• John's Pastoral Letter for Trinity 5
    Published: Monday 13 July 2020 09:06:AM
    Author: The Revd Dr John Stopford

    Some fell on rocky ground.

    In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

    The parable of the sower, probably one of the best known of the parables of Jesus, not least as it is unique in being the only one with an explanation, which many feel was added later by early Church leaders rather than being from Jesus himself.

    It is also speculated that it came from the fact that at the time, Jesus, from his position in the boat on the lake, could see someone sowing in a nearby field. This may or may not have been true of course as most of Jesus’ parables are based on things which would have been very familiar to those listening from their own everyday lives.

    The message is, of course, that not all those who hear will accept what is being said, it reminded me of my first International project for the European Commission in the early 1990’s.

    It was part of a programme to help large manufacturing organisations in the former soviet union move from the production of military items to more domestic ones.

    Imaginatively it was called the Military conversion programme.

    I was with a team of consultants based in Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine, working with large enterprises which had produced tanks, planes and various armaments.

    I worked with their General Director and senior managers to help them understand how to plan for themselves, previously all they had to do was follow instruction handed down from Moscow via their government in Kiev.

    One of the organisations we worked with felt that they were already well ahead having decided to convert from producing bullets to surgical scalpel blades, their rational was that there had never been any
    production of scalpel blades anywhere in the Soviet Union.

    We suggested that first of all we should probably look at why up to then all surgical scalpel blades were imported, mainly from Pakistan, before committing to the cost and effort of gearing up large scale production.
    Along with colleagues we carried out extensive research and put
    together and presented a detailed report the essence of which was that it would not be possible for them to meet the quality and scale required at anything near the low cost of the imported blades, and therefore we recommended that they should think again.

    A few weeks later we had a further meeting having given them time to study our recommendations and when we asked their view, they said, we are going to produce scalpel blades. Some fell on rocky ground.

    I think the main problem was that they were not able to move out of the mindset they had lived within most of their lives up to then in the Soviet era. It also came too light that the idea of scalpel blade production had been suggested by their Minster of Defence, and their immediate
    response would have been to see that as an order.

    Try as we could we made no progress with that particular organisation in getting them to understand their new situation, it did not help that the General Director frequently informed me of his view that very soon all would return to normal, as it had been under the soviet times. As far as I am aware that has still not come about.

    Over the last few months we have all had to adjust to a new way of life, if that wasn’t enough, just as we were perhaps getting used to it we have been further confused as more activities are being reopened to us.

    Hopefully a good thing, provided we understand that our world has changed and that we still need to be aware, sorry, alert, to the fact that Covid 19 is still far from sorted out.

    Jesus, throughout his Ministry on earth, brought God’s message for all of us, whoever and wherever we are.

    He also fulfilled His promise of sending the Holy Spirit to us at that first Pentecost, but as this parable tells us, how we receive it, the message and the Holy Spirit, will depend on who and where we are, not just
    physically but emotionally too.

    The lockdown has been difficult for most of us, made worse for some
    because they have been alone, for many if they have lost someone
    during this crisis, or if they, a family member or close friend has been ill when all the normal support mechanisms have not been available.
    In such times as these it can be hard to be that good soil to receive the word.

    That does not mean that the word is not there or that it is not the right word, but that we may not be in the best shape to receive it.

    The first thing we need to remember is to hear we need to listen, not just listen in terms of hearing the sounds but it terms of hearing what the speaker or writer meant.

    To do this takes time and effort, firstly to try to put to one side our fixed ideas, the, I have always done it this way, sort of thing, and be open to hearing a new way and a new approach.

    I always find it truly amazing that even having read a passage like this time and time again there can still be new insights which it has to offer.

    It’s tempting to think, oh yes I know what’s coming, but now we are
    hearing or reading it in a very different place, particularly after more than three months of a different sort of life and not yet being back to anything resembling normal, and in fact not being likely to be so for some considerable time, if ever.

    Surely now is a good time for all of us to try to really listen for the
    meaning of what Jesus brings to us, and the message of this parable, that we have a choice, we can be the new good soil in which the seeds of a new, and better life can grow, especially with the right sower.

    Think about it, if you are like me right now you do have the time.

    The Revd Dr John Stopford

    The YouTube version can be seen by clicking the following link