Parables of the Kingdom
So the world cup has begun in Russia. There is something about World competitions in a sport like football, where the costs to entry are low, that can be incredibly inspiring. It’s always great to see some of the smaller, less well equipped countries, come up against super powers and overcome them. It’s early days yet, but it’s a reminder that however small the country – the players turn up with real hope and willing to do whatever it takes to make it as far as they can.
One of the frustrations I feel with our political life at the moment is that it seems to be based not on hope or positivity, but on tales of woe. There is a lack of inspiration and a tendency to get stuck on what we can’t do, rather than trying to push for what we could do or can do. The delay this week of the bill to make upskirting illegal by a member who appears to have objected merely because he could, rather than because he had anything against it, seems to be a case in point. In today’s Gospel Jesus is telling parables about the Kingdom of Heaven using some familiar imagery. One of seed which is scattered and which proceeds to sprout and grow, though the one who scatters it doesn’t know how. Until it is time for the harvest. The other parable, of the mustard seed, which grows into the greatest of shrubs, which, like the cedar we hear of God growing from a twig in Ezekiel, provides shade for birds who nest in it. Truly a kingdom with many dwelling places.
The story of the scattered seed is a good reminder, that we shouldn’t get hung up on what we can achieve. We are called to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, not to build it. It is easy to get disheartened when we reach out to people and they simply don’t come in. It is easy to be frustrated when we try to share God’s love, and find that people just aren’t really interested. But we need to remember it’s not all down to us. God is the one who makes the seeds grow. God is the one who reconciles. God is the one who transforms our hearts.
We are called to scatter the seeds and be prepared to harvest the ones which grow.
In Ezekiel, the people are in Exile. They are feeling hopeless, the temple is even destroyed, the home of God is in ashes. How are they meant to be faithful. But Ezekiel reminds them that God is the creator of all. Even from the smallest, most tender twig of a tree, God can make it grow into a noble cedar. A home for winged creatures of every kind to nest.
We need to be courageous in planting the seed in the first place, and wait to see what takes root. The seeds may be small, but our hope for them can be huge. They can have a huge impact.
Yesterday I was at the Wheelio cycle scheme in Basinghill Park. An initiative organised by a local charity which has gained funding and support from volunteers willing to fix bikes and lead groups around the park. To help get people on their bikes. It’s a small idea – get some bikes and teach people to ride. But the impact has the potential to be huge. Beyond the great social and health opportunity of having neighbours coming out to spend active time in a local park together. Anybody who has studied the impact of bicycles on society when they first became available will tell you that they introduced a level of independence which truly challenged some of the social norms of the time.
Growing up our church in Canada had a stewardship campaign where they flipped things on their head. Rather than just asking everybody: ‘how much can you give?’ They started first by asking: ‘What should we be putting resources into?’ They opened up the conversation and at some point when pressed what could we come up with? Somebody said, well, you know some churches have hired a parish nurse to work in the parish, support those who are shut-ins and those doing pastoral visits, provide education and teaching to young parents, to teenagers and to those who are struggling with illness. Of course they knew they didn’t have the money for that… but actually, it caught so many people’s imagination, like the seed which grew until it was ready for harvest. The money came in and
they employed a parish nurse part time.
At the church in Cambridge which I was placed, they had a building project. They were re-organising the inside to create various spaces and a cafe on the high street on which they were located. While we were worshipping in the school they started to ask questions, questions about, what they would do with this space they were creating. As I left they were developing creative ideas, they decided the cafe would provided employment and training opportunities to those with learning difficulties, and the rooms they were creating above the cafe could be used to provide space for local startups to have meetings, to help build the local economy.
The potential of the mustard seed is always huge, even if it is only small, and taking the risk of planting it and seeing what happens takes real courage. And any gardener will know, you can plant lots of seeds, you need to give them space, and they won’t all grow, they won’t all catch on, the soil may be hostile to them, there may be too many other seeds taking root around them. But we need to be willing to take the risk.
In the next few weeks I am intending that there will be an opportunity for anybody and everybody to make suggestions about what our community needs, what our church needs, and what crazy things we can do. From that I hope that as a community we can scatter some seeds and watch to see what God is causing to grow and where it is growing and how it is growing. For God can do more than we can ask or imagine, as we scatter, hope, water and wait for the seed to be ready to harvest.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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