O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of all mercy,
your Son proclaimed good news to the poor,
release to the captives,
and freedom to the oppressed:
anoint us with your Holy Spirit
and set all your people free
to praise you in Christ our Lord.
The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’
May the Lord stretch forth the sceptre of your power;
rule from Zion in the midst of your enemies.
‘Noble are you on this day of your birth;
on the holy mountain, from the womb of the dawn
the dew of your new birth is upon you.’
The Lord has sworn and will not retract:
‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that
“they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”‘
And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’
For the ones on the path: Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
For almost a year there has been much talk of people suffering from different degrees of mental and spiritual anguish. The issues surrounding isolation and sheltering have featured prominently in our media, as well as in the everyday lives of many. To begin addressing those issues we need to consider what is actually going on in our lives, we have to interpret the very different circumstances in which we find ourselves. This act of interpretation in order that we might arrive at a clearer level of understanding is very similar to the act of interpreting the parables of Jesus, and particularly those that are more familiar to us.
Today’s reading, the Parable of the Sower, is very familiar indeed. It is so familiar that many people could give a reasonably accurate rendition of it without reference to the original text. Those same people may even be able to give an account of Jesus’ own interpretation of the action within the parable. But, what about applying this familiar story to our own lives, both in and out of the conditions we are living through at the moment.
When we read any passage from scripture, it is good practice to read it slowly, in order that we might engage with all that is being said. It is good for us to set aside our tendency to speed-read and to place ourselves in the verses we are reading. The Parable of the Sower is a good passage to read in this way. It is easy to imagine the sower scattering his seed, just as it is easy for us to imagine where we have been sown.
Of course, we rarely see ourselves as having been thrown anywhere other than in the good soil. But … is that really the case? As with the mental and spiritual anguish that many are experiencing during times of enforced isolation, our minds can play tricks on us. The truth is that it is easy for us to deceive ourselves into believing that we are flourishing in the good soil when we are definitely not. We may hear the word and we may accept the word, but how is that hearing and accepting turning into the bearing of fruit?
In reality most of us are in a much less favourable place, whether it be on the path, among the rocks, or among the thorns. The moment we engage with the Parable of the Sower with an eyes-wide-open sense of realism we may find ourselves being transplanted into the good soil we crave. Our faith can be very shallow if we do not nurture and tend it carefully. The moment we neglect it, well then: Satan immediately comes and takes away the word.
As we journey on through these difficult times, let us set aside our very human tendency towards complacency, let us engage with scripture carefully and prayerfully, and let us pray that our faith may be watered and nurtured in a way that will see it grow and flourish and bring the joy of God’s word into the lives of others.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, through whose word our words are given life.
Bless the Church, that she may be fruitful in good works. Let the word of truth not wither away, but grow to a rich harvest.
Come to the stony places of the world, where the life of the flesh prevails over the life of the spirit, and bring your peace.
May our families and friends, our neighbours and colleagues, receive the grace of the Spirit, to be rich in good works and sure faith.
Have mercy on those who are oppressed by care and have lost the way that they once knew. Bright them back into the way of love.
Through the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, give life to those who have died to this world.
May our prayers be as the good seed bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God.
Prayer for the week
By the prayers of Jesus,
Lord, teach us how to pray.
By the gifts of Jesus,
Lord, teach us how to give.
By the labours of Jesus,
Lord, teach us how to work.
By the love of Jesus,
Lord, teach us how to love.
By the cross of Jesus,
Lord, teach us how to live.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.