Learning Through Faith

Reverend John Chandler reflects on learning and growing through faith.

In choosing a topic for a Harvest message, I have cart-loads of choice! The Bible is mostly written from a rural setting, and Jesus' teaching is packed with farming illustrations and parables. For instance, when explaining that we all learn and respond to teaching differently, he tells the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13, where the seed falls on many kinds of ground); to explain that God provides, he says "look at the birds of the air - they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them" (Matthew 6:26); and for livestock rather than arable farmers he declared: "I am the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11-18).

Reaping what we sow is obvious - "Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes?" (Matthew 7:16) - but there's a lot more to farming than that, of course! There's the important matter of choosing which crops to sow in which field, because of what's needed and saleable, and it's really important to consider the quality of the soil, what was there last, and so on, and of course to sow at the right time, to make sure the crop is as good as possible.

Relating that to ourselves, can I ask how you learn? Do you "clear the weeds" first, to have an open mind? Can you take in a scattering of facts, or does knowledge have to be drilled into you? The writers of the four Gospels have very different approaches to explaining the Good News of Jesus….

  • If you enjoy history books, then Matthew's Gospel is a good read; he was a Jewish tax collector who carefully explains Jesus' place in history.

  • If you like adventures, then read Mark. He was a young man at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, and his Gospel is the shortest and most action-packed account of Jesus' life.

  • If you're the analytical type, then Luke's Gospel will appeal. He was a doctor, and at the start he says that his plan is to set down "an orderly account" of the events.

  • And if you're a romantic, then you'll see John's Gospel, written by Jesus' closest disciple, as glorious prose in praise of Jesus' commitment and love.

Whichever Gospel you open first, you'll meet Jesus who understands our way of life - and not just because of his rural roots, though that helps!  If He, someone else or even these thoughts have sown a seed of faith or enquiry into your mind, why not feed it - by reading the Bible or at least coming along to Church, to meet others who have been learning and growing in the same "field"…. which in the fullness of time may reap a rich harvest.

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