Reading: Matthew 13. 1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
18 ‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’
The reading this week is one of the few parables of which the meaning is explained by Jesus himself. That may indicate the significance of this parable. What surprises me in this story is the way in which the farmer sows seed. I don’t think this farmer is a rich man. Probably a tenant farmer. And, the seed must be very precious to him. Nevertheless, we see him just choose to cast seed away carelessly, wastefully, and randomly, regardless of the places they fall. The farmer must have known that the seed fallen on the road, or rocky ground, or thorny places couldn’t survive. As far as I know, farmers nowadays sow seed very precisely, keeping the distance properly, in the good soil. Even before sowing, they usually plough the ground, and fertilise it, so that the seed may grow easily and bear more fruit. But, it seems that these basic measures are just ignored in this parable. And the farmer behaves as if this precious seed will never run out. But, this illustration is to show us something important, that God’s word is to be spread to anyone in the world, and His love is not confined to any certain areas. That means we are called to spread his word, the life-changing seed, randomly, wherever possible. But, it is a risky business to offer the chance for life, without the absolute guarantee of success.
Therefore, question to us, or challenge to us is whether we can take a risk of creating the opportunity for life, even if this may open us to failure. Can we risk this randomness in spreading the word of God?
As for this question, we have to admit that we are not very good at sharing the Word of God. We are not brave enough to take this risk. We are too shy or reluctant to share God’s Word with the people around us, let alone the people we don’t know. But, I am sure there are many ways we can try, and if we have passion and enthusiasm, I think we can get over that shyness and create an opportunity of sowing seed.
The other point we need to look at in this parable is soil, and what kind of soil we are. What I mean is that although we have received the seed already, we need to check our field, our heart and mind field. Sometimes we are surprised to see how hardened our heart is, because of busyness and all the burdens of life. Particularly at such a time as this, we may find ourselves locked down not only physically, but also spiritually, and choked up by the worries and concerns about the future. And, there may be no room for the seed to take root and grow in our hearts. Therefore, we need to see things differently and take this as an opportune time for us to plough our heart, and fertilise it, so that the seed may bear fruit a hundred times, sixty times, or thirty times what was sown, as Jesus described. Amen.
Forgive us, Lord, for the times we dash haphazardly into your presence, finding it hard to leave behind our cares and worries.
Forgive us, for the times we don’t see what you want us to see and just take things at face value. Forgive us, Lord, for the times when we want our seed planted in neat rows, when our own plans become more important than yours, rather than letting the Holy Spirit prepare the soil of our lives and blow where the Spirit wants to. Amen