What we have below is an image of wheat on the left and tarres on the right.
They are very similar and even an experienced gardener or farmer is going to struggle to tell them apart. Apparently it is easier to sort them out at harvest time as the wheat plant holds the seed up whereas the tarres seed head hangs down. At that point the farmer can remove the tarres and then harvest the wheat.
These plants would have been very familiar to Jesus’ audience but the situation of having things in our life that are both good and bad, life giving and life draining is one that is familiar to us today. Sometimes we need to live with uncertainty, with complexity, with things that are not right and wait for the right time to deal with them or allow someone else to deal with them.
In reflecting on this parable perhaps spend some time looking back over your life over the past four months whilst we have been in lockdown.
What has been positive in this experience that you want to hold onto in the next few months? What has been negative and you will be glad to let go?
What do you still have to live with that is not as you wish it to be? Is this something that an agency, a friend, your church can help you with?
Are there some things that need just to be handed over to God as it is not the right time for answers and solutions? This is not an easy place to be and is a place where there may be need for some prayer.
Living with wheat and tarres is complex and not comfortable. Letting go of what we can’t solve isn’t easy either. It seems like a week for lots of prayer!
This week we have a very well-known parable about the word of the kingdom God as seed falling onto good and poor soil. The way that Jesus explains the parable is that the listener is the soil. Some soil is good, and some is poor. As a gardener I’m very much drawn to this story.
I have cultivated five gardens now. Three were on heavy clay which could only be worked a few months a year in-between being too heavy to dig and so hard you couldn’t get a spade into it. Two have been on sandy soils which are hard to cultivate as they dry out so quickly. What I have learnt from all these gardens is that soil, all soil, needs work.
When I arrived at this vicarage I found a garden that hadn’t been cultivated for 20 years. It had the bare bones of structure of someone who had loved gardening, but the patch you can see in this picture was covered in overgrown shrubs. These were removed and for the next five years I’ve been digging it over, taking out the stones, adding homemade compost and experimenting with what I can grow from seeds and cuttings.
In garden design terms it isn’t amazing but it is colourful. What you can’t see from this picture is soil that had no life now full of worms and slugs. You can’t hear the bees buzzing through the flowers and you can’t smell the salvias, lavender and roses in the early morning sun. What was barren and lifeless, sand and no worms, at all is now very alive.
All gardeners and farmers know that soil needs work.
As we hear the parable of the sower and how the good soil yields 100 fold it is tempting to think that is us; well maybe the 30 fold if we have Christian humility and not wanting to brag! But good soil needs work. We are loved by God, we know that; but if we take time in prayer the light of Christ will shine into our lives and expose that which is false and shallow and not rooted in God. We might find that we have taken on the assumptions of our culture about race or sexuality. Or maybe we have bought into the culture of loving ourselves and not our neighbours. It is painful to see ourselves as we really are and so easy to find a distraction to stop ourselves seeing that false self. That is where busyness or whatever our addictions area come into play.
We need to do the work to allow ourselves to be cultivated by God so that we can produce good seed, good fruit. It may be painful. As a gardener I know that the classic way to improve sold is double digging and this is very hard work but there are many ways to garden and many ways to pray. Many ways to allow God to work in and through us.
All gardeners know that you do just have to start and it takes time.
So as you think about yourself – what sort of soil are you? What is fruitful in your life? What is there that still needs turning over and work in the garden of your heart?
Today’s gospel reading is about seeds so it seemed like a good excuse to have a favourite harvest hymn
One way that we can become good soil and hear the word of the Lord is prayer. Taize songs are one of the ways that we pray at St Mark’s. Here is one of our favourites.
As we think about how to open the church safely a reminder that church is for everyone.
Today our worship is in number posts. This one has the recorded service. The next one has a sermon from Emma Hughes on the anniversary of the NHS and you can see the thank you from some of the ministers of local churches in another one. Then we have some of our favourite hymns. It is a muesli of worship, a pick the order you listen and grab a coffee inbetween! We are planning how we might get back to worship in church but it is complicated and we are not going to rush it. Services in this form will continue for July at least.
During the lockdown a number of minsters from the local churches have been meeting together by zoom to share ideas and to support each other. This is our thank you to the NHS on its 72nd birthday and to our local hospital TMH.
We were talking about favourite hymns and songs at our standing committee this week so here are some of ours. What are yours? Let Revd Karen know on firstname.lastname@example.org and we can feature them here in future weeks.
This is one of Revd Karen’s favourites – The Enfolding by Anita and Nick Haigh
This is a controversial choice but sung and a good pace this is a firm favourite of one of our church wardens.
This tune has words for both a Christmas Carol and Easter Hymn. Here is the Easter version – Now the Green Blade Rises