Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: The Parable of the Sower

Volume 4 No. 230 August 1, 2014

If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_230.htm

Archives: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/Default.htm

The Sower with Setting Sun by Vincent Van Gogh
The Sower with The Setting Sun by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
TABLE OF CONTENTS
If you are not receiving your own copy of Malankara World by email, please add your name to our subscription list. It is free. click here.

1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 3)

Sermons For The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_8th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (August 3)

Sermons For The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_8th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

3. Shunoyo Lent

Shunoyo (Assumption) Lent is from August 1-14. The shortened lent for Syriac Christians is from August 10-14. The Transfiguration is on August 6.

4. Featured: Why Would God Sow Seeds He Knows Will Bear No Fruit? – Pondering the Parable of the Sower

We are reading the parable of the Sower. Someone asked me a question: Since the sower is the Son of Man, Jesus himself, why would the Lord, who knows everything ahead of time, sow seed he knew would not bear fruit? ...

5. Busting the Tiller - A Reflection on Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

For the longest time I've read the Parable of the Sower as descriptions of various groups of people. As if there are certain people who are, no doubt about it, just plain rocky soil. Then there are others who hang out with the thorns. The lucky ones are the healthy soil.

That would be convenient. Especially if you happened to be fertile dirt. It may even be convenient to be the impervious path, because it might just feel like a condition you had nothing to do with. As if being poor soil is kind of like having acne, or a receding hair line. ...

6. Jesus Tells a Story About Different Soils

Jesus wanted His followers to understand certain spiritual principles, and He explained those principles using parables, stories that compared natural things with spiritual things. Jesus' parables were not only meant to help His followers understand spiritual concepts, they were also designed to hide those same truths from those who were not His followers. Jesus, of course, wants everyone to be His follower, but only those who decide to become His followers receive certain privileges, such as going to heaven in the future and understanding spiritual truths right now. Jesus said, "To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge" (Matthew 13:12). ....

7. Scattering Seeds

Interesting things happen in the Bible when God starts farming. God creates Adam and Eve and puts them where? In a garden. When Jesus is raised from the dead, Mary sees him, doesn't recognize him, and mistakes him for a gardener.

Why? Well, some have said that maybe the risen Christ was gardening. Maybe he had dirt under his fingernails, was wearing overalls. And here Jesus is once again a strange sort of gardener, flinging seeds everywhere. ....

8. Mortals Only See the Beginning

All their lives the two young brothers had lived in the city behind great stone walls and never saw field nor meadow. But one day they decided to pay a visit to the country.

As they went walking along the road they saw a farmer at his plowing. They watched him and were puzzled. ...

9. The Molai Woods - One Man's Forest

The Molai Woods are a phenomenal achievement for human kind. Why? Because the 1360 acre forest was planted and cared for by just one man; Jadav 'Molai' Payeng. His huge accomplishment shows what one person can achieve in their lifetime if they have the passion to fully commit themselves.

The forest is located in India's Assam region, on the Jorhat sandbar in the Brahmaputra River. Now in his mid-fifties, Payeng has spent over 30 years of his life changing the landscape of 1360 acres of India, on a barren sandbar. The woods have aptly been named the Molai Woods, after its creator's nickname. ...

10. Don't Give Up

Never give up on someone in case they need your help.

Maybe you know someone. Maybe you have been meaning to call them, email them one more time because you're concerned.

Don't give up on them. ...

11. How To Change The World

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always  remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. ...

12. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 3)

Sermons for This Sunday (August 3)
This Week's Features

Shunoyo Lent
Shunoyo (Assumption) Lent is from August 1-14. The shortened lent for Syriac Christians is from August 10-14. The Transfiguration is on August 6.
Featured: Why Would God Sow Seeds He Knows Will Bear No Fruit? – Pondering the Parable of the Sower

by Msgr. Charles Pope

Gospel: Matthew 13: 3-9

We are reading the parable of the Sower. Someone asked me a question: Since the sower is the Son of Man, Jesus himself, why would the Lord, who knows everything ahead of time, sow seed he knew would not bear fruit?

First, let's review the text:

"A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear." (Matt 13:1-9)

So the question presents, Why then would God waste any seed on rocky or thin soil, or the path?

Perhaps a series of possible "answers" is all we can venture. I place "answers" in quotes since we are in fact touching on some mysteries here of which we can only speculate. So, here are some "answers."

