Trinity 5 – Rev Alison Way
Romans 8:1-11 and Matthew 13:1-9. 18-23
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen
I want to begin by telling you a story about some plants. I am almost certainly the least green fingered person you will ever meet. Many people love gardening – it is not my bag at all. However, for the first time ever in my life my current house has a green house!
My gardening help (thanks to Colin for helping me to find them) was very keen I grow some things in the afore mentioned green house and back at the end of April– some plants arrived…
I was instructed to water them. I was a bit over keen to start with and overdid it abit, but I soon found a healthy level – and I have watered the tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, geraniums (and here is the result)
But the star so far has definitely been the courgette plant.
From what you saw earlier to now the growth has been huge….. And I have now had half a dozen courgettes to eat – and clearly there are more. Though I had eaten plenty of courgettes I had no idea how they grew before this. Huge leaves, tasty vegetables and so much from one plant. And just because I was given it and have taken the time to nurture and water it!
This has really surprised me (I know many of you will have grown things for years – but for me it has been quite a revelation!). All it needed was a little Tender Loving Care TLC and water every day…. A simple but true story
Jesus told stories – as a way to share his message and often stories about the natural world and growth. We get this kind of content for the gospel for the next few weeks. Sometimes we just get the story and are left to puzzle out what it means for ourselves. This is not always easy for us, because we are not Jesus original audience. We live in different times with different customs and cultures. Jesus used the every day – and what was every day in his day is very different from ours!
On other occasions as with this one, we get the story from Jesus and then an explanation. In this instance – Jesus says it is all about how people respond to what Jesus calls the word of the kingdom – (The news of God’s love Jesus had come to share to change everything).
Let’s take a closer look at the explanation and what Jesus is driving at for us today in our very strange times. This is going to be applied to these times – to help us understand how we approach the word of the kingdom for us and how day by day it changes things
If we start with Jesus being the sower, as Penny was telling as a couple of weeks ago – He was scattering his message, his purpose, his meaning far and wide! In every sense of a broad cast with his seed being his message. This is interesting as the breadth of this is a big contrast to a narrower view often espoused in Matthew’s gospel and that Jesus message was first and foremost for the Jews of his day!
Another way of understanding the seed is for it to be a reference to the people hearing his message and how we respond is governed by where it lands.. There were 4 options in the story
On the path
On the rocky ground
In among the weeds and thorns
On the good soil we bear much fruit
Let’s dig abit deeper into these in turn: –
Starting with seed landing on the path – which Jesus equates with hearing but not understanding and then being easily snatched by the evil one!!! Uncomfortable language – here. The inference here according to one of my commentaries is caused by the hardness of heart of the listener or holding an unreceptive attitude.
We all know what it is like to try to persuade someone of a different point of view when their mind is firmly already made up. We will have been in our lifetimes both the person who is trying to persuade and the person not giving an inch!!! In my in-tray at the moment is all the paperwork, guidance and requirements for opening for public worship. In there are some things we are going to find extremely difficult! which cut across some things I have some very set views about. And yet being stuck and rigid about stuff really doesn’t help us. Being hard hearted and unreceptive – not attributes that sit comfortably with living with a Christian heart of love. This will be a balancing act of doing the things that keep us the safest whilst maintaining our focus on worshipping our loving God together
As we travel together on the journey to public worship I am and we are going to have to accept some things that aren’t as we would want them to be. In some cases some very cherished things whilst staying open-hearted and receptive to God’s Spirit about them!
I am not particularly fond of the language of the Evil one – but there is evil out there and it’s in the slippery slope territory. Particularly if we succumb to being closed, unreceptive and hard hearted. This story reminds us that sort of behaviour leaves that particular door wide open – enough said I think!
Let’s move on to thinking about the seed landing on the rocky ground. From the story and explanation this shows the message was heard – with an initial joyful response (so the ears were open and we are not unreceptive) but it doesn’t take root. Then with the first difficulties that come along we fall away… We would describe this as falling at the first hurdle! As a whole you could characterise our society as having a common malaise, which has the rather impressive name of “cognitive dissonance”. What this means is that at times we consciously avoid the ‘difficult’
People walk away from things, people, relationships, family rather than staying and doing the hard yards to make it work. We want to believe the myth that life can be all ups (and no downs or difficulties) – all roses round the door and apple pie. That just isn’t real life. (Life has ups and downs! It is the way it is!)
Clearly we have been living in times where this will have been very difficult to maintain. Yet it is quite pervasive too. Putting things in the ‘too hard’ category or the Easier not to box – generally does not do us a lot of good. Knowing where are roots are not strong is helpful, and praying for the strength we need is important if we are having rocky times. Relying on God’s love for us for what we need today is important (remembering that is need and not want!)
The next option was seed that fell among the weeds and thorns. Again the message is heard, so we are not unreceptive or hard hearted or blown in the breeze with insufficient roots, but (and there is always a but coming isn’t there) other things get in the way. Particularly in this instance the cares of the world and the lure of wealth. These areas in our life can get in the way of our hearing Jesus message and living the way he wants us too.
Both are addressed in the Sermon on the mount earlier in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus said – Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
We are living in a time of heightened and pretty much global anxiety. When we get anxious we are literally wired to fight and flight – not reason carefully. Things can overwhelm us, which on a day when we are feeling less anxious we wonder why they did… In the first letter of Peter – is written a verse that will help us with setting this right
Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.
Acknowledge it, pray with it, tell God how we feel, but don’t let anxiety consume us and disable us from what God wants of us.
The other side of the proverbial coin here as seed landing in the thorns and weeds is the lure of wealth. Earlier in the sermon on the mount – Jesus said
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
My life experience says that what we hold close to our hearts shows on the outside to others in how we approach our lives. When that is love, generosity, kindness and compassion – we shine with God’s love. When that is about acquisition or getting rich quick, all sorts of things show on the surface which are not so good!
The final place the seed can fall is on the good soil. Where we hear, and we understand, and we live the life God has for us. We live open heartedly and applying what God asks of us! In these circumstances we bear fruit. Fruit often way beyond what we expect. Numerous times I have been blown away and heartened by fruit that has come along. And all the more so when it has been surprising and overflowing. Staying with being open-hearted, generous and intentional about living the way God says is best for us.
This is abit like my courgette plant where we started these thoughts today – it has yielded growth and fruit with a little TLC from me
The parable of the sower cautions against not listening, being unyielding, giving up at the first hurdle, being distracted by the cares of the world, or the acquisition of wealth.
In the challenges in the days and weeks ahead in the way our worshipping life together will look and feel different or if we have to make the difficult choice not to attend public worship – let’s stay in the open-hearted, generous and intentional place of God’s love for us . God can and will encourage growth in us that will dwarf even the growth of my courgette plant – and be all the more impressive
God has given us the greatness and wonder of his love and all the TLC we need through Jesus love for us and the Holy Spirit’s work to stay on the journey – seeking the good soil with open praying hearts, engaging in following his path and not distracted by anxiety or the acquisition of wealth.
God in his faithfulness will give us the strength we need this day and every day (as well as the hymn says bright hope for everlasting tomorrows). Amen
Great is thy Faithfulness – Thomas Obadiah Chisholm and William Marion Runyan – played by John Beaven on the video.
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
CCLI – Song reproduced and streaming license under CCLI 217043 for St Peter and St Paul Church, Wincanton
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995