One of the joys of lockdown has been watching the fruit form on trees and bushes and the flowers blossom.
The parable of the sower reminds us that God provides good seed and good soil with the intention of bringing a harvest, not just of fruit, wheat and flowers, but of grain.
Whilst God provides us with tasty food and surrounds us with great beauty, within each ear of wheat and piece of fruit there is the possibility of infinite multiplication.
If each, tiny seed or grain was nurtured by us, the earth would be full. We have a generous God who gives more than we need.
Jesus feeds us so that we can feed others. When I was at vicar college, after we had received the bread our liturgy tutor would say, “You are bread for a hungry world.”
The story of the sower could have been enjoyed as a story which left the crowd in suspense, longing to come back for more. Jesus is not being manipulative or coercive. He knew the crowd was not ready to make a commitment to follow him, so he was just whetting their appetite.
Sowers in Palestine would usually throw their seed out of large baskets as they walked up and down their field which were longs strips of land between well walked on pathways
Who was the sower in this story? Is it God? He was certainly the original sower of seed in creation
Is it Jesus? Are his words the seed he is sowing?
Are we meant to be sowers? The picture in the mind of the hearers would have been of someone like them sowing seed
What is it that is being sown so generously and so wastefully?
Is it the Bible, the word of God?
Or is Jesus himself, the living word of God the seed that is being sown? He once described himself as a seed that must fall into the ground and die if it is to produce fruit
Are the seeds the message of salvation?
The explanation, probably added later, tells us it was the words of the kingdom, which includes both the words of the King and all who follow Jesus, the community of heaven that were being sown.
Jesus was comparing truths that are apparent, that can be seen within nature to truths about the Kingdom of heaven but if his crowd were to find those truths, they were going to have to search for them
So much of what we preach is abstract. It cannot be physically seen with our eyes or heard with our ears. It is difficult to understand spiritual things unless the Holy Spirit reveals them to us.
Jesus takes Spiritual truths and roots them in the everyday to enable us to think about what we don’t understand and have failed to see. Through starting where people were Jesus was going to lead them to where they ought to be.
They were going to have to do the hard work of looking deep inside themselves and examine their own lives and open their ears and their eyes to receive heavenly truths.
If they chose to be lazy or were blinded by prejudice so they could not see, the truth would be concealed from them. Truth would only be revealed to those who desired it.
I wonder what you have missed and longed for the most during lockdown.
Many have been lining up to shop or going to the pubs for the first time with the intention of getting drunk. One reporter contrasted this with the three or four who drifted into church the first time it was possible to do so. Many have been looking for physical gratification. A few have been seeking spiritual satisfaction in Christ.
Our readings, Romans 8 and the parable of the sower, seem to contradict each other. One focuses on the joy of experiencing freedom in the Spirit whereas the other focuses on the natural, physical world. The seed that bears fruit and blossoms are those who hear God’s word and do it whereas the Romans passage seems to be a contrast between keeping the law (which was viewed in the Old Testament as God’s word) and living in the Spirit
We receive God’s word however not just through reading the Bible. We can read the Bible and not receive God’s word because we fail to understand it. We need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. God speaks to us in many ways, through nature, through angels and through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He might speak to us directly or through others.
When we receive Jesus we receive his Spirit deep within us. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot be Christians because he breathes life into us.
Most of the seed in the parable of the sower didn’t grow to become productive and feed others as God intended because it was pecked by the birds, scorched by the sun or choked by thorns. Likewise, we often fail to receive God’s word and blossom because of our inability to listen and our inattentiveness. Our laziness often leads to us becoming shallow and our possessions, many cares or persecution in this life might choke us and cause us to lose our faith.
Listening to the Spirit and growing in the life of God takes time, but through it we are formed into the image of Christ who described himself as the bread of life.
There are three Rs in the Romans passage which may help us:
Firstly life in the Spirit is relational not contractual.
Freedom from the law of sin and death came through Jesus coming as one of us and dying for us. He came to earth to have a relationship with human beings not just then but now throughout eternity.
Life in the Spirit is also redemptive. Jesus, who never sinned suffered the penalty for our sin so that we might be redeemed from the law of sin and death and not suffer the just penalty for what we have done wrong.
There is no condemnation, Paul says to those in Christ Jesus. The Spirit of life sets us free. We have no reason to fear death any longer.
The Spirit of Christ brings us freedom and new life and peace now.
Our third R is resurrection. The Spirit raises us up to more than we can be in this life and throughout eternity. Paul says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
We have hope that we will be like Jesus and have a resurrection body like he has. We have hope of seeing so many we have loved and lost in the future. At the moment we can only see and hear Jesus who dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. One day soon we shall see him and hear him spiritually.
Jesus was grain that fell into the ground and died so we might feed on him, our living bread. The early Christians blossomed and flourished, pouring out their lives as bread for the world so others might flourish. Even when their lives were most productive, they knew that they too were seeds that must fall into the ground and die.
Lord help us to be bread for the world as we sow God’s love and life into the lives of others. Help us to live and die in peace confident that we have a relationship with you, that we have been redeemed and that you will raise us up to live in your presence. Amen.
send down upon your Church
the riches of your Spirit,
and kindle in all who minister the gospel
your countless gifts of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen