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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Commissioning of Lay Presider Susan Cann
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 17, 2018

Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 20; Acts 15:13-15; Mark 4:26-34


‘Something is happening…’

Once the seed is sown, the sower simply lets it be, going about life, confident that the soil will work a growth process without any intervention on the sower’s part. When the sower sees the grain is ripe, it is time then to put in the sickle. This is the only parable of Jesus found only in Mark’s Gospel. The seed growing secretly is sometimes the title given.

Like parables in general, it may appear something of a riddle, and commentators ancient and contemporary debate allegorical questions: What does the seed represent? Why is the Sower (God?) not more active throughout the process? Is the harvest the end of the world? Conversely, the parable speaks from heart to heart. God be with you …

The artist Vincent van Gogh loved it so much he painted the scene again and again, each work a celebration of life and faith among working people close to the earth – close to its truth.

In the kindom of God we do what we can to love and to relieve suffering. We do what we can. Trusting in love’s sufficiency, abundance. Love is presence and nourishment. God is Love.

And then we wait. We allow time and space for maturity, reconciliation … God is Wisdom.

There will be revelations too – feast days and holy days – consolations, rewards even. God is our Salvation.

The parable is provocative in some ways. Provoking/inspiring initiative among those prone to laziness or passivity – or among those steeped in resentment, victimhood. “A sower scatters seed …”

Provoking/inspiring patience and wise detachment among those given to micromanagement of one kind or another – or among those oppressed by anxiety. “The seed sprouts and grows without the sower knowing how it happens.”

Provoking/inspiring discernment as when an artist knows that a painting is done – it is time to frame it, hang it and share it with others. “For the time is ripe …”

The children are learning/enjoying the story of Lydia this morning. The story follows a familiar pattern.

The apostles Paul and Luke share their stories of Jesus. They do what they can. And then there is a period of waiting/discerning – Is Lydia, too, called by God? Is Lydia, too, called to love? – before the story’s resolution in the waters and Spirit of new friendship. Lydia’s hospitality is another seed sown: her house church the first church in Europe (and the model for our St Lydia’s Library here in Waterloo).

Doing what we can. Trusting, waiting, allowing space and time for growth. Enjoying the fruits of labour and divine love. Ministry is like this. Life together is like this. The kindom of God is like this.

The parable of the mustard seed gives another aspect. A shrub and weed – mustard bushes grew vigorously and could take over vegetable gardens – provides shade for the birds (on/of the ground).

A comical contrast is made with the mighty tree of Ezekiel’s prophecy. “This is what Sovereign YHWH says: ‘I myself will take a shoot from the top of a cedar and plant it … on the mountain heights of Israel. It will grow branches, bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. All kinds of birds will nest in it.’”

The mustard seed, by contrast, grows into a splendid shrub …

We do what we can. Trusting, waiting. Enjoying the fruits of labour and love. Mindful of a certain modesty/scandal.

Humble beginnings and endings …

One commentator puts it this way: “Do not be under the illusion that the community to which you are being grafted is the biggest tree on the highest mountain. Do not imagine that the world will stand and admire the shrub beneath whose branches you are making your home. The community you are joining will be seen by many as weak and stunted. It will be seen as insignificant alongside the powers and dominions … And what’s more, it will be seen as undesirable, as a nuisance, as a noxious weed” (Nathan Nettleton).

Ministry is like this. Life together is like this. The kindom of God is like this. Founded on the life, death and resurrection of one who was eradicated as a dangerous weed. The kindom invites us to see the world through the eyes of the victim of eradication, and to embrace as siblings all those – all those – whom the dominant cultures would seek to eradicate.

In small (mustard seed) groups let’s complete the homily together. Which aspect of the gospel invites change/growth in you/us today?

I do what I can. Trusting, waiting. Enjoying the fruits of labour and love. Mindful of a certain modesty/scandal. … Amen.