I. God is extravagant - it is not just seed He scatters liberally, it is everything.

There are hundreds of billions of stars in over 100 billion galaxies, most of these seemingly devoid of life as we understand it. Between these 100 billion galaxies are huge amounts of, what seems to be, empty space. On this planet where one species of bird would do, there are thousands of species, tens of thousands of different sorts of insects, a vast array of different sorts of trees, mammals, fish etc. "Extravagant" barely covers it. The word "extravagant" means "to go, or wander beyond." And God has gone vastly beyond anything we can imagine. But God is love, and love is extravagant. The image of him sowing seeds, almost in a careless way is thus consistent with the usual way of God.

This of course is less an answer to the question before us than a deepening of the question. The answer, if there is one, is caught up in the mystery of love. Love does not say, what is the least I can do? It says "What more can I do." If a man loves a woman, he does not look for the cheapest gift on her birthday, rather he looks for an extravagant gift. God is Love and God is extravagant.

II. Even if the failed seed represents those who ultimately reject him, God loves that seed anyway.

Remember, as Jesus goes on to explain, the seeds that fail to bear fruit, are symbols of those who allow riches, worldly preoccupation, persecution and other things to draw them away from God. But, even knowing this, does not change God's love for them. He still wills their existence. Scripture says elsewhere, But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:44-45).

Yes, God loves even those who will reject him and will not, knowing ahead of that rejection, say to them, "You cannot exist." He thus scatters even that seed, knowing ahead of time that it will not bear fruit. Further, he continues to send the sun and rain, even on those who will reject him.

Hence this parable shows forth God's unfailing love. He sows seeds, even knowing they will not bear the fruit he wants. He wills the existence of all, even those who he knows ahead of time will reject him.

III. That God sows seeds and allows them to fall on bad soil is indicative of God's justice.

The various places the seed falls is indicative of human freedom, more than illustrative of the intent of God. For one may still question, "Why would God "allow" seed to fall on the path, or among thorns, or in rocky soil?" And the only answer here is that God has made us free. Were He to go and take back the seeds that fell in unfruitful places one could argue that God withdrew his grace and that one was lost on account of this, namely that God manipulated the process by withdrawing every possible grace. But God, in justice calls everyone and offers sufficient grace for all to come to faith and salvation. And thus the sowing of the seed everywhere is indicative of God's justice.

IV. The variety of outcomes teaches us to persevere and look to faithfully sowing, rather than merely to the harvest.

Sometimes we can become a bit downcast when it seems our work has born little fruit. And the temptation is to give up. But, as an old saying goes, "God calls us to be faithful, not successful." In other words, it is up to us to be the means the means whereby the Lord sows the seed of his Word. The Word is in our hands, by God's grace, but the harvest is not.

This parable teaches us that not every seed we sow will bear fruit. In fact a lot of it will not, for the reasons described by the Lord in a later part of the parable.

The simple mandate remains ad is this: preach the Word, Go unto all the nations and make disciples. St. Paul would later preach to Timothy: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 4:2). In other words, sometimes the gospel is accepted, sometimes it is rejected. Preach it any way. Sometimes the gospel is popular, sometimes not. Preach it anyway. Sometimes the Gospel is in season, sometimes it is out of season. Preach it anyway. Sow the seeds, don't give up.

Discharge your duty! St. Paul goes on to sadly remark, For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim 4:3-5). Once again the message is the same: preach anyway, sow the seed of the Word, persevere, do not give up, do not be discouraged. Discharge your duty and be willing to endure hardship, just preach! Some of the seed will yield a rich harvest, some will not, preach anyway.

So, permit these "answers." God sows seed he knows will bear no fruit because he is extravagant, because he loves and wills the existence even of those he knows will reject him, because of his justice, and to teach us to persevere, whatever the outcome.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

Busting the Tiller - A Reflection on Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

by Rick Morley

For the longest time I've read the Parable of the Sower as descriptions of various groups of people. As if there are certain people who are, no doubt about it, just plain rocky soil. Then there are others who hang out with the thorns. The lucky ones are the healthy soil.

That would be convenient. Especially if you happened to be fertile dirt. It may even be convenient to be the impervious path, because it might just feel like a condition you had nothing to do with. As if being poor soil is kind of like having acne, or a receding hair line.

But, the uncomfortable reality is that I have good soil potential within me… And, it's only a stone's throw from some seriously rocky ground.

Not far from the thorns and weeds either.

They are all within me. And depending on the day, or the moment, or the circumstance, I end up presenting one or the other.

Years ago now my wife and I tried starting a garden next to our house. There was good soil – we lived right by the bank of a creek after all. But, there were also a lot of large rocks. It was amazing how many we pulled out of that little patch. We tried tilling it up, and it was incredibly tough.

