Preparing for Sunday
Preparing for Sunday
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.
“He who has ears, let him hear.”
When we come to church, we expect that the pastor has prepared a message to proclaim. This preparation involves carefully studying the text and thoughtfully thinking through the practical implications of the passage. We would also expect that the pastor has prepared himself spiritually to preach God's words. This involves prayerfully seeking God’s wisdom and guidance as he studies and prayerfully seeking to apply the passage to his own life. However, communication is a two-way process. Not only is it necessary for the pastor to prepare and preach the passage, but it is also essential for the people in the pew to receive it. It is in this engagement that the communication process often breaks down. While the pastor has prepared to preach the passage, the people have not prepared to receive the passage.
The parable of the Sower is a familiar story, one that is taught in Sunday Schools. In the reading of the story, we often attribute the different soils to how people respond to the gospel message and the invitation for salvation. But the story goes beyond just a response to the gospel message. The story points to our attitude whenever we hear the news of the kingdom; that is the whole message of the Bible. We must move from “they” to “I.” In other words, the critical question is not how others respond but how I respond every time I walk into a church and hear the message preached. There are times when I am on the hard path.
I hear the message, yet I fail to understand it, so it has no impact on my life. I hear the words but fail to connect the message proclaimed and the application to my life. In such cases, I walk out of the church without responding to the message, and the message is quickly forgotten. Secondly, sometimes I come to listen to the message, and I am like the rocky soil. I hear and understand the message but need help to apply the passage to my life. I walk out of the church, shake the pastor’s hands, and tell him how much I enjoyed the message, but as soon as I get home, I forget the truth as my life becomes consumed by the problems I face at work and in life. On the third occasion, I come to church, but I am like the thorny ground. I again hear and understand the message, but I get distracted by the daily activities of life. While my relationship with God is a priority in life, it is not the priority. Therefore, the message is soon forgotten as I go throughout the week. Last, when I have prepared to receive the message, it transforms me eternally. I respond to the message and respond by changing my behavior and attitude. In such cases, I am like the rich dark soil where the seed can take root, grow, and bring forth a productive crop.
The parable confronts us with this question: How do we prepare to receive God’s message every time we go to church? As the pastor prayerfully prepares to communicate the sermon, we must prepare to listen and receive the message. This does not begin Sunday morning or even Saturday evening. It starts by cultivating a life where hearing God’s word and obeying God’s word is THE priority of life. It is praying and daily seeking to apply the scriptures to our lives. When that becomes our focus, we hunger for God’s Word and listen to God’s Word. The Psalmist points out, “As the dear pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, o God” (Psalm 42:1). When we long for God, we long for his word, “With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart” (Psalm 119:10-11). This leads us to the question we must ask ourselves every Sunday, “The pastor has prepared the message, but have I prepared to receive the message?”