But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken notes when someone is teaching me. It started in high school, was sharpened in the college classrooms at Louisiana Tech and continued when I was learning to be a journalist, where my first beat was the local commissioner’s meetings. I would sit in hours of parliamentary discussions, looking for one 30-second sound bite to be used on the evening news. Taking notes and paying attention was not optional.
When I became serious about learning the Scriptures, a pen, paper and my Bible were always with me in church, because I knew I would forget most of what I heard by Wednesday morning. If Sundays were going to be valuable, I had to write things down to really grow up. So, no matter who was teaching me, I took notes of all that was said. I wrote down every Scripture passage and tried to go back and read those Scriptures again the following week.
In Luke’s gospel, mentioned above, Jesus described the four types of soil that represent the common conditions of the human heart. The path, the rock, the thorns and the good soil are all mentioned. The seeds that fell on the good soil are the only ones that produced a good crop.
Verse 14 describes us if we do not take notes – “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
The Message Bible says “who seize the word and hold on no matter what.” I confess that I’ve heard some amazing insight that I’ve not written down and I’m certain I’ve forgotten most of it. Good seed had been sown, but I didn’t seize it and hold on, no matter what.
Today, I still take notes for three very good reasons:
1. Taking notes helps me have conversations with others about the sermon. This is the essence of discipleship – the speaking words of Scripture have to become embedded in our listening ears and spill out of us in unhurried conversations with others. In these Spirit-formed conversations, we challenge, encourage and shape one another. Discipleship is a lifelong pursuit of wisdom.
2. Taking notes helps me focus. There’s so much competing for my internal space during sermons and writing notes disciplines me to pay attention to what’s most important. This is why I usually do not take notes on my smartphone. It’s too easy to get distracted.
3. Taking notes shows respect for the teacher. I know how hard it is to preach and I respect anyone who has prepared and prayed so they can teach me. Taking notes shows my teacher that I’m ready to learn. I promise, teachers teach better when people are leaning in with pen and paper in hand.
Let’s not sit in the crowd with our arms folded, assuming that we’ll remember everything that’s being said. Let’s hear the word, retain the word and by persevering produce a good crop. Let’s grow up together by paying attention to what’s being said, right in front of us.