Isaiah 55.10-13, Psalm 65.8-end , Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23
There are 7 missing verses from today’s Gospel which interrupts the Parable of the Sower. They contain a conversation between Jesus and his disciples where he explains why he uses the parable method of teaching. Without the explanation that comes in the 2nd half of the passage, the parable was opaque. It required the listeners to think about what Jesus was talking about, and to reflect on it over a period of time, and in doing so the message would develop in the listener’s mind. As Isaiah poetically puts it, God’s word like a seed, takes time to take root and grow into understanding.
Because we’ve heard this parable many times, we already know the symbolism, and therein lays the danger. How easy it is for us to stop listening, stop reflecting. What do we do with this parable?
Well perhaps we should start with ourselves. Each of us is the ground, ready for God’s Word to fall upon us; and our lives – how we behave, our thoughts and words and deeds – are the reflection of our life with God, the growth and the fruit.
If we take time to look at our lives from that angle, we might see what type of ground the seed has fallen into.
Furthermore, as any gardener will know, once you know the type of soil you are dealing with, you can make adjustments so that it is better prepared for planting. So a clay soil might have organic matter added for improved drainage, for example.
What preparations do we need to make for God’s Word to take root in us?
Jesus gives us a few examples:
Lacking of understanding – well, if that connects with you, then perhaps study would help, a Bible course or reading a commentary, providing netting over our spiritual lives so God’s teaching isn’t ignored. It can mean sitting with a passage that we struggle with, letting ourselves soak in the scriptures, and asking God for the gift of wisdom.
Or the shallow roots that wither in times of trouble – defend against that with daily prayer or by joining a prayer group. This is a task of preparation as well, thinking through difficult questions before trouble occurs. Then when difficulties do arise, the tricky questions around suffering or grief have already been thought through.
And the thorns of the world and wealth? Well, most of us need to do some weeding in our lives from time to time, making sure we’ve got our priorities in the right order. And this hazard reminds us that the gardening of the soul, just like that of the flowerbed or allotment, is not a one-off task. We must be vigilant and on-going with the stewardship of our souls. It means taking seriously Jesus’ teaching on sharing wealth, showing mercy and loving God and our neighbours.
This week let us each take some time to reflect on the ground of our souls and our growth in Christ.
What pruning, weeding, and nurturing could you ask God to help you with so that the Spirit blossoms and bears even more fruit in your life?
We ask this in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Artwork: ‘The Sower’ by St John Everett Millais)