We even broke the tiller in the process. Broke a blade right off.

Eventually, after a half-baked effort, we gave up.

I could apply that story as a metaphor to many, many moments in my life. Sometimes I come up all rocks. Sometimes I break things.

Sometimes, to heck with it, I just give up.

Jesus is asking us here to bring our best dirt, so that his Way can take root deep within us. This isn't something that happens by chance, or because we're fortunate to have good genes. It's something we put effort into.

We're the ones charged with tilling our soil so that the Life which Jesus sows may grow in us, and produce a bounty.

Even if we bust the tiller in the process, there's no giving up.

Copyright © 2014 rick morley.

Jesus Tells a Story About Different Soils
Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23

The best way to teach is to take what a person already understands and relate it to what he needs to understand. For example, if a person didn't know what a donut was, you could explain it by saying that donuts are round with holes in the middle, like car tires, but small enough to hold with one hand. They taste something like bread, and often have sweet-tasting icing on top, and so on.

Jesus wanted His followers to understand certain spiritual principles, and He explained those principles using parables, stories that compared natural things with spiritual things. Jesus' parables were not only meant to help His followers understand spiritual concepts, they were also designed to hide those same truths from those who were not His followers. Jesus, of course, wants everyone to be His follower, but only those who decide to become His followers receive certain privileges, such as going to heaven in the future and understanding spiritual truths right now. Jesus said, "To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge" (Matthew 13:12). But those people who weren't open to His teaching would be cursed to remain ignorant of wonderful spiritual truths.

This particular parable we just read explains why so many people who hear God's truth are not changed by it. Speaking to people who understood about planting seeds, growing plants and harvesting a crop, Jesus compared God's Word to seeds and people to four different types of soil. Just as a seed planted in good soil sprouts, grows and bears fruit, so God's Word planted in a receptive heart will produce a changed life. But the same seed planted in poor soil will never produce fruit. It's important to realize that in Jesus' story, the seed and the sower, unlike the soils, didn't change. The reason that some people are never saved has nothing to do with God and everything to do with people's receptivity.

Jesus first spoke of seeds falling on a footpath. The soil there was packed hard from people always walking on it, so the seeds couldn't penetrate. Jesus said that this soil represents people who don't understand the good news. The reason they don't understand it is not because they can't understand it, but because they don't want to understand it. Anyone, even a child, can understand that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for his sins. And God certainly wouldn't hold someone responsible to understand something that is impossible for him to understand.

God's Word can't penetrate hardened hearts, and like the exposed seed that is quickly eaten by birds, so God's Word is snatched from hardened hearts by the devil. When that happens, a person who could have been born again remains unchanged.

The second type of soil Jesus spoke of was a shallow, thin layer over rocks. If you've ever planted anything in shallow soil, you can understand exactly what Jesus was talking about. The seed sprouts and the plant begins to grow, but when the sun shines, the shallow soil quickly dries, and the young plant withers and dies. This soil represents the person who enthusiastically receives the gospel at first, but when he faces trouble or persecution because of his new belief, his faith quickly dies. Most pastors and evangelists have seen a lot of people like that. Saving faith is a faith that perseveres no matter what. Every Christian will have his faith tested in difficulties and persecution, so hold fast to your faith.

In Jesus' third example, the seed fell on ground where thorn seeds had also been sown. The thorns ultimately dominated, and the little shoots from the good seeds were choked by the thorns and died. This represents a person who receives God's Word but doesn't make it his highest priority. Other things become more important, like making money. The good news about Jesus demands our utmost attention, because through it, Jesus calls us to be His devoted followers. You can't have a casual relationship with the Lord.

Finally, Jesus talked about the good soil where the seed sprouts, grows and produces fruit. Of the four types of soil, only this kind represents a person who is saved in the end. Only this kind produces fruit. Those fruits would include the fruit of the Spirit listed in the book of Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22). It would also include the fruit of obedience.

If you've become a true follower of Jesus, you can rejoice that you are good soil! Aren't you glad you are?

Discussion:

Q. According to this parable, will every Christian produce the same amount of fruit?

A. No, some produce thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold. Additionally, fruit is something that gradually ripens, and every Christian can grow in the fruit of the Spirit. Some of us still have some green apples, but at least they're apples!

It is also important to understand that if a person has no fruit at all, he is not really saved. Every true Christian will bear some fruit.

Q. Even though all true Christians could be classified as good soil, do you think there's any possibility of our soil becoming like any of the other three kinds?

