Parable of the Sower Matthew 13. 1-9
What have we all been doing over the last few weeks to pass the time? Perhaps we have been reading more books, or maybe catching up on old films and television programmes or doing some DIY or crafts. I know that during the time of lockdown, many like me have been spending more time in our gardens. Gardening can be so rewarding as you see plants thrive, flowers bloom and you get to pick fresh fruit and vegetables. But also, there are times of disappointment, even frustration, as things do not turn out as you hoped.
So, how did the farmer in the parable from today’s Gospel reading feel? The seed that was sown by the farmer did not always grow as he would have hoped, depending upon where the seed fell. The people listening to Jesus would also have understood what happened to the seed. They would have been familiar with the practice of scattering the seeds everywhere with the result that the seeds would land on the path, or rocky soil, or amongst weeds, or on to good soil. They would have understood the story as Jesus told it as they would have seen this happening many times, but what did this story that Jesus told mean? Even his disciples did not grasp the message and Jesus had to explain it to them. Look at Matthew 13. 18 – 23 if you want a reminder of his explanation, although I am sure we all know the explanation that he gave to them. However, what does this parable mean for us now? A simple story, but what is its message for us?
I think there are three things that we might learn.
All of us are called, as disciples of Christ, to spread the word of God, to pass on the good news of the Gospel. Some will have the opportunity through preaching and teaching to encourage others to follow Christ, but every Christian has opportunities in everyday life to sow the seed of faith in others. We should cast this as broadly as we can, with prayer that the message takes hold and leads people to Christ. However, we do not need to expect that it will always bear fruit. Like the farmer, we can scatter the seed but it does also depend on the “soil” the we sow it in – some people are just not ready for all sorts of reasons to hear the message and receive Christ into their lives. Perhaps we should try and improve the chances of people turning to Christ through our prayers and, of course, by how we lead our own lives. If we pay attention to our actions, our thoughts and what we say, we can be the fertiliser. We should try and enrich the world we live in so that God’s kingdom can grow.
Secondly, we need to improve our own soil so that our faith can grow. We need to dig out the distractions of the world that hinder our development and deepen our roots of faith through prayer and awareness of God being ever present with his generous love. To gain better understanding we need to remember how important the Bible is and what it can tell us. Through understanding more of what Jesus is trying to tell us, we can thrive.
Finally, as Jesus said at the end of the parable, “Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13. 9), I believe that that quote about listening has a message other than just taking note of what Jesus says (although that is obviously important). It also should remind us of the importance of listening to others and not just hearing. We need to take care in thinking about what people are saying to us, in showing our interest and concern by not interrupting or changing the subject if it does not meet our needs. We can all improve our listening skills and demonstrate that we value what others have to say. We need to think carefully before we respond.
Most important of all is that in our times of prayer we take time to listen to what God is saying to us. Let his calm voice soothe our concerns. Let him encourage us when we get despondent and as we listen for his guidance, let us show through our lives that we are truly listening to his voice.