July 13, 2017 Matthew 13 : 1-8, 18-23
Have you ever wondered why something didn’t work out for you? It was good thing you were wanting to do, it should have worked.
Well that is what today’s gospel passage is talking about. Why don’t things always work out for us?!
Before I go any further, it is good for us to remember that this gospel was probably written somewhere between 80 and 90 C.E., that means roughly 50 years after Jesus’ life. By the time the Gospel writer composed his gospel, he had gathered all kinds of sources to write it up. We have in today’s readings, two different passages, the original parable from Jesus, then from v.18 on, which begins with ‘Hear then the parable of the sower’, the gospel writer gives his interpretation to Jesus ‘parable. We can call those later verses the first written sermon by the early church of Jesus parable of the sower.
So, let’s look at the actual parable. Jesus was a storyteller. He used stories to make a point, stories we call parables because they really are invitations to think further about a point. The writer begins with and ends with the imperative, Listen! Then begins a series of parables, this being the first, all trying to help people understand what the Kingdom of God is all about, the Kingdom of God that Jesus was announcing.
And what is the Kingdom of God? It is a time when God’s rule of justice and peace is visible. It is both seen now, in glimpses, and will be seen fully at some time in the future.
How or when do we see it?
Jesus parables remind us that it can be seen in the small things, as well as the bigger ones. When we see acts of kindness and generosity, we see glimpses of the Kingdom. When we see communities banding together to make their alley, a green spot, we see a glimpse of it. When we see, through people’s initiatives, cities finding ways to recycle, to compost, we are seeing glimpses of the Kingdom of God, a world where creation is being restored and respected.
The Kingdom of God is also seen sometimes in the big events. There is a new movie that has just come out, The Journey, that describes how peace came about in Northern Ireland, after years of violence and bombings. Two men, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, who, with much difficulty, were able to set aside their mistrust and loathing, and come to an agreement that brought peace to their country. That was a sign of the Kingdom of God.
All the good things that are done to make this world a better place, what God would hope for, are signs of the Kingdom, the reign of God.
Now that have been said, let’s go back to the parable of the sower. It is hard for us to understand the agricultural method used in first century Palestine. We are not talking about tractors seeding everything in nice rows. Farmers would walk in their fields, and scatter their seeds, randomly. The breeze might take some further afield. Jesus is using something that everybody understood, to talk about the rule of God and why sometimes, one sees little or no results, and sometimes some positive results, and sometimes great results.
One Bible commentator suggested that Jesus, at this point in his ministry, might have been coming to understand his own experience. Why some of his efforts to announce and encourage the coming of the reign of God, were bearing zero fruit, where as others have been showing a great harvest, and everything in between.
I think that is the first lesson I would like to draw from this parable. We are called to be sowers, like Jesus, to work for the development of the reign of God, the rule of God. Whether it is in writing letters for Amnesty international to free those wrongly imprisoned, whether it is selling and buying fairly traded products, whether it is visiting the sick or lonely, the list can go on and on. All those things we do to make this world a better place, all those things including loving our families, caring for our children. In everything we do to better this world, we are being sowers of the Kingdom of God.
So, my friends, sow your seeds of goodness and justice for God!
The second lesson, we can draw from this parable is that not everything will bear fruit. That can be a hard one to accept. As that commentator suggested, Jesus may well have found it discouraging at times to see the huge crowds flock to hear him, to be touched by him, and then to disappear.
You might remember projects you had worked on that would have been really good for you, maybe your family, or your community, only to see the doors closed.
I read this week that peace talks to reunite the divided island of Cypress had collapse after countless hours, days, weeks and months of preparation.
We must be aware that not all our efforts will bear fruit. Jesus drew on a farming reality to make that clear. The listeners knew though that the fact that some seed would not take hold, would never lead the sower to give up sowing. Nor must we give up. Sometimes our projects for good will not bear fruit at all but we don’t give up.
I was reading in yesterday’s La Presse the story of a Gynecologist/minister in the Congo, Dr. Mukwege, who has built a hospital to care for women who had been raped. His work has brought a lot of recognition from the West, but also a lot of threats on his life. He fled to the US for a time but returned since he knew that his calling was to heal what is broken. He lives now with his family on the hospital compound, with UN guards protecting him.
The parable of the sower today reminds us to sow our seeds for the good of God.
We will have to face that sometimes obstacles will prevent our efforts from bearing fruit. We need to continue scatter our seeds of the Kingdom of God. We must not lose heart
Finally, the parable does not end there. Jesus tells his listeners that some seed will pay off and bring nice harvests, some even great yields. He used the farming reality to encourage himself maybe, and definitely other people, not to give up, to trust.
Jesus’ parable remind us to trust, as we continue to work for the Kingdom. Just as the farmer knew some seeds would take, some of our efforts will bear fruit, some of efforts will downright impress.
I hope and pray for the people of Cypress, as I do for the Palestinians and Israelis, and the people of the Congo, that people of good will who seek to build a better world for all, will not give up and continue to work for the Kingdom. The people of Northern Ireland now live in peace because some individuals did not give up, despite the what seemed insurmountable problems, they continued to work for peace and their efforts were blest. The harvest has been plentiful!
Let us continue to work for the Kingdom of God and trust .
My brothers and sisters, my fellow followers of Jesus, Listen!
Jesus in His parable calls us to continue to dream dreams of a better world and to sow our seeds of goodness, love and justice to bring about God’s reign.
Jesus reminds us that sometimes obstacles will prevent our efforts from bearing fruit but that we must continue and not lose heart.
Finally, Jesus reminds us that someday our efforts for good, our efforts for the Kingdom of God, will be successful and bear much fruit. WE need to trust. LISTEN!