Readings for Sunday 12 July: Isaiah 55.10-13; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.
Take a look at this picture. It’s a bit small, but look closely. It’s a picture of my back garden. It’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it?
Look at the earth in front of the fence. It definitely doesn’t look like a good garden – there are no nice plants, just a few weeds, and there are lots of rocks and stones and bits of rubbish. I’ve put the picture in this letter because today in our readings we hear a story Jesus told to his disciples, the parable of the sower. You can read about it in Matthew’s Gospel, but you can also watch a child-friendly video or this lovely animation.
In the parable we hear about seeds falling on a path and being eaten by birds and that other seeds fall on rocky ground or in the middle of thorns and that those seeds die. Take another look at my horrible garden and you can see why – surely no plants could grow up strong and healthy there among the bricks and stones and weeds.
But some of the seed in Jesus’s story falls in good earth and grows and becomes an amazing harvest. Then Jesus explains to the disciples that the story is about how some people hear about Jesus and God but somehow, because of one thing or another, they don’t take it seriously and it doesn’t take root in their souls and their hearts. Only a small number of people – the good earth – hear about Jesus and understand, and turn to follow him.
Here’s a question about this story for you - do you think you are the good earth? Do you think the good news about Jesus has fallen in rich earth in your heart?
Sometimes I think that might be true about me, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I remember all the ways in which I am a bad follower of Jesus and think maybe I’m more like the rocky earth. And actually that might be true of all of us. We go to church, read the Bible and we pray – but then sometimes we ignore what Jesus asks of us, we forget to love God and love other people, or we get distracted. And in those moments we are more like the rocky earth or the weed patch.
But this picture was taken a few months ago, at the start of lockdown. My garden doesn't look like that now - it looks very different. You can still see some of the rocks in there, but now there are also flowers. It looks lovely now. And it reminds me that actually, even rocky bits of garden can grow into something beautiful. We are all of us a mixture of good earth and rocky, stony, thorny bits - and Jesus loves us just as we are, rocks and rubbish and thorns as well as flowers and seeds and harvest. And it doesn’t matter – God’s love for us can take root in the nooks and crannies of our hearts and help us grow and blossom. So hurray for flowers blooming in rocky gardens and for the love of God. Amen.