Related Bible reading(s): Matthew 13.1-9,18-23; Isaiah 55.10-13; Job 38.1-11
PostScript: Jesus’ sower
In this week’s ROOTS resources, one writer suggests that ‘There is an ongoing political issue around productivity’. We like things to be efficient and cheap, but is this all that matters?
Story 1: Leicester
The news from Leicester in The Sunday Times reports the scandal of slavery in the garment industry. Productivity may have been high, at minimum cost to those who bought the clothes, but the real cost was shouldered by slaves who risked their own health from Covid-19 in the process. Competitors might marvel at the seeming efficiency of a firm like BooHoo, but the true human cost has been hidden.
Story 2: 5G Internet
We might want 5G internet connections at minimal cost, but what if this endangers national security? The Sunday Times reports the security implications of using Huawei.
Story 3: The random scattering of seed
We might criticise the inefficiency of Jesus’ sower who scatters seed randomly rather than putting it carefully into the best soil, but then all nature and evolution is random. Why would the creator choose a random and seemingly wasteful process in creation?
At a recent on-line conference at the Faraday Institute in Cambridge, UK, leading scientists who are Christians have given their response to this question. An illustrated talk by Prof Russell Cowburn FRS provides an answer from the perspective of an engineer who understands how randomness can be harnessed. (This is presented on YouTube along with other papers given in the conference. Each lasts 40 minutes with a question and answer session at the end. It is worth viewing – either alone or in a group.) Prof Russell’s conclusions include:
- Without random energy fluctuations, the universe would be cold. There would be no stars, no evolution, and no life. Everything we know springs from randomness. It isn’t an afterthought but is central to the nature of the universe.
- The heart of physics is quantum mechanics which studies randomness. The best engineers harness this randomness to make many essential tools, including steel, transformers and nuclear reactors.
Jesus tells a simple story in the Gospel, but then, in the section of the story missing from this week’s Gospel reading – Matthew 13.10-17 – he invites his followers to look deeper. A superficial listening means they might not look with their eyes or listen with their ears, and so fail to understand.
The first two stories above have the idea of getting something for nothing, without realising the hidden cost of what is on offer. The third might cause us to wonder at creation, as Isaiah does in today’s first reading (Isaiah 55.10-13), and also at the way God answers Job’s questioning about creation in Job chapters 38–40, asking ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?’
In a group – e.g. within a household or an online group – read Job chapters 38–40 to one another. Each person reads one verse or sentence, then pause for reflection before the next person reads the next verse/sentence – and so on.
Tom Ambrose is a retired vicar and former research geologist, living in Cambridge. Tom has offered to respond to any questions you may have about the creation issues referred to above – please send your question to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be passed on.
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