Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Introduction and Call to Worship
In our Gospel we hear again one of the great parables of Jesus and discover why he spoke in stories that people could relate to. We pray for the ability to be faithful disciples of the Lord in our own time, able and willing to share our faith and draw others to him.
First Reading Isaiah 55:10-13
The prophet reminds us that God is in full control of the processes of nature. In the fullness of time the whole of creation will share in humanity’s rejoicing.
Second Reading Romans 8:1-11
Paul teaches that the secret of life is to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. We should set our mind on the Spirit, not on the flesh.
Gospel Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
In the Gospel, Jesus shows us why he uses parables to make his teaching known.
HOMILY “Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13:9)
I have to confess to being a fan of Radio 4. It is my drive setting in the car. And at the heart of their programming are various short plays and adaptations for radio productions. They also have the odd phone-in. A good presenter knows that ideas, theories and notions do not themselves make good radio - they take too long to explain. I am always pleased when a guest or presenter says, “Let me give you an example.” Or better, “I’ll tell you a story.” That usually means a real-life story is coming! Down the centuries the Church has sought the best way to communicate its message and as disciples today, we are a part of telling the story of Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel afresh, to a new generation. And we don’t want them to tune out!
In the Middle Ages, when few people could read or write, the Church produced simple, community dramas known as Mystery Plays, to spread the Gospel. At Christmas, our Nativities follow in that same tradition as we act out our faith. And all around us, with the aid of technology, people are seeking new and imaginative ways to communicate. Our parish Facebook page is just one example of newer technology being used to communicate the Gospel. Now we won’t all be technologically minded – and we don’t have to be! We will continue to produce a newsletter and posters for some time to come! But as disciples with a message to deliver – people’s very lives hang on it – we must surely seek to find the best ways to communicate the faith afresh, re-telling the greatest story: humanity and God in relationship!
We live in a world of stories; media surrounds us. And the more accessible for us, the better. Jesus also understood the power of storytelling to illustrate his message. But the disciples have concerns and ask of the Lord, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” Jesus replied, “Because hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13) He understood the value of a good story and parables are the best. He also knew that the message of faith must be relevant to the situation of the hearer. People find it much easier to remember the story than to remember why it was told. So let’s look at the parable of the sower. Our Lord was sitting in a boat, by the side of the lake. It may have been a fishing boat. A crowd of people had gathered to hear what he had to say. He said, “Listen!” Now that’s always good if you’re about to tell a story. Get the audience to be quiet. Looking beyond the people he would have seen fields – the setting for his story that everyone could identify with – a man sowing seed in a field.
A sower went out to sow. A teacher went out to teach. A mother went out to show her son or daughter the way. Or a neighbour gave advice to a neighbour. This parable applies to all of these. One of the greatest problems in relationships between people is when the other person fails to do what you know they should do. You’ve advised them, mentored them, supported them many times; you’ve given them clear instructions but it’s like talking to a brick wall. It’s like seed landing on stony ground. The first thing we learn from the parable is that not everything we say or teach brings forth fruit. See how Jesus teaches the story. The thorns, the birds of the air, the rocky ground, the scorching sun – all mean the seed will not grow. Communicating the Gospel as disciples is just like that: not every time will we see results. But we must take risks. Have a go!
Communicating well is our challenge as the Church today. Many of us would love to share the Gospel with other people but we are fearful of rejection, or we fail to get across the story in a way people will understand. And there may be good reasons for this: We may be speaking the wrong language. They may not feel any need for faith - they may be on rocky ground. They may feel pressure from their peers, the people around them - the birds of the air or the scorching sun. And so on. But for some there is good soil and they are ready to hear, ready to see, ready to perceive! For beside the thorns, not far from the pathway and the rocky ground, there is good soil. The rain and the sun will help the seed to germinate, grow, blossom and produce fruit.
Being part of a regular Church community has the same effect: it helps our faith to grow and shelters us from struggle and challenge. This is not a place for those with all the answers – it is somewhere to learn and grow and be challenged! We are not a hotel for saints but a hospital for sinners! And the result is growth - thirtyfold, sixtyfold, maybe even a hundredfold! Jesus knew that beside the lake that day were some whose lives would be changed. The same is true for the people we meet day in and day out. And they need to be here, among us. We need to offer that invitation and contextualise it with experience they will understand – our own lives and journeys of faith are a good place to start. If Church helps you to be a better person then why not tell someone else? It may help them too!
We should never give up hope! Keep on sowing the seeds of faith – sharing the Gospel today for all people. We are today’s disciples with a message of hope – of salvation. So friends, be brave disciples of the Lord and share your faith! Amen.
1. Like Jesus, we need to find the best way to communicate the Gospel. He found that parables, if they were relevant, were the best way for him. He knew that his message would not get across to all who heard him.
2. We may be speaking the wrong language. Some people may not be ready to hear. Peer pressure may be a factor. Jesus found the same.
3. If we find the right soil and conditions or time and place, the reward could be thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold. Keep on sowing the seeds of faith here in Thorpe!