Sunday, 14 June 2015



Reverend Margaret Fourie

  • 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
  • Psalm 20
  • 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
  • Mark 4: 26-34
Today’s gospel reading immediately follows the parable of the sower in the Gospel of Mark. The agricultural theme is continued, which is not surprising, seeing they are on the hillside above the Sea of Galilee and can quite possibly see various fields and maybe even farmers from where they are.

This second parable on the kingdom of God seems at first sight to be simply that there is a gap between the two things that we as human beings can do, namely planting and harvesting, and that that gap is in the hands of God. The goodness of the seed in interaction with the goodness of the earth will predispose the seed to growth and fruiting, but how and why that should happen is a mystery, and the path of growth is not in our hands at all. It is intrinsic to the very nature of the seed that the growth will happen.

In the same way, from a small beginning, in the hands of God, by the activity of his Spirit, we who have received the seed of life, will be brought to harvest. It is a mystery and it is in God’s hands. We do what we can and leave the rest to him.

But if we look a bit further, there is another slant to this simple thought, told in the following bit.

Here Jesus introduces the mustard seed story with, “what parable will we use for it?” - in the Greek it means literally, “in what parable are we to place it?” as if the parable were a kind of wrapper for the truth. Here again we may suppose that the story merely confirms the message ‘from small beginnings may come a great harvest’, but the commentator Campbell Morgan suggests that Jesus may be continuing his imagery of the birds of the air as evil (compare the parable of the sower where they come and eat up the seed) and that the parable may be saying that the kingdom of God may grow to an unmanageable size and provide a nesting place for the very ones who would destroy it.

Certainly history supports this view. It was after the Emperor Constantine made Christianity not only legal but necessary by his patronage, that the church really began to decay.

That action led to the entry into the church of many who wished (and there are many today who still wish) to use the church for their own ends, to be respectable so that they could increase their power base, or to con people into thinking they were good.

Thus we have the shameful history of the Christian church over the ages, and for many people that is the final stumbling block against an already strange faith. In England today where the Church is still the state church, and the monarch titular head of it, with sole power to appoint bishops and priests to their office, the church is in disarray and the strange things we read on the back pages of Sunday papers confirm our worst nightmares for it.

We are in much the same danger here today. Our very respectability and success make us open targets for the powers of evil to attack. That attack will not usually be easily identifiable. It is more likely to come in a very subtle way, but even if we do not notice it, or cannot identify it, this evil will most certainly interrupt and restrict the work of God,

I believe most firmly that we are in the last days now, and the work of the Kingdom is urgent, urgent, urgent. How comfortable are you that many of your friends and family are doing nothing about their souls? Have no real relationship with Jesus?

To go back to the attacks on the church: one way in which we suffer attack is in our certainty that we would recognise Satan in any form that we very easily get lulled into not thinking at all. We become lazy and start to settle into familiar ways

A parable is designed to reveal a truth by contrasting two things; it is also meant to provoke serious thought and perhaps surprise and stir the conscience. We always like to think of ourselves as a great bunch of people, and I am sure that you are lovely. Does that give us the right to be complacent? Or to condone behaviour that is evil, immoral, dishonest, self-seeking? Does that give us the right to fall back on prejudices with impunity?

From time to time, I come across in the church, some deep-rooted prejudice, some closed minds to areas where the church is struggling to gain a clearer understanding of the truth revealed in scripture, and even some lemon-mouthed self-righteousness which allows others to feel judged and excluded. Not much, mind you, but some. And even, sometimes, some downright wickedness, like people who try to stop the work of God because of their own hurt feelings, disobedience or pride.

If I invite a gay couple to join us, will you welcome them? If I invite people living together without marriage to join us, will you welcome them? If I invite Xhosa-speakers and then wish to include some of their language in the service, will you welcome them with love?

As we have been accepted freely and without judgement by our beloved Lord, and as each of us has been accepted with love by our fellow parishioners, so we must accept freely, without judgement and with great love, those who come here at any stage and in any condition. And that means truly without judgement. It is God’s task and God’s alone to judge. Ours is to love and accept.

So as we read in 2 Corinthians, “...we make it our aim to please him...” so that we “...might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and was raised for us..”

Don’t be afraid that the shape of things will change, or that the fabric of the church will disintegrate if we let things change. It won’t. Jesus called the most extraordinary, definitely suspect people to be his disciples and followers. They created the church and spread the kingdom. They were specially chosen by God, who does not look at the outside, nor at the obvious bits that we can see. He knows the inside, and his judgement is often very unexpected. I have so often been brought face to face with a clear direction from God which has shown me that something I had thought quite unacceptable is in fact quite acceptable to God. Again, with Paul, then, we might say, “...From now on therefore we regard no one from a human point of view....”

It is a good investment to learn humility before the wisdom of God, and to open ourselves to being pleasantly surprised when we stop judging and start to allow the Kingdom of God to develop along its own lines, in its own time, in us and in the strange people we find ourselves sharing with right here. It is a maturing investment that will bring great rewards both for us and for those who will come to faith through and with us.

And to live a life free from compromise. The bible is quite clear. People who pretend to be good and hide secret vices will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Pretending seldom fools anyone for long. There are several Christians on this mountain who live lives so full of compromise and sin that others cannot bring themselves to come to church or be in any way identified with them. Then the work of God is halted and the attack of evil has succeeded.

How’s your life?

Where is your priority?

How is your eternity-investment?

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