"To create places of belonging where people discover Jesus and are equipped to follow him"

Sunday 2nd May 2021

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God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and with him.

Almighty God, help us to enter into that secret place where there is no darkness at all, where the shadows that hide your glory are dispersed and your truth is clearly revealed. In the light of your love show us how to live in accord with your will.

Almighty God, the giver of light and grace, in the light of your love we recognise how much we have sinned against you. You are the God in whom we can trust, the one ever ready to be found by them that seek you. As we enter into your nearer presence we acknowledge our faults and failings. We do not always love our neighbour as we ought. Instead of reaching out the helping hand to those less fortunate by failing to offer aid we make their life more difficult. Our love is too often cold; our faith feeble, our service to you so poor. Forgive us we pray. Set us free from our sin that we might serve you with willing minds and undivided hearts. Neither leave nor forsake us, O God of our Salvation, for in you is our hope, in your goodness is our strength and in your love our perfect life.

Eternal God, let your Word be a light on our path revealing our way ahead, that we might fulfil your will for us with willing spirits. Let the Holy Spirit take hold of us to lead us in your ways that all that we do and think and say may be directed to bringing your Kingdom nearer that at last your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven, through the same Jesus Christ who has taught us to pray,

Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen.

The readings

I Corinthians:1-9

 St Mark 4:26-34

A thought for today

 The parables are so closely associated with Jesus that sometimes people think that he invented them but this is not true. There are parables in the Old Testament and parables were widely used by the Rabbis of Jesus’ day.

A parable is simply a story that uses ordinary everyday things or events to convey an extraordinary meaning.

 These two parables of Jesus draw on facts of everyday life as it was in first century Palestine which can cause difficulties for us today as our knowledge of life back then is limited. This can lead to a misunderstanding of Jesus’ intentions when he first told the story.

 Some things thankfully do not change. Seeds are still sown and lie in the ground for a time until they begin to grow. Once planted there is little the sower can do beyond ensuring that the ground is not too dry. The seed will grow of its own accord.

While that is something we understand, there is a surprise in store when we turn to the second parable for it talks of a mustard seed growing into a plant large enough for birds to nest. Our knowledge of mustard seeds is probably confined to the growing of mustard and cress on damp paper. The resulting plants are not big at all. The mustard plant native to the Middle East is somewhat different and does become a large bush, perhaps 10 or 12 feet high, and often is home to birds.

 That is the plant Jesus had in mind as his hearers would readily understand. When he preached he tried to unveil the mystery of the Kingdom in way his hearers could appreciate. Today we have to be sure that we are in possession of the relevant facts when we try to understand what Jesus is saying in a parable lest we take from it the wrong message.

 Something else we have to bear in mind is that while we can read and study the detail of what Jesus said since his words are set down in the Gospels they were never intended to be used like this. The parables were spoken. The people could only listen. It follows that the message they seek to impart has to be clear and obvious. Any message that might be reached by treating a parable as a fable where every detail has a hidden significance cannot be the one Jesus intended.

So what are we being told here in the two parables we read. The farmer sows the seed and in time gathers in his harvest. In the intervening time something happens. The seed grows ‘of itself’ quite independently of human influence. So it is with the Kingdom. Jesus came preaching and healing, sowing the seed. What follows is God’s work as what Jesus said takes root in human hearts and grows. We should never forget that the growth of the Kingdom is never our doing. Always it is the work of God’s Spirit.

The role of the Church today is to continue what Jesus began. As he did we are to take God’s Word and present it to the world in terms the world can understand. The hard bit is then to leave all in God’s hands for we still find it hard to believe that such a small thing can achieve anything.

This is where we come to the mustard seed. It is tiny indeed, hardly visible and yet from it can come a great bush. How it can happen is a mystery. But that presents a problem. If Jesus is trying to explain the mystery of the Kingdom how can another mystery help? That is really an irrelevant question for the purpose of these parables is not to explain but to remind us that there are things beyond our understanding. Look at it this way instead. We never see a sown seed germinate and grow. That happens in the darkness of the ground. We do not know how it happens but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it does.

Like the mystery of growth the Kingdom will remain mysterious, but we can know that sowing the Word will result in something. God sees to that in ways we can never fathom, but must take on trust.

 When we sow the word in faith, we can know that God will, in time, be faithful to ensure that there is a harvest, and that harvest, like the bush that springs from the tiny mustard seed, will be larger than anything for which we can hope.

In the end the message of these parables is a simple one. Unless the seed is sown there cannot be a harvest. Now it is for us to sow the seed and trust in God for the harvest to come.

A closing prayer

O Lord who has set before us the great hope that your Kingdom shall come on earth and has taught us to pray for its coming, make us ever ready to give thanks for signs of its dawning and to pray and work for that perfect day when your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. We give praise and thanks to you for your Word that comes to us through the pages of Scripture and in the teaching of Jesus and for the work of the Spirit within and beyond the Church.     

Great and loving God hear our prayers for others. We pray for the Church. Strengthen her in her service to the world and her proclamation of the Gospel that through her good works your kingdom will come and your will be done.

Almighty God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace do proceed kindle in the hearts of all people a true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquility your kingdom may go forward, till the earth be filled with the knowledge of your love.

We pray for our country, and for the countries of the Commonwealth, that you wouldst inspire them with godly fear and establish them in righteousness and truth; for our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, and all the Royal House; grant them your blessing, and keep them in your way. At this time of uncertainty in our political life direct and rule the hearts and minds of all who seek election that they may set aside thoughts of personal gain. Let all who are successful ever strive to order things for the good and welfare of all.

O God of all the families of the earth, we pray that purity, love, and honour may dwell in our homes, and duty and affection be the bond of family life. Help us and our children to walk in the ways of reverence and truth and keep those absent from us under the shield of your care.

Most tender and merciful Father guard all who are in danger by land or sea or air. Be with all who are sick or suffering, and those who draw nigh unto death; the bereaved and the sorrowful; the troubled in mind of spirit. Enable them to look unto you for deliverance and healing.

The blessing

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you all now and evermore.

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