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Sermon - 18 June 2006
Bible Verse: Mark 4: 26-29
(click the verse above to read the passage online)


Mark 4: 26-29

In the bottom of my pantry there are growing seeds. In fact there is quite a hive of activity , One lost choko, putting out a creeper to find the light, a few potatoes busily getting on with what they are there for, and the carrots I bought only last week greeening as well as they can in the dark. So Jesus says is the kingdom of God, the Word grows in the most unlikely places and how much more it grows when placed in good soil. But it gets on with it. And neither you nor I nor any other makes it grow.

Iíve done nothing today says one of the women helping in the op shop, when theyíve just talked to a lonely person , helped another find clothes for a job interview and made a cup of tea for grateful office staff.
Caring, communicating showing others they are important Ė done nothing! The important spaces in our church are those where we can linger and talk, where we enable people to meet over a meal or sit and share our lives and show that others are important enough for us to stop and talk to them.about important things like living and loving Ė god talk.. Worship is where we say out loud that God connects us in life and living and we give thanks and ask for help and get challenged by the seed, the word and hear God loves us.- regardless.

But our society tends to put value on activity and being busy. We are proud of getting things done. Keen on setting our goals and achieving them. Measurable productivity has become the bench mark of success. Many of us will work determinedly, and often frenetically, to that end.
But arenít we called to live a fruitful life? To do stuff? Lets distinguish between fruitfulness and productivity.
Henri Nowen says that a product is something we make, which we can call our own. When we repeat these actions , the result is the same product and if we repeat them over and over again we are soon considered very productive persons who do not waste their time. In our world everything can become a product, not only cars, houses possessions but also influential friends, successful interactions and important decisions. They can all become part of what we have made, what gives us a sense of being acceptable in the eyes of others. People are introduced with an emphasis on their productivity .
This is Dennis who has written some very influential books which you might like to read, this is Peter who knows all about photography etc. The suggestion is that we are what we make or do. We can become our job or activity. In our society with its emphasis on accomplishment and success, we often live as if being productive and in control of that product is the same as being fruitful.
We worry about our value as a person and become preoccupied with products. I even wonder if our deep seated fear of being sterile and therefore a non person motivates our frantic productivity. And when that is pushed to the limit we become ill. In other words we measure people by what the achieve and those who donít achieve much, according to this measure, are discarded as worthless.

We donít put much store on sitting in the sun . We work hard, and play hard.and claim that as a virtue.

A few of us might go in for meditation or disciplines like Tai Chi. But usually it is so that we can return renewed to our ultra busyness, and meet our productivity target.. the ďProtestant work ethic is often blamed

This hyperactivity infects the church as well in many places-: an unstoppable torrent of committees and sub committees, church councils, working parties, goal setting, project reports, performance reviews, and much more. In fact, in some quarters a frenetic church is regarded as a particularly godly church.
Jesus tells us that the seed grows while the farmer rests. The love of God spreads while we arenít looking.
This week the Session are looking at the community centre, looking to see why and where and how. Yes we will do some of those things like writing reports, but I suspect we will not be looking at activities for the sake of activities, as being busy, but as is this somewhere where seed can grow well?.
Do we see the Centre as more like the earth in which the seed can be planted. Or the place it is harvested?
This parable tells us that the seed will grow, but maybe we are part of putting it there or find the birds have spread the seed already, or maybe our task in the centre is to till the earth so the seed can do its growing, where it can put down roots and gain nourishment.

Apathy, is the opposite to frenetic busyness..
We are asked to be fruitful.. Where there is little commitment to either personal growth in the faith or to service and outreach, something is gravely wrong. Such inactivity has been known to drive a many a keen, young minister to distraction.

I like that story about a young minister serving a country parish in outback Australia. He jumped in his car and disappear each Monday morning. One curious parishioner decided find out he was doing. HE drove an hour and a half until he arrived at the Indian-Pacific rail line, which traverses the continent. There he waited patiently until the next long train came through. He got out of the car and watched it intently, until it disappeared, which took time Then he got back into his car and drove all the way back home ..

