Mark 4:3-20 Mark 4(cl)

Behold, the farmer went out to sow, and it happened, as he sowed, some seed fell by the road, and the birds* came and devoured it. Others fell on the rocky ground, where it had little soil, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of soil. When the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. Others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing. Some brought forth thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times as much.
Mark 4:3-20
Thomas 9 Thomas 9 (cl)

Now the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered them. Some fell on the road; the birds came and gathered them up. Others fell on the rock, did not take root in the soil, and did not produce ears. And others fell on thorns; they choked the seed(s) and worms ate them. And others fell on the good soil and it produced good fruit: it bore sixty per measure and a hundred and twenty per measure.
Thomas 9

What a waste of seed, time and effort! Surely no farmer would be so profligate.
There are four main elements of this parable
The Seed which Jesus says is like God's kingdom The Seed (close)

A seed that is 2000 years old may well be out of date
Do we even really understand the message
that Jesus left us?

Our worldview is no longer that of that time,
and their concerns are no longer our's

The unfruitful seed is not just wasted.
It can be counter-productive.
The seed that grows in some places
will bolster antipathy in others.

Perhaps H&S has undermined our concerns about forgiveness of sin.
Longevity undermined our worries over eternal life.
What does touch the souls of people today?
What is the seed that will be productive?
It is no use thrusting a message at people that they can not hear,
Perhaps love and respect for others holds the key, now as then.
Even if it does not meet the concerns of organised religion.

The Sower, which could be the church, or you and I The Sower (close)

Sowing is not as simple as it seems!
Its not just telling people the Gospel.
It needs training to recognise their need
and the suitable response to their situation.
It needs training to select the right seed.

But it wasn't really and only the fault of the Sower.
Someone should have sorted out the field first.
It needed ploughing and fertilising
and the rocks moved to one side.
The ground hadn't been prepared.

Perhaps they got the wrong seed
or one some way beyond its sell-by date.
Perhaps the prevailing climate was wrong;
the people not prepared to hear the message.

Growth .which is God's work; a wonder in our eyes Growth (close)

Maybe if someone had tended the crop
Pulled out weeds and thistles
Watered and nurtured
it could have been
a good crop

Growth may be the work of God,
but we are his hands and feet;
Divinity works through mankind's actions.
Growth derives from the warmth of another's love and care.

The Harvest, which is man's work when all is ready, Harvest (close)

Any evangelistic endeavour has to be carefully planned and publicised and prayed for.
Outreach will only have a real impact if all of each church are deeply involved,
If they have adapted their liturgy and life-styles, to suit its needs.
opened their doors and their hearts, so that others may come in.
If they have dreamt and prayed about it.

We need to think about where to put the harvest,
how to gather it in and then turn it into wholesome bread.
Do we have people trained to nurture and love new converts?
Do we have churches that are ready to receive them ?
Are we offering them the best, what they deserve as children of God?
Are we ready to wash their feet, or do we expect them to wash ours;
to make the coffee, do the flowers, clean the church?

Do we expect to pay for their membership in work or coin,
or are we ready to open our arms in loving welcome,
freely and with no strings attached.

So there are three preparatory elements, without which the whole process falls apart:
Preparing the Ground
Without a fertile and friable soil the seed will have difficulty taking root.
Jesus touched on this in another parable, where the seed failed to grow
where the ground was often hostile and the seed failed to take root.
though that could have been the problem of the sower himself
Preparing the Sower
A bad sower will scatter the seed into places where it can not grow.
We do need to train our sowers to get it right.
So often the main fruit of evangelism is
to deter rather than to attract.
There is little point in reaping unless we have somewhere to store the grain
somewhere dry and vermin free in which to dry and store the harvest.
A welcoming relevant church, ready to nurture the new seeds.

So we have a picture of the task that Jesus is said to have set us,
but, so often, we try to harvest before we have sown
and sow before we have prepared the ground.
Any harvest that arises is often stifled
by inadequate, outdated, storage facilities
and farm labourers who are more concerned
about their own welfare than the new harvest.

The main task for most churches today is not to reap the harvest,
nor to sow the seed, nor even to prepare the ground,
but to prepare the hearts of the people
who would unload the trailers.
and turn the grain,
if only someone
would equp and
permit them
to do so.