My colleague Revd Ben Brady writes:
The parable of the sower is one of the few parables where Jesus gives us an interpretation along with the story, but this doesn’t mean it’s straight forward. Parables are a genre of stories to chew on and reflect over. Basically, this is a disclaimer to say that my interpretation below is not the only way of reading it and I encourage you to read it for yourself and see how it speaks to you. What I am about to share has spoken to me in our context.
So we begin with the sower scattering seed everywhere. We are told that the seeds land in four different areas. They land on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and then on good soil.
Gosh this sounds messy! Why not just throw all the seed on the good soil? Why not avoid the places that the seed won’t work? I think it’s because we can never know what will take root or what good soil even looks like.
The seed being scattered is the message of good news. It is thrown everywhere regardless of what the ground looks like. I think the four locations are less about us trying to decipher different types of people, but to see the seed as something growing and changing within them, regardless of how we may perceive them as “good or bad soil”.
The question is what are we sowing and how can we sow?
I believe we sow through relationships, conversations and simply sharing our experience; our story of how God is in our lives.
The biggest hurdle can be how little we think of our own story of faith. Maybe we don’t think it is ‘flashy’ enough. Most people have less a “Damascus road” experience, pardon the pun, where Paul is blinded, thrown off his horse and hears the voice of Christ. We should be thankful for that as he wrote a majority of the New Testament. But we usually have an “Emmaus Road” experience. We look back at times in our lives and see that Jesus was with us, even though we may not have seen it.
Regardless of which “Road” experience you had, people respond to hearing stories and experiences. I’m more likely to try something new because a friend suggests it, than reading about it elsewhere.
Christianity is a shared faith. All of our stories join together as people of faith. During the early church, Christians were described as “gossiping the gospel” among fellow slaves in households. People’s curiosity was piqued by hearing how Christ and his followers were transforming lives – whether it be outwardly, caring for the widows, or inwardly, knowing they are loved by God, the creator of all things through Christ.
Back to the parable, the sower is throwing the seed everywhere regardless. For me, this implies an abundance of seeds. We cannot run out of our story. Not only does our story have no “use by” date, we are adding to it daily by simply living. This is not a solo mission, we are not alone. Matthew says in verse 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.” The people who have been changed, become sowers too. Their story joins our story of the Church continuing to this day.
To close, part of the Collect for Sunday 12th July 2020 says “hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name”.
This is a prayer for all of us, not just people in positions of leadership.
We don’t “convert” people, the Holy Spirit does. We are messengers with Good News.
We are the sowers.
What do we sow? Our testimony.
What is that? Our own story.