A. Yes, there is that possibility, and we should guard ourselves from allowing it to happen. The writer of the book of Hebrews said, "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12, NASB). This warns us that good soil can become bad soil.

Application:

The most wonderful thing is when we meet an unsaved person who is receptive, like the good soil of this parable. Let's pray today for God to direct us to encounter people like that, so we can share the good news with them.

Source: Heaven's Family

Scattering Seeds

by Jason Byassee

Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

You will notice as I read the Gospel that Jesus addresses a rather irregular congregation here. In our day, we have our normal religious gatherings -- in buildings like this, with seats like these, an ordained person like me, worship this or that way.

In Jesus' day, they had similar conventions, and Jesus observes them at times -- in Luke chapter 4, he goes to synagogue, reads from the scroll [of Isaiah] and sits down to preach. (Preachers sat back then; everybody else stood up -- perhaps a change we should instigate.)

But here in Matthew 13, Jesus walks by the lake. His congregation is everybody else by the lake, his pulpit is a boat, his altar rail is the waves.

Hear this word:

Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. (NRSV)

So what kind of soil are you?

I first had this question put to me on a mission trip to inner-city Boston. My youth group was there visiting a pastor in Roxbury who had a remarkable ministry to gang members. He did something extraordinary. He became their friends. Got to know the gang members, learned their needs, tried to suggest other ways to live than the street. And here he was asking us, in his church's Sunday school room, what kind of soil we wealthy kids from the suburbs were.

My friends and I looked around at each other. We knew what the right answer was. The parable lays it all out clearly. Who wants to be among those who fail to produce a crop? But the right answer was also wrong. Who could claim they're good soil -- producing 30, 60, 100 times what was planted?

So most of us hedged our bets. "I think I'm a little bit rocky," one said. "Maybe a few thorns," another said. We wanted to say something religious, but we also didn't want to lie.

Don't you hate those Sunday school sorts of questions?

Another African-American preacher I heard on this passage also wanted to know what sort of soil we are. Are we the path? Rocky soil? Thorny soil? Or good soil? But then he made a turn I didn't expect. He said in his neighborhood there aren't a lot of kids with advantages. Most were poor; those who weren't still had bad schools to attend; those who made it through those had few job prospects.

"There are thorns and rocks all around," he preached. "We have to get our hands in the soil. We have to dig in that dirt. We have to pull up those rocks. We have to root out those thorns. It'll hurt," he promised, "but if we do, we can turn bad soil into good, so that it'll bear a crop for Jesus!"

Look at this image. There's not only Jesus sowing; there are people laboring, preparing the soil. In this way of looking at it, the question isn't whether we're good or bad or rocky or thorny soil. The question is, who around us has obstacles in their way? Then we dig in deep into their lives, getting our hands dirty, cut, nicked, pulling up roots and rocks and thorns, so that Jesus' seed can take root and a harvest can follow.

So who here is willing to get their hands a little dirty and a little banged up and cut up for Jesus? If your hands hurt from the thorns, look over at the one gardening with you and notice that his hands already have holes in them.

Some wise teachers in the ancient church asked about the different kinds of bad soil.

"Some seed fell on the path," Jesus said. The path is sunbaked. It has no moisture, so it doesn't open up for the word, and the birds come and eat the seed. That's us when we fail to understand the word. The moisture that waters the soil is humility. When we don't soften our hearts with humility, they fail to open to God's word, and the birds come and eat the seed.

What about the rocky soil? Jesus says that's a person who receives the word of the kingdom with joy but endures only for a little while and then falls away with any trouble or persecution on account of the word.

There are versions of the Christian faith out there that promise smooth sailing: if you believe this way or give that gift or claim something or other, your bank account will be full and your sorrows empty.

Those versions of the faith must have trouble with Jesus -- who promises persecutions here, troubles on account of the word. Grapes have to be pressed to become wine, olives have to be squashed to become oil, grain has to be threshed to become bread, Jesus has to be crucified to save us -- and we don't think discipleship will hurt?

One of the ancient teachers, Gregory the Great (quite a nickname), said that the good we do has no value if we fail to be patient with the evildoing of our neighbor.

Did you hear that? The good we do has no value if we fail to be patient with the evildoing of our neighbor. God expects us to bear fruit. And he expects us to bear fruit surrounded by rocks. The more we dig in the soil, the bloodier our hands will be.

I remember meeting a woman who was really struggling with another woman in her congregation. Both were committed volunteers, serving the church with their time and treasure. And they couldn't get along. It's a story as old as Cain and Abel, Mary and Martha.

