Sunday, 13 June 2021

Parables of Seeds, Spores and Grain


The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have become parents again, this time, welcoming a girl, Lilibet Diana, into their growing family. Like all doting parents, they no doubt have high hopes for their new-born daughter, as they do their son, young Archie. I am sure all fair-minded people share their joy as well as their expectations for their children as they grow. However, as we all know, sometimes our children do not turn out the way we envisage, despite our best efforts

This is reminiscent of the farmer that Jesus mentions in his parable. There is little doubt that when planting the seeds, the farmer expected efficacious growth. No sensible person would consider less – or why else bother! Despite this, regardless of the skills or experience that a farmer may have, ‘success’ is not always guaranteed, as there can be a plethora of factors that hinder growth.

These two parables are some of the most difficult to grasp in some respects. The word seed is not used in the Greek - in the first parable it’s a spore and in the second it’s a grain. In the first parable the spores are not scattered but thrown hard away from the farmer (ek ballo). It’s almost like Jesus is throwing something covered in mould and fungus away from him to discard it. In the parable of the mustard seed, mustard doesn’t grow til it becomes a shrub with large branches - it’s a small shrub - and if birds nested in it, it would be squashed and as to shade? Well maybe to caterpillars… 

Jesus said, The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself… I love mushrooms. I was given a mushroom growing kit for Christmas one year. All I needed to do was dampen the compost in the box and wait. Without any further input from me, a few days later mushrooms! I needed to harvest and enjoy but then save the microscopic spores from one mushroom placed upside down and then shake them onto the soil for another crop. I had no idea how many mushrooms would grow or where in the container they would appear, but within a few days - they did!

Jesus says that the kingdom of God, God’s reign is like this. It appears without any input from us. God acts where God wills. This isn’t something you will hear those who are encouraging us to grow our churches numerically and spiritually speak about much. It’s the main reason why in my Chronicle piece recently and in my email to you I talked about us needing to spend time praying as we move out of the worst of this pandemic. If our churches are to flourish we need to ask God - the kingdom is revealed where He wills it. In the weeks that lie ahead we will continue to use our parish prayer - but I want us to pray for growth in our intercessions and also to meet together in small groups to pray and I’ll say more about that in a few weeks and ask for your input too.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God  is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs… I was at a couple of  meetings this week hearing about how to build communities up post COVID. It was good to hear of small initiatives like ours where a team of folk have used phonecalls to keep in touch with people to bigger projects where both supermarkets and closed pubs have worked together to provide shopping and hot food for people. Many of the projects started small - phoning a few people, making a handful of meals, and grew in unexpected ways when the right people’s paths crossed.

Mustard Jesus. What sort? One grows into a sturdy shrub - is he referencing the passage we heard as our first reading? Israel as home for the peoples and nations? Or is he talking about wild mustard, which puts out rhyzomes underground and was a first century weed that filled fields unnoticed.

Whichever sort of mustard Jesus means, as I said in my recent piece, we need to prepare as we move out of the worst of this pandemic to gather people together for fun; to renew older friendships and make new ones - social events, coffee mornings, afternoon teas, in the church, in the grounds in our homes. We need to intentionally build community and be at the heart of doing that. I need your help to make that happen. It’s daunting and maybe a bit frightening but I believe it’s key to our thriving.

A shrewd first-century farmer may not be able to address the whole field to tackle the wild mustard, but if they notice where it first grows then they can work there. We need to do the same and look at ways of using our human and financial resources well going forward - we may not be able to do all we once did, so how do we best use what and who is available to grow the kingdom - what sort of a church do we want to be and what are our priorities going forward? And again I’ll say more about that in a few weeks and ask for your input too.

Farming was and is an uncertain task and you can live a bit hand to mouth, not sure you can make it through the months ahead. With some shrewd decision-making and a bit of luck, many farmers do. God I believe is asking similar of us as we move cautiously out of the pandemic. We may feel uncertain maybe daunted at what’s ahead, but I believe with some intentional and intensive praying; some planned for playing together with others in our community and shrewd planning for the present and future, the kingdom can and will be revealed and God will reign in visible ways afresh.

Sung Eucharist from St Thomas' West Hyde for the Second Sunday After Trinity.

So the picture quality isn't great but the audio is fine.

