When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.” ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
What is there left to say about a parable that is so clear and concise in its message and that so many people have had so much to say about throughout the Centuries?
The gist of this parable is simple and relatable. The seed represents us telling people the Good News of the Gospel. The various places in which it is scattered, represent different situations and challenges we might encounter when trying to help people develop in their faith and discipleship journeys.
As a denomination, we are being challenged to think about how we encourage discipleship and how we help people on their faith journeys. How can we effectively reach out to those who most need to know the love that God has for them? How can we break down the barriers that have traditionally been the things that have stopped people wanting to seek a relationship with God? What obstacles might people encounter in their walk with Christ, both in the early days of seed germination but also when their faith becomes a strong and established plant?
We live in a world in which people are desperate to find meaning in their lives; we as Christians have found meaning. We have a purpose and we have a hope for the future. Our job is to go out and make disciples, to show them this hope that we have and to foster in our churches a spirit of acceptance in which people are encouraged to ask questions and to explore what this faith thing might mean for them. Let’s ask the questions of our church communities that need to be asked, be intentional about why we are doing the things we are doing. Most importantly, let us be a welcoming church from which warmth and goodness permeate into our world allowing for the most effective seed growing conditions.
Creator God, we thank you that you provide all that is needed for seeds to grow. We thank you for the sunlight, the warmth and the nutrients that you give to us so freely. We pray that our churches can become places which encourage growth in you and that we might be open to your prompting over how we might best do this. Amen.
The Rev’d Joshua Thomas is minister of Petersfield and Liss URC with the Beacon Church Bordon