And she said something wonderful about her difficult sister in Christ. She'd been reflecting on the Lord's Prayer -- "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those ..." -- and she said, "You know what? That woman is going to make a Christian out of me." Indeed she might.

The church is the place where we bear fruit surrounded by rocks -- our sisters and brothers in Christ -- and where we're rocks to other people. And we hope that God not only uses us to make Christians out of others but uses others to make Christians out of us -- people who forgive as Jesus commands.

Thorny soil -- Jesus says the thorns in the soil are "the cares of the world and the lure of wealth." They choke the word, so it yields nothing. I don't know about you, friends, but when I reached a certain age, I started thinking about money more often than near about anything else. Not that I wanted to be rich; if I wanted to try for that, other professions are better bets than preaching.

It's more subtle than that. I'm just planning, trying to be frugal and wise. Have we paid off the right bills first? Are we saving enough? Those are good questions to ask. But have you ever noticed they can take over your thinking, your worrying, your living? Wealth is like thorns because it pricks you, bites at you. It could be gone tomorrow, or you could have plenty of it tomorrow and it won't make you happy.

John D. Rockefeller, when he was the wealthiest man in the world, was asked how much money was enough. And he said what you and I must also think: "Just a little bit more." Those are thorns, wrapped around us, choking us off from being fruitful.

And then some soil yields an abundance -- 30, 60, 100 times what was sown.

The psalmist we heard from earlier hopes that those who sow in tears may one day reap with shouts of joy. In cultures that go hungry a lot, say in modern Africa or ancient Israel, parents often have a difficult choice. They can give their children grain now, or they can plant that grain in the ground and hope for a crop in the future -- and ask their children to go hungry in the meantime.

So as they sow that grain they weep, as their children's hungry cries echo in their ears. They are putting in the ground seed that could be in their hungry children's bellies right now. But if they don't sacrifice now for the future, their children will be more hungry -- or even die -- later.

The psalmist promises that those who sow in tears will reap in joy. With 30, 60, 100 times what they planted. God makes good on his promises. Don't think that sowing doesn't cost the sower anything. He might be crying as he plants. That seed has to break open, die. And then we wait and see what grows. And while we wait for that huge crop, our children's cries might ring in our ears.

These are all good readings of the parable, ones I commend to you. But here's another reading of this parable: Who is this farmer? And what kind of farmer is he?

I don't know much about gardening or farming. Those of you with tough, callused hands know this better than I do -- you don't farm the way the Gospel describes, do you? Jesus describes a sower who goes out and throws seed everywhere. On the sidewalk, over in the thorn bushes, in the rocky mountainside. This isn't the sort of precision of one who wants every seed to succeed.

The farmer doesn't fertilize the soil, dig around it, apply insecticide, carefully cover the seed over.

He just flings seed everywhere -- on the highway, into the bushes, on land that's his and land that's not -- indiscriminately. Who knows where it'll land? If we knew each other better already, I'd be tempted to throw seed from up here, on the carpet, on some of y'all -- I mean, who knows where it might spring up and give us a crop?

A friend of mine once was a rural pastor for a little while, and he had designs on entering a county fair and impressing his people. So he carried a handful of seed out of the parsonage, prepared some rows out back, planted, watered, tended and waited. And nothing happened in the field at all.

But something did happen back along the walkway. Apparently, he'd dropped one or more of the seeds while he was walking, and in that very spot by his walkway sprang up the most beautiful-looking squash he'd ever seen.

His farmer parishioners taught him that's called a "volunteer squash" -- one that comes up where you didn't plant, by accident. And lo and behold, that volunteer was better than any he could have planted on his own.

In that agricultural accident, my friend was a little like God. God just flings seed everyplace. Apparently, God has seed to spare and likes to see what can grow where it's not supposed to grow.

And what about around here? I wonder what ministries we have that were a wild idea someone grew, a volunteer squash that came up, something somebody thought up that sounded crazy at first, and then a little less crazy, then sort of awesome, and then it worked? That's how God works, friends!

Someone says, "Hey, I think we could have a disaster relief team here at Boone Methodist." And we do. Or someone says, "Hey, I think this church can support a village in Guatemala." Check. Or, "We can have an effect on the global sex trade and help girls trapped in it." Now we are.

Maybe we could have a prize for the best crazy, unattainable idea anyone can dream up around here. It's our God who throws seed everywhere. Some of it took root in you and me, or we wouldn't be here.

Where can we throw seed now?

