Jesus makes it clear that merely speaking or receiving the good news of the kingdom of God is not always sufficient. Through preaching, Bible study, and worship God’s word is planted in our hearts. But many things can get in the way of the word taking root, growing, and producing fruit.
The church is often tempted to do whatever it takes to bring in as many people, and as quickly, as possible for the sake of increasing numbers. This is sometimes done through shallowness: appealing to popular trends, preaching an easy message that requires no repentance or sacrifice, or depending on the charisma of the messenger more than the substance of the message.
In his parable of the sowing of seeds, Jesus emphasizes that it takes understanding and depth for God’s word to take root, to endure struggles, and to be sustained long enough to bear fruit. Shallowness only makes room for a quick growth that doesn’t last.
In the church, what makes for depth that allows God’s word to take root and last in our lives? Often it means connecting God’s word to the deep, personal needs we bring. Is the Bible a book about things that happened a long time ago, or does it speak God’s word for our lives today? Do we listen only to the parts of God’s word that sound easy and make us feel good, or do we wrestle with messages of repentance and calls to seek justice?
Martin Luther taught the church that God’s word comes to us as law and gospel. We don’t get to choose which one we want to hear. We always get both. Both knowing we need God’s mercy and hearing that God’s mercy is a gift for us through Christ bring God’s word deep into our hearts, where it takes root and lives. This is what it means to understand God’s word with depth.