Sowing seeds in fertile ground

A short reflection for the second week of Marlborough College Summer School

sowing-seeds1The reading set for today is the well-known parable of the sower (Matthew 13.1-9). We hear how the sower’s seeds fall on different type of ground: a path, some rocky soil, amongst thorns, and some of them fall on good soil. It is a story familiar to many of us, I suspect, and there is a lot that can be said. In this short reflection, I’d like to apply the image of the sower and the seeds to our approach to teaching and learning.

As with many Gospel stories, we are presented both with a challenge and a reassurance. The reassurance this time is on the side of the sower: you can’t always guarantee that your seeds will flourish, as the soil needs to be receptive. It can be an encouragement for all those involved in some sort of teaching: we can sow the seeds, but their success will still depend on the soil in which they fall.

That means then a challenge for all of us who learn – and I hope that means for all of us. We need to make sure that we have prepared our soil, ourselves, to be receptive, so that whatever is sown can indeed flourish. That means watering and digging: in other words hard work which can be a bit messy at times too! It is also a continuing process: keeping soil fertile implies a steady and sustained effort. An unused asphalt road will stay the same, but neglected soil will go bare, so there is always work to be done.

Teaching and learning go hand-in-hand, so maybe there is also a bit of challenge for the teacher and some comfort for the learner. The challenge for the teacher is to find the soil that is fertile and not to waste too much seed on rocky ground. The comfort for the learning lies in the reassurance that ultimately it is God who gives the growth (Deus dat incrementum: the Marlborough College motto). A God who wants us to flourish will surely help the seeds to grow, even if there is still some more work to be done on the soil.

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