Plowing Straight


Third Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 30, 2019
Scripture: Luke 9:51-62

Jesus said … "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
(Luke 9:62, NRSV)


The words of an African American spiritual speak to the scripture for this Sunday:

“You done lost your track; can’t plow straight and keep a-lookin’ back.
Keep your hand on the plow and hold on.”

People who tend the earth, those with large equipment in vast fields of crops or those of us who plant small gardens, will attest that planting in straight rows takes concentration and focus and attention to the task at hand. Taking our eyes or mind off our work, looking to see how our neighbor’s garden is growing, resenting those who have more help in the field, or using shortcuts in preparing the soil distracts us from our task and risks destroying the very thing we hope to accomplish. 

So it is with our ministry in the worship arts. We can and should be inspired by and learn from others in ministry, but when we “look back” at a church with better sound production equipment (and the people to run it) or a music program with more children in the choirs or a clergy colleague in a more influential pulpit, we are distracted and can lose our track. If we are looking back, we may plow right over the tender shoots growing from seeds we have planted. 

Plowing straight means paying attention to the ministry at hand, to the unique call God has given us, to the surprising opportunities in sight. So hold on, plow straight, and do not be distracted.


O God of planting and of harvest,
you have called us to ministry in your garden.
Keep our hands on the tools of our work and our eyes on the straight track;
that we may be faithful in our labor, even as your faithfulness brings fruit in due season.
Through Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God forever. Amen.  

Barbara Day MillerBarbara Day Miller
Associate Dean Emerita for Worship and Music
Associate Professor Emerita in the Practice of Liturgy and Music
Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Atlanta, GA

Photo: Flowers are seen outside Lambuth Inn at Lake Junaluska during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

A Spirit of Gentleness

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