Sunday, 17 June 2018

Called to growth

Sermon for 17 June 
Psalm 92: 1-4, 12-15 
Mark 4: 26-34 

A seed is planted; a small dry hard thing. No sign of life.
Just a tiny pip of a thing.
And yet, when it is buried in warm damp earth, something magical, miraculous begins.
The seed swells, and that which is stored in its very heart stirs. 

First comes the root, stretching deep, seeking sustenance, food, water, the basic elements required for life.
Next the stem begins, tentative at first, seeking light, seeking warmth, and growing, imperceptibly at first, the stem carries a small bud, the first leaflet. Not a full leaf, and not even recognisable as the plant it will become.
That’s for the second leaf. And the third. And fourth.

Sometimes in our house there’s a box of seed. Collected in the autumn.
We might know what it is, and we might think we know what it is… but sometimes the tomato becomes a pepper.
The columbine becomes a poppy. 
It is not until the combination of warmth and moisture and good compost and the mystery of creation have got to work that we will truly know what will come.

This, Jesus tells us is what the kingdom of God is like.
The seeds are planted; and we watch and wait for the growth we know will come.
Ever hopeful.
Ever waiting.
Knowing there will be fruit.
Knowing also, that a poppy can never become a tomato; and a pepper will never be a pretty dancing columbine.
Yet, we know also that each has its place; each has a role to play, and each we accept and enjoy for what they are. 

The Psalmist knew that hope and patience are necessary not just for a gardener, but for all who wait on God; all who follow God’s call. He also knew that age is not a barrier, old age and youth are both equally fruitful in the house of God.
It’s now more than twenty years since I first had a conversation with my minister about answering a call. He was a very wise man; he didn’t come right out and say, have you thought about ministry Julie?
He just suggested I might like to talk to the children one Sunday; and then another time, perhaps a prayer?
Bit by bit; little by little, he encouraged me to share, to try, to experiment. 
Eventually he suggested I explore being a lay Reader; preaching, leading worship; training to offer services where needed. 
I had already turned down being an elder; because I knew that was not my calling; but this seemed much more accessible to me.
Of course, it was a revelation! Spending time with scripture; reading it; walking with through the week, viewing everything else I did through the lens of scripture, so that over a few days the words began to run through my mind, bubbling, first the root then the shoot, and finally that first leaf - 
What would it grow into?
Where would it take me?
What did God want me to talk about this time?

Every week I begin with the scripture.
Then I might read a commentary or an online resource. 
Sections form; what is happening in the world, in our community, in our church life?
How might that filter into what is said, what we all might need to hear?

The sermon grows, the words fill my mind and eventually fly from my fingers across a keyboard until they fill the pages. Usually it gets finished on Saturday – occasionally it gets rewritten on Sunday morning. 
Always on a Sunday I am up around 5.30; to reread, to refine. To pray. To ask God to bless my words; to bless those who hear. To inspire us as we work together. 

20 years ago, when I first was asked to test my call, to share the gifts God had given me I was reluctant.
I felt ill-equipped.
I was, I am, terribly shy; crowded rooms terrify me; people I don’t know unnerve me. I have been physically sick on the way to see someone I don’t know. How on earth can it be that I would be called to do something that was so far outside my comfort zone? 
 But, give me scripture; give me time in prayer reflecting on God’s word and I know this is part of God’s plan. I trust God will equip me, with the strength I need, and the people I need to enable God’s Kingdom where I am called to serve. 

This is the same for each of us.
God’s seed planted deep within us, grows and produces crops.
Some are called to befriend.
Some are called to listen.
Others are called to share a word; to serve, to comfort. Each in their own strength, each called and known by God – we cannot ever know how each one will respond and grow. We cannot look at another and compare by our call, our skills, our gifts. Each is called to be their own judge; and at the end of it all, we only really have one judge, one true minister – that is God – our parent, our saviour, our guide. 
Father Son and Spirit are with us in all we do, and in all the ways we answer God’s call. 

Last week our worship was led by my colleague from Melrose, Rev Rosie Frew; she also talked about seeds and growth, and gave us a hopeful message to take forward as we undergo this period of review.
The review meetings have taken place and there is now a written report for the trustees to consider which will be presented to the Presbytery.

The process is robust; and there is both praise and criticism within it.
It contains the observations of faithful people from outwith our circle, who highlight for us the things which are good and the things we need to work on, together, as we serve God’s people in our community. 

God has planted many, many seeds in our community; and there are people who are working with those seeds, and seedling; sapling and full grown plants… between us all we have a rich resource.

God calls.
We answer…
God equips.
We act…
God inspires.
We respond…