Jesus, Bread of Life,
Be our staple diet we pray, as we feast on your word,
and gaze on your goodness.
May our attention now be on your message to us this day, nourishing us for the tasks you have for us in this coming week.
May your Holy Spirit move amongst us now so that my words be your words and our thoughts your thoughts, we pray in the name of our Risen Saviour,
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
I’m guessing that some of us have been lucky enough to see a kiwi in its natural habitat. My only two experiences are a long time ago, on two different times on Stewart Island, one with a school camp and another as part of a team leading a children’s beach mission in the summer. In both cases we spotted a couple of unsuspecting kiwi in the evening, at twilight, as they were emerging from the bush, unimpressed to find an eager audience. Sourcing food, not impressing us was the main agenda and we were hardly likely to go disturbing our new friends by interfering with their dinner so just surmised that worms, berries, leaves and seeds may have made up their menu that night.
Seeds sustain not only kiwis but a majority of our native and exotic birds and creatures. I’m quite partial myself to a handful of sesame, pumpkin or flax seeds – as I’m a kiwi of sorts.
I’ve given this message then, the title of ‘wandering kiwis in search of seeds’.
Jesus begins his busy day of ministry and confrontation with the Pharisees as described in Matthew chapters 12 & 13 strolling with his disciples through a field of grain. Later on that day, from a boat, Jesus told the crowd who had gathered on the beach, our story for today, about the harvest and its meaning. In between Jesus heals those who are coming to him in trust to be healed, confronts the Pharisees about their hypocrisy and slander, and spoke of obedience to him as being thicker than blood when it comes to relating to Jesus as Lord and Master.
Now we join the crowds on the beach, craning our ears to hear from Jesus directions for searching out the seeds, discovering the deeper meaning of Jesus’ story of the sower and the seed.
This sower scattered the seed generously. The seeds landed up everywhere – on the road, where it was eaten by birds, in the gravel where it sprouted quickly but remained rootless so withered quickly in the sun, some fell among weeds so became strangled as it grew, but some seeds fell on productive ground and produced a harvest beyond the sower’s wildest dreams.
Likewise Jesus’ sowing of the seeds of the Kingdom is an act of rampant generosity. His is not a stringent regime, like that of the Pharisees, that denies hungry people their breakfast, sick people their healing or possessed people their deliverance.
We too want to be firm believers in Jesus Christ who share their goodies. D.T Niles, a renowned 20th century Sri Lankan Christian who was passionate evangelist and a pioneer of the ecumenical movement is famous for his ‘quote “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” That’s what we’re learning to do in our own lives, to make the most of the opportunities that God gives us every day to ‘gossip the gospel’. I consider it a good day when I’ve made the most of those opportunities but a poorer day when I have to confess to God at the end of it that I’ve wasted some of those God moments in conversations with others.
Indeed, when we look at the big picture, the sowing of the seeds of the Kingdom of heaven has been remarkably productive! From a small group of faithful followers, serving in submission to Jesus Christ and in the power of God’s Spirit, has come a global Christian population of 2.2 billion, or 31% of the world’s people. In some countries, such as Cuba, the growth of the church runs far ahead of the capacity of Bible mission agencies like Bible Societies to keep up with the demand for Bibles. (From Bible Society sermon notes for Bible Sunday)
In Aotearoa New Zealand we are not currently seeing that sort of growth. Not a whole lot of kiwis scurrying round, sourcing seeds of the Kingdom of God. But there is some encouragement. The Bible Society here in NZ commissioned some research this year from which they discovered that 17% percent of kiwis aged 13 or over and 30% of all 15 to 18 year olds attend church monthly or more often. We have one or two of them here from time to time. Fourteen percent of all kiwis aged 13 or over read the Bible at least monthly, most of those weekly or daily. It is easy to focus on decline and miss the miracles of grace that God is working in kiwi hearts.
Nevertheless the task of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to 21st Century Aotearoa New Zealand seems a hard ask. What does God teach us from the parable of the sower?
Well, in those hard places, on the stony ground where there seems most resistance we can pray for God to soften hearts. We can ‘water the soil’ by persevering in our friendships with and prayers for those who seem so resistant to the good news of Jesus, instead of giving up on them.
Moving on to the image of thorns that jump out and prick us as we endeavour to be fruitful as we walk the road of Christ- like discipleship, we can become aware that distractions of many kinds are entangling us and so minimising our fruitfulness in God’s kingdom. How can we disentangle ourselves, from attractions and distractions of the world so that we can effectively reach those we know who, for whatever reason, have left the church and given up on faith in Jesus?
One of the key learnings I gained from my study leave is the importance of facilitating people’s re-engagement with Christian faith and worship. Think about it, how many people do you know who used to be faithful disciples but who have fallen by the wayside, finding themselves in places where it is difficult to respond to the good news of Jesus? They may well be waiting, whether they know it or not, for someone like you or me who has been transformed from the inside out by the Living God, to deviate from the path and reach out to pick them up and return them to fruitful growing.
And finally, the healthy ground, where seeds of faith can germinate and grow into tall trees, into abundant lives of service and faithful discipleship. We can facilitate this by praying for those who are fruit bearers among us and encouraging them in their mission to grow God’s kingdom. Then, in God’s time growth in faith will flourish, people we never imagined will come to know Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and in turn help others to flourish in their God-given identity as daughters and sons of the Living God.
So be it, Lord.
God of Abundance,
We delight to worship you, amazing God, as the giver of life in all its fullness,
and of boundless hope.
Help us, we pray, this week, to look out for opportunities to grow in you,
and to be aware of places and situations that inhibit growth.
We want to live for you and make a life-giving difference in the lives of the kiwis and people of all lands whom we meet. Help us in this critical mission and strengthen us in our weakness we pray in the Name of Christ,