Sunday 12 July 2020
Weeding and Sowing
Isaiah 55:10-13; Matthew 13:1-23
Context: a congregation of about 40 in a provincial city at the Sunday Eucharist
Aim: to encourage the congregation to reflect on their spiritual ‘yield’ and confidently share the gospel
This parable is so well known we could probably re-tell it word for word. The farmer sows his seed, casting it far and wide. Some of it falls on the path, some on thin soil, some on soil full of weeds, but! Some falls on soil which has been well prepared, where it takes root, yielding a wonderful harvest.
Each different sort of soil, Jesus explains, represents a different sort of hearer. Our hearts may be closed, shallow, choked up with worldly concerns or, perhaps, ready to receive and cherish God’s word. Can we get beneath our familiarity with this story to find its encouragement today?
Who was it for?
The interpretation may seem obvious to us, but it was mystifying to its first hearers, though they understood agriculture better than most of us. Perhaps they were simply bewildered by the utter wastefulness of a farmer who threw most of his seed on paths, rocks and thistles. Seed, carefully collected by hand, wasn’t to be squandered.
The crowd who hear it first don’t understand it: Jesus leaves everyone confused. What is the seed? And the soil? Who are the birds eating the seed? Which are the weeds choking the plants? What is he on about? That might depend on whether we are weeding or sowing.
God’s generosity and gentleness
Jesus depicts the sower’s generosity: what resources God will pour out for the slimmest chance to connect with us. We see this epitomised by Christ’s incarnation. After millennia of human selfishness and pride, you would think the Lord might know better than to waste his effort on coming to walk with us, in flesh and blood, in frail humanity.
If ever there was a fool’s errand, you might think it was Christ’s coming to live among us. Yet there was no-one, no matter how broken, abandoned, demon possessed or treacherous that Jesus wouldn’t reach out to, seeking to bring them reconciliation and renewal.
We learn too of God’s gentleness. The seed lands on the ground. Where that ground is well prepared, it will germinate. But the soil: our hearts, are a matter for us. God is always there beside us, waiting for us; but he will not compel us to have the seed of grace planted.
Weeding and sowing
How do we respond to this? We are both those who receive the word and those called to share it.
We must take responsibility for our own hearts. If we examine our lives and find no yield- no love, peace, compassion, forgiveness; no concern for justice or advocacy for the voiceless, then we must reflect. Have we failed to understand God’s word, given it no soil to grow in, or simply allowed other things: pride, reputation or selfishness, to choke it?
If we don’t find our hearts ‘yielding’ love, let’s not despair - but start weeding! Our hearts may need digging over, and some of the stones taken out, but by God’s grace they can still yield a good crop.
What might the weeding look like?
Perhaps - examining our assumptions about ourselves and others, or about God’s character. Maybe through study, or conversation with wise friends. We may want to explore new ways to pray, new avenues of Bible study, or to go on a quiet day or retreat: refreshing our minds and hearts.
Perhaps we need to weed out particular habits which hurt us or others. Holding grudges, retaining unjust privilege at another’s expense or refusing to shoulder responsibility - each of us has to confront different things.
But it’s not all about introspection: although the parable is initially told to a crowd, Jesus subsequently offers his disciples an interpretation as they were to be given the job of sowing the seed themselves.
This parable should encourage us when we feel that we are not seeing the transformation, justice and freedom that we long for in God’s Kingdom. Sometimes, you are just casting seed on really stony ground. There are places where destructive attitudes and habits have such a hold on people that growing the gospel is really hard.
We are each given different soil to sow in. A workplace, neighbours, family, the pub, the local shop. As followers of Jesus, wherever we are, we are to scatter the good news of Christ’s kingdom. We mustn’t say: ‘I won’t bother sowing seed there, it’s a bit stony’ or ‘I won’t sow seed there, it hasn’t been weeded for years’. Trusting God’s grace, we must continually seek to share the gospel with others.
Expecting a harvest
We are called, prayerfully, faithfully, to scatter good news amongst all those we meet. We trust God’s goodness. We trust that we will not run out of seed, and that the Lord of the Harvest will bring about a great yield.
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