—Gavin Koh, 16 Jul 2017
Isaiah 55. 10–13. Matthew 13. 1–9, 18–23
Most of us now live in cities. We don’t really understand these pastoral fables, because the context and the background is missing.
I will not repeat what Jesus explains about his parable. I think it is well explained and there is nothing that I can add. But I want to explore what is left unsaid in Jesus' parable.
It is the background, the context of the story that Jesus assumes his listeners will know. To help you understand what I mean, I am going to tell you another story. A story from the 20th century. A story told to me by a great personal friend, named Felicity.
Felicity’s father was a parish priest, her grandfather was a bishop. Felicity was a missionary. She grew up in Oxford, and after she got her school certificate, during WWII, she worked at Station X in Bletchley Park. When the war was over,she got on a ship and left England for Singapore. She spent 45 years in Singapore, working for the Anglican church there.
Her first few years were spent teaching scripture at the Anglican mission schools; but her greatest achievement Was her role in setting up rehabilitation services for female drug addicts in Singapore.
The centre she set up was called, "The Turning Point."
Many girls passed through the doors of The Turning Point, but the one girl of whom Felicity was the proudest and fondest, was one I shall call Helen. That is not her real name, of course, but 'Helen' is as good a name as any. This is what Felicity said to me about Helen: ‘ prayed for her for seven years, before she was able to pray for herself.’ It took an enormous amount of effort, incredible pain, thankless work, endless prayer, but Helen turned her life around.
Helen went on to work first as a secretary, and then returned to The Turning Point to work there and to help other troubled women and girls.
Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is, on the face of it, easy to read, and easy to understand. But there is unspoken background and context that would have been obvious to the average farmer, but which is not obvious to the average city dweller.
As any farmer knows, sowing seed is not something you do just once. God’s rain comes every spring to water the Earth; the sower will come every spring to sow seed; again and again.
Year after year, the sower casts seed on the path, on rock, into thorns.
Jesus’ lesson is that we must listen and understand God’s Word.
The unspoken background, the unspoken image is that of the sower casting seed on the ground
year after year after year.
I’m going to tell you a story about this picture from Hong Kong:–
If you ever visit Hong Kong, you will realise how crowded it is. Massive high-rise buildings, shops and flats, piled on on top of each other. Every square inch of space is used. But I remember walking up Babington Path, one of the very steep road leading up the hill on Hong Kong island.
I saw a whole tree, growing out of a crack in the wall.
A whole tree.
And I asked myself,
“How did a seed, fall just there in that crack in the wall and grow into that tree?
That’s not just a skinny little weed struggling to survive, growing in a crack, but a whole tree. Isn’t that a miracle?”
Is there someone you have given up on? Is there someone you think is without hope?
You're wasting your time! He's too stubborn! She won't listen!
Pray that one of God’s seeds, will fall into a crack in that stony wall, where it will be sheltered,
where rain will collect in rivulets to water it, and to help it grow.
I am asking you to do this. I am asking you to be persistent. God has not given up on us. God has not given up on him or her. Don’t give up. Keep sowing seeds.
In his letter to the Galatians, St Paul wrote: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” [Gal 6. 9]
In your mind I want you to think of someone who needs you to be persistent and we're going to bow our heads and pray:
We know that you love us.
And because you love us,
You are patient and merciful to us.
You feed and water us with your word,
Again and again,
Year after year.
Help us to be patient and merciful in turn.
Help us not to give up,
And to remember that however difficult
We find this person to be,
To be persistent.
To feed and water that person,
Again and again,
Year after year.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.