Gill Newton’s Sermon – Scattered Seed

Here’s the sermon District Chair Gill Newton shared during our Weekend of Prayer & Celebration.

Please use where you see fit and the video can also be found on our youtube channel and at the bottom of this page.

SCATTERED SEED

→ I’d like you just for a moment to travel in your minds back to the beginning of this calendar year.  I know that in many ways it may feel like a lifetime ago in another world but I’m sure you can still remember it if you try!  If I had asked you at that point to imagine your church, I’m guessing that many of us would have pictured a sanctuary space in which all those who you count as part of your church family were gathered together in one place.  Oh, we might still have wanted to say that the church was the people and not the bricks and mortar, but nevertheless we may well have pictured them in a building!

……….Our experience during the Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, forced us out of our buildings.  Gathering for worship now means sitting at our desk or at the kitchen table or with our laptop, tablet or phone on our lap in the lounge, at whatever time it suits us to watch the pre-recorded worship.  And whilst some of us have been really restricted to our homes because of our particular health situations or the health of those we live with, many of us have found ourselves out and about in the community more than usual as we’ve taken our daily exercise.

→ So, if I ask you to visualise the church now, what image would be in your mind – an empty church building, individuals or families sat in their homes watching a screen, individuals out in the community providing support and care to those who can’t get out, a bit like seeds scattered recklessly across a wide area?

……….I think that latter image is actually a really good analogy for the church and one that we find in God’s word, in Matthew’s gospel.  But I can already hear some of you thinking, but isn’t the “seed” that Jesus speaks about in this parable that we’ve heard the word of God?  We know the story well; we’ve heard it many times before.  The farmer wants a harvest, so he goes out to plant seeds.  The seed lands on soil which varies in type and quality so the harvest is varied.  When the disciples ask Jesus to explain he says the seed is the word of God – definition given – conversation over – you must be wrong Gill!

……….Well, it’s not unusual for me to be wrong but right after explaining this parable to the disciples, Jesus tells another one and in this parable “seed” means something else.  Once again the farmer goes out and scatters seed in the fields but then one of his enemies sneaks in after dark and spreads bad seed amongst the good.  Then when the disciples ask for an explanation of this story, Jesus says that the good seeds are “the people of the kingdom.”

……….I guess, if truth be told, we like to be the ones in control of scattering the seeds of the gospel, spreading the love of Christ amongst the varied and unpredictable soils found in the communities of which we are a part.  We like to be in charge.  We like to be the sower!  But what if we aren’t?  What if we aren’t the ones in control of spreading the seed?  What if we, as Jesus suggests, are the seed being scattered in many places and various circumstances with the expectation that we might grow right where we are.

……….Jesus told these parables to help people understand the nature of his kingdom and how that kingdom might grow.  And seeds play a major part in his strategy – seed that is his word and seeds that are us, his people.  So, if we are seed in God’s hand, maybe the image of seed scattered throughout our communities is a pretty good one to use at this time?!

……….We have been taken from the packet of the church and scattered, chiefly in our homes, but for some still in your workplaces, on our streets, in our shops.  For most of us, those places have always been the places where we spend most of our week, but in many cases we have perhaps thought of the church building as the place where we gather and the hub from which all our Christian activity and service starts.

→ So, as God’s seed-people, we have been scattered and the expectation is that we will grow and produce fruit.  Some of us have perhaps already discovered that we are in fertile soil.  We have taken to the new context in which we find ourselves being called to work and communicate and share our story like a duck to water and already we are thinking of lots of new ways in which we might continue in that vein.  The fruit is already beginning to emerge!

………. Others of us are perhaps finding the soil a little more rocky or shallow.  We’re not quite sure which way is up!  Where is the light?  How do we get around all these thorny problems and rocky issues that seem to be in the way?  How can we be expected to flourish and grow, let alone be fruitful in this environment?  How do we find the room to grow when the space around us is so crowded with other seeds all trying to do the same thing?!  We may even find ourselves questioning God about why we find ourselves in these places and situations because from our limited perspective on the ground, they don’t feel like the right place to be at all if growth is what God is looking for?  But unorthodox as God’s methods might sometimes seem, he is skilled at scattering us exactly where he wants us to be and patient as he waits for the fruit to grow.

……….God calls us to produce fruit wherever we are and in order for that to happen it’s best if our roots are very firmly in Christ, otherwise we shrivel up when the heat is on, or the thorny issues of relationships and finances and pressures at work can get in the way.  Very often we are keen to grow and blossom but we’re not quite so keen on the self-sacrifice and commitment that is needed on our part and assume that we must have been scattered and planted in the wrong place but God’s word promises that “the seeds he sows will not be in vain, but will grow and flourish in peace.”

→ Over the years, the church and those of us who make up the church have been scattered all over the world and we have served in a diverse range of situations and contexts.  History reveals that as God’s people we have found ourselves scattered in the stony ground of slavery, we have been buried under poverty and we have been choked out by injustice.  Today we still find ourselves wrestling with the thorns of racism, the stones of poverty and the weeds of abuse and violence but there is always hope.

………In these strange and challenging days in which we find ourselves, it has been wonderful to hear about the fruit that so many of you are producing as you blossom and grow in the places where God has now placed you – in the online space, at the Foodbank, behind the mask, alongside the vulnerable, beyond the church walls.  These may not be comfortable places but they are where we have been scattered for now and where we are called to flourish and grow.

………So, at whatever stage of life and ministry you may now be, wherever you may find yourselves in the coming weeks, months and years, remember that our calling is to grow and flourish wherever we are scattered and to become more like Christ, who grew where he was planted, died to self and died for us under less than perfect conditions so that we might reap the benefit of the new life that was then on offer.

………..As you remain rooted in Christ, may you know the refreshing rain of God’s spirit and the warmth of his love turning the rocky, thorny soil in which you sometimes find yourself into fertile ground which will give you encouraging stories of God’s mercy and grace to share with others.