Anglican Morning Devotion 23 December 2021 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 58And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 59And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. 61And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:57-62)
As a student of the sixth grade, we were required to memorize one of the greatest poems ever written – Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Gray. It seemed very archaic to my young mind then, but the poem has been a great blessing to me since. The lilting lines of the poem begin:
“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”
Doubtless, there may be some younger among the readers of this devotion who find the term ‘ploughman’ a great mystery, but most of my age will know the term intimately. My mother was an avid gardener and it fell my lot to plow the mountain slopes of the Blue Ridge for her vegetable garden. The ground of that area is strewn with rocks that work their way to the surface each year and need to be removed.
Being a plowman is not simply plowing the ground, but preparing it as well for plowing. Underbrush, in addition to the stones, must be cleared away, and it is helpful is the earth has been recently blessed with rain to soften the soil.
John the Baptist is perhaps the greatest plowman of all the world. He came to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. “For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:3)
There were the hearts of stony ground, of briars and thistles, and hard-pressed earth from the feet of men and beasts – and there were a few soils that were moist and soft for the tilling. These types were the soils with which John was confronted.
John, like every professing believer, was a plowman who looked straight ahead to the distant boundary of the row he was plowing. (His preaching contemplated the Coming Redeemer). A good plowman, either in the Gospel or in the farm, never looks back. If we look back when our hand is on the plow, we will lose reference and drift to the right or left leaving a crooked row. There are other principles, too, that the plowman must observe: the plowed earth must not be too deep else the seed cannot reach the surface when sowed (we must preach the Word of God from the known to the unknown – not the other way around); the plow must turn up the weeds and roots that could strangle the sown seed later; nor can the plow simply skim the surface else the seed will be burned by the heat of the sun (if our preaching is too shallow and frivolous, it will not be heeded); finally, the plowman must do his work, as did John, just before the time of planting.
John was prophesied from olden times to be the one to prepare the way for the coming Lord: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3) May I suggest that every believer is a type of John the Baptist for we must continually prepare the Way of the Lord to those who know not the Lord Jesus Christ and, sadly, our voices, too, are like unto that of John, of one crying in the Wilderness of the world. There are not usually great throngs that have ears to hear the Gospel, or even the desire to hear it.
The Sower of the Seed is our Lord Jesus Christ promised to Abraham; and the Seed, too, is the Word of God – both being the same since Jesus is verily the Word from the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
It is high time that we, as good workers of the Vineyard, take up our plows and prepare hearts for the sowing. If the soil rejects the Seed, that is not our shortcoming. The Word still serves its purpose to either CONDEMN, or to CONVICT! The field is the wilderness world. We have WORK to do!