An act of worship at home
Reading Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
That same day 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.’
Isn’t that a great reading! There is so much there that it could either be one very long sermon exploring it all or a whole series. Well, I promise this won’t be a long reflection but as I read it again there were various things that struck me again. The first is the picture of Jesus sitting on a boat talking to a large crowd stood on the shore. My first thought as someone who grew up sailing is what a brilliant pulpit!
The second is that I am reminded of the words of Rev Dewi Rhys, the minister of St George’s URC where I grew up. Dewi spoke about how in this account Jesus was using the everyday sights the crowd would understand, and maybe Jesus was even inspired in the moment by the sight of a sower working away in the distance as he spoke.
But as a child what always grabbed my attention was the opening few words that Jesus spoke; “Listen! A sower went out to sow.” I always had the same reaction. After such the dramatic opening, “Listen!” Jesus goes on to say something utterly undramatic. Maybe it’s the way my mind works but I always wanted to continue “A sower went out to sow.” with the words “So what?” It’s a bit like saying “A walker went out to walk” or “A talker began to talk”. Of course the sower went out to sow, that’s what sowers do, isn’t it?! If that sounds flippant perhaps it is in a way, but as is the way with something when something seemingly so simple is looked at in the light of Christ the meaning can be far deeper and more profound than first imagined.
Most sermons I have heard preached, and preached myself, on the parable of the sower focus almost entirely on the seed being sown and where it falls. But the hint to the deeper meaning is in the title Jesus himself gives to the story. It isn’t the parable of the seed or where it landed, it’s the parable of the sower. And the sower is the one who speaks the Word of the Kingdom. As Jesus is speaking to the crowd he himself is the sower, the words he is speaking are the seeds and his listeners are where they land. In some who hear his words will quickly fade and die, in others they will be heard and understood and bear fruit in their lives and in the world.
Going one step deeper it is now we who are called to be the ones who speak the word of the Kingdom, who spread God’s word in our lives, to all those we meet and not just by word but with the same generous action as the sower uses never judging where it will fall but spreading it freely and everywhere.
“Listen! The sower went out to sow.” “Sow what?” What are we sowing in our lives? I pray we are sowing the loving and accepting and forgiving words of God’s Kingdom to all. In the name of Christ. Amen.
Lord God, we lift your children before you. May we find rest for our souls.
We pray for all in authority, that they will be respectfully conscious of the weight on their shoulders, and that they will act responsibly for the people they serve. We pray for them in their personal lives, with the worries and cares that only they see.
We pray for our friends, family, colleagues. We pray that as we walk alongside them, you will use us to bring them close to you, and they will learn of your love.
We pray that we might be sensitive to the needs of those around us – the people we see every day, perhaps as fleetingly as at the shops, or walking past our window. We have no idea what burdens they are carrying, or if they need a kind word from you that only we can give.
We pray that we will see the positive in people, even when it’s hard, and reach out to encourage them.
Lord God, we lift your children before you. May we find rest for our souls. Amen.
Hymn StF 101 – Before the world began
Before the world began
one Word was there;
grounded in God he was,
rooted in care;
by him all things were made;
in him was love displayed,
through him God spoke and said
‘I am for you’.
Life found in him its source,
Death found its end;
Light found in him its course,
Darkness its friend;
for neither death nor doubt
nor darkness can put out
the glow of God, the shout
‘I am for you’.
The Word was in the world
which from him came;
unrecognised was he,
unknown by name;
one with all humankind,
with the unloved aligned,
convincing sight and mind
‘I am for you’.
All who received the Word,
by God were blessed,
sisters and brothers they
of earth’s fond guest.
So did the Word of Grace
proclaim in time and space,
and with a human face,
‘I am for you’.
John Bell (1949- ) and Graham Maule (1958- 2019)
Iona Community/ Wild Goose Publications
Jesus calls us to help others see him, and listen to him, through us. What a responsibility, what a joy, what a privilege. Lord, use us as you will and bless us and those with whom we share your Word. Amen.