Glencairn Methodist Church
[This message is based on the Parable of the Sower. If you are not familiar with it, please read Matthew 13: 1-23 before starting.]
It might have been a hot sunny day and the smooth surface of the lake was reflecting the clear blue sky. Jesus and the crowd following him might have been in one of the little inlets off the lake near Capernaum. The crowd were eager to hear Jesus teach and to make best use of the location, Jesus got into a boat and pulled out to the middle of the inlet, with the crowd on the shore on both sides - a perfect natural theatre, where his voice could carry over the water to everyone.
Now, what might the people have been expecting? Well, Jesus had been preaching about the Kingdom of God, and, of course, all Jews knew that God's Kingdom would come one day, when God would cleans the land of all foreign domination, and restore Israel to their promised place. Perhaps they were hoping the Jesus in the power of God was going to give a "call to arms", to start this glorious revolution, with the certainty of success at last. And they may have been wondering what part they may be asked to play in this fight.
And what does Jesus give them? A story about a farmer sowing seeds! Now these were country boys, they knew about sowing seed and how some of it goes to waste on the pathways or on stony ground or among the briars. Is this all he is going to say? So they might start thinking about the prophecies of old and whether or not Jesus was referring to these. They remembered that the sacred writings from long ago which spoke of the long period of God's anger against his rebellious children - and then of a new day dawning. Then they would be rescued from evil. Like a farmer starting a new agricultural year, God would sow his fields with crops that would bring a harvest. Seedtime and harvest, part of God's created order, had long been a picture of how God would act to redeem his people from their sins, rescue them from exile and deliver them from oppression.
But the story they heard was not quite what they were expecting. Jesus' story promised failure as well as success, and this is not what they wanted to hear. It was a riddle. When Jesus said, "He who has ears let him hear", this should alert us to the fact that he meant, "I know this is not cut and dried; you're going to have to think about it." Yes, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom will come, but not in the way you expect.
What can we take from this today? Our task, as we read and reread scripture, is to think it through and work it out for ourselves. What God is doing today in the world. What he has done already in Jesus, and what he wants to do through us. What sort of stories should we be telling to get people to listen? Where can we tell them so that people will be able to hear, just like the crowd around the lakeside?
Jesus does give and explanation to his disciples of his meaning of the parable, and this also gives us a question to ask of ourselves. What sort of soil are we? How receptive have we been to the Gospel, because this parable is all about how people react to what we hear? Are we an unreceptive path and we hear nothing at all as the message is drowned out by competing messages? Are we a rocky place with little depth of soil? We hear, but in the heat of the day we let the message wither and die. Are we a place full of weeds which will not let the message prosper in our lives? Or are we fertile ground where the message is deep rooted and fruitful? If we are any of the first three, what are the implications for us? If we are the fourth - fruitful soil - what exactly is the fruit we should be producing? St Paul gives us a clue in Galatians 5: 22 where he writes, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." Try to develop these virtues in your life.
Ken (12 July 2014) (having drawn inspiration from Tom Wright's commentary Matthew for Everyone, Part 1 SPCK 2004)
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm