The usual pattern of services is:
10.30am Choral Parish Eucharist
6.30pm St Mark's Horizon Voices Community Choir (Term time)
8pm Pints of View at the Elgin Pub, Maida Vale
10:00-11:30 Little Lions
12:30pm Coffee Hour
St Mark's Hamilton Terrace
St Mark's Church
114 Hamilton Terrace
Please call the Administrator on: 020 7624 4065 to enquire about bookings.
To discuss weddings, Christenings or to speak to a priest for any other reason Tel: 020 7328 4373 (vicar) Please note: the vicar is unable to help with hall bookings.
E-mail the parish office on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or use our contact form.
Wheat and Weeds - Trinity 6. (Matthew 13.24-30,36-43)
But this week we are moving on from the quality of the soil to the quality … or maybe, more accurately the nature … of the seed.
And this time, the seed is people. People of God and people of the enemy … evil.
And so we see a field which is intended to be full of wheat which will provide nourishment and only good things. While we sleep, something else is added which will not provide any of that.
Isn’t it natural for the workers to want to go out and rip that crop up? To get rid of the weeds that have grown up alongside the crop?
This week you may have caught in the news that three new bishops have been consecrated (all following best COVID aware practice, I might add). It should have been a joyful occasion for the church. I think it was. Yet within that, as we have seen so many times, it’s actually shown huge amounts of division.
You see, one of these new bishops was a woman … and one was a traditionalist who cannot in conscience accept the ordained ministry of women. And so all of the old arguments have been dredged up again. And all the old pain has come up again. Wounds have been opened up.
And this is only one of the subjects that the Anglican church (let alone all of the other denominations) has not been able to come to full agreement on. I’m sure I don’t need to cite all of them, but we know there are differences in opinion on sexuality, pro-life vs pro-choice, political differences etc, etc, etc … it’s all there.
You can see, I’m sure, why this has all struck a chord with me as I sat down to write on this week’s Gospel. If we look at the field of the church, there is a huge amount of inter-mixing of seeds going on. And I’ve heard, on most of these issues, calls for the weeds to be ripped up.
But let’s not get carried away here. The weeds in the parable are commonly believed to be darnel. That is a seed which looks almost identical to wheat. Even fully grown, its crop is not so dissimilar that it’s easy to distinguish. I read it described as wheat’s evil twin. It is poisonous and can induce a drunken-like state (in fact, its Latin name ‘temulentum’ comes from the Latin word for drunk). And it has been used throughout history for those very properties. So it’s not entirely useless!
But we can see why the workers want to get rid of it. But what’s harder to understand is, why doesn’t the farmer?
Well, that parable tells us that the roots are intertwined and that destroying one would destroy the other.
Instead the farmer wants us to leave it … to let it be. I’d actually suggest that there is an argument for more than that. The Greek word used for ‘leave’ has a number of meanings, a common one of which is ‘forgive’. This suggests so much more than simply letting the weeds get on with growing as the wheat gets on with growing … it suggests living together in love and harmony … forgiving, and forgiven. And, extending the metaphor even further, allowing for the possibility that evolution may yet allow us to gain from each other.
This parable is the best argument I know for fighting for unity and love within the worldwide Anglican Communion rather than wishing it would split into its little factions.
And let’s not forget that the workers who want to pull the weeds out are not the same as the harvesters who will eventually separate the two crops out.
The intention is clear here. We are not the ones who are meant to be clearing out people from the church we do not agree with. We are meant to be living in love and forgiveness with each other. When it’s hard to determine which is the proper ‘wheat’ and which is the ‘darnel’, we are not best placed to be doing that. After all, we always need to consider the fact that, where both crops believe they are the wheat, there is, logically, always one who will be mistaken. Let’s leave it in the hands of the angels, whilst focussing on being the best possible wheat we know how.
The Parable of the Sower - Trinity 5 (Matthew 13.1-9,18-23)
So, how many times have you heard the parable of the sower? And how many times have you been led to reflect on your heart as the soil, just waiting for the seeds? And we all know that we are the fortunate good soil providing fertile ground for God’s word to find nourishment and to grow, don’t we? It’s quite a comforting little story. It doesn’t really demand anything from us, other than an awareness that we’re ok … and that God will still try to reach out to those who will never have ears …. It’s a wonderful affirmation that God spreads His love to all – that there is no scarcity when it comes to what he wants to give to the world and to us. No human farmer would be so careless as to throw valuable seed where it has no hope of flourishing … but God does. He doesn’t count the cost. He just continues to give again and again.
There is nothing wrong with that comforting story. But I don’t think it’s the whole story here.
How about we take a step back?
The seed, we know is God’s word. The soil is human hearts. The sower is Christ. But, instead of just thinking about what we get out of this transaction and sitting in a nice warm glow, how about we extend the thinking a little?
As many of you know, the vicarage garden has needed a huge amount of work doing on it. Over lockdown, David has valiantly stepped in and worked really hard on it. This time last year we had a couple of roses pushing through. An apple tree suffering from some kind of disease. Loads of ivy taking over every inch it could and some brambles. That’s pretty much all you could see. Now we have beautiful healthy rose bushes with vibrant and fragrant flowers, a tree full of small apples growing bigger every day, fuscias, jasmine, clematis, lavendar … more flowers and more colour than I could have ever imagined in there. It’s beautiful. Really beautiful.
But without that work nothing would have changed.
I have to say, though. He hasn’t planted a single thing. What he has done is spent days and weeks of back breaking work pulling up weeds and the plants which were choking the others out and shading things which needed the sun. He’s moved a couple of plants into better environments where they get more sun. He’s poured fertiliser on the soil and dug it in. He’s broken up the soil, moved big rocks, got rid of rotten branches … and life has come back. What was planted by others has been able to find life and health.
And that’s our role in God’s mission. God is generous and pours out his love for all – great big handfuls scattered far and wide. But it needs work. From the earliest days of faith we, his created humans, have been seen as gardeners for God. Right back from the Genesis story… We can see that as a description of what went wrong when we, instead of joining in God’s work and tending the soil, making all creation ready to flourish under his love, took our own concerns more seriously and just focussed on sustaining ourselves.
We need to make sure the soil of other people’s hearts is cared for. We need to move the rocks that have piled up on people’s shoulders, cut away the weeds that choke people’s belief in what they can achieve, make them safe from those who would oppress and harm them. We need to nourish others – to care for their hearts even when the fruit, like that from our apple tree last year, does not look beautiful or useful. We need to look to see the potential in the soil that others present us with and work towards making it ready to receive the seed of God’s word. All soil is ultimately good. It needs care and it needs kindness. We need to be ready to facilitate healing even when it looks like we haven’t made the slightest difference. It’s back breaking. But that work will pay dividends and the kingdom will bear wonderful fruit and the most amazing beauty because of it.