The Seed Sower,
stained glass window by William Morris & Co,
St Mary's Church, South Walsham, Norfolk
Stained glass, lead
© Alamy / St Mary's Church, South Walsham
Jesus used this parable of the Sower
With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:
'A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.' Saying this he cried, 'Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!'
His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, 'The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that they may see but not perceive, listen but not understand.
'This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.'
Reflection on the Stained Glass Windows
Jesus' parable of the sower is aimed at all of us, the hearers of His word. Once we have heard the word, there are so many ways of accepting it: outright rejection, partial acceptance, selective listening, accepting all, etc…. All Jesus is asking for in today's reading is for us to keep our minds open, willing to listen and learn. So in our own lives, where has the seed of the Good News fallen? On rich soil? On our path but we trampled on it?…
In 1897, Burne-Jones said: stained glass is a very limited art and its limitations are its strength. Exactly at that time in 1890, his fellow Pre-Raphaelite brother, William Morris set up his company and workshop: Wiliam Morris & Co. The Pre-Raphaelite movement was a reaction against increasing industrialisation and commercialisation. They wanted to go back to 'purer, innocent' times and looked at the past for inspiration. There was a resurgence in interest in all things medieval, including stained glass. Medieval themes and imagery were used by the Pre-Raphaelites, of which the present stained glass window is a good example.
The sower, in classical dress and wearing Roman sandals, is seen sowing seeds in an idyllic landscape with flying birds, blossoming trees and a bright rainbow on the horizon. The borders around the scenes are medieval in style, depicting stylised vines and grapes. The top row of windows show plants and wheat interspersed with various flowers and pomegranates.
Four soils are being described by Jesus. In order to become the fourth, rich soil, we must believe in God's word and be open to be instructed by Jesus Himself.
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