16 July 2017
5th Sunday of Trinity
Isaiah 55: 10-13; Romans 8: 1-11; Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I always find it ironic to preach on the Parable of the Sower, as someone who could be described as having largely black or brown fingers (as opposed to green ones) - most plants seem to gradually give up the ghost under my care. Maybe it’s a sign of my lack of confidence in that I probably waiver between too much or not enough TLC!
The good thing is, in respect to this Parable anyway, that the TLC, the growth, is totally in God’s loving and experienced hands!
However that doesn’t mean we have no part to play! Because WE are God’s hands and feet, here and now on earth, so WE are the SOWERS. The way we conduct ourselves as Christians, the things we do and say (directly and indirectly) reflect the nature of God to other people. Whilst we aren’t all called to be preachers or evangelists, we ARE all called to
Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3: 15
It can be little things, discussions about what we are doing at the weekend, that can lead to questions, or the care we show someone in difficulty, being a listening ear, or helping out with an odd job, giving someone a lift - these are ALL SEEDS that we are, day by day, sowing in the lives of others. I believe that what is required of us is to be AWARE - that at any point we might be sowing a seed, and consider HOW we talk to and act with people.
And be AWARE of those around us who are potential good soil - who we can encourage to think about faith, invite to church, to activities and events and most importantly to PRAY for them!
And also to be AWARE of those around us who are thorny ground - overwhelmed and distracted by the bustle and lure of worldly things - so that anything that is shared with them in terms of sowing seeds of faith are pushed away or choked - preventing it from germinating in their hearts. And PRAY for them, for their lives to be weeded so they can breathe, and be able to respond, to receive God and His blessings.
And be AWARE of those who are rocky ground, hardened, no place for soil to deposit, therefore no depth. Whatever they hear, even though initially well received, just dries up and withers. PRAY for them, pray for a miraculous deposit of healthy soil to grow over them to bring depth, that enables the Word of God to take root in their lives.
And lastly, be AWARE of those who are like a path, no sooner are the seeds deposited, they are immediately eaten by descending birds - the devil swoops right in and prevents them from even beginning to understand. They too need our PRAYers, for protection from attack so that God’s Word can actually register with them in the first place.
For while we can sow, it is GOD who is the Gardener, who prepares the ground, tends and feeds it. We sow, and the rest is up to Him.
And we should not be discouraged if we don’t see the fruit of our sowing. Faith, like SOME seeds, can take quite a while to germinate. The person may move away, and months or years later the seed that YOU sowed may flicker into life and they begin their journey of faith under the care of others, unknown to you, but very much known to and nurtured by God.
We have the assurance that our sowing does not go in vain, as our first reading from Isaiah 55 v10-11 says
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
But there is another way I think it is helpful for us to think about this Parable, and that is to consider what sort of ground WE are, to enable God’s Word to continue bearing fruit in us.
If we have made a step of faith in God, then we MUST have some element of good soil about us for His Word to have taken root. However we need to be mindful to allow God to do a little bit of gardening maintenance in our lives to keep us in good shape.
Do we sometimes allow a little bit too much of a ‘path’ scenario to creep in? Where we become complacent, pay less attention to our spiritual welfare and the things God wants to grow in our lives are quickly whisked away by the devil who doesn’t want to see God working in our lives.
OR do we allow ourselves to become like the rocky ground, hardened to the people and events around us, so that new things God wants to bless and challenge us with just don’t take root. It brings to mind the ‘new’ Christian who takes a step of faith and doesn’t follow up by learning more, receiving spiritual support from other Christians, and their faith doesn’t take root. I was really pleased to hear this morning of your plans to run a Nurture course soon, which will be a great way to help people’s faith mature and deepen.
OR do we allow the good that God has blessed us with to get choked - like the seed sown amongst the thorns - choked by the distractions of the world that divert us from God, or even sometimes with our Christian activities where we become so busy DOING that we have no time left for BEING in a relationship and spending time with God - so our faith is diminished and we become less effective for God.
We need to take care of ourselves spiritually so that we can be at our optimum effectiveness to be fruitful in God’s service.
And it all begins with us being more AWARE of those around us, of opportunities that may arise, and of ourselves and our relationship with God.
So as our reading from Romans 8 advised, let us set our minds on living in the Spirit of God, for to do so is life and Peace.