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Ash and Oil: March 27

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’  (Luke 8:4-8)

I was driving with my son on the highway the other day. “See that patch of grass up there?” he asked me. “I burn that stuff at work.” My son is part of the Phrag Squad. His job, as an Americorps volunteer for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, is to identify and destroy all the Phragmites australis (frag-MY-teez) he can find.

While a certain species of phragmites is native to Michigan, an invasive non-native variety of the plant is becoming so widespread, there is concern that it could take over ecosystems across Michigan, including the Great Lakes coastal shorelines. The invasive variety is taking over the variety that is meant to grow here – and taking over many other species at the same time – leaving Michigan with reduced plant diversity, reduced animal diversity, and a whole host of other problems. The Phrag Squad is working on it, but the odds are stacked against them.

Jesus, it seems, points to this kind of invasive species in Luke 8. The species in his parable had thorns, though here in Michigan they have grassy tops and aren’t so easy to identify. But the result is the same: the desirable plants are choked out by the undesirable ones.

Perhaps the invasive species of our time is defeatism – throwing up our hands, insisting there’s no solution to the world’s problems that we can be a part of. To that I think Jesus would say “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” God wants us to be part of his kingdom work – building shalom, seeking justice, “bringing good news to the poor.” No one said it would be easy – we are on a journey to the cross, no less – but there are promises along the way. Once we allow God to burn out the phragmites, there’s some good soil, ready to produce a hundredfold.

Pray: God, prepare us for your refining fire, that we may be cleansed of all that gets in the way of bringing you glory. Give us a vision for the kind of kingdom you came to build, and use our hands and feet as you wish. May we be good soil. Amen.

Take the next step: Native plants are being taken over by invasive species everywhere – likely even in your yard. Consider weeding out the invasive species and replanting the native varieties as a spiritual discipline as the weather warms this spring. Start planning now at (US) or (Canada).

[Image: Flickr user Paul Schulze]

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