Many of our most cherished traditions in history were originally crazy ideas no one had ever thought about. Earlier this summer, I visited a church John Wesley once served in Savannah, Ga. Wesley had a terrible two years there; he fell in love with a woman who didn't love him back, kicked her out of his church (not recommended) and had to leave town in a hurry.

By every standard, Wesley was a failure as a missionary in the colonies. But he did two things that have stood the test of time. He published the first English hymnal in the American colonies. The hymnals in our pews and the lines on our screen are descended from Wesley's effort amidst failure.

Wesley also started the first Sunday school in North America. No one had ever thought to before him. But there were kids in Savannah who needed to learn to read and write (there were no other schools they could afford), the basics of faith, how much Jesus loves them. Now Sunday school seems so normal we can't imagine church without it.

But it was a wild idea once, a seed cast on rocks or roots or good, good soil. The next pastor at that church in Georgia was George Whitefield, maybe the best preacher in his century (pretty good run of pastors there).

Whitefield founded the first church orphanage in the New World. Can you imagine a time when the church didn't support orphans? It hadn't until then.

These volunteer squashes are even older than that: Do you know the Christian church invented the hospital? There was no such thing as a hospital until the church came along. But Jesus healed sick people, and we wanted to do the same, so that idea took root, I'd say.

The church invented the university, a place to learn not only all the knowledge there was but how it all fit together. Another seed that bore some fruit.

The church invented, well, the church! Never before (and arguably never since) had there been a transnational body, where race and gender and tribe didn't determine who we are, but only Jesus Christ does. We've failed at that plenty, as the hospital and the university have failed plenty.

But the point is that there was a time when no one had thought of it. Now we can't imagine the world, or even Boone, N.C., without a university, a hospital, a church.

What wild, unexpected seeds might you be holding in your hands, friends?

Interesting things happen in the Bible when God starts farming. God creates Adam and Eve and puts them where? In a garden. When Jesus is raised from the dead, Mary sees him, doesn't recognize him, and mistakes him for a gardener.

Why? Well, some have said that maybe the risen Christ was gardening. Maybe he had dirt under his fingernails, was wearing overalls. And here Jesus is once again a strange sort of gardener, flinging seeds everywhere.

And here's the really radical thing, friends. Jesus takes our hand, opens it up, and as he does so, we notice his hands are not only callused and bruised; they're also pierced, with seeds in the holes left by the nails. Then he pours some of that precious seed from his pierced palms into ours, and we send seeds everywhere that cost God everything. Let's see what comes up. Amen.

Source: Faith and Leadership, 2012, Duke Divinity School

Mortals Only See the Beginning

by Brian Stoffregen

All their lives the two young brothers had lived in the city behind great stone walls and never saw field nor meadow. But one day they decided to pay a visit to the country.

As they went walking along the road they saw a farmer at his plowing. They watched him and were puzzled.

"What on earth is he doing that for!" they wondered. "He turns up the earth and leaves deep furrows in it. Why should someone take a smooth piece of land covered with nice green grass and dig it up?"

Later they watched the farmer sowing grains of wheat along the furrows.

"That man must be crazy!" they exclaimed. "He takes good wheat and throws it into the dirt."

"I don't like the country!" said one in disgust. "Only crazy people live here."

So he returned to the city.

His brother who remained in the country saw a change take place only several weeks later. The plowed field began to sprout tender green shoots, even more beautiful and fresher than before. This discovery excited him very much. So he wrote to his brother in the city to come at once and see for himself the wonderful change.

His brother came and was delighted with what he saw. As time passed they watched the sproutings grow into golden heads of wheat. Now they both understood the purpose of the farmer's work.

When the wheat became ripe the farmer brought his scythe and began to cut it down. At this the impatient one of the two brothers exclaimed: "The farmer is crazy! He's insane! How hard he worked all these months to produce this lovely wheat, and now with his own hands he is cutting it down! I'm disgusted with such an idiot and I'm going back to the city!"

His brother, the patient one, held his peace and remained in the country. He watched the farmer gather the wheat into his granary. He saw him skillfully separate the grain from the chaff. He was filled with wonder when he found that the farmer had harvested a hundred-fold of the seed that he had sowed. Then he understood that there was logic in everything that the farmer had done.

The moral of the story: Mortals see only the beginning of any of God's works. Therefore they cannot understand the nature and the end of creation.

Source: Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes, quoting from A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom and Folk Songs of the Jewish People, Edited by Nathan Ausubel Copyright, 1948, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York

The Molai Woods - One Man's Forest

The Molai Woods are a phenomenal achievement for human kind. Why? Because the 1360 acre forest was planted and cared for by just one man; Jadav 'Molai' Payeng. His huge accomplishment shows what one person can achieve in their lifetime if they have the passion to fully commit themselves.

