12th July 2020
The Sower at Sunset – Vincent Van Gogh
'Sowing the seed`
Rev Fiona Winn
Welcome and Grace
`The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever`.
Isaiah 40: 8
TIS 130 `We plough the fields and scatter`
(second verse omitted)
(a youth group`s version)
We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
Chorus All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.
He only is the maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.
We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
Accept the gifts we offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But what Thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.
God of the good earth, of all creation,
generous of gift and grace,
we gather together in expectation,
hungry for an encounter with You,
eager to hear Your Word.
Open our eyes and ears to the presence of Your Holy Spirit.
May the seeds of Your Word scattered among us this morning
fall on fertile soil.
May they take root in our hearts and lives,
and produce an abundant harvest
of good words and deeds.
~ Christine Longhurst (adapted FW)
Christ Jesus, as the earth welcomes seed,
we would like to welcome your word into our lives.
In quiet places, by day and by night,
may it grow within us, healthy and strong.
And so make of us women and men of communion,
bringing life to others..
~ posted on the Sacred Pauses blog.http://www.sacredpauses.com/
We are sorry for that which prevents growth in ourselves and others.
Forgive our resistance to Your Word – break down the stony ground of our hearts…Lord have mercy…
Forgive our worldly attachments – uproot that which stifles the work of the Spirit in our lives…Christ have mercy…
Forgive our shallow discipleship – plant Your truth and a love for Your truth deep in us – Lord have mercy…
`There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…the law of the Spirit of Jesus Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death…to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace`
Romans 8: 1, 2, 8
We hear Christ`s words of grace `Your sins are forgiven`
Thanks be to God.
Bless and renew our lives, we pray. Strengthen our faith, to bear the fruit of your mercy, your love, your undying life.
Genesis 25: 19-34;
The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob
19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?”[c] So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the elder shall serve the younger.”
24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Esau Sells His Birthright
29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom. 31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”[f] So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Ps. 119: 105-112;
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to observe your righteous ordinances.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
and teach me your ordinances.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.
Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
The Parable of the Sower
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 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. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears[a] listen!”
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 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. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.”
Song `Sing praises to the living God`
1 Sing praises to the living God, Glory Alleluia.
Come, adore the living God, Glory Alleluia.
Though sun and moon may pass away, His word will ever stay.
His power is for evermore, Glory Alleluia.
Glory to the Trinity,
The undivided unity,
The Father, Son, and Spirit one,
From whom all life and goodness come.
2 To the living God we sing, Glory Alleluia.
Let our love and praises ring, Glory Alleluia.
To us all He always gives His mercy and His love.
Praise Him now forever more, Glory Alleluia.
3 To the God who cannot die, Glory Alleluia.
To the living God we cry, Glory Alleluia.
He promised to be with us and He lives in ev’ryone.
Love Him now forever more, Glory Alleluia.
Reflection and Q and A
What is a parable? It is a particular type of story, similar to but different from allegory, metaphor and simile. It defies straightforward interpretation – though that is how it is often read, misread, used, misused.
I find this from the Welsh New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd helpful:
`At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought`.
A parable is a powerful teaching device with hidden significance, apparently simple but often surprising and disconcerting – never what you expect.
A parable offers ambiguity, rather than certainty. It points to, rather than spells out. It shows, rather than tells. It makes you think, ask questions. It makes you wonder.
So, parables are difficult to preach on, preach from, as the tendency for the preacher is to equate this with that, that with this – the cardinal mistake. A parable is a much more sophisticated medium than that.
So when today we read the explanation apparently offered by Jesus in response to the disciples` question (Matt. 13: 10) what Jesus says seems at odds with the telling of the parable itself. The explanation (Matt. 13: 18-23) – if indeed it comes from Jesus and is not some explanatory insertion by those who collated the Gospel after Jesus` life – to me, is much less interesting than the parable itself.
What do you think?
After telling the parable, Jesus says to the crowds: `Let anyone with ears, listen!` (Matt. 13: 9) It`s as if he is saying `Over to you! Make of it what you will! What do you hear? What does this mean - for you?`
As I`ve already said, the parables are difficult to preach on.
What is this parable about? What do you think?
Today I want to take seriously that this parable is the parable of the sower.
Not the seeds. Not the soil. The sower.
What did you notice in the video of the seed sowing in India?
- The sower was a woman.
- She is very careful with the seed.
- The seed is precious.
- She doesn`t waste the seed.
- Presumably the seed is expensive and possibly scarce.
- She is careful where she sows it.
- The ground has been carefully prepared – by a man.
- The seed goes to the best prepared ground and is not wasted on poorer, unprepared soil.
- The sower in the parable is profligate.
- The seed is not a scarcity.
- The sower broadcasts the seed, spreads it far and wide…
- The seed goes everywhere, across all the different types of soil.
- The quality of the soil appears to be of no consequence to the sower. Is the sower unaware of the different types of ground the seed ends up in? Or doesn`t care? (Perhaps the harvester might feel differently?)
- The type of ground doesn`t make any difference to the way the sower sows.
- What matters to the sower is to broadcast the seed and allow nature to take its course.
This kind of sowing is not careful, neat and tidy. Things go wrong, the outcome is not what might have been hoped for, or expected. It`s messy and untidy – and probably not how we would do things if we simply wanted to be efficient and productive.
Like the story of twin brothers, Jacob and Esau – like all human relationships.
Like the story of salvation – murderers, adulterers, prostitutes.
Like the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Like the work of the Spirit - disrupting, disturbing, unsettling.
Like the story of God`s dealings in our lives and in our world.
I love the extravagance of the sower. I love the indiscriminate way this sower sows. I love how this sower broadcasts the seed with abandon. What about you?
Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer
TIS 168 `For the fruits of all creation`
For the fruit(s) of all creation,
thanks be to God;
for the gifts of every nation,
thanks be to God;
for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth's safe-keeping,
thanks be to God.
In the just reward of labour,
God's will is done;
in the help we give our neighbour,
God's will is done;
in our world-wide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God's will is done.
For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God;
for the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God;
for the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.
Words © 1970 Hope Publishing Company,
380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188
Go and spread the good news of Jesus Christ with joy and hope.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be upon you and grow within you
today and always. Amen