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Follow the Leader

July 6, 2020

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14, NIV).

Do you remember how to play the game Follow the Leader?  A leader is chosen from a group of children who line up behind the leader.  The leader starts to move, and the other children follow the leader, and must do what the leader does.  Anyone who fails to imitate the leader is out of the game.  When only one child is left with the leader, that child becomes the leader and the game begins again with all of the children.

Who is the leader in your life?  Who or what do you follow? Who or what do you put first in your life?  Is it your career, your spouse or partner, your children, a work-out guru, a wealthy mogul, an actor or other artist, the money manager who grew your portfolio, a politician, an intellectual, a writer, the health care professional who saved your life, the attorney who won a big verdict for you or saved you from financial ruin?

Who is most important to you? Who do you follow?

Next Sunday’s Scripture texts encourage us to follow God, our leader in all things.   God comes to us in three ways—as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  God encourages us to follow him as a child follows a parent, as a lamb follows the shepherd—trusting and believing that the parent will take care of the child and the shepherd will lead the lamb to safety.

Paul told the church in Rome, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Romans 8:13-14, NIV).[1] The Message version of Romans 8:13b reads “God’s Spirit beckons.”  The Holy Spirit beckons us to follow him—to follow the leader.  Jesus set the example for us to follow.  The Holy Spirit beckons us to follow Jesus, our leader. God beckons us through his Word.  He calls us to follow him.  But try as we may, we invariably fall short in our attempt to imitate Christ. Yet, when we fail, God does not kick us out as a child is kicked out of the game when he or she fails to perfectly imitate the leader. It is not one and done, or two and done, or three and done, etcetera.  Jesus died on the cross so that if we repent, our sins are forgiven, even when we fail to imitate him time after time.

God softens our hard, unrepentant hearts when we read the Word—when we allow God’s Word to saturate our beings.  The idea of being saturated with God’s Word invokes water imagery.  Water is essential to all life. In the context of the Scripture texts, we think of gentle showers slowly softening the hard surface of our hearts so that we become receptive soil for the seeds that the Holy Spirit plants within us.  God’s Word showers us with words of wisdom and love.

Isaiah explains that God’s Word is life sustaining to us as water is to the earth and to all living things.  The water sent by God from heaven is a metaphor for the Word sent by God to us. It is life sustaining.  It is life giving.  When it falls on a receptive person, that person will carry out God’s plan for his or her life and will accomplish everything that God intended: “My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth.  They make the crops grow and provide seed for planting and food to eat.  So also will be the word that I speak— it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do” (Isaiah 55:10-11, Good News Translation).

David’s song picks up the theme of the importance of water to God’s creation: “You show your care for the land by sending rain; you make it rich and fertile. You fill the streams with water; you provide the earth with crops. This is how you do it: you send abundant rain on the plowed fields and soak them with water; you soften the soil with showers and cause the young plants to grow. What a rich harvest your goodness provides!” (Psalm 65: 9-12).   The rain that God sends softens the earth.  Likewise, his Word is the living water that softens our souls. When we are receptive to the Word, it works within us like showers that soften the hard earth, to make us receptive to the work that God wants us to accomplish.

The Parable of the Sower in Sunday’s gospel lesson echoes the same theme, but with an emphasis on us—the soil.  Good soil is the other part of the good harvest equation. The Isaiah and Psalm texts emphasized the gift that God gave us with his Word, but the gospel lesson is a cautionary tale: we need to be receptive to the beckoning of the Spirit.  We need to provide the soft, nutrient-rich soil for the seed to flourish. If our hearts remain hard, if we remain unrepentant, if we reject the Spirit’s call, the seed planted by the Holy Spirit will bear no fruit.  A good harvest results only when sun and rain fall on seed placed in good soil.  Likewise, when the Word falls on receptive eyes and ears, God’s plan is fulfilled and produces crops “beyond our wildest dreams” (Matthew 13:23 The Message).

If we stay saturated in the life-giving force of the Word, God’s plan for us will come to fruition: “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.” (Matthew 13:23 The Message).

Who is the leader in your life?  Is it God, or is it something or someone else? If you are not following God’s lead, you need to take a second look at your life.  God sent a man, Jesus, for us to imitate. Jesus was kind and loving—especially to the broken-hearted.  Ask the Spirit to shower you with all of the fruits of the Spirit—to soften your heart so that his Word lands on good soil and results in a bumper crop.  The Spirit beckons. Imitate Christ. Follow the leader, Jesus, and you will reap benefits beyond your wildest dreams.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, you are my leader. Help me to imitate Jesus in my everyday life.  Flood me with your loving kindness so that it overflows from me and touches each person I meet or speak with, or write to today.  Keep flooding me throughout the day to ensure that I always have too much love to keep to myself—so that I am always looking for someone to receive it. In your precious name I pray. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Isaiah 55:10-13; Psalm 65:(1-8) 9-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matt 13:1-9, 18-23

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