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Weekly Reflection for Sunday 12th July 2020
(The reflection will be available on the Neilston Parish Church YouTube channel, there is a link on the Social Media and Links page)
Our scripture today is the well-known parable about the Sower and the Seed. The problem with passages of scripture that we think we know well is that we don’t often take time with them and so, perhaps, miss out on some of the meaning. So why don’t you take time now to read the passage –Matthew Ch 13 verses 1-9; 18-23. Read it slowly, taking in all the details.
It is a story that starts off by describing a man going out to fulfil a common task in the Palestine of Jesus’ day. He was sowing seed in his field. He was probably using a method of sowing called ‘broadcasting’ This involved walking along, taking handfuls of seed and throwing them far and wide. Hardly the precision method of planting that is done mechanically these days!
When we think of broadcasting - and we have been doing that a lot recently, as we try to find ways of reaching our congregation in lock-down - we think of radio or television or devices like that. We think of something that takes a message out to lots of different places, some of which might be hard to reach otherwise.
So this method of sowing had a similar purpose. It took the seeds into all sorts of places, not just the field from which the crop would, hopefully, be harvested. Perhaps there is a message for the church in this. Is the question being posed to us “are you too limited where you spread the seed - that is the Word of God?” Should you be casting it further?
Now, those of you who are ‘au fait’ with agricultural matters will probably point out that this is a bit of a wasteful way to sow seed. However, it is safe to say that God would be less interested in efficiency and more interested in sowing wastefully in the hope of getting His Word out to as many as possible. If you are picturing the sower in a broad and fertile field as we may see in our country, you would have a wrong picture in your head. This sower would be in a narrow strip of land which would be bordered by rocky, weed infested soil. It was not an easy place to work in.
Jesus is less interested in the method of sowing than he is in the result of where the seeds fall. We know the story: the seeds that fell on the path were eaten by the birds before they had time to take root; those that fell on rocky soil, grew quickly but had no root system so died when the sun scorched them; those that fell among weeds did take root but were choked by the weeds around them; those that fell on good soil, took root, grew and multiplied.
He then likens the seed to the Word of God and all the different fates that await it. How for some, it is snatched away before it can flourish; for others it does take root but is never strong enough to confront the troubles that come in life; for yet others they do receive the word but they allow the temptations of the world to become more important; but, for some, they receive the word,grow with it and multiply it in their lives.
For us, in the Church, this parable gives encouragement. Often we wonder if our attempts at spreading the Word of God are bearing any fruit. In this parable Jesus is assuring his followers that some of the Word will have an effect. That is good to know because we don’t always see the fruit of our work. Our job is to sow - we really do have to trust in God to bring about the harvest. That sower in the parable sowed his seed, knowing that some of it would be wasted. However, he was confident that some of it would grow into a crop that could be harvested. We, too, need to sow the Word of God in confidence that some of our work will be rewarded with growth. It may not be immediate but you know, in nature, most growth takes a while to come to fruition. That should not stop us broadcasting God’s Word. We do so in the assurance that God will nurture the seed that we plant.
I like the way Nick Fawcett ends one of his Reflections on this passage:
But it gets harder, doesn’t it
when you meet with apathy, indifference, scorn
and harder still when the few who did show interest fall away,
faith blossoming for a moment only to wither and die?
‘What’s the point?’ you wonder
‘Why waste your breath?’
‘Who wants to hear anyway?’
Yet isn’t that the point Jesus was making—
that though much of the seed will be wasted,
however carefully it is sown,
some will fall on good soil and in time yield a harvest?
He’s urging us to carry on, despite our apparent failure,
to continue sharing our faith and proclaiming the Word
however hopeless it may seem,
however futile our efforts may appear,
trusting that, though we may not see it, results will come
We may not see them for ourselves,
we may never know what our witness has achieved
but that doesn’t matter.
The important thing is that we do our bit,
Faithfully discharge our responsibility
The rest we can leave to God!
Thanks be to God.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have called us to be your witnesses,
to proclaim your name and make known your love.
We have tried to respond to your challenge but, to be honest, we find it hard.
When we speak of you, we are often met with indifference or even hostility and we feel disheartened.
Remind us, loving Saviour, that there are always those who do listen.
Those who let the Word take root
And although we may not always see it, the Word bears fruit in unexpected ways and places.
Help us, Lord not to trust in our own ability but in your life-giving power.
Help us, even in this time of lock-down, to take your Word out to others because it is surprising how it can bring comfort to many.
We take time now to pray for those who need to hear your Word at this time
Perhaps because they are anxious and need to feel reassured;
Or bereaved and in need of comfort;
Or lonely and need to feel part of our church and community;
Or worried about what the future might bring and need to feel that they are safe in Your caring love.
We give thanks for all who continue to work on the front-line at this time and ask that you refresh them in their struggles.
We give thanks for the politicians who are charged with making life-changing decisions and ask that You give them wisdom to guide them.
Lord, at this time of year we remember the atrocity of the genocide in Srebenica and pray that the world shuns all forms of racial and religious intolerance.
Bring the day to pass , Lord, when all life is valued and differences are
celebrated and not a cause of warfare and murder.
Many are the tasks before us, Lord, and endless are the callings
Help us to respond and commit ourselves afresh to the sowing of your Word
Let the gospel be a lamp to our feet
And a light to our path
Inspiring in us, words and deeds to glorify your name
I will be taking a break next week so if you have any Pastoral emergencies, please contact John Spooner on 881 5182.