The parable of the sower is a familiar text, and fortunately we are given the explanation, so all we need to do is examine our consciences and consider: who are we? Am I like the seed that fell on the path, hearing words of the kingdom yet immediately is snatched away? The fact that we are all here in church at 8am, would suggest nobody present falls into that category.
This parable gives us clues about the commitment and perseverance required to be a disciple.
The recent lockdown has certainly challenged our commitment and perseverance. In the past four months, when churches were closed and we were not able to gather together for worship, communion or fellowship, there may have been times when we might have felt like the seed that fell on the rocky ground. We had received the word with joy, but the “troubles and persecution” of lockdown might have made us feel further from God than ever, or spiritually running on empty.
We always said Church is not the building it is the people, however joining together in worship and fellowship are essential parts of how we express our faith. It is hard to be the body of Christ when you cannot gather together as a body. Not being able to go to church made a big difference, not being able to sit in an empty church and to feel closer to God was hard for many of us.
Perhaps lockdown provided new ways of connecting with God, new ways of finding spiritual renewal and new insights into the words of the kingdom. In those moments we might have felt more like the good soil, who hears and understands the word and bears fruit.
However, perhaps the Pandemic has reframed this parable for us. Perhaps it is the Church, both locally, nationally and globally that we should think of as the seed and Coronavirus is a pretty big thorn to choke out the Church. Yet the Church struggled on. Locally and globally the Church found new ways of worshipping and connecting with her parishioners and the wider community.
It is a sign of how successful online worship became that on Sunday 17th May the Church broke Zoom as Christians logged in to join their church’s online service. There is evidence that churches across the country reached more people than would ever sit in our pews and reached out to the disabled, to those who had been the pillar of our church, but in recent years are no longer able to get here; also those who will never be able to attend church.
However not everyone has access to the internet or to computers and even for those that do, some of us just don’t find online worship helpful. It can be hard to fully worship through a screen, to feel that spiritual connection, to feel close to God. As Richard Coles said on the St Albans Pilgrimage service “Matter Matters”.
Slowly, gradually we are beginning to be able to come together again for worship. Although there are still tight restrictions, limiting our fellowship and how we worship, we are returning together as the body of Christ again. We have an opportunity to recreate good soil for a wider community than before.
I am also aware that I will be the first female clergyman in the benefice and for some this may present a thistle. It is very important that I do not stand in the way of God, of worship or of receiving communion. If there are any who will find my ministry a potential thistle, let’s talk through the issues and find a strategy before my priesting in June, so we can provide good soil for all to worship and receive communion.
The fact that you are all here today, in church at 8 o’clock in the morning is evidence that you are the seed that fell on the good soil. The challenge now is….to “bear fruit and yields…. a hundredfold…. sixty …[or] thirty”.
This is the challenge for each one of us coming out of lockdown.
To misquote St Francis of Assisi; “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”