8 Jul 2020 • From Elizabeth, our Vicar
Sunday 12th July
Reading - Matthew 13.1-9
The parable of the sower
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 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. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’
Over recent weeks we’ve all become familiar with a new use of familiar words, a new vocabulary. Lockdown is no longer just something that happens when there’s a major incident in a prison; it’s something that is happening to us all. Shielding, self-isolating, social-distancing – we all have a clear idea in our mind about the meaning and the implication of those words for us today. In the midst of crisis we have shared goals; we’re protecting ourselves and other people. We keep our distance from other people because we understand the reasoning behind the two-metre rule; we want to be safe and we want others to be safe. We’ve seen a great deal of selfless care in our communities – people willingly helping out their neighbours, people getting to know those who live near them.
Within our churches people have shared their technical know-how enabling others to be a part of Zoom and internet services. Others have distributed the Iona service, the weekly reflection and prayers, the newsletter. We’ve phoned folks and done what we are able to for others. But there will have been times for most of us – probably for all of us – when we have simply felt too ‘locked down’ ourselves, too burdened by the situation as it affects our own life, to be able to be there for others. In those times we need to be kind to our self. If, one day, our tasks for the day just seem unattainable then we must remember that there will be another day tomorrow, and on that tomorrow the world may show itself as a place we can feel more engaged with. Perhaps then the tasks will be easier, perhaps then our burden will feel lighter.
When difficulties and troubles come our way – in those days of lockdown which are for us particularly troubling days or sad days or depressed days – then we should seek solace and comfort. Perhaps that will be in creation, in our garden or favourite walk. Perhaps that will be in sorting out the accumulated, but unwanted and unneeded, belongings hidden in cupboards, spare rooms and sheds. Perhaps that will be in taking time to read or listen to music. Maybe also we can seek comfort and solace in familiar stories and in the life-stories of Jesus.
Jesus told the crowds looking for hope and comfort on the shore of the lake that familiar story about a sower. The sower broadcasts the seeds. He spreads them far and wide. He’s not at all careful about where they fall. The seeds must do the best they can in the ground the wind blows them onto. For some that’s the path where survival isn’t possible, for some it’s ground that’s rocky, not good for getting the roots into, for some the ground they find is covered in thorns and it’s a struggle to grow, and yet for others the landing is softly and gently into fertile soil where they prosper.
It all feels a bit like the days of lockdown. Each day we’re woken by the day and thrust out into the world. Some days the morning brings us a fertile landing place and life seems good and productive, we feel useful and able to use our well-being to bring forth great volumes of love, care and generosity for others. Other times the day sees us land differently. We might find ourself amongst the thorns, fighting to find our way out from amongst those thoughts and feelings which try to constrict us and constrain us and entangle us. Or we might land on the rocky ground – a place which in the beginning looks promising but where our efforts just can’t seem to take root and, however strong our endeavour, everything seems to wither around us, the day falls apart, and we can only trust that tomorrow may bring better fortune, better energy.
But there are also the days when we just know we’ve landed on the path and we’re easy prey. The day looks bad right from the start. We have no energy, no enthusiasm and nothing to give to other people. Those are days that we need to be able to acknowledge and take hold of because they are the days when we need to rest; they are the days when we need to shift some of the tasks of the day onto another, subsequent, day. They are days when we need to work with our low energy level and not push against it. They are also days when we mustn’t feel guilty that others might look at us and think us lazy – keeping going for the sake of appearances won’t be the answer.
At the beginning of the parable of the sower Jesus has withdrawn himself from the crowd. He’s still engaged with them, he still wants to speak to them, but that day he can’t put himself in the midst of them – as we sometimes see him portrayed. That day he needs space around him and when he’s finished speaking then he leaves the crowd to be with just his close companions. So we take Jesus as our example in these days as we see lockdown lightening, and we remember the words that he ends his story of the sower with, ‘Let anyone with ears listen.’
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
and teach me your ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage for ever;
they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
for ever, to the end.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their care and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Take some time to pray in silence for those who are sick,
those who are bereaved,
those who are struggling with the restrictions to daily life,
and those who are on your own heart and mind this day.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven.
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.