Soon May it Come
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year. Fr Piers Linley imagines how the preaching of Christ might look to a Galilean farmer.
I live here in Galilee — in an insignificant little village called Nazareth. We are all peasants here. It’s very difficult to scratch a living around here — our land isn’t of the best. That was taken over years ago by the local bigwig in Sepphoris, the neighbouring town. I’m one of the lucky ones – I’ve got my ancestral plot still.
I sow my seed and then afterwards plough it all in. My land is on the hillside — not good soil. By no means all the seed germinates. It’s a lottery. How big will my crop be? Fourfold perhaps? Sixfold would be real bumper harvest. But that is what I need this year; anything else will be a disaster.
Last year – a very bad drought – so a very poor crop. I put seedcorn aside for this year as usual. But we were forced to eat some of it to avoid starvation. Taxes are just as high as ever — Herod’s extortionists and the Temple take more than half of what I grow. So when I came to sow this year –nowhere near enough seedcorn for me to scatter.
So what I do this year? No choice. I had to go to town — see the local bigwig — borrow seed from him — BUT at a price — steep price — and I had to mortgage my field to him as security. And he is a man who gets a bumper crop from his more fertile land — he enlarges his barns and stockpile it to pressurise us.
So I need a bumper harvest or the mortgage will be foreclosed — I’ll lose my land. As a tenant I would never get out of debt. This happened to my neighbour — he lost his land three years ago — he struggled on as a tenant — the drought last year pushed him so far into debt that the landlord mercilessly sold him and his family into slavery. This sort of thing happens all the time! So a bumper crop is my only hope.
I usually sing a psalm while I’m sowing: a prayer for a bumper harvest .
They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing:
They come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.
It sticks in my throat this year.
There is a man going the rounds — he is a local — I know him well. Jesus — a good name that — it means “God saves” — his dad was Joseph and he used to be a carpenter and a jobbing builder. Jesus got a reputation around the villages for healing people — he casts out demons as well — speaks beautifully and eloquently and uses stories which are hard to understand. He knows from the inside what a struggle we his fellow peasants have.
He has gone off round the villages visiting their Sabbath assemblies. We have our doubts about Jesus — he has got above himself — he’s only a village workman after all. When he was here last we didn’t receive him very graciously and he didn’t heal any of us. A visitor from the next village told me he’d heard Jesus talking the other day — telling a story about sowing — a story about someone rather like me.
BUT as Jesus tells the story when God delivers us from our bondage into the kingdom of heaven — that’s what Jesus calls it — I’m not sure what he means — the yield will be fantastic — not just a bumper crop — but thirtyfold, sixtyfold, even a hundredfold.
Now that — it wouldn’t just get me out of my immediate debt — that kind of yield would set me up securely. If what Jesus prophesies comes true — we peasants wouldn’t be trapped in this cycle of debt and dispossession — we would have justice — the kingdom of heaven Jesus calls it — soon may it come and long may it reign — perhaps this Jesus does bring it — I hope so. We think his disciples are a trifle mad. But perhaps they are the wise ones!