Thursday, August 6, 2020
Sunday, August 2, 2020
- The priests of this new religion are the marketing managers, who tell us what will make us happy. "Buy more stuff!" they cry, and find fulfilment.
- The collection plate, once used to maintain the church and bless the poor of the community, has been replaced by the cash register.
- Icons and spiritual imagery has been replaced by advertising posters.
- Hymns and spiritual songs have been replaced by jingles and advertisements.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Sunday, July 19, 2020
(Matthew 13.24-30, then 36-43)
Unlike our Churchwarden, Colin Hedley, I’m not much of a farmer. Unlike many of the rest of you, I’m not much of a gardener, either…which is ironic since the Diocese has decreed that I should live in a house which has 200 yards of borders to maintain! I kid you not!
Fortunately, Clare knows a little bit more about gardening than me. Unfortunately, that means I can very quickly get in trouble for pulling up what I thought was a weed, but which she tells me was an expensive plant…lovingly nurtured from seed, and planted with infinite care by her green fingers.
The trouble is that weeds are not really weeds at all. They are actually just wild flowers which are growing in an inconvenient place. At least, that’s how the Royal Horticultural Society labels them, I’m told. So, it turns out, the untrained eye finds it very difficult indeed to decide what is weed, and what is not. After all, they are both made of the same stuff. They are both green. Most weeds have some kind of flower.
This is something we’ve discovered to our great joy in St Faith’s Churchyard in recent years. For many years, Ralph Hollins catalogued the many different plants which appear there. Then, an in depth biodiversity survey was undertaken a few years ago, kindly paid for by some members of our congregation. We discovered that our churchyard actually contained over 80 native British plants, some of which are quite rare. So much so that our churchyard is now a designated ‘Site of Interest for Nature Conservation’. As you may know, we now routinely leave areas of the churchyard un-mowed, so that these plants have a chance to thrive and spread their seeds. Many of these plants would have been considered weeds, by our ancestors. But no longer, by us.
So, it seems, it’s hard to tell weeds from plants in the real world. What about in the spiritual world, as described by Jesus in today’s Gospel? Well, I have to tell you, after a lifetime of pastoring, it’s not always easy to tell the difference among people, either.
Some people present themselves as magnificent flowers to the general population. They dress well, they say all the right words in all the right places. They donate generously to the church. They might sit on the right committees, or sing in the choir. But then, some event will take place, and all their fine words and actions get blown away in some awful action or horrible words. We find that underneath their beautiful plumage, beneath the gorgeous flower they displayed to the world, their roots were rotten.
And the opposite is also true. One of the great joys of St Faith’s, for me, is that we attract people from all walks of life. And, let’s be honest, some of the people who walk through our doors are not normally our kind of people. In any other part of life, we would probably not even speak to them. They don’t play our kind of game. Or they don’t dress in our kind of costume. Or they don’t eat in our kinds of restaurant. But, when you get to know these apparent weeds, these odd plants which don’t appear to be in the right place, we so often find that they are, in fact, beautiful flowers.
So, if weeds can turn out to be flowers, and flowers can turn out to be weeds, how are we to tell the difference? How shall we react to them? Well, to this question, Scripture offers us an answer. The Bible’s unambiguous message is that Love must be our watch-word.
To the apparent flower whose roots turn out to be rotten, we offer Love. Perhaps with the balm of love, their roots can be strengthened, in the good soil of the church; so that their flower can bloom again.
To the apparent weed, whose manners and untidy appearance initially perplexes us, we offer Love; in the hope that in the good soil of the church, they will find their own flower, and learn to bloom, gloriously.
That’s all that God requires of us. Love, love, love. We feed, we water, we prune where necessary. We love.
But, wait a minute. What’s that you say? What about the weeds who will always be weeds? What about the weeds who cannot stop strangling the life out of the flowers around them? Well, yes, they are a problem. There will always be those stubborn weeds which choke the life out of the flowers. They are the Japanese Knot-weeds, which just refuse to go away, and which wreak destruction on all around them.
Well, Jesus, tells us in today’s Gospel, ‘leave them to the Angels’. It is not for us to judge, for judgement is the preserve of God alone. There are indeed some unfortunate souls who will always be weeds. We cannot know what life has thrown at them. We cannot know what poor soil they grew up in, or the harsh environment which made them what they are. Like any gardener, we are wise if we protect the rest of the flowers from their influence. But what their ultimate destination might be – that’s in the hands of the angels. Whether they will one day end up at the flower show, or on the compost heap, is something we leave in the hands of God.
In the end, for us, the command is to Love. We keep on watering. We keep on feeding. We keep on loving, trusting that God has the future safely and securely in his hands. Amen.