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Related Bible reading(s): Mark 4.26-34

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Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

Patience, appearances and high hopes

Jesus’ parable highlights the importance of faith and patience, and the perils of judging by appearance (Mark 4:26-34).

Context

  • The Duke and Duchess of Sussex name their new daughter, Lilibet, after Her Majesty the Queen.
  • US President, Joe Biden, is due to meet Her Majesty the Queen while visiting the UK for the G7
  • The COVID-19 delayed Euro football tournament begins on Friday with England being one of the favourites.
  • ‘Freedom Day’ in the UK (21 June 2021) may be delayed due to the increase in cases of the COVID-19 Delta

 

Ideas for sermons or interactive talks

  • 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.

    Much like the farmer, all a parent or guardian can do is to create the right environment where growth can flourish. While Jesus points out that, ‘…the seeds keep sprouting and growing, and the farmer doesn’t understand how,’, the farmer must know that a lack of water and an overabundance of weeds will thwart growth, and so take the requisite action. From a Christian perspective, that includes bringing up children in a Christian environment in which there is love, patience and understanding and where our words and actions are informed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • While the 21 June is my father’s birthday, for most people in this country it is ‘Freedom Day’ – the day on which the lockdown shackles are removed, and we once again begin to live our lives as ‘free’ people. While I personally find the ‘freedom’ terminology unhelpful, I can understand the sentiment. However, the recent emergence of the Delta variant, first found in India, has put that date in jeopardy, leaving the Government walking a tightrope between following the data/science on the one hand, while being pressured by its own backbenchers and those who are concerned about the long term economic, social and emotional damage that the lockdown is causing, on the other.

    Contrast this with the farmer Jesus mentions in his parable who knew the right moment to reap the harvest: When the signs of ‘ripening’ were obvious, the farmer took the appropriate action. (Not to do so would have been foolish!) There is little doubt that in both instances, patience is required - the farmer had to watch for the right signals before taking action. In this country we are waiting for the right signs - the ‘R’ number to decrease and the vaccine take up to increase. However, as Christians we should also pray for Godly wisdom for our leaders so that they know when to do the right thing.
  • Growth, whether it be that of a baby or a relationship between people, is a natural part of life. Yet growth in terms of relationships can be far from straightforward. President Joe Biden’s visit to the UK later this week is an opportunity to reset the ‘Special Relationship’ between the two countries that had become frosty, partly due to his predecessor Donald Trump. It is said that a strong alliance between the USA and UK is good for the (leadership of the) world. Climate change experts argue this has been evidenced on global warming - initially with targets being set, and later by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from climate talks.

    In Jesus’ parable, the mustard seed’s growth is something that becomes beneficial to others; it results in protection and a place of rest for the birds. Rather than being transactional, such relationships are selfless, putting the interests of others before our own. Moreover, they are more in keeping with the type of sacrificial love that Jesus both spoke about and exhibited during his earthly ministry.
  • The Euro football tournament starts this week and once again England are installed as one of the favourites - by the bookmakers! Anyone familiar with international football (and England’s fortunes at these tournaments) will take this with a pinch of salt. How a team ‘looks on paper’ is no indication of how it will perform during an actual football match. Looks as they say, can be deceiving!

    Jesus points out that the mustard seed is tiny and looks insignificant in comparison to others. It may be the case that those with little knowledge of the seed, could overlook it in favour of others. However, when it comes to performance, much like the minnows at football tournaments, the seed performs more like a David than a Goliath. While we know that size matters, we should never judge by appearances in the first instance but use Godly wisdom and prudence to make our important decisions.

 

Questions for discussion

  • In terms of our relationships, how can we ensure that they remain selfless as opposed to transactional?
  • In farming there is both a right time to plant and harvest. When it comes to making our decisions, how do we know the ‘right time’?
  • When, if ever, should we judge by appearances?

Richard Reddie is the Director of Justice and Inclusion for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. He worships at St James Church, West Streatham in London.

 

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Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

This week sees the beginning of two major international events on our shores. The first is the start of the G7 nations gathering in Cornwall, as global leaders meet to discuss international issues such as climate justice and tackling the ongoing pandemic. Can big commitments be made from a small gathering of leaders? The words that are said at this event over just three days could make a huge difference to the world in the next few hundred years. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed; very small and yet it grows to ‘the greatest of all shrubs.’ How can we pray for these seemingly small words and actions to grow into something great for our world? How might we speak up for a world of justice and equality for all people? By doing this, we play our small part in growing God’s kingdom.

The second event is the Euro 2021 Football Championships with Scotland and England both competing in the same group and holding the hopes of both nations! The outcome is uncertain, but could this be the year that dreams come true for football fans? We might place our hope in our football teams, with uncertain outcomes but when it comes to the kingdom of God, our hopes are never in vain. There might be surprises on the way, but with God’s kingdom, the outcome is certain – it will grow, and it will endure. How easy do you find it to have that hope and confidence? How can we demonstrate to others that our hope is in Jesus?

Written by Simon Hill, Youth Officer for Worcester Diocese

 

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