Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 64 (65), Romans 8:18-23, Mathew 13:1-23
When I reflected on the parable we just heard I thought to myself: That man wasn’t a very good sower…. It seems a lot of waste: seed that fell on the edge of the path, seed that fell on patches of rock, seeds that fell among thorns… Could he not have been a bit more careful as to where he threw the seed…? What a waste…
Then I realised that agriculture in first century Palestine might have been a bit different from the way things are done in twenty first century Britain. The land wasn’t prepared and cultivated in the same way, there wasn’t the same machinery and perhaps the understanding of efficiency in those days was more in keeping with the rhythm of the natural world.
This insight could lead us to an interesting conversation about which approach is most productive and at the same time sustainable for the earth and all who live on it, but we may need to leave that to another time. Although it is not disconnected from it, for this morning it is enough for us to realise that this is what Jesus observed and used in a parable to tell us something about the message of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus shared this message in word and deed and, like the sower in the parable, he had the experience that what he said doesn’t always land. Some people didn’t listen and ignored it. Others listened and liked it but when difficulties arose they drifted away. Again others listened and welcomed it, but then there were so many distractions that they lost interest. That is a bit like the seed on the path, on rocky ground and what was sown among thistles.
This was Jesus’ experience and it may also reflect our experience when we try to share information, wisdom, our vision for a better world, our passion, our love or care. For a variety of reasons others may not get it or don’t pay attention or actively turn away. What we do or say seems a waste of time. What is the point? The parable may comfort us with the awareness that the Lord also experienced this. It may encourage us not to give up but continue to display what, in some ways, reflects the wasteful generosity of God himself. And the seed that fell on rich soil and produced a rich harvest may give hope that it is not a waste after all.
Of course we ourselves can be at the receiving end and neglect the goodness and ‘godness’ that is shared, or even turn away from it. I suppose this is what Jesus really had in mind when he shared these words. Like all parables, this parable is told to open our eyes and ask ourselves what kind of soil we offer to the good news of the Kingdom. What do we need to do to prepare for this and be receptive?
If we follow Jesus’ explanation of the parable it seems that, first of all, we need to turn away from what is dark and evil in our lives and in our world and turn to what is good and light.
Then it seems we also need to cultivate endurance and not immediately give up when things get tough. The experience of hardship may well indicate that we are on the right way. On the way to true life we encounter the cross.
In the third place it seems that we need to create space in our lives where we can listen to the word. Space where we can be still and hear the God who speaks. God speaks with words but also without words in the sheer sound of silence. It needs some practice to hear this gentle voice in the midst of the noise of the distractions, anxieties and worries in life.
May the words we heard this morning offer us encouragement in our efforts to share the good news of God’s Kingdom of justice, peace and integrity of creation. And may it help us to become more receptive to it and offer rich soil which yields a harvest and doesn’t produce fivefold but thirty, sixty or even a hundredfold. It seems outrageous, but for God nothing is impossible. May that give us hope. Fr. Jeroen