Faith that grows and flourishes
Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
One of the things that is so unique about the parables is that most of them are never explained, are they? They give us lots of opportunity to read into them, to draw out of them, to uncover layer after layer of the riches of the message of Jesus: what he had to say then, to the hearers of his time, and what he has to say to us now, who read it later, in very different circumstances.
One of the things I love about the preaching of Jesus is that he used simple things to help us understand difficult things, difficult truths.
He didn’t get into philosophy and flowery speech, so that only the wise and learned could understand. No, I love it in 1 Corinthians 1:27 where Paul says But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.””
Jesus looked around and saw things that made sense to ordinary, everyday people like you and me. He would use examples from everyday life: the kingdom of heaven is like that woman over there who has some coins, or like a relationship between a father and his two sons, or like (and I can imagine him standing there talking out in the open and looking around and saying: there, look over there, the kingdom of heaven is like that guy, over there, sowing seed. He transformed ordinary, everyday things that they had seen a thousand times, and made them symbols of the kingdom of God.
And in the days before massive tractors and heavy equipment, I guess not all land used for agriculture was turned over just nicely, agronomy may not have been a science that told them exactly what was in their soil, and what was missing. And seed was not planted inches deep in perfect rows, guided by GPS.
It was scattered, and some of it would not have fallen in the right place.
Just like the diseases and pests that a farmer has to deal with now, there obstacles to overcome if a farmer wanted a good return in Jesus’ day.
And there are obstacles to overcome if the word of God is going to plant faith in people today, countless pitfalls and stumbling blocks between the implanted word, and a faith that not only just survives, but thrives.
And isn’t that we want? For ourselves, and for our children, and loved ones? A faith that grows and flourishes, and produces it’s own fruit, and spreads to the next generation and the next.
There are many people who hear the message of the gospel, and wonder what it is all about. They may even start to show an interest in it, but if they have no one to talk to about it, to learn from, to help them to understand it, it pretty quickly disappears out of their priorities. This is like what Jesus said about the seed that fell on the path.
Churches, love them or hate them, are the bodies that God has seen fit to use as the place where we live out our faith together, worship together, grow together, strengthen one another, and are in turn strengthened in our faith BY others.
We so often look at parables like this in terms of our individual faith. But for where we are going for the next few weeks, we are going to start looking at what it means when we express our faith together as a church. Even just the act of going along to a church is no guarantee that your faith will thrive. It can still be thrown off track, choked out by worries, or the pursuit of things that the world around us tells us are more important.
Now we worry about the future of our church: Of our own congregation, and every church does to some extent. Why? Because we want to be the biggest church on the block, or make a name for ourselves, or be seen as successful? I pray that is not the case.
But there are some that do. Those churches do not seem to last very long, because like the seed on rocky ground they never seem to have the depth to survive. If our faith, or our church communities are all about the latest fad, or being able to put up the best membership numbers, or keeping up with popular trends, and the court of public opinion, then we will wither, and the world has many ex-churches who sprang up very quickly, and dies off just as fast. An easy analogy to the seed that fell on rocky soil in Jesus’ parable.
Don’t we want to be the one who produces a crop? A church that does this, made up of people who are flourishing and growing? I think about the seed on shallow ground, that is dried up because it has no root, and the seed that is choked out by thorns, and I hear in this the ones who say that they can be Christian without ever going to church. I know. You can. For a while. But who do you have to help you in your faith when the hot winds blow of the thorns of all sorts of wrong beliefs choke the faith that was growing in you?
There is a quote floating around at the moment that I like, that says: “the church of God does not have a mission, the mission of God has a church”. Churches are the bodies he has seen fit to use. But like seed or soil they do not always work well.
Over the next 5 weeks we are going to hear about the guiding principles that the people of St. Marks in Dalby have committed themselves to follow. I have mentioned them to you before. These are so helpful when it comes to knowing what you are going to get when you come to a church, as a member, as a guest, when I accepted the invitation to come here as the Pastor! It is part of the “understanding the word and putting it into practice” that Jesus speaks about.
As leaders and members of St Marks, we will strive to be Christ centred: Which means that our decision and actions reflect that Jesus is at the centre of all we do and who we are.
Spirit Guided. We will prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we hear and respond to God’s will for our decisions and actions
Encouraging Discipleship: Our decisions and actions will encourage and equip people to become followers of Jesus and grow in their Christian Faith
Inclusive: Our Decisions and actions will be based on the inclusiveness shown by Jesus Christ.
And witnessing to the gospel: Our decisions and actions will be a positive witness to the gospel.
We are going to be spending a week on each one of these principles. So you will know what they are based on, and what they mean to us, and what you can expect among us, as well as what we won’t allow among us.
As you join us for these weeks, may your faith thrive, as the word of God continues to find fertile soil in you, and may you grow, in every way, more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ.