Sunday 12th July – Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Thus says the Lord: 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. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23.
Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!
Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
Post Communion Prayer
Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Trinity 5 2020 – Reflection
Our Gospel reading today is a very familiar parable. Parables have layers of meaning and the explanation for today’s parable is often given as something along the lines of four types of listeners. Three of them were in fact not true listeners. There is the seed which fell on the path… the hard ground… and is eaten by the birds representing those Christians who are focused on other things. There is the seed which fell on rocky ground and sprouted and was scorched by the sun, representing those who give up when the going gets tough. There are the seeds which fell amongst the thorns and which choked the plants, representing those whose concerns are for riches, pleasures, and power… the things of this world. The fourth listener is, of course, those who do hear the word of God and bear fruit in their lives.
It would be easy to think that the four types of ground represent four different types of people, but maybe that’s a bit too simplistic? Maybe each Christian has all of the failings which are represented by the hard ground, the rocky ground and the thorn-choked ground? There are probably periods on our Christian journey when the hard ground, the rocky ground and thorn choked ground are present and exert their influence. The important thing, however, is that we can have hope!
The Bible is quite clear that very often humanity fails to listen, but it is equally clear that God’s word is a reality which happens, which has an effect, and an effect which is more powerful than our failure to listen.
There are those who appear in the Bible and who do listen… and not only do they listen, but they are transformed by their listening. Mary Magdalene listened on the first Easter Day as the man, she mistakenly thought was the gardener, gently called her by name and in doing so caused her to recognise the risen Christ. What about Peter to whom Jesus says “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” and after the resurrection tells him to “feed my sheep”?
They may look like rather shaky characters for welcoming God’s kingdom, but they are used by God and they do far more than they seem capable of. And the reason is that the work of the kingdom is God’s work, not ours; when God speaks a word, that word is not just a sound – indeed, it’s not a sound at all; it is God’s purpose, and unlike ourselves, whose purposes often don’t happen, God’s purpose is fulfilled. So the Bible is quite clear about human indifference to hearing the word of God, but it is also quite clear that God is at work in the world, and uses some of the most unlikely characters to do his work.
I think it is important to remember too that there are times when we are like the fourth type of soil, which is fertile and bears fruit and this should give us hope. The parable of the sower gives us hope because God who chooses to use us, is the miracle worker who, even in the sometimes questionable soil of human hearts, can bring forth more good than we can ever imagine or hope for!