I'm not quite sure how I feel about this sermon. It had to do too many jobs, covering a baptism for a non church family in the valley, but also working in material provided by the diocese with a particular focus on the work of the church in parish and diocese. I wrote 3 versions - an 8.00, a 9.30 & an 11.00 but felt that none of them quite did what I wanted...On the other (and confusing) hand, I received very positive feed back from Church on the Hill, which given the theme of the sermon is perhaps only fitting.
Incidentally, the morning's baptism was a delight. Young L slept pretty much throughout, his older brothers were thrilled to be invited to trace the cross in oil on his forehead (by the time they'd finished he glistened in the sunshine!) and the lap of honour on which I took him at the Peace brought huge joy to the congregation. I've no idea whether any of his family will have heard (or taken in the implications of) the child friendly version of my words - but that's what happens when you sow seeds. All in all, I had a lovely time....
That’s what Jesus said
He was trying to explain to the crowd how God’s Kingdom comes about…what it might look like….and he chose to talk about seeds.
It was a good thought because, of course, seeds are amazing.
So very very tiny…but each with the potential to grow to something amazing.
Unless you’re an expert, you probably can’t tell just by looking at it, quite what a seed is going to turn into…but all seeds contain with them tremendous possibilities, possibilities of life and growth.
All they need is the right treatment…
They can’t manage alone.
If we left them in their packets, they wouldn’t stand a chance. To flourish, they need to be planted in the right kind of soil, to be given room to grow, together with all the water and light they may need.
And they need time as well.
The sort of growth that transforms a tiny seed into a tree just doesn’t happen overnight…
But all it takes is one seed – and great things can happen.
That’s a good thing for us to remember today, as we rejoice that L has come here for baptism.
Each of us who comes here Sunday by Sunday does so because, once upon a time, someone planted a seed.
Think about that.
It might have been a seed disguised as an invitation
“Why don’t you come along to church with me next week? You might enjoy it”
It might have been the seed of a friendly word at a time when you needed one.
It might have been a seed you’re not even conscious of…like a friend who on the day he was ordained, received a letter from a lady who’d lived nearby when he was a child. Though he had no inkling of it, she had been praying for him every day of his life, asking that he might grow up to know and love God, and to do something particular for him.
I'm sure that she was as surprised and delighted by the blossoming of her seed of prayer as he was to discover that it had been sown, secretly.
For many of us, of course, it might just have been a seed sown at baptism…for after all, this is where Christian life begins.
In baptism, some pretty enormous promises are made.
Promises that could lead to a really wonderful harvest, seeds that have the potential to be life-changing.
But like every other seed they’ll need help if they’re going to grow.
No good leaving them in the packet…They need all the right conditions if they are to flourish...
That’s where the Christian community comes in.
Each of us can make a difference in that process…
L will join our family, and it’s up to us to help him belong in any way we can.
As we think of the people who helped us to grow as Christians, there’s so much to be grateful for.
It was their encouragement, their friendship, their wisdom, their prayers that brought us to this point…and of course, for each of us there is still a lot of growing to be done.
If each of US is a sign of God’s Kingdom….then there should be some evidence in our lives as individual Christians, and as a community of faith, that the seeds planted are flourishing.
After all, a mature plant carries within itself seeds for the next generation…and so it should be for us.
Each of us can sow the seeds of the Kingdom in so many different ways…That’s what being Church is about…why it matters that Lewis is being baptised into the Church family….Because the Church is a place where those who have been loved and nurtured into life in Christ can set about passing on that love and nurture to people and places that need encouragement in their turn.
Because the church is not just a place where our own faith can grow, but a place that plants seeds that make a difference to others.
It would be very strange to find a plant that contained within itself seeds for the next generation, but was hard-wired NOT to distribute them. Indeed, such a plant would not survive long.
Sometimes, though, churches seem to be aspiring to that role. They (we) can get locked into introspective attitudes of self preservation and atrophy, rather than setting out to love and serve others.
Because, of course, all that we do together as Church is for the benefit of others….It was truly said that the Church is the only club that exists to benefit those who don’t yet belong.
The Church here, the Church everywhere, exists to transform communities with and through God’s love.
When we gather for worship and welcome newcomers, when we share our faith in Jesus Christ, when we work together for the good of the community, or share our buildings and our resources – then we are being signs of the Kingdom.
Sometimes the seeds we sow may look very small…but always there is the potential for growth and we need to remember, as well, that we are part of something much bigger…that together our churches in Gloucestershire are growing God’s kingdom in all sorts of different and exciting ways.
When you came in this morning, you received a leaflet – a compass needle pointing the way to the church at its best, the church that is a sign of God’s Kingdom. That leaflet highlights the ways in which our local churches can and do make a difference, and points out too the value of working together, strengthening and encouraging one another to make Christ known as we value our buildings as a sign of God’s presence in our own communities, as we offer worship with and for all, as we try to serve our neighbours and work to transform hearts, minds and souls.
Too often, growth is slow.
We sow our seeds of hope – and nothing much happens.
It would sometimes be tempting to give up on the Church, to give upon faith, because little seems to be changing…
It can be frustrating.
Two thousand years since Jesus walked among us, and still we seem to be struggling.
But don’t be discouraged
Listen to these words, by the martyred bishop Oscar Romero
It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.............We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
There ARE times when we won’t see the harvest from seeds we have sown…but there are also times when we benefit from harvesting seeds another has sown. In just 3 weeks time, we'll welcome Mathew as our new Deacon...recognising that we are reaping a harvest sown in other churches, where his ordination means not fresh riches, but a measure of bereavement even as they celebrate his achievement.
We are reaping the harvest they sowed...and that won't be easy even for the most generous communities.
Commitment to Christ and to his Kingdom means faithfulness in good times and in bad, proper use of our own potential in God’s service, and sacrificial giving of our resources, time, talents, even money…
All it takes is a seed…a seed of love…a seed of hope…and from those seeds can come transformation.
So let’s pray that the same God who plants the seeds of his love in our hearts will bring those seeds to fruition, so that we can together form a church that is truly a sign of God’s Kingdom.