The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s123g12   Sunday 11  17/6/2012

'the seed would sprout and grow'   Mark 4.27

I am a bit of a fan of ‘Facebook’, not that I’m on it all the time and neither am I interested in furthering their business plan :-)!   I did not buy shares in their recent IPO!  

It has been fabulous to be able to post a status ‘We're all OK!’ on our Facebook pages after the news of another aftershock has flashed around the world.   Our families in Australia and the United States have been able to be instantly reassured.   When we had our first fall of snow last Wednesday (week) ago of course we immediately posted a picture or three.   In some ways 'Facebook' has become many people's journal.   The other thing I like about ‘Facebook’ is the witty sayings that some people post.   One such was a picture of a man eating a burger and thinking: ‘They say, ‘You are what you eat!’   That's funny.  I don’t remember eating a sexy beast this morning!’   But one I saw recently was a quote of Doug Larson: ‘A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.’  And the caption read: ‘Be a weed’.  

The thing that strikes me about this description of the Kingdom of God is how down to earth it is.   It is not about the pinnacle of creation, humanity, female and male, equally made in the image of God.   It is not about intelligence or belief.   It is not even about the fauna, but the flora of the earth.   We ascribe some reasoning to humanity and to the fauna, but the flora?   It is rooted to the spot where it is planted, mostly at the whim of someone or something else, and entirely incapable of avoiding whatever exigencies the environment might present.   Plants are rooted to the ground. 

And for all the highfaluting language, the kingdom of God seems not dissimilar to life as we know it already, in its basic simplicity.   The kingdom of God is about fecundity, the will to survive and live in society where we happen to be planted.   It is not about God or heaven, it is the kingdom of God, a gift to us already, not an elusive promise, not given to one but denied to another.

And those of us in Christchurch, after 20 months of earthquakes and aftershocks, mostly feel a bit like a plant.   We have taken root here, not especially by design, but by heritage, choice and circumstance, and we have been entirely incapable of avoiding the shocks and aftershocks, as well as the beauty of the snow and the drudgery of shoveling the driveway.   When I went to Adelaide in March last year to help celebrate my elder son's 30th birthday, I felt like I was deserting Christchurch, even though I knew I was coming back.

There seems to me to be little point in complaining that we haven't been planted in the right place, as some conservative evangelical 'christians'  / anglicans I suspect are wont to surreptitiously pray.   We are planted in the world, for our faith is not about us and the congeniality of the company the Almighty puts around us, but about the faith which calls us to be a part of the company the Almighty puts around us.   If we had our way, the Almighty would have planted us amongst those who would least benefit from our presence, and among those who would least benefit us by their presence, and what on earth would be the good of that?

I would draw your attention to the word 'benefit' and people don't benefit from being told to become someone other than who they are.   When other people tell me I should get my hair cut or dress conservatively it only gets my back up!   Others are benefited by being affirmed in who they are, so they, in turn, can affirm others in who those others are.   We are planted into society to get on with those around us, not to convert those around us into replicas of ourselves!

In order to 'sprout and grow' the seed must be rooted to the ground which implies a depth to our relationship.   I point out that it is a relationship with society, and therefore with all people within it.   If we are critical of the Almighty for putting us into a world of people who don't believe like me, worship like me and live in the manner I prescribe, then I don't think we can claim to be rooted in the society in which we are planted and nothing will sprout and grow, no matter how much we pray!   For it is the earth that 'produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head'.    Without the soil, without society, nothing in us will come to fruition.   So we must be fully incarnated into society.   

And it strikes me how welcoming and accepting the soil is of the seed.    It is as if the soil, the society, is just waiting for the seed to do it's work, to welcome, nurture and foster growth.   So many church people view the world as an alien place and perhaps it is an alien place because the faith we hold is actually alien.   It is as if Christ didn't come and bless life as it is and people as they are.   Isn't it interesting - that the 'world' is more accepting than the 'church'!   It is when the church becomes as the soil, accepting and welcoming, nurturing and fostering growth, that the miracle of growth will occur on a global scale.

Recently I read the article: 'Human Evolution and the Sterility of Creationism' by Michael Ruse Professor of Philosophy Florida State University in the Huffington Post, which describes his concern in teaching Creationism:  'what was brought home to me vividly this last week is that the greatest crime is blocking our children from seeing what a wonderful world in which we humans live and how (for those of us who are religious) God's greatest gift was giving us the abilities to discover this world, however strange and terrifying it may seem at times.'

So rather than looking at these words of Jesus as a personal message from God to me, perhaps we can begin to see that the words of Jesus are a message primarily to the church, and only secondarily to us within it.   It is the church which has to remain planted in the world for there to be growth.   When the church uproots itself, physically, spiritually, metaphysically, theologically, morally or whatever and separates itself from the society in which it is placed, it will wither and die.

In the Anglican Communion we face precisely this choice.   There are those who desperately want to reverse the creeping 'secularism' of the church, to return to a holy huddle of sacred selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia.   We as the church are called rather to 'go the second mile' in society, for it is in going the second mile that blessings will abound, that growth will come and growth will come for all.   It will not necessary be a growth in numbers coming to Church, but it will be that which is much more important to God, that we become a more humane society, one towards another.    And I suspect that if we were actually to become a more humane society, one towards another, in the name of God, then I suspect that we would be astonished at the numbers of people who would want to worship this God!

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