The Story of the Scattered Seed
1-2 He went back to teaching by the sea. A crowd built up to such a great size that he had to get into an offshore boat, using the boat as a pulpit as the people pushed to the water’s edge. He taught by using stories, many stories.
3-8“Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.
9“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
(The Message translation)
I have to confess, I don’t always ‘hear’ the challenge in many of Jesus’ parables. Part of the reason is that many of the parables are now so familiar to me that they’ve lost their punch, but more likely I think I just like to hear the nice things Jesus said and assume the difficult stuff was for others to hear, not me. Reading the parable of the sower in Mark’s gospel and then Tom Wright’s reflections on it in our lent book, I heard a different message from the one I normally do today. Normally, I see this parable as a real encouragement for evangelists – that not all our efforts will be successful but that God still brings the harvest. There’s nothing wrong with that interpretation but Tom Wright points out how challenging the story would have been to its original Jewish hearers. They were waiting for a new ‘planting’ of Israel, God’s people back in the promised land from their many years in exile. Jesus tells them that the time has come for that but the sting in the tail is that not everyone will be a part of this new planting, there will be some that fall by the wayside and won’t be included in the new Kingdom that’s coming.So this was new look at the parable for me and then I thought, well what does it mean for me? How can I have ears to hear what Jesus is saying to me today? Lent is a good time to reflect on which habits, thought patterns and activities have started to put a wedge between us and God. Perhaps we can read the parable of the sower with this in mind. God is regularly sowing his Word into our lives, we receive his Word through scripture and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In what kind of state is the soil of my heart? Is it stony? Are there invaders who come and take the Word away? Is it well watered or parched?
For seed to grow, the land first needs to be ploughed. I recently saw the film War Horse in which there is a moving scene when the young boy ploughs a stony field with the thoroughbred horse his father has foolishly bought. It’s a messy exhausting business but he manages it. Has your Lenten fast or discipline started to pinch yet? This is all part of the ploughing necessary for the seed, the Word, to grow and produce thirty, sixty, a hundred times a yield.