Sermon for 14 June 2009
Preached at Lancefield Uniting Church, Victoria, where I was the guest of Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones and the congregation meeting there.
Let us pray:
Jesus, weaver of story, sower of seed;
show us the new creation in small beginnings,
and teach us to look
for the coming of that perfect day,
when all things shall be reconciled in you,
the bringer of God’s realm of grace
now and for ever. Amen.
As an older woman entered a country church, the usher asked her where she’d like to sit. When she indicated that she’d like to sit in the front row, the usher said she shouldn’t sit there, because they were having an extremely boring guest preacher that morning.
The woman, bristling at that response, asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’ When the usher said, ‘No’, she exclaimed, ‘I am the preacher’s mother!’
The usher asked her if she knew who he was, to which she replied, ‘No’.
‘Good,’ the usher said.
Friends, my mother is not here today.
[Jesus] said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
Listen to a similar story, another Jewish story:
All their lives two brothers had lived in the city behind great stone walls and neither saw field nor meadow. But one day they decided to pay a visit to the country.
As they went walking along the road they saw a farmer ploughing. They watched him and were puzzled.
‘What on earth is he doing that for!’ they wondered. ‘He turns up the earth and leaves deep furrows in it. Why should someone take a smooth piece of land covered with nice green grass and dig it up?’
Later they watched the farmer sowing grains of wheat along the furrows.
‘That man must be crazy!’ they exclaimed. ‘He takes good wheat and throws it into the dirt.’
‘I don’t like the country!’ said one in disgust. ‘Only crazy people live here.’
So he returned to the city.
His brother who remained in the country saw a change take place only several weeks later. The ploughed field began to sprout tender green shoots, even more beautiful and fresher than before. This discovery excited him very much. So he wrote to his brother in the city to come at once and see for himself the wonderful change.
His brother came and was delighted with what he saw. As time passed they watched the sprouts grow into golden heads of wheat. Now they both understood the purpose of the farmer’s work.
When the wheat became ripe the farmer brought his sickle and began to cut it down. At this the impatient one of the two brothers exclaimed: ‘The farmer is crazy! He’s insane! How hard he worked all these months to produce this lovely wheat, and now with his own hands he is cutting it down! I’m disgusted with such an idiot and I’m going back to the city!’
His brother, the patient one, held his peace and stayed in the country. He watched the farmer gather the wheat into his granary. He saw him skilfully separate the grain from the chaff. He was filled with wonder when he found that the farmer had harvested a hundred times the seed that he had sown. Then he understood that there was a reason for everything the farmer had done.
The point of the story is this: Mortals see only the beginning of any of God’s works. Therefore they cannot understand the nature and the end of creation.
We are here for a short time, and see very little. It’s the same with the mission of God.