Molai Woods, Assam, India

The forest is located in India's Assam region, on the Jorhat sandbar in the Brahmaputra River. Now in his mid-fifties, Payeng has spent over 30 years of his life changing the landscape of 1360 acres of India, on a barren sandbar. The woods have aptly been named the Molai Woods, after its creator's nickname.

His motivation came in 1979, when he was just 16 years old. Huge floods had washed a great number of snakes onto the sandbar but when Payeng found them, they were all dead. He noted that the snakes had died of dehydration and overheating due to lack of tree cover and, in his words, he "sat down and wept over their lifeless forms". A devastated Payeng then alerted the forest department to request that they grow trees there, but they insisted nothing would grow and asked Payeng to attempt to grow bamboo there instead. As he recalls "It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested".

He painstakingly planted seeds by hand, watered them every morning and evening, pruned and cultivated the land until it was a huge bamboo thicket. He then began to collect and plant a wide range of tree species, but his commitment didn't stop there, Payeng transported red ants from his village to the sand bar as they change the soils properties. Despite the constant stinging, discomfort and long travels he persevered. He shows a deep understanding of the ecological balance of life which has enabled him to create this incredible self-functioning forest.

Payeng never stopped growing. Despite the pain, the slowness and the solitude he continued and has never stopped since. Thanks to Payeng, this once barren sand bar is now a sprawling forest with an astounding level of biodiversity. The forest consists of several thousand varieties of trees, flora and fauna as well as a multitude of bird species including vultures and migratory birds which flock here, hundreds of apes, deer, cattle and rabbits, three rhinos including the endangered one-horned rhino and four tigers including the endangered royal Bengal tiger. Every year a herd of approximately 100 elephants enter the forest for 6 months at a time and sometimes even give birth to their calves here. All because of one man's efforts. Some of these animals are endangered due to habitat loss in the first place, Payeng has worked his whole life and thanks to his commitment can work on reversing this trend, and provide a safe haven for these animals.

Payeng lives a life of isolation in order to cultivate his forest. He began this life as a teenager and never looked back. He is not totally alone though, he shares his small hut with a wife and three children. They make their living selling cow and buffalo milk.

Another amazing factor in this story is that Payeng's forest was only heard of by officials from Assam's State Forest Department in 2008! This was only because a herd of around 100 wild elephants strayed into the forest after hassling villages nearby. The Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saika says "We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar" he states that it could potentially be the world's largest forest in the middle of a river.

Locals living near Molai have however caused problems and heartache for Payeng and his forest. At one time locals wanted to cut down the forest due to the larger animals such as the rhinos and elephants destroying their homes and land nearby, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead. Of course they did not and the forest remains. However locals also killed a rhino in the forest which bothered Payeng, after all the forest is his doing and he wants its inhabitants protected.

Officials have begun to pitch in recently, and the forest continues to grow. Saikia explains the reason for Assam State's forest department stepping in to assist Payeng 'He treats the trees and animals like his own children. Seeing this, we, too, decided to pitch in. We're amazed at Payeng. He has been at it for over 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.' The government are now focusing efforts into this area and are planning to extend the forest by another 1235 acres. Previously Payeng had no assistance outside of himself, not from the government, not from anyone other than his local ministry which occasionally donated saplings. There is also pressure on the government by Payeng and his supporters to declare the Mulai forest as a small animal sanctuary. Payeng has stated that if this occurs, and he has definite assurance that his forest and its inhabitants will be protected, then he will move out and commence creating a new forest ecosystem elsewhere, wherever it is required.

The Indian government tells a different version of events to Payeng's which goes as follows.

According to assistant conservator of forest Gunin Saika, during the 1980's the districts Social Forestry Division of Assam's Golaghat District was working on a project to plant 494 acres of trees in this location. He claims that Payeng was one of the labourers who worked on this project which was completed in 5 years, after which all labourers left; except for Payeng. He stayed behind to continue to expand the forest.

Whichever version of this story is the truth, no one can doubt that this man, Judav 'Molai' Payeng, has and is dedicating his entire life to the cultivation and subsequent protection of this unique jungle on a once desolate and lifeless sandbar in India. He is a remarkable man and can show us what we are capable of with the right amount of passion and commitment.

Source: Life For a Forest (lifeforaforest.com)

Don't Give Up

by Bob Perks

I have the most remarkable people in my life. Most of them I've never met.