Back in town, the parishioner asked why>

He replied: ďOnce a week, I like to go and watch that train. I say this prayer: ďThank God there is something in this region that moves without me having to push it.Ē
An apocryphal story, of course!
He needed to hear this parable - seed springs up, it grows and the kingdom of God will grow and its Gods business to make it grow.

So where is the middle ground between doing nothing and frantically rushing round.?
One of the first things we need to get into our head is simply this: Godís mission in this world does not totally depend on us . With us or without us, God is at work; tirelessly at work. There is no situation into which we go in the name of Christ where God has not been there before us.

Jesus said the kingdom of God, is like a farmer in his community.

The realm of God is like a farmer who sows seed in his field. At night he sleeps well, gets up each day to do whatever he wants to. All the while the seeds are sprouting and he crop is growing. It is out of his hands. The soil itself helps the plants grow and produce. First we have the green stalk and fronds, then we have the ear, and at last the head fills out to maturity. When the grain is ripe, then the farmer gets busy with his sickle, for harvest time has arrived. Mark 4: 26-29

This farmer does his/her important bit. they plough the soil, harrows it, and then sows the barley or wheat.
Then it is up to nature. He cannot control rain or sunshine, hail or heatwave. He just has to wait it out. Of course he can torture himself with worry, if he wants to put himself through that misery. But worry will not alter a thing. He is best to get on with life, waking and sleeping. Even while he sleeps, nature will do be quietly at work. The grain will sprout and take root, develop long blades and form ears of grain. In due time, without any pushing from the farmer the crop will ripen. Then will be the right time for the farmer to get busy again. With his sickle he will harvest the crop, and extract the seed.

We do have some work to do. There are appropriate times for careful planning and activity. There are times for harvesting either a bumper crop or a smaller one.

But there are long periods when we just have to leave things in the hands of God. In such periods there should be spaces when we ourselves should recuperate from wear and tear of the busy times, and gather our own spiritual resources for the next season.

There should be a rhythm of engagement and disengagement. This rhythm should shape a healthy church, and give balance to the lives of individual members. There is a season for hard planning and doing, and times for quiet waiting and just being Godís child. A time for prayer and a time for busy, efficient service. A time for toiling under the midday sun, and a time for taking warm relaxing bath in the pure spring of Godís grace.

At night the sane farmer sleeps well, gets up each day to do whatever he wants to. All the while the seeds are germinating, sprouting through the ground, and slowly yet resolutely reaching for the sky It is out of his hands. The soil itself helps the plants grow and produce.
It is never true that ďitís all up to us.Ē Never is it all our responsibility, neither as an individual Christian nor as a one particular congregation.

We are stewards of the Gospel. We have to give account for certain things committed to our care. God does not ask us to be responsible for everything. We are asked to trust the rest to God. Yet certain things are our job, in fact we are prodded into action and sometimes we try to avoid that by being busy on others things. .
Many of us try to do more than God has allotted to us. To control the world... We need the pure sanity of the word of Jesus.
Martin Luther. The original one. Reflects on the truth that Godís mission it is not all up to us. He says something like this, "While I drink my little glass of Wittenburg beer, the gospel runs its course".
Was Luther inclined to a life of pious inactivity? Never. Martin Luther created his own revolution. He often had to work late and rise early. But in spite of all his faults, and there were many, he had found that calm core of faith (rooted in the free grace of God) which enabled him to take time out, to relax rest as well as work for his God. "While I sit here drinking my little glass of Wittenburg Beer, the gospel runs its course"
If you are not keen on Wittenburg beer, you may like to join me sometime over a cup of tea or coffee, just ask and while we relax and chat, something wonderful will go on happening all around us.
Wherever we have faithfully sowed the seed of Christ, and where others have lovingly done the same, the Word of God continues its dynamic work. weaving us and the world into Godís love.
Thanks be to God, Amen!

Rev. Margaret Anne Low


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