Sunday Morning Coffee with Dave and a University Theologian


From of old, faith has not been every man’s affair. At all times but few have discerned religion itself, while millions, in various ways, have been satisfied to juggle with its trappings.

Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers

Waking early on Sunday morning and hearing the bells tolling at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, I rolled over in bed and looked out my fourth-story window directly across the street and admired the stark white towering structure against the azure blue skies. Waking on Sunday mornings inside the historic Redlands Hotel stirs feelings inside me that transcend words. I reached to the bedside table of my hotel room and opened my Greek New Testament to translate from The Gospel of Mark, chapter 4: The Parable of the Sower. The words from Schleiermacher’s writings, posted above, were my first thoughts, and I found this parallel in a New Testament parable.

4:1 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

.   .    .

13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

14 The sower soweth the word.

15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Gospel of Mark 4:1-20

Schleiermacher argues that a slim minority has focused on the realm of religion. Two thousand years before Schleiermacher uttered these words at an assembly, a Galilean spoke from a boat moored just off the seashore to a crowd gathered on the land, and uttered this parable. The story relays the truth that the sower scattering seed in rocky Palestine finds only small pockets of soil fertile enough to yield an abundant harvest. When disciples pressed Jesus for a spiritual interpretation of the parable, he said that the seed sown was the Word. Why was there little return when the Word was sown? The parable mentions four types of soil that received the seed–wayside, stony, thorny and quality. The application of the parallel pertains to the kinds of minds receiving the Word. Sometimes the Word falls on deaf ears. Sometimes it lands on shallow minds. Other times it falls among minds too distracted. But occasionally it settles upon minds prepared to receive. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Remembering that I had packed Schleiermacher’s volume among my items for this weekend, I went downstairs to the gallery to retrieve it. Over coffee, I read and paused over the passage posted above. Schleiermacher insisted that few people burrow deeply into the religious sentiment. The audience he addressed in these speeches was a mixed one: some of the crowd were university professors who scoffed at the anti-intellectualism of the church in general; another part of the crowd consisted of pious worshipers who distrusted scholarship, believing that university personnel consisted of arrogant scoffers. Schleiermacher was the one who was simultaneously churchman and university man. In his six Speeches, he sought to bring the two sides together in healthy dialogue.

As I continued to read and scribble observations in my journal, thinking of the richness of religion, and the few who care to absorb it, I recalled a similar thread from Thoreau:

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

For most of my adult life, I have found myself classifying humanity in much the same way as just touched upon by Schleiermacher, by Jesus, and by Thoreau. But this morning, I don’t want to do that. Instead of breaking the population down into groups, grading them by their receptivity, I wish to take inventory of my own personal ways, and come to grips with this striking parallel. I know that I am not consistent, not 100% “alert” all the time. Whether it be physical weariness, spiritual depression, or just plain distractedness, I acknowledge this morning that I tend to find myself all over the map. The truth is, there are times when I am not receptive to the genuine qualities life offers. Sometimes these truths fall on the wayside, unnoticed by me, and nothing happens. Sometimes the gifts fall directly in front of me and I seize them with immediate joy, but with no depth of soil, and when times get rough, I forget the riches. And then sometimes the good things fall among the thorns–the “distractions” of life that choke out their fruitfulness. But there are those blessed times that when the gift arrives, I am prepared, collected, focused, and willing to embrace it with all thankfulness.

For the past week, I suppose I have been classed in that third soil type: thorns. Jesus interpreted those as the “distractions” of life that choke out the Word and make it unfruitful. I can certainly identify with that. There has been so much on my plate of late: plumbing issues and restoration inside my house, three college classes, a series of Academic Decathlon lectures, little time for quality reading and thought, and no time allowed to create art. All of that added up to an unsatisfying week. I now recall those gentle words of rebuke from Jesus to Martha in Bethany:

Martha, Martha. You are distracted by many things. Only one thing matters . . . 

This morning, I have ears to hear. My college grading has been all caught up. I have a day to relax in The Gallery at Redlands. I have my books, my journal and my art supplies. Today, I anticipate quality as I seek to focus on one thing.

Thanks for reading.

Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, my Neighbor


The Gallery at Redlands Early this Morning


Always a Wonderful Stay at the Redlands Hotel


The Guitar is Always a Comfort

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