Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
I admit that I’m no gardener (other than enjoying sitting in the garden in summer) and certainly not an agriculturalist, but I can’t help thinking that the sower in the second reading was perhaps not up to the job and could do with a little retraining.
Farmers in first century Palestine seemed to do things back to front by first sowing the seed and then doing the ploughing. Even accounting for that it seems really odd to sow precious seed on the hard, trodden pathway and in the midst of thorns and weeds. Surely there’s no chance of a harvest there? Why would anyone be so extravagantly wasteful?
Whether it is a church working out its mission priorities for the coming year or ourselves as individuals planning some project or other, we do have a natural propensity to go for the ‘low hanging’ fruits, the easy option, where we can get maximum returns for minimal effort. We know that by pursuing this plan there is the chance of some easy wins and gains. As humans we try quite hard not to set up ourselves to fail. If it’s discouraging we tend to shy away from it. We like things to succeed.
Perhaps when Jesus was telling his hearers the parable of the sower he was thinking about how the disciples lost their nerve during the storm on the Sea of Galilee or when the people he grew up with in Nazareth rejected and sent him away. Both must have felt like stoney or thorny ground.
As followers in the Way of Christ, we are called to sow seed and we never quite know where it is going to fall. Occasionally we know that it does bears fruit, but so often we never know what effect our actions and words have on others. That is up to God rather than down to us, but it’s perhaps too easy to focus down too much on the stony, fruitless ground and to feel depressed by our lack of results. With the benefit of the bigger picture we can see the amazing harvest described in the gospel reading of 30, 60 or even 100 fold. With God, all things are possible, often beyond our wildest imaginings. Putting our trust in the Lord, God in turn will be faithful to us.
Here is the heart of it; here is the sharp contrast between ourselves and God. For God is the high risk sower, who sees that everywhere is potentially fertile soil. This is no cosy message to make us feel good, as Jesus tells us, ‘Let anyone with ears listen.’ The challenge is to look for God’s activity in the stoney paths of this world, hidden among the thorns.
Where are the places in my life and your life where there is a hard trodden path; where there are lots of weeds and thorns; and conversely and more positively, where is there deep, rich soil which bears a huge harvest?
This scripture reading is about the abundance of God’s kingdom where all things are possible. Here we encounter the overflowing generosity and love of God for humanity and for the whole of creation. Here is something worth celebrating as God invites us to join in the fruits of Kingdom.