You could say that the parable of the sower in Matthew is a gift to a preacher because the parable is then explained to us just after it is delivered. It is how people receive the gospel when it is preached to them.
But the states of reception, understanding and fulfilling of the word of the kingdom differ according to our own state of mind, and our personal circumstances .
And because our state of mind and personal circumstances change then we can experience one or more of these conditions in our life more than once.
Who here hasn’t had their faith tested to breaking point by money worries or bereavement or loneliness or desperate disappointment. Who hasn’t sidelined their faith in pursuit of some other goal. Who at some point has admitted to themselves that actually I just don’t understand, find it all so confusing and the words and ideas just don’t resonate at all sometimes?
At the breakfast club Claire described her faith in terms of a journey. And on any journey there will be different landscapes amidst which you will be travelling, and these different landscapes, the backdrops and circumstances against which you live your life will affect your faith.
Which is why at some point in your life you also need a deep experience to carry you through. And by experience I don’t necessarily mean a vision or revelation (though it doesn’t exclude those things). By experience I mean the support of people around you, an experience of kindness, friendship, forgiveness, a helping hand when you are making heavy weather of life, experience of love, an experience of Grace. An experience of peace or oneness whether at the Eucharist or standing in awe of natural beauty, or being comforted by a favourite verse of the Bible.
We are each other’s travelling companions along the way, so we are all a part of the travelling experience of those sitting around us.
Ideas can be challenged and changed but an experience is a constant companion etched deep into our souls. I am convinced that Christianity has to be experienced rather than just taught for it to become a part of our souls.
This places a certain burden of responsibility on all of our shoulders – but if we claim the right to be children of God then this comes with responsibilities.
Just as in society as a whole, if the culture of rights is elevated far beyond any sense of responsibility, then the rot sets in.
If we need help to fulfil our responsibilities as a child of God we have our fellow Christians who are part of the same body as us because we are bound together by the spirit of God.
That same spirit dwells in our hearts also, encouraging and strengthening us, unseen and unheralded. For as Paul said this morning;
“If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to us through that same spirit that dwells in your heart”.