July: Sowing the seeds
5 JULY MATTHEW 11: 16-19, 25 – 30
Amid hostility and resistance, Jesus can still find time to praise God. Yet the prayer of Jesus can sound somewhat strange to our ears. It is an odd notion to thank God for hiding the truth from the wise and intelligent. But Jesus is making the point that it is the humble, the childlike and the lowly who are the most receptive to the message of God. The wise and intelligent can be deceived by their faith in their own cleverness. Jesus invites all those who can see beyond his appearance to his real nature to enter into a relationship with him.
We are reminded here that appearances can be deceptive. John was seen as too holy, and Jesus as not holy enough.
How often do we fall into the trap of judging others by appearances? Is there a challenge here to the church in how we live out God’s call?
12 JULY MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23
Here we find Jesus telling yet another agrarian parable, this time about seeds and soil types. Despite the unsuccessful sowings noted in the story, Jesus still paints a picture of astonishing success for the crop in good soil. The harvest is so abundant it is described as a hundredfold, and sixty fold and thirty fold – an amazing crop by any standard. The sowing of the seeds, representing the words of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven, result in both complete failures and spectacular success. But the point is that the sower accepts the risk of failure and is prepared to try growing the seeds on different soils in order to produce a good crop.
Consider whether we as the church are prepared to risk failure in the same way. Have we become too safe’ in what we are prepared to do to spread the gospel?
19 JULY MATTHEW 13:24-30, 36-43
Most of us love the look of a well-cared for garden. But such gardens are a lot of hard work and must be tended regularly. Despite this care, gardeners find themselves waging a constant battle against a common enemy of cultivated plants – the weed. The parable we read today tells us that this battle with
weeds is not new. Since humankind began cultivating land, weeds have been a constant enemy.
If we imagine our society as a garden, who are the weeds in it? And how are we meant to respond to them? _Perhaps we need reminding that weeds grow profusely in gardens that are unloved or uncared for.
In our society today, where many are increasingly alienated, oppressed or unloved, is it any wonder
that the garden of our community has many who see themselves – wrongly – as useless weeds?
Jesus challenges us to look after the poor and disadvantaged of our communities.
Who are the “weeds” of our local communities and how might we help them?
JULY 26 MATTHEW 13:31-33, 44-52
Matthew’s Jesus has a number of sayings and parables about the nature and progress of the kingdom of God, which is described as beginning small and subsequently developing into something very large. It is also seen as immensely valuable, something worth giving up everything for, something worth proclaiming from the rooftops. The imminent arrival of this kingdom is “good news” and it cannot be hidden.
Of all the gospels, Matthew is the one that focuses most on the importance of good deeds and just living to be considered as among the inheritors of the kingdom.
The righteous or just (the Greek word can translated as either word), have clearly defined ethical behaviour laid out for them to follow. More is required of them than mere faith in Jesus: they are exhorted to ‘show their good works’ (5:16) and to do the will of the Father (7:21-23).
Has the church forgotten the joy of growing the kingdom of God? Of showing our light and ‘good works’ and offering a safe, communal and shady tree for people to gather? We need to recast this vision of God’s kingdom along with its joy, wonder and commitment to growing it in our communities.
Rev. Dr Elizabeth Raine
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