Rev'd Daniel Irvine
(Is. 55.6-11, Ps 65.8-13, Rom 8.18-23, Mt 13.1-23)
Our readings today all revolve around the theme of growth and of God’s blessing and grace in our lives, even our psalm spoke of the blessing of creation and of God’s constant care and sustaining of all that is.
The hopeful words of the prophet Isaiah encourage us to seek the Lord, to find God’s mercy and to understand God as generous and forgiving beyond human understanding.
But it also speaks about God’s word, God’s purpose, as being like the rain. That it will not return empty but will achieve all that it sets out to do.
These words are even more relevant to us when we stop and remember, or perhaps realise for the first time that the Word of God is not to be found in the pages of scripture, but in the person and life of Jesus Christ, to whom scripture is but a witness.
The great purpose of God is further revealed to us in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, where again the theme of growth and creation is used to reveal that what we are experiencing now is but a step on the journey towards a future fulfilment.
A future where all creation, not just human beings, and certainly not just some select human beings, are redeemed and transformed; and that it is because of the resurrection of Jesus that we even dare to hope for such a glorious future.
Paul always went to great lengths to stress that it is God who works to bring about this redemption of all creation, through the life and work of Jesus Christ.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to have received a foretaste of that redemption, through our belief and acceptance of the Gospel, ought not to rest on our laurels and assume that we can now simply go along in the hope of a free ride.
Yes we have this hope, but because we have chosen to become disciples of Jesus we also have a responsibility. A responsibility that I think can be drawn out and clarified by a closer look our Gospel reading this morning.
The reading itself can be a very difficult group of passages to navigate, a scriptural minefield, you might say, of potential misunderstanding and even exclusion and determinism.
To get a clear sense of what is going on here we have to take into account the context in which Matthew’s gospel was written and the people to whom it was initially addressed.
This is especially true when we consider that the interpretation Matthew provides is most likely his own addition, adapted to explain this well known parable of Jesus, to the situation his community was facing.
For Matthew, writing most likely to Jewish believers, it is was primarily about trying to explain why it was that some of them had come to accept that Jesus was the Messiah while others within their communities, even within their own families, had not.
As far as what Jesus himself might have meant when the parable was first spoken, N.T. Wright offers the interpretation of that it is a prophetic warning.
He says that Jesus was trying to convey the idea to those who had gathered to hear him because they had already seen the Kingdom at work through the deeds that he was performing, that this same Kingdom was now breaking into their world, not simply to solve their problems or to endorse their pre-existing agendas, but to do God’s strange work of judgement and mercy.
The people could not take it for granted, nor would they be able to hijack it for their own purposes.
This, claims Wright, was dangerous talk and is why it was said in parable form. To quote him: “You only say ‘If you have ears, then hear’ after something which is cryptic because, if it was stated explicitly, it would be explosive.”
As we contemplate these same verses now, two thousand years later, what explosive revelations might be revealed to us as members of the Church as well as to our contemporary society?
What struck me as particularly noticeable as I read this parable during the week was the thought that the seed was completely unable to act on their own behalf.
What chance did the seed not in good ground ever really have?
After all, the seed was scattered almost indiscriminately, with no control whatsoever over where it landed.
It couldn’t help being sown in rocky ground, or amongst weeds.
And so we cannot blame the seed that lands on the rocks for not being able to penetrate the earth with its roots!
At the same time, we all need to be conscious and aware of the lives and conditions of those to whom we hope to bring the good news!
As disciples of Jesus we all share in a responsibility that is not easily cast aside.
We are blessed because we have received the word and it has been able to grow within us, but what fruit is that seed bearing if we are not actively trying to create a better world?
Ought we not to be trying to create better conditions for other seeds so that the word might also grow within them and so produce that amazing 100 fold return of which Jesus speaks?
I truly hope that none of us think that because we have received the word that we are somehow better than others who have not.
The good fortune, physical safety and material wealth we enjoy (and yes, compared to most people living on this planet we are all wealthy) are not the results of divine benevolence on us because of our belief or piety or anything else.
To be honest, they are a product and result of a history built on colonialism, imperialism, racism, exploitation and discrimination.
If we have come to know the gospel and to believe that the kingdom is truly at hand then that must be for the purpose of helping to fulfil the ultimate divine goal of the redemption of all creation.
We are not to think that our good fortune of being sown into favourable soil is a sign that are somehow better or more blessed than others, but rather that we are chosen and called to bring growth to the lives of others.
But that growth can only happen if we collectively are working towards conditions favourable to growth, and that does not mean making other people to be like us, it means creating safe, equitable and just conditions for everyone to flourish as individual human beings in their own right.
There has been a lot said and a lot of attention given lately to the many protests, demonstrations and various movements around the world; Black Lives Matter, the Me Too Movement, Refugees, Climate-Change, Marriage Equality, Democracy in Hong Kong, Global Poverty, as well as poverty in our own communities.
It is hard not to notice that these movements are to a large part, secular in nature, in their composition and even motivation.
I ask you all is that a problem?
Have we event stopped to wonder why this is even the case?
Or whether it should be the case at all?
Is it just possible that as disciples of Jesus Christ we have abandoned the responsibility entrusted to us to help build a better society?
A society based on kingdom values of justice, mercy and love, not on a set of rules drawn up centuries ago.
And so others have stepped in to fulfil the role that we have neglected, indeed roles that some with the Church have even undermined and criticised, as many of us remain silent when we should speak up, or worse speak up to perhaps unknowingly support division, prejudice, inequalities and the exploitation of our planet, our finite resources, and even our fellow human beings.
Perhaps we all need to be re-ignited by the Spirit to find those Kingdom values of love, justice and mercy, to rediscover our voices on issues that really matter and to be spurred into action to make a difference.
There are many ways we could try and do this.
We can donate to causes, we can sign petitions, make our elected representatives know what we think, we can volunteer, we can make sure our voices are heard.
Around the diocese we set aside this Sunday as AC Care Sunday – AC Care and Anglicare are just two agencies that are trying to help those whose lives are in such a state that there is little room inside them for the word to grow because they are often too preoccupied with the simple act of survival.
Thomas has been working to support to help Anglicare assist international students who are struggling because of the pandemic.
But there are also those who are hungry and sleeping rough in our own communities; those who are neglected and disenfranchised, through no fault of their own.
Our calling is to try and make this world a better place; it is not a responsibility we can leave to others.
If you have ears, then hear...And if you have breathe, then speak up!
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.