BCP Sexagesima. 8 a.m. 18/2/01 : Luke 8:4-15
4: And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6: And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7: And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8: And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9: And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10: And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11: Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12: Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13: They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14: And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15: But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Melanie likes sweet pea flowers
and, each year grows them under our kitchen window, and on a wigwam
type frame of bamboo canes in a tub. Last week she mentioned that she
was intending to plant some seeds in compost on a tray and put them
on a bright window sill.
Two thousand years ago in Israel seeds were not planted in prepared soil. The seed was scattered and then the ploughing took place. So the sower was not being irresponsible by sowing on trampled ground where people walked across the field, or amongst young thorn bushes, or where there was hidden, rocky sub-soil.
This is one of many agricultural parables told by Jesus. It is usually called the parable of the sower, but, because it focuses on the different soils that the seed lands in, and the corresponding degree of growth, perhaps it should be called the parable of the soils. The parable is followed by an explanation to Jesus' disciples.
We read in verses 10f. that this parable can only be understood by those who have received the free, undeserved revelation of God. For those who have not, it further alienates them from God, hardening their hearts even more.
This parable was given when there was a crowd of people gathering around Jesus. It is not an accident that this was the context in which Jesus tells this parable, which shows the differing reactions to the word of God that you might expect from a large, diverse group of people.
I would like to introduce you to some people that we came across at a previous church that are typical of the different types of soils ( the names have been changed to avoid any embarrassment ). These people came to the Enquirers' Groups that we ran for people wanting to find out more about the Christian faith.
I came into contact with Joe after conducting the funeral of his mother. He was in his early fifties, had a good job, and lived in a nice home. He was interested in spiritual things and ready to discuss matters and to put forward his point of view. There were times when I could see that the Holy Spirit was opening his eyes to understand the truths of the Christian faith. However, almost as quickly I could see him push this to one side. I suspect that what inhibited him was the cost of following Jesus, that is to say, the need to pass from Christianity being an interesting thing to talk about to become a radical new way of life. A way of life that involves submission to God. Relying upon God and not ourselves. His interest in the group waned relatively quickly and he stopped coming after a while.
Joe was like the seed in verse 5; some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. Rachel came to our church prior to her wedding. Her relationship with her fiancée was not very stable. She prayed a prayer of commitment with Melanie and myself in our lounge one Saturday afternoon. We tried to dissuade her from taking this step because we felt that she was not ready. But, she insisted and came to church and the group for a while. We felt that she thought that becoming a Christian would solve all her problems. It didn't, in fact attendance of church and the group caused problems with her husband. She stopped coming to the church and the group. Her marriage did not last long either. Rachel was like the seed in verse 6;And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
Ann started attending our Enquirer's
Group enthusiastically after her daughter had been attending our Sunday
School. She prayed a prayer of commitment and had a file in which she
diligently kept her Bible Study Papers. She had a problem attending
church because the iron bars that strengthened and decorated the church
doors brought unpleasant memories of her first husband's imprisonment.
We prayed for God to deliver her from this fear, which He did, and she
started attending church regularly.
Her second husband was very possessive and this, combined with other home and family pressures resulted in her falling away. Ann was like the seed in verse 7; And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
Ruth and her husband, Andy, came to church following the Baptism of Zoe. Zoe was born prematurely and had been in the special baby unit for weeks before she could come home. Ruth started attending church regularly and joined the Enquirers' Group. She came to faith and God transformed her so she became lively and outward going. Eager and quick to learn about the Christian faith she was a committed member of the Enquirers' Group that went on to become a House Group which the Vicar took on when we left. Ruth wrote articles for the Church Magazine and was involved in the setting up and running of a Mums and Toddler Group that has proved to be very successful.
Andy came to faith nearly two years
after Ruth had committed her life to Jesus. They have recently felt
that God was calling them to lead one of the Sunday School Groups and
they told the Vicar of this unaware that the leader of the group had
handed in her notice. I recently returned to Derby to see Andy confirmed.
Andy and Ruth were like the seed in verse 8; And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.
This parable tells us that we can expect different responses to the word of God. Some people will be hard to the gospel. Some will be shallow. Some preoccupied. Others open and receptive to God. We should not take it personally when someone fails to blossom, although that does not mean that we will not feel disappointed.
This parable also reminds us that we need to sow the word. To liberally throw it out ! It involves risk. It is only after you sow that you discover if a plant is going to grow well, even if the ground appears to be good. No farmer ever got rich by failing to sow his seeds because of the risk that some of them may not grow well.
How do we sow ?
By living for Jesus. By sharing with people what he has done and is doing for us. By praying for people, that God the Holy Spirit will make them grow vigorously.
The gospel of Jesus had small, insignificant beginnings, like a seed; a religious leader put to death on a cross. His eleven dejected and frightened followers, huddled in a room fearful of the authorities. But six weeks later 3,000 people were added to the disciples. For nearly two thousand years the church has spread throughout the world by people growing and bearing fruit in the power of God's Spirit. There is still more to come. There is further growth, with many more people destined to turn to Jesus. There will also be the tremendous harvest when millions of Christians throughout the ages will be united to be with God in glory when Jesus returns.