This morning's service streamed live from St Thomas' inc a sermon based on Mark 4:26-34

Sunday, 6 June 2021

A Season of Change.

 We are in a season of change, perhaps more so than for a while.

June, please God, will see the lessening of COVID restrictions. The last 14 months have been extraordinarily hard for all of us in many different ways. We have seen an easing of restrictions on May 17th and all restrictions are due to be withdrawn later this month. It is clear that this will all be dependent on the spread of the Indian variant.

One of the unseen costs of the pandemic has been it’s impact on people’s mental health. During my recent study leave, I read much about a theology of mental health and the importance of silence for our wellbeing, and I trained as Mental Health First Aider for both youth (8-18 year olds) and adults.

I am absolutely convinced that we haven’t seen the full impact on people’s mental health yet. I believe the local church and our deanery can and should play a significant role in supporting our young people and adults in the months and years that lie ahead.

The Children’s Society produces an annual Good Childhood Report. This data led piece of key research gives a clear idea of children in our nation are physically and mentally. They have produced some superb resources to help us a churches support our communities in this work and I am looking forward to partnering with them in some key and important work. I will share more details about what part we can play in our prayer, our worship and in campaigning.

June also sees change in personnel. Sam, Emily and Arthur move to Bushy to begin ministry there. Paul Palmer completes his training and will be ordained and serve as curate in Croxley Green. I am in negotiations to welcome a retired cleric joining us as a parish. They will lead worship at least once a month and bring great experience, wisdom and humour. I look forward to letting you know more when I do. Also, we have offered our parish as training parish again, and I hope that we will hear in the Autumn whether we will be given the privilege of training a curate again. Again when I know, so will you.

I shared with the PCC when it last met, some hopes I have for us as church communities as we move into the summer and autumn. Conveniently and hopefully memorably they all begin with the letter P.

Firstly, we will Pray. We have been using a prayer written by Anne Peat at every act of worship and on our own at home. By praying, we have been committing ourselves, our churches and wider communities to God as we live with COVID. As we move forward, I am more sure than ever of the vitality and importance of praying. We must commit ourselves to becoming a people who pray regularly and intentionally as we move forward. There will be a new prayer for us to use daily; there will be opportunities for us to gather to pray together; there will be a course about prayer running in the Autumn and we’ll be running a short training on leading intercessions on Sundays - for those who have been leading prayers for a long time and an opportunity for those of you haven’t tried doing this before to discover resources and to learn how to lead intercessions well.

Secondly we will Play together. We have spent the last 14 months or so at home. We haven’t been able to interact with each other in the ways we used to for obvious reasons. Starting in the Autumn, we will have a rolling programme of opportunities to be together and enjoy one another's company (assuming it is safe to do so.) Some of these will be free events, some will be paid. Some will be bigger in scale. Some will be able to take place in a home. Some will be aimed at different sections of our community. Some will be for all. I am confident that there will be things for every one of us to enjoy with others. Rebuilding our friendships with each other and with the wider community are going to be so important going forward, and hopefully lots of fun too!

Thirdly we will Plan. We need to spend time planning for our present and our future. We need to look at all that the parish used to offer in terms of mission and ministry and our current resources. We need to discern how we best serve our communities where they are now and as who we are now and with what resources we have now, having looked at where we live, who we live amongst and the needs of our wider communities. This will help us to sense what God’s vision is for our communities and what part we can play in supporting and resourcing our wider communities.

Lastly, because we are in a period of transition and change please bear with us in terms of our worship over June. Our services for the first three weeks will be as follows:

6th June

11.00am Parish Service at St Peter’s car park and Valedictory to the Framptons

13th June

9.30am St Thomas’ - Sung Eucharist

11.00 am St Peter’s - Sung Eucharist to Celebrate Fr Alan Horsley’s 60th Anniversary of his priesting.

11.00 am St John’s - Said Eucharist

20th June

9.30am St Thomas’ - Sung Eucharist and Valedictory to Paul Palmer

11.00 am St Peter’s - Sung Eucharist and Valedictory to Paul Palmer

(as needed

6.00pm St John’s - Said Eucharist)

I hope to finalise the rest of the month and July imminently, but please be patient as we work out the final details.

In the meantime please pray for each other as I pray for you.

Fr Simon