Trinity 2 2021: The Kingdom of God
Mark 4. 26-34
These last few weeks have been a little bit busy for me. I’ve been beginning my ministry here with you, and my other job as Area Director of Ordinands at the same time, as well as trying to finish decorating and unpacking at the Vicarage.
There’s a prayer I love that I’ve been saying at the end of busy days. “Grant to our tired bodies, O Lord the rest that they need and may the seeds of the kingdom that by our word we have sown today germinate and grow into the harvest of eternal life.”
There’s always more work to be done - but this not is the message of the Gospel today. The Kingdom of God is not a vast field in which busy workers toil and sweat day after day. The Kingdom of God is God Himself considered from the point of view of His action in the world and in history.
So the Gospel today speaks of the Kingdom of God - the action of God in the world - as a seed that a man sows: he sleeps during the night and gets up in the morning and the seed germinates, grows without knowing how. The earth produces the crop all by itself, first the stalk, then the ear, then the grain.
Jesus teaches me to see things differently. It’s not that I have started my work here with you for God. It is not we who work for God. In a sense it is He who works for us.
As Saint Paul says in the Epistle to the Romans: Who has first given to God, that God should repay him?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
Our sole work consists in accepting his action, opening wide our spirit and our will so that we might be lifted up by his power
In the words of Psalm 127:
Except the Lord build the house : their labour is but lost that build it.
Except the Lord keep the city : the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness : for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
It’s not our own efforts or our own enthusiasm that make us fruitful. All the good that we do is the work of God, whose love enfolds us, whose love gives us the air that we breath while we sleep.
Maybe we cannot listen to the message of the Psalmist or to the message of the Gospel today until we turn away from our own dreams of power and efficiency.
I believe that if our life together here can have a vital energy and a deep spirituality. But will not depend on my success or your success. It will depend on Almighty God. All that is asked of us it to open ourselves to the astonishing contemplation of what God is capable of if we allow him to work in us.
God Alone is enough.
As one of the saints taught, Christians are small people. Whatever our gifts, whatever our achievements, whatever their possessions, we remain people who are small. We are small in God’s presence because God created has created us and we depend on Him. Whatever the journeys that mark our lives and our fortunes, we have come from God and we are going to God. We are gentle and humble like small, loving children, close to our Father who is strong and loving and who gives us our own particular tasks to do: Through him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
In a fairy tale there is a contest of strength between a giant and a small tailor. The giant throws a stone so high into the sky that it takes an age for it to fall down again. But the small tailor releases a bird, which does not fall down again. Whatever does not have wings always ends up falling down again. But if it is God who works in us He will give our particular gifts and talents wings.
In the Vestry where I pray before the beginning of each service there is a wonderful image that will always remind me of what I have been reflecting on as I begin my ministry among you: that our sole work consists in accepting God’s action, opening wide our spirit and our will so that we might be lifted up by His power.
It is the image of the Light of the World by William Holman-Hunt. The original picture, painted in 1853, is in Keble College, Oxford whose architect William Butterfield also built this church. It’s been called, “a sermon in a frame”.
Christ stands beside a door. The door represents the human soul, which cannot be opened from the outside. There is no handle on the door, and there are rusty nails and hinges overgrown with ivy. Christ is asking permission to enter. The morning star appears near Him, the dawn of a new day, and the autumn weeds and fallen fruit represent the autumn of life. The writing beneath the picture, is taken from Revelation 3 Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me. The saviour of the world is alive and will dwell in the hearts of those who admit him.
God Alone is enough. Let us open the door to Him. Let us be lifted up by His power.
The Rev'd Dr James Lawson, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 13/06/2021