One lived nearby for over 20 years.

I really just met him today.

In my mind we traveled and lived in two different worlds. He had a big beautiful house that was always well maintained. Not by some company he most likely could have hired. He and his wife did it all.

He was friendly enough to wave as he passed by, or shout over to me when we were out shoveling snow, but we never really spoke.

I often times saw his picture in the paper because of different boards he served. In fact, he was on the board of the American Red Cross when my wife worked there.

That's all I knew of him.

Clean cut, nicely dressed, he looked like a banker. I found out later he was a banker. President or Vice President of one.

See, maybe that's what gave me the impression that we really had nothing in common.

How many presidents of anything do I know? Pierce, the president of my high school class perhaps.

He's a great guy, too.

Over the past year and a half as life was changing my plans, I began hearing from Gary via Facebook.

Always supportive, inspiring words of comfort, always including an invitation for lunch.

I was hiding away. I was "going through" this "thing" in my life and the last thing I wanted to do was to chitchat over a sandwich.

I didn't feel much like being seen in public without my wife.

I didn't want to explain things to anyone. You know, it was all ?too fresh and most people had no idea that she left.

It would be natural to hear friends ask, "So, how is Marianne?"

So I decided just to stay in my little world.

Gary, in the mean time, kept writing to me. Yes, always asking if I'd like to go to lunch.

One day I snapped at him. Told him how difficult it would be for me to do that.

"We've been neighbors for 20 years. Why are you asking me now?"

I was mean. Very unlike me to do that to someone.

He quickly responded and apologized for pushing the issue.

"Perhaps some day in the future," he said in that note.

I felt terrible.

Gary obviously didn't, because he never gave up.

I sold my house and moved. He offered to help. I said no.

He emailed me again.

"How does lunch next Tuesday or Wednesday sound? My treat…who knows who we may bump into?"

I couldn't believe it. I finally said "Yes!"

Okay, you might be thinking I did it so he'd stop asking. Perhaps that was part of it.

Mostly it was because I was ready.

He is a remarkable man. Friendly, out going, knew everyone who came in the door of the restaurant. We talked, laughed and shared stories of helping perfect strangers.

Then I stopped, looked at him and asked, "Why did you never give up on me?" I think he was surprised. Rather rude question - maybe unfair to ask.

"Because I thought you needed help!" he said with the soft gentle tones of someone who was sincerely concerned.

We talked about some personal things we both actually had in common. We shared a meal. We laughed, I talked, and he listened.

I thanked him and headed to my car. On the way home I thought about all that I missed the last 20 years.

Yet, maybe I didn't miss a thing. He was a banker back then, on boards and very busy. Maybe his life and my life loosened us both a bit and taught us? how important it is to make time for lunch.

Oh and to never give up on someone in case they need your help.

Maybe you know someone. Maybe you have been meaning to call them, email them one more time because you're concerned.

Don't give up on them.

Thanks, Gary. Lunch was great. How about breakfast sometime? On me, of course.

About The Author:

Bob Perks is an inspirational author and speaker and a truly remarkable human being. Visit his website http://www.BobPerks.com
 

How To Change The World

by Wes Hopper

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." Harriet Tubman

What do you daydream about? When I was a kid I got criticized for daydreaming in school when I was supposed to be paying attention. The teachers didn't understand the power of dreams.

I don't remember what my day dreams were then, but I still daydream today. Everything of any importance that I have in my life started as a day dream.

What I learned in school and in life gave me the tools to use to bring my dreams to reality. But without the dream I wouldn't have had anything to work on.

In 1863 US President Abraham Lincoln gave a famous speech at Gettysburg in which he shared his dream for a united country.

100 years later, Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr gave an even more powerful speech from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The title? "I have a dream!"

You can read both speeches online. In fact, that's a really good idea.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Great leaders are day dreamers. They envision great things. Then they go out and work to bring those dreams to life.

That second part is what sets powerful dreams apart from idle fantasies; the blood, sweat and tears of real work. Overcoming your sworn enemy - Resistance.

But it all starts with a dream. What's yours?

Source: Gratitude Journal

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

Malankara World Journal Subscription

If you are not receiving Malankara World Journal directly, you may sign up to receive it via email free of cost. Please click here: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Register/news_regn.asp

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Malankara World Journal Archives

Previous Issues of Malankara World Journal can be read from the archives here.

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Thank you for your help and support.

Malankara World Team

Malankara World Journal is published by MalankaraWorld.com http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/
Copyright © 2011-2014 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.