The Parable of the Sower
Just before I went on holiday I preached on the parable of the sower which you can find in Matthew’s gospel chapter 13. I had always vaguely thought the sower was God or Jesus but what if it is the Church who is the sower. How do we sprinkle the seed, the word of God? How much trouble do we take to present the word, to sow the seed, in such a way that people can really hear it? In such a way that it’s immediate and relevant to people’s lives? Suppose we take this parable to refer not so much to individuals, some of whom respond to the word of God, some of whom don’t, but to communities, to churches.
I suspect some churches are like rocky ground. They work hard sowing the word, and there’s an immediate and enthusiastic response. But it seems to stop there. There’s no depth to their teaching. They avoid difficult questions, like the problem of suffering. They tend to rely on heightened emotion. But their teaching is simplistic and therefore not satisfying for very long. They often have an excellent and enthusiastic response to mission, but the growth isn’t sustained. The seed grows, but withers away through lack of moisture.
Then there are those churches who sprinkle a little seed on the path, and somehow fail to realise they’ve missed the soil altogether. They say things like: “We’re OK as we are. We’re not going to change, because we like the way things are. Church isn’t about numbers, it’s about the faithful few. We have invited people to come to our services, but they don’t want to know these days. It’s a waste of time even asking them.” In these churches the seed is trodden under the foot of the way it’s always been. Of the way which is most comfortable and least demanding. The seeds never have a chance to even begin growing. They’re simply devoured by the birds because these churches aren’t prepared to entertain any disturbances to their way of life. And their way of doing things might be threatened by any prospect of new growth.
What of the churches where the seed falls among thorns? Perhaps these churches are the direct opposite of those who sprinkle seed on the path because these churches are very much concerned with being part of the real world. So much so, they tend to bend over backwards to accommodate the world. In their anxiety not to exclude anyone or anything, their teaching is unclear, indistinct. They rarely mention God, because people might be offended or put off. Boundaries are so blurred, no-one is sure where they lie, or even whether they exist at all. The church seems to have no particular identity. It’s a sort of chameleon, taking on the colour and shape of its surroundings and offering very little to distinguish Christianity from the rest of life.
And what of the Churches that sow on good soil. They reach out in mission, so that other people in the community have some chance to hear the word. But then they encourage a maturing faith. A faith which isn’t afraid of the difficult questions, and is prepared to follow those questions wherever they might lead, because they’re going to lead to the truth. These churches listen and respond to the needs of the community. But they’re not prepared to surrender the solid base of their worship, because they’re aware a solid base is essential as a firm foundation for any growth. And they don’t exclude anyone, because whilst they won’t allow thorns to choke the seeds, they’re sensible enough to allow some thorns to grow up alongside the seeds. They’re aware Christians must be part of the world. Not removed from it. Not sheltering in some ivory palace. Not wringing their hands helplessly over the morals of society. Not crying over the way things once were. These churches know where the boundaries lie, but they don’t pass judgement, because they’re aware judgement belongs to God alone. They make it quite clear Christian standards are very high indeed, and rather different from the world’s standards. And they’re not afraid to acknowledge the place God has in their lives.
The parable of the sower is a story. We have a story too. The story of our church. It’s a story which has a beginning and a middle. But I guess it’s up to us to decide how that story should continue and exactly what type of sower we shall be.
Vision into Project
At the Annual Church Meeting our architects shared a vision for the future of the church as shown in the plans displayed on the noticeboard in church. Now we are looking to turn this vision into a project. So, it is time to make sure we have thought of everything.
Do you have some wisdom to share?
Are you worried about aspects of the vision?
Have you got a great idea you would like to see explored?
Have we forgotten something?
Are we missing the obvious?
Let us know what YOU think at our BIG Thank You party on 10th September at 6pm in church.
Come along and party with us as we show our appreciation for all the volunteers who keep our church running.
See what you can offer and share with us your thoughts for the future of your church. And if you can’t make it talk to a PCC member or email the vicar.
We are waiting to hear from you.
Now that the May bank holiday is fixed to the last Monday in May it has become detached from the great Christian festival of Pentecost with which it used to be linked. Called Whit Sunday in the past, many of the older generation may remember it as a weekend for new clothes and big parades. Now Pentecost passes almost unnoticed even within Church circles. But the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit is an important event to recall as it is the birthday of the Church. When Jesus ascended back up to heaven he promised his followers he would send them the gift of the Holy Spirit; described by various Bible translations as a comforter, friend, helper, advocate or counsellor. The Holy Spirit came to empower us to be God’s life in the world. We are to do the work of God in the world. We are to be God to the world. And, as we cannot do that alone, the Holy Spirit will be there with us. It means that we are never without the presence of God in our lives to support us through the hard times, comfort us in times of distress and sorrow, rejoice with us in times of celebration and work with and challenge us to further the Kingdom of God in our generation.
