10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 NIV)
While the leaves have stubbornly held onto their color, as we approach the end of September I’m beginning to see the first glimpse of Fall color. Autumn will soon be with us.
Fall is one of those, universally beloved Seasons. And it’s easy to see why. The weather, at least in the beginning allows you to dress however you wish. Football begins, Baseball heads to the World Series. The trees show off their glorious color, We gather at bonfires. Pumpkin spice is added to everything imaginable, from lattes to Oreo cookies.
It’s a time of harvest and bounty as farmers pull in their crops. Farmers gather in their crops, we pick apples and pick out our pumpkins. Fall simply seems to be a time when we enjoy God’s Bounty that is before us.
Of course, that bounty simply doesn’t happen. Whether you have a small garden or a large working farm the process is pretty much the same. Early in the year the ground must be turned over and broken up. Seeds are planted. They are watered. Fertilizer is spread to give plants the proper nutrients. Weeds are pulled. Measures are taken to protect the crops from insects that will destroy them.
In other words a good crop must be cultivated. The plants must be tended. Otherwise you will not have a bounty at the end of the year. No one, I hope, goes out to a piece of land and simply hopes that somehow crops will grow and there will be a good harvest. A Good bounty is the result of wise, planned out cultivation.
So it is with our hearts and spirits. In our Scripture, we are reminded that Ezra was a man of God because he prepared (cultivated) his heart. If we do not take the time to cultivate our spirits, then we cannot expect a bounty. Not only do we not grow in our faith, but a shallow, uncultivated faith, will not have the depth of strength to carry us through our time so of trouble and tragedy.
How do we cultivate our hearts? How do we begin to turn over the hardened ground of our Spirits so that the love of God can begin to grow within us? It’s really not that difficult. In fact it’s really is a joyful thing to do. But it takes more than a trip to see the gardener once a week on Sunday morning.
There are no surprises in cultivating our hearts. The issue is not that we don’t know what to do, it’s simply that we don’t do it enough. We are to read and meditate on God’s word. The Bible remains one of the widest distributed, but the least read of all books. If you wish to truly cultivate your spirits, then read God’s word. meditate on it. Ask God what He is showing you.
Attend to the means of grace. Pray, and don’t do all the talking. Worship daily. Take part in the sacraments. enjoy being in God’s presence. Take a Sabbath. A Sabbath, by the way ,is a time for you to stop , step back from your busy schedule and see God at work in your life. A Sabbath is not an extra day to get things done. It’s supposed to be about cultivating your spirit. Spend time in service. Few things soften the ground of your heart than looking for ways to be in ministry to someone else.
This fall, as you experience the blessing of God’s bounty, I hope you experience the blessing of His bounty within your heart. But it won’t just happen. At some point you need to get off your porch, turn the dirt of your heart over and cultivate a place for God’s love to grow. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><