‘Listen! A sower went out to sow [and] 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.’ Matthew 13:3,23
Brothers and sisters, in conversations with members of our parish I have found that one of the key hobbies to which you have turned during lockdown has been gardening. I suspect our gardens have never looked so good, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to have a good nosey around some gardens. Gardening has always been a passion for God as well, and when God the Son came to earth as Jesus of Nazareth it is no surprise that He uses this gardening theme to speak to those around Him.
Last week we heard Jesus’ famous call: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. And you may have been left wondering ‘How do I do that?’ Jesus starts by saying ‘Listen!’ I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to let the readings pass over me. How easy is it to not bother to read the Bible during the week. But Jesus commands us to ‘Listen’, not to let the words go in one ear and out the other. No, listen to them, chew them over in your mind, dissect them, analyse them, and then put them in to practice. So, let’s do that now shall we?
[Jesus] told [the crowd] 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’. What does it mean? Well, Matthew includes Jesus’ explanation almost straight way: ‘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’. The seed, that is God’s word, is sown in the field, that is the human heart. But having been sown, the seed encounters many dangers.
What dangers are there? The first is not understanding. We hear the word, we listen to the readings, maybe we read them on the notice sheet, but frankly we don’t get it. Here is why we have sermons. My job is to help you to understand what the Bible is saying. To - as simply as I can - help you grasp what Jesus is saying.
The next danger is in v5: ‘Other seeds fell on rocky ground’. What does that mean? Jesus explains: ‘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 […] and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away’. This seed, this teaching of Jesus’ is understood, and the person is enthusiastic and joyful. But the person starts to get stick for being a Christian, and something has to give, and so they quit on Jesus.
The final danger Jesus says: Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.’ Jesus explains: ‘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.’ There is plenty to care for in the world, plenty of good things to care about. But when the good things choke the seed of God’s word those good things become weeds. What good things stop you coming to church, or reading your bible, or praying each day? What good things have become weeds? The only thing to do with weeds is to pull them up! That’s the only way to ensure that the seed, the word of God, can grow in your heart. What do you need to weed out in your life?
Finally, we’re told what happens if we DO listen to God’s word. Jesus tells us we reap a harvest which far, far surpasses what we thought was possible. The single seed is planted in our hearts and we grow and develop, and in addition, perhaps, those who gave us stick see our lives and want to find out more. Jesus promises great fruit, far more than we can possibly ask or imagine. Our job is to ensure we’re good soil. To listen and understand. To persevere and to stick with Jesus. To weed, in order to ensure we have time for prayer, and church, and study of the Scriptures. May our hearts be as tidy as Kew gardens. And may our spiritual fruit surpass all that we can ask or imagine. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)