Reflection on Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 The Sunday Slot 9
The parable of the sower is an old favourite, we know it very well and in our reading Jesus even unpicks the meaning for us.
Firstly we are told that the seed that falls on the path it’s like those who do not understand it and so it is snatched away.
Next the seed sown on the rocky ground is often received well but it doesn’t take root because when the going gets tough we fall away.
Then there is the seed sown in amongst the thorns where the external life of worldly things holds sway and so no good fruit is produced.
Finally there is the seed grown in good soil, in one who understands, it takes root, it grows, bears fruit and yields in many different ways.
I often think of an old friend of mine who grew up in a Baptist Church where she became a young, enthusiastic Sunday school teacher. Not long into her adult life she became a very successful business woman, made a small fortune and promptly walked away from God and the church and refused to speak about it ever again. This really distressed her mother who had been a lifelong church member and also a woman we might say of ‘the good soil’.
It was later in life when Celia and I became friends but this was still a source of great upset for her mother who took me aside one day and asked if I could at least find out why Celia had so unequivocally turned her back on God.
Well one evening an opportunity arose when Celia talked of once being a Sunday school teacher, so it naturally led to my asking why she had given it up. She told me that, having made a financial success of her life she feared that God would make her give it all up and so she walked away in order to continue to live the life she now enjoyed. I confess I was incredulous at her reply. Basically she had opted for the thorny path based on an utterly false judgement that she had made of God.
I know many people who enjoy very ‘comfortable’ worldly lives but who, unlike Celia, recognise that their security lies, above all, in God – regardless of their external conditions. The soil in which they are receiving the word is good soil, it produces good fruit and good yield. Indeed for some their seemingly ‘worldly gifts’ result in great works of philanthropic activity.
It seemed to me that Celia had lost sight of the good soil within her own soul, she failed to realise that God is not wanting to take our gifts and graces from us but wanting us to live them though a new and transformed vision for life. Despite walking away from God for fear she would be stripped of her self made life, from that day on she never really knew a day’s peace at all. Deep down she knew that treasures based in the external world are never truly secure, never was that brought more into sharp relief than the events of recent months. So by turning away from God, Celia had only really believed in the illusion of external security.
Sometimes people only discover this illusion when their world does come crashing down. Suddenly, with nothing else to rely on, God is finally discovered and then a much deeper, far reaching joy, peace and security is found, that nothing of the outer world can begin to compare with and which can never be destroyed.
In one way or another, like Celia, we all have our blocks to receiving the word whichever one of Jesus’s groupings is a fit for us…ie
We just don’t understand the whole God thing
We get it but only in fair weather
We live under the illusion that worldly life is the source of our security and happiness
We are on the whole receiving God in the soil of the soul (the first three being egoic)
And we probably all rotate around these at various times in our life (or even during the course of a day)
But the answer to this is that we simply need to learn to cultivate the soil.
You don’t need fancy, wordy prayers, you don’t have to change anything, do anything, give up anything or deny yourself your God given talents. It really is a question of coming as you are to intentionally spend time in God’s presence. This is the art of cultivating the soil and we have forgotten how to do it! Instead we prefer to create God in our own image projecting all sorts of nonsense around who and what God is and what the consequences of opening ourselves to the Word might be.
We just need to give a little space in our lives for the sower to reach in without judging the consequences. Create some space to simply be in the divine presence. Rediscover a sense of awe and wonder. If scripture is problematic, as it can be for some, then begin with God’s other great book, the book of nature. You don’t have to gaze at too many clear, starry nights before your soul will recognise, behind the magnificence of it all, the hands of its very own maker at work – and once that chink is opened you simply know there is nothing to fear…and the work of cultivating the soil has begun.
We have a God of infinite love and generosity in whose hands you will be more secure, more fulfilled and more peaceful than any life you can create for yourself.
Don’t take my word for it, hear the voice of the word incarnate who says.
‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’