uses parables to describe God’s character and what the kingdom of God is like. Often, we end up scratching our heads as to the meaning. Perhaps that is by design to lead us into a deeper reflection and engagement, so that the word of the Lord becomes alive as an active and creative agent working on us.”

In Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV), Jesus explains the parable of the Sower where some seed is sown on the path and the birds come and gobble it up. Rev. Spruill asks us, “Why don’t we find more fertile ground in our own lives?” We are a frustrating blend of the good and the bad. 

A “path” is a well-traveled route where daily traffic back and forth wears down the ground into hard-packed earth, where no grass will grow, like the path our dogs have worn in the backyard. We can look at this hardened earth where nothing grows as the entrenched behavior and thinking in our own lives, the paths we travel down day after day.

Rev. Spruill asks, “If we define doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result as INSANITY, what is it when we do the same thing over and over again, knowing that we won’t get a different result? The answer is “SIN.”

We all have these sins in our lives, the well-worn, entrenched patterns that we won’t give up:

1. We are wounded or hurt by someone and we refuse to forgive. After all, they don’t deserve it. Doesn’t Satan love that kind of thinking?

And the birds gobbled up the seed.”

2.  We are a busy and successful person with “busyness” as a firmly fixed behavior. “Is that who you are?”

And the birds gobbled up the seed.”

3. In marriage, do we argue time and time again over the same things: finances, how to raise the children and avoiding intimacy?

And the birds gobbled up the seed.”

The Christian faith is the overcoming of these entrenched behaviors. This is most obvious when overcoming addictions like alcohol, drugs, sex, and shopping. No one gets to recovery without getting to the absolute bottom and crying out, “I WANT OFF THIS PATH.” Even then, sometimes the addictions win.

Rev. Spruill challenges: “Where in your life is the path so beaten down that you would like to get off it today? What would have to happen for that dirt to be broken up, to be less hardened, so that the ground would receive the seed of the transforming love of Jesus Christ?”

It requires a hoe or a plow. That hoe and plow are known as “REPENTANCE.

It is in this time of our weakness that we discover God’s strength.”



The Beaten Path- (click here for MP3 file)