'Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea... while the whole crowd stood on the beach...' and he told them what to us is the well-known story of the sower and the seed in which the seed, representing ‘the word’, is variously:
· lost immediately in the blizzard of life’s busy-ness
· received positively then laid aside when the pressure of life’s demanding routines takes over
· overtaken by all the important distractions of life - or
· heard, taken to heart and results in positive outcomes.
This story itself is also received in different ways by different people.
To some, the first three categories refer to the difficulties they themselves have in receiving the word. This can lead to misplaced feelings of guilt.
Others see themselves as being represented by the final (‘good’) category. This can lead to unhelpful feelings of pride or complacency.
But Jesus doesn’t intend to induce guilt - and pride was one thing he certainly didn’t want his followers to be swallowed up by.
His words are full of understanding and compassion for all of us whose lives are overshadowed by the blizzard of busy-ness, pressure of routine, trying to prioritise demanding decisions, not to mention the existential questions raised by the virus pandemic.
Today, ‘going out of the house’ and ‘the whole crowd standing on the beach’ are phrases that have very different resonances in light of the Covid-19 crisis. They too can induce different and powerful emotions - anxiety, panic, anger, condemnation... but Jesus’ message to his original hearers and to us today is the same: the seed, representing ‘the word’ is of course the inclusive unconditional love that is always there for all people in every generation.
For those of us who desire to follow Christ, ‘hearing the word and understanding it’ brings with it the invitation to let this love permeate our whole being, growing more and more, bringing healing to our spirits, our attitudes, our relationships, even our minds and bodies. So the work of the sower is accomplished: as we nurture this love in us and it grows in and emanates from us, we ourselves become sowers of the seed - ‘as Christ to the world’.