Yet another newsletter which drops into your inbox or onto your doormat amongst uncertainty over COVID and lockdown. It was all going so well and now as we arrive at the moment of full release, instead an extension to lockdown looms. However, there is still much to be grateful for - sunny weather (or at least we have had some sunny weather), seeing family and friends, clubs, pubs and shops are open and we can even take trips away and have holidays.
Also, summer is coming and our gardens, verges and fields are full of life and colour. When life is so uncertain it is good to still have the rhythms of the natural world – night and day, springtime and harvest. In a recent service in St James’ church, we looked at a lively illustration of Jesus which he used to describe his work of drawing people back to God. It feels such an apt picture for this time of spring and early summer:
This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.
It doesn’t take much experience in farming and horticulture to know that if you don’t tend crops or gardens then you don’t get a good harvest or a stunning garden. But Jesus is talking about the farmer not having any hand in the growth of the seeds he scatters - he doesn’t even know what’s going on. Jesus instead focusses on his sleeping patterns. His point is this: seeds, soil and harvest, ultimately these are the work of God through the power he has placed in the seeds and soil to bring growth. It may be hidden in the ground, but God is still overseeing the growth.
Jesus told this parable to explain the small start of his own work which would grow to be the worldwide church. Jesus was a seed buried in the ground when he died on the cross to rescue humanity. But like the seed he sprang back out of the earth. He rose again to life. From that small but powerful start, a worldwide movement emerged. Indeed, that was all to come; when Jesus told this story the reaction to him and his teaching was very mixed. But in defence Jesus was saying “my work might look small, hidden and obscure at the moment, but do not be in doubt God is at work”.
I find that message that God is at work in the small and hidden, even when things seem otherwise a great encouragement at this time too. The flowers and crops remind us that God is still at work keeping the world going through day and night, springtime and harvest. Still at work in this world of disappointment and storms, to bring hope and healing. Still at work when hope might seem hidden and the future is still clouded and uncertain. God is at work and there are better days to come.
At St. James’ church we want to celebrate the new life that is springing up from God and the hope that he brings. We invite everyone to join us for a celebration on 25th July. It is the day the church celebrates St. James, the patron saint of our church. Our new bishop, Bishop Gavin, is joining us to re-dedicate the bell tower which has been refurbished during lockdown. We start with a service at 2:30pm followed by ringing demonstrations and afternoon tea in the churchyard (weather permitting). Do join us to celebrate the ending of lockdown (we hope) and the summer.
David Spence, Associate Minister of St. James the Great, South Leigh & St Mary's Cogges (June 2021)