Sermon 2017 July 16th

ST COLUMBA’S CHURCH OF SCOTLAND

SUNDAY 16TH JULY 2017

PREACHER: REVD ANGUS MACLEOD MA BD

Listen here: https://youtu.be/2AfaymjSqs4

 

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.” Matthew 13:3

Haiku for gardeners Ken Rookes 2017

 

He goes to the lake,

finds a boat beached on the shore.

The crowd waits, eager.

 

What word will they hear;

what deep message awaits them?

He tells them stories.

 

Calls them parables;

he wants to get them thinking,

pondering kingdom.

 

A mother taught her daughter a sowing time, garden proverb::

One for the mouse
One for the crow
One to rot
And one to grow.

 

In today’s parable the Sower is generous, profligate, even.

Would an experienced man of the land, eking out a precarious existence,

wantonly throwing seed amongst rocks and thorns and pathways?

Who sows with such excess, such uninhibited, childish extravagance?

Does Jesus mean to make his listeners laugh?

 

Haiku for gardeners © Ken Rookes 2017

 

A sower went out

to plant; eager and with hope.

He cast seed widely.

 

What might it produce?

That, friends, is the mystery;

depends where it lands.

 

The seed is good news,

the gospel of the kingdom.

Not all receive it.

 

The preceding chapters of Matthew have steadily highlighted

the receiving of Jesus and the rejecting of Jesus.

Disciples about to be sent out to tell of the kingdom

were warned that there would be occasion

when the peace they offered would be scorned,

and they must shake the dust from their feet as they depart.

 

Last week preaching to the Galilean lakeside towns,

Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum – each compared unfavourably

to the foreign places of Tyre and Sidon,

where, though they were not his own folk, people had been open to him.

Locally, the response had been like children in the village market place –

asked to dance, they wouldn’t join the fun.

asked to mourn, they wouldn’t share the sorrow.

Whatever he did, they rejected him;

just as they had rejected John the Baptist.

 

So when Jesus speaks of hard places for seeds –

he doesn’t just tell the parable; he lives it.

As the next fifteen chapters show –

Jesus keeps offering his word, his self;

no matter how dry, rocky or thorny the ground.

His followers are called to do the same.

 

This is our job, this is our calling.

To sow the seed and bear the heartache

when it falls on rocky, arid or weed-infested ground.

Rejection of the message does not mean the message is wrong;

lack of conspicuous bloom does not mean our efforts are folly.

 

This week the funeral of one of our members was conducted;

he first started attending St Columba’s in 1965.

Those who knew him are aware that latterly

he endured a long and hard final road,

forced to give up activities and freedoms, home,

that had been long-cherished.

 

Meticulous and modest; faithful and thoughtful –

he feared he had achieved little and his faith was weak.

Yet at his funeral, the London Scottish Chapel was full.

We heard of a long professional life

and the numerous organisations he had supported in retirement.

There were friends present from six decades previously.

And from the family there were affectionate and authentic tributes

about one who valued and nurtured the ties of kinship.

Faithfulness ran through the recollections.

 

Reminder – not to underestimate the influence of humble perseverance,

even wavering trust.

The words of scripture chosen for their response to James’ uncertainties:

“What does the Lord require of you –

but to do justice, love kindness

and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

My guess is that the seed of the life we remembered

will continue to bring its harvest in ways we can barely imagine.

 

Our Sower seems willing to fling seed anywhere;

reminding us that the gospel is bigger

than good business principles or common sense,

bigger than just good soil.

If the Sower throws seeds anywhere and everywhere,

then anywhere and everywhere is the arena of God’s care and redemption.

There is no place or circumstance in which God’s seed cannot take root.

God’s vision for the world is often apprehended in strange and broken places.

 

The late Anglican priest and Guardian columnist, David Bryant

described his first visit to a high security prison in the North of England.

He went with considerable unease, fearful of what lay ahead

in this unknown and near invisible world.

 

Initially things lived down to expectations; unremittingly bleak.

The queuing, the poverty of many of the visiting families,

the rigours of the security.

He was visiting an inmate who had committed serious and appalling crime.

To his surprise he found not a monster, but someone quite ordinary,

hungry for news of the outside world.

 

On the way out Bryant engaged in conversation with a visiting woman.

When she learnt he was a priest she opened up about her own circumstances.

Her partner had served nine years for the murder of a soldier –

killed in a drunken bar fight.

He was nearing parole.

Her own family had disowned her.

“Do you still love him?”

“Yes, I won’t give up on him. We are going to get married.”

And as visitors were leaving the prison reception area,

another young woman arrived.

Distraught, because her train had been delayed

and she had missed the window for visiting time; the system unbending.

She collapsed into a chair, weeping.

An older woman, kneels on the cold floor,

begins to stroke her hair in long, comforting sweeps,

murmuring quiet, unheard words of comfort.

Then she holds the girl in a Christ-like embrace.

 

“I knew then that the love of God infused even this forsaken place,

bringing with it the seeds of potential hope and redemption.

On the train south, passing the Angel of the North,

“…it was a milestone for me.

I had found God where I thought he could not be.”

David Bryant, Glimpses of Glory, p88-90

 

[From the other side of the Atlantic,

a friend who knows this place well,

updating on his current work with refugees, immigrants and “indigent defendants” –

finished with the memorable sign-off:

Enough for the moment

“as I journey in the company of the so-called “damned’ –

and find a blessing there.”]

 

The Sower is the great believer in potential;

The golden seeds thou trustest to the earth; (Friedrich von Schiller 1759-1805)

The story of the Sower does not end with inhospitable soil.

Bushels of abundance are where this parable leads.

It ends with a miracle, a hundredfold harvest. (Sevenfold would be a good outcome.)

In the face of rejection and the realities of the world,

it is our job to trust, to preach and to labour for that outcome.