Sermon 26 July 2020, 7 after Trinity
You can hear an audio recording of the sermon here
Matthew 13. 31-33, 44-5
David McEvoy, Reader
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Since March, some of us have had more time on our hands than we could possibly have imagined. Time to get all those jobs done in the house or garden that we’ve been meaning to do for months if not years. Some of us will have actually done at least some of those jobs. Others of us will identify with the comedian who said ‘the lockdown has made me realize that the real reason I haven’t done all these jobs in the past, was not because I didn’t have the time but because, really, deep down, I just couldn’t be bothered’.
I thought at the beginning, that I would have lots more time to pray, to meditate or to reflect. And my old theological college invited me to turn lockdown into a retreat and sent readings and meditations to help me do that. Great idea. I am afraid it didn’t last very long. I could not settle down into long periods of silence or reflection. I was too much on edge. I had the time, but it wasn’t the right sort of time. It was the sort of time you have in a hospital waiting room waiting for yours or a loved one’s name to be called. You have time on your hands, but you are too on edge to relax into it or make use of it.
Sometimes it is hard to know that God is there. It is hard to feel it. Especially at times like this, our responsibilities, our worries, our fears, can get in the way and it is hard to see through them to the loving God that we have buried underneath them. If God is like the treasure in the parable, buried in the field, then we are struggling to find that treasure.
I attended an online lecture recently given by Joanna Collicutt. It was a very thoughtful and moving lecture on human identity and dementia. She talked about how people can relate to God if they have lost the capacity for remembering God, for understanding God or for loving God. She drew on key passages in the bible to point out how God is still there, loving and validating people even if they don’t know it or feel it. She changed Descartes’ famous philosophical saying ‘I think therefore I am’ to ‘God thinks therefore I am’. She reminded us that St Paul told the Corinthians that in the future he will know fully even as he has been fully known and that St John said ‘This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us …’ So for all of us, being known by God is as important as knowing God. And being loved by God is as important as loving God.
I think we can read the parables from our Gospel today as saying something similar. Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God, God’s rule on earth. The kingdom of God is in us but it may not be immediately obvious. It is tiny like a mustard seed or the yeast that the woman hides deep in the flour and water to leaven the bread. It is hidden like the treasure in the field.
And these parables tell us that the work of the kingdom of God does not depend entirely on us. The kingdom of God is mainly God’s work. The tiny mustard seed will grow into a great tree. The tiny piece of yeast will make a whole batch of bread rise and be soft. And the treasure and the pearl will be found. These parables invite us to follow Christ but they also tell us that the miraculous work of transformation of seed into tree, and yeast into bread, and of a reluctant unjust world into God’s kingdom is God’s work before it is ours. Our first job, our priority, is to let God do God’s work in us
It is ironic and distressing that at the times we need to feel God’s presence the most, we are often least capable of feeling it. But Joanna Collicutt’s understanding of how God works with people with dementia, and a reading of these parables tell us that God knows us and loves us even if we struggle to feel we know and love God. And whether we feel it or not, we can be sure that God is doing God’s work, from tiny beginnings, in us.
May God plant and nurture the seed of his kingdom within us so that it grows into a tree that brings shelter to the creatures of the world. May God work with the yeast of his kingdom within us to create nourishing bread to feed the world. And may God lead us to the wonderful treasure and the precious pearl.