The Generous Sower

Yesterday’offering…

The Generous Sower

We have some extraordinarily rich readings this week! The images provoked are beautiful, profound, and full of joy. Who could not use a little more joy at this time? Images of growth and freedom – the work of rain and snow, the earth being watered, joy, peace, the mountains, and hills singing, fields clapping their hands. These things are not concerned with social distancing, what is opened or closed, R rates and travel corridors.

There is great joy in Paul’s declaration to the Romans that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus and that a mind set on the Spirit is where true life and peace are found. Jesus telling the vast crowd before him about the sower who flung seeds all over the place with joyful abandon. Some of this seed ‘brought forth a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’ Listen to a God who is generous, full of compassion and working out his purposes in those He loves.

There is not much we can do in these days with reckless abandon. Everything we do seems to require advanced planning and preparation, taking along gloves, masks, and hand gel. We had to be vigilant of everything we touch and who is around us. The freedom of the sower to go wherever they like is shocking! His freedom makes me envious for the freedoms that we had, that seem a distant memory. I need the boost of joy that the sower gives!

There is also something about the extravagance of God shown in Isaiah and Matthew. Again, we are not living in extravagant times. Many are in financial hardship if not ruin, people will be losing jobs and then living with the consequences that follow. Prices are rising as incomes fall – hardly a time to be thinking of extravagant or wasteful spending.

In Isaiah, God is generous with the rain (maybe a bit too much this week) and the snow to water the earth, bring forth the sprouts to give seed to the sower and bread to the eater. God has an endless supply of these things and he is generous with them! I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that God is somehow stingy or a minimalist. I have been reading through Job with a group I share Evensong with. We are in the final chapters where God finally replies to Job with a series of questions such as: ‘have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?’ In Job chapters 38-40, we get a sense of the greatness, the generosity and extravagance of God; there is nothing he has not thought about!

We see this same extravagance and generosity in the Jesus’ sower. Often times, and I have done it, we rush through this parable to focus on the four types of terrain and ignore the sower.

American essayist Debie Thomas writes: ‘If your experience is anything like mine, you’ve read this parable many times, and focused exclusively on the four types of terrain Jesus describes. You’ve thought about the people you preach to week after week, and worried over who is hardened, rocky, thorny, or “good.” You’ve agonized over how to find and cultivate more fertile soil in your church or community. Or else — also like me — you’ve read this parable and walked away, feeling bad about your own faith life. Feeling judged. Feeling inadequate. Feeling anxious. You’ve wondered how to make your spiritual soil less hard, less rocky, less thorny. You’ve designed all sorts of self-improvement projects to fix what’s “wrong” with you. More prayer. Less Twitter. More Bible study. Less cynicism. More church. Less television. You’ve read the parable as an indictment of your relationship with a Sower who just can’t seem to find an appropriately hospitable environment in your messed-up heart.’

We all need times to consider the condition of our hearts and what is growing in them. Of course we do. There is nothing wrong with some honest and humble self-assessment. There are also times when we need to consider the love and lavishness of the sower who we often overlook in the quest to be better, less rocky, or thorny or hard. We tend to forget there is good soil too! This is a place that hears and understands the Word and ultimately bears fruit. We all have places in our hearts that bear good fruit. And we can overlook these parts as we get overly wrapped up in where we need improvement.

Consider again the sower as they sow the seed everywhere. Everywhere. In all type of places and circumstances – hospitals, prisons, grocery stores, schools, flat blocks, fields, meadows, car parks and playgrounds. They do so with an open hand and endless supply of seed. There is no way to sort it or save it, it will scatter everywhere. And you know what?

The sower does not seem to mind in the least! Debie Thomas again writes: There is in him a confident realism, a sense that what needs to flourish will flourish. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not everywhere. But that’s okay. In other words, the sower in Jesus’ parable is wholly unconcerned about where the seed falls or lands or settles — all he chooses to do is keep sowing. Keep flinging. Keep opening his hands. Why? Because there’s enough seed to go around. There’s enough seed to accomplish the sower’s purposes. There’s enough seed to “waste”.

I think that as Christians and as a Church we need to reflect on our view of God as the sower in these times. How do we view God in the wake of Covid? Robin spoke about this two weeks ago after reading Tom Wright’s book ‘God and the Pandemic’.

God has not changed – he is still in charge of the storehouses of snow and hail; He is still watering the earth. True life and peace are found when we set our minds on the Spirit. There is still no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He is still the most generous and lavish sower and giver we can ever imagine. Our hearts, our mental health, our sense of security, our finances may have taken a pummelling in these last few months, but God is still good. I cannot let my circumstances dictate my theology, my ultimate belief in the goodness and love of God.

The sower, I hope, reminds me and us that despite our own stinginess of Spirit or belief, God is still generous. I hope, that despite a lack of confidence that is His word will go out and achieve his purposes, no matter where it lands – that it really will. I hope that God’s ability to clear or soften whatever ground there is of rocks and thorns – outstrips the doubt I have.

I will finish with Isaiah: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving the seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’

God’s word will not return empty to him and shall accomplish its purpose and it will succeed. Let us receive the seed that He is sowing, the lavish gifts of love, joy, peace, grace. God is at work in the world, through Jesus and through us and this work continues. Sometimes it takes some time and thought to work out what exactly this means for each one of us. Trust the sower and his seed!

We have been freed from sin and death to live in the Spirit – to have life and peace. To have hearts that are soft and not hard, heart that are free from rocks and thorns – but full of good soil with seed to share.

Author: Sue Lepp

Newly appointed Priest-in-Charge of the Hambleden Valley Group of Churches and will start later in January 2021. Time for a new start at the beginning of a new year. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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