Sermon by Fr. Joshua Bell SSC, 12th July 2020
Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11, Romans 8:18-23, Matthew 13:1-23
During lockdown, many of you, I know, have been keeping yourselves occupied in gardens and allotments. When Father Adrian and I were calling people up, quite often we’d hear about the progress in the garden – so much so that I wonder whether South and West Lynn should have a Benefice Open Gardens, so that we can admire all your handiwork!
Leah and I have been getting into it, too. Like the sower in our gospel today, we scattered our seeds liberally into the soil, and we waited to see what grows.
We’ve had some mixed success. On the up side, many many more plants germinated than we expected…so much so that we somehow found ourselves with sixty-nine tomato plants. On the other hand, The courgettes we planted are proving decidedly mixed in their growth. Some have become large – and on Tuesday we ate our first fruit! – while others have been slower in their growth…and some refused even to break the soil.
We are like God’s soil, and at our baptism the seed was planted in us. For some of us that will be many years ago; for others it will be more recent. Perhaps as soon as your seed was planted it began to sprout, if you were raised in the Church and taught the faith from childhood. Or perhaps your Christening was the last time, for many years, that you went inside a church, until later in life – and that seed took a long time before it finally broke the soil. Whether it took a little or a long time: here we are.
What is our soil like today? The last three months have been like one of those hot summers, where the sun sucks all the moisture from the air, as we’ve been stuck at home, unable to worship. Have the online services and the rest of it acted like a sprinkler, keeping the soil healthy, or has it dried out, and made the seed unable to grow?
Well – here we are. The drought has ended – or begun to end – and rain is starting to fall on our parched soil. Drink it in! If you have felt exhausted by being cut off from the Eucharist – then draw near with faith.
What about the crop Jesus speaks of? Sometimes we think of this fruit solely as propagation – that we will grow our numbers in church thirty-fold, sixty-fold, or a hundred-fold. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The reason that we grow our tomatoes and our courgettes, our strawberries and carrots and so forth, it isn’t so that we can get seeds to grow more. We grow them so that we can produce fruit for eating.
St. Paul talks of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Galatians. He calls them “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. These are the fruits of the seed of the Holy Spirit, planted in us at baptism and nurtured through our life as Christians.
The fruits may produce seeds that can take root in other soil, and that is wonderful – but seeds are a consequence of fruit – not an alternative to it.
So how fruitful are we feeling? How patient, kind, generous, and so forth? If your fruit is feeling a little shrivelled – come to Jesus! Listen again to the words of our first reading:
“As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.”
Jesus is the Living Word, begotten by God the Father. He waters the earth of our hearts, and causes us to yield spiritual fruit. He will not fail in his mission, and if we allow him, he will give growth in our lives.
So at this time, when the sun has dried the soil, and we are withering, let us come to Jesus, who will give us his living water. At this time, when we have suffered greatly: let us remember the glories that he has promised us – the heavenly banquet, of which the great feast of the Eucharist is only a foretaste. Come to Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, and receive him into yourselves – that his life may be your life – may be our life.