To this end it was lovely to see so many people attend the presentation by our architects at the end of April, during which they shared our vision for the future of the church building. Many people expressed enthusiasm and support and the PCC have asked the architects to go ahead and cost a phased proposal in order to move the project forward in more detail and allow us to submit to both the Diocesan Advisory Committee for an Initial Notice and also to the amenity bodies, Historic England, Victorian Society etc. This will inevitably take some time.
Although the summer months are often seen as a quieter time the church remains open for business with its regular pattern of services and Wednesday afternoon teas. However, there are less meetings and a chance to draw breath, evaluate what we are doing and offer our work back to God. We will be having our annual thanksgiving for ministries at 6pm on 10th September to say thank you to everyone who is involved in the work of the church whether through cleaning and gardening, delivering magazines or serving the teas, helping out with the youth work, reading lessons for services or any one of the numerous ministries that people exercise. Please do get the date in your diary, and remember there are drinks and snacks afterwards. But first, enjoy the summer and the opportunities that it provides to reflect upon the work of the Holy Spirit, in our lives, our communities and our world.
ORGANIST (AND DIRECTOR OF MUSIC), ST JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH CHURCH, BODICOTE
St John the Baptist Parish Church, Bodicote is looking to appoint an Organist to replace the present Organist who has retired due to ill health
The church is a typical large parish church, and music plays a key part in our services. We have an adult choir of up to sixteen, at full strength, which sings choral settings at our Sunday 9.45am Common Worship Order One communion services, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, in the Eucharists and supports our special 6pm Sunday evening services such as carol services and songs of praise.
We hope that our new organist would continue our music tradition. There is also opportunity to develop a Director of Music role who could seek to expand the choir, and consider the introduction of new elements into our music provision. One such direction could be to liaise with our church primary school to encourage the children perhaps to join the choir.
Your Role as Organist would be to provide the music used in our services and occasionally lead a choir practice. Additionally as Director of Music to lead, support and develop our choir.
To summarise we are looking for someone,
• In sympathy with our worship tradition
• Possessing good musical, interpersonal and organisational skills
• Able to work positively with clergy and choir
Our church offers,
• A choir
• An electric organ
• A weekly Sunday service plus a number of other services, particularly at the great festivals
• Weddings and funerals
• The opportunity to use the organ for teaching.
This would be an honorary post although all funeral and wedding fees would be guaranteed
For further information please contact the Rev Sarah Sharp on 01295 250282 or email@example.com
Vicar’s report . . . Keeping Lent
The great statesman, Winston Churchill, once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” That proverbial statement best captures the meaning of this season we call Lent. Lent is that liturgical season of the church’s calendar year, whereby we focus on the cost of following Christ. Lent is a time of penance, prayer, preparation for or recollection of our baptism in Christ as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. Observance of Lent is as old as the 4th century. It begins on Ash Wednesday which this year falls on 1st March, the 40th weekday before Easter and it ends at midnight Holy Saturday. Lent is that time of year, whereby we turn our attention to the cross. We focus on that which God, the father has given us and we are challenged to go forth and do likewise. Lent is about losing our lives by giving them to Christ and getting eternal life by finding Christ within us. Lent is about loss. It’s about losing ourselves in order to find our lives. Jesus declares that the one who loves their life loses it and the one who hates their life will keep it for eternal life. Now, a loser by our social standards is one who has failed to accomplish any relevant success or significance in his life. But by God’s standards a loser is one who has totally immersed their life in the will and way of Jesus. The new magazine is packed with ways in which you can keep Lent, either by socialising at the Lent lunch and giving to charity in the process, by finding out more about God through our Lent discussion groups or by attending the many and varied services taking place in church. I hope that our new style magazine, which hopefully you have now received through your door, will help you feel more connected to your parish church. If you haven’t received a copy and would like one, please use the contact form or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church House Toilet Refurbishment Project
We are delighted to report the successful completion of the Church House Toilet Refurbishment Project. Over a two month period, in the summer, the toilet area was completely gutted, the walls and ceiling removed, and the floor lowered to the same level as that of the main hall.
The whole area was then rebuilt to provide two unisex cubicles and a fully equipped disabled facility which also houses a baby change unit. Improvements to the insulation and heating have been made, modern hand driers installed and the whole area has been finished to a high standard. The overall cost of the project amounted to just over £22,000 which has been funded largely from Church House Funds plus the continued support of the Film Club and a donation of £5,000 from Banbury Charities. The Church has stepped in with an interest free loan to make up the shortfall. We are extremely grateful to the Film Club and Banbury Charities for their generous support.
Now that both the kitchen and toilet areas have been refurbished the hall has become a much more attractive facility for community use and we would welcome enquiries for its hire. Contact Nicholas Hart either by e-mail email@example.com or telephone 01295 252747.
Our next task will hopefully be to undertake major repairs to Church House Car Park. This promises to be very expensive and will inevitably have to be delayed until sufficient funds can be accumulated.