Collect and Readings for Sixth Sunday after Trinity – Genesis 25.19-end, Isaiah 55.10-13, Psalm 119.105-112, Psalm 65.8-end, Romans 8.1-11, Matthew 13.1-9. 18-23
The Prayer for today Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding: pour into our hearts such love toward you that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
We have a wonderful picture of God’s faithfulness given to us every year in the round of the seasons, as the bare earth receives the winter weathering before the seed is sown and the growing begins, leading through the warmth of summer to the gathering -in of the harvest in the autumn. It is still relatively recently that all this was basic to our everyday lives, and we still get nostalgic about it even if we have lived all our lives in the centre of a city.
It is not surprising that many biblical images are to do with this annual round and the desperately important blessing of rain. This week’s passages from Isaiah and Psalm 65 give us an ancient lesson on the water cycle, beautifully and wonderingly observed. Isaiah uses it to illustrate the way God’s word has a habit of being accomplished, working its way down into the human condition and providing all that is necessary for what has been spoken about to come about. It sometimes looks unpromising, but then, so do bare earth furrows unless you have lived through a previous summer. We sometimes need to trust Isaiah’s words during our darker, barer seasons of life.
In this week’s Gospel we are aware that Jesus has been walking this same earth we inhabit, watching the yearly sowing of seed and hearing the squabbling birds. It speaks to him vividly of the different ways we all respond to the word of God, and prophet that he is, he tells it out straight as it is. Leaving people to puzzle over his story is an important part of the process of sowing the seed. It gives that seed a good start, wriggling it well down into the hearer’s being as curiosity rolls it around before sleep or in conversation in the firelight. What is this seed which takes root and grows fruit in good soil? What was he really telling us? Growing, opposition to Jesus’ ministry also makes the parable a safer method of teaching. Perhaps it will serve to soften up the ground of defensive hearts in a less threatening way.
The disciples are surprised to hear Jesus using such a learned method of teaching for them and the crowds. Unlike the crowds, they are at least able to ask him to spell it all out clearly for them. Inevitably, they and we are bound to ask ourselves serious questions about where we are, and how we are responding to the word of God. Presumably the ideal is for the Church to be filled with seed growing in good soil, for all that requires is to be open and receptive, nourished and developed in the watering and warming of God’s love. And those of us who prepare the ground need to check that we are providing the very best environment for the seed of God’s word to grow strong.
Some things to think about:
1. What makes some people more receptive to the word of God than others? Is it outside our control, or to do with our chosen attitudes and priorities?
2. Is it easier to believe in a creative sustaining God when we are in a rural setting, living with a rural economy? Is God relevant in the urban sprawl?
Rev’d Fiona Robinson