St Michael’s Aughton

St Michael’s Church, Church Lane, Aughton, Ormskirk L39 6SB   Tel 01695 424457  (Parish Office, Mon to Fri, 9am - 12 noon)

This week at St Michael’s

16 July 2017 - Trinity 5

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13.1-9,18-23

Theme: Sown in your heart

Bible notes on the reading:

Consider first the parable without the subsequent interpretation (so as not to read things into it). It might have reminded the audience – hearing the parable for the first time – of Isaiah 55, but it isn’t clear what it is really about. It isn’t clear what the seed is or who the sower is. It comes as a riddle. Jesus precedes and follows it with ‘Listen’ – pay attention and reflect. Only a certain type of listener will be able to latch onto it.

There is a cultural difficulty for us too, for today’s farming methods are very different. In the parable, the sower scatters the seed randomly on dry, stony, un-weeded soil and only then ploughs the soil. So, inevitably, not all the seed flourishes. It is an inefficient way of sowing. But it is a process that would have been familiar to Jesus’ audience. The whole image is therefore both scriptural and a familiar part of everyday life in Galilee. There is nothing inherently difficult in the story as presented.

Yet the disciples don’t understand and need an explanation. Jesus responds with another passage from Isaiah about the spiritual dullness of Israel (omitted from today’s reading), including these words: ‘For this people’s heart has grown dull,  and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; unless they look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them’ (Matthew 13.15, quoting Isaiah 6.10).

‘…unless they look…and listen…and understand…and turn’ is not the usual translation of Isaiah 6.10, but it is the one that makes best sense of the passage, for Isaiah’s (and Jesus’) point is that God will heal/save Israel if they will turn. What God requires of Israel is repentance and conversion of heart, then God will save them and then they will understand. To understand and to be a disciple, you have to be a particular kind of person: one who is not spiritually dull, one who repents and turns and really listens.

Even so, Matthew (it is not stated that Jesus supplied the explanation, although it is implied) then offers an explanation: the seed is ‘the Word of the kingdom’. The rest of the interpretation then speaks for itself: the Word is snatched away from those who follow the path of the evil one; shallow people respond with enthusiasm but quickly give it up when trouble comes; sometimes the Word is choked by the love of wealth. But often the Word prospers exponentially.

Jesus has shifted Isaiah’s vision in two ways. First, it is no longer restricted to Israel, for God’s Word is for the whole world. But at the same time, Jesus is more pessimistic (more realistic?) because many times the Word that is sown comes to nothing. Yet when it flourishes, it grows miraculously.

Live your faith - ideas for our faith into action in our daily living.

Listen carefully for voices and sounds you hadn’t noticed before. Reflect on how God may be speaking to you through the sounds that surround you each day.

Find out more about one of the bible passages

we have heard this week.

Prayers around today’s themes

A way into prayer

Spend some time pondering the following: the parable paints a picture of a sower scattering seeds, which are to grow (with varying degrees of success) into grain. Through the story, Jesus draws a parallel with the lives we lead. But the story doesn’t stop there, because grain is ground into flour and baked into bread. Bread is used to feed the hungry. Bread that is broken and shared to remember Jesus.

A children’s prayer

God be with us, God be in us,

God be around us, God be behind us.

Sow in our hearts the good seeds

of love and joy and peace,

that we may bless those around us.


A personal prayer, for use during this week

Let me hear your words afresh.

Let me picture the lone sower scattering seeds.

Let me listen to the message with my ears and my heart.

Let me understand.

Let me bear fruit.

Let me be useful to you.

Let me do your will.


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Reflection questions on this week's picture: