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Sermon by Revd Caroline Risdon, Fifth Sunday after Trinity 12 July 2020

You can hear an audio recording of the sermon here

Gracious God, we thank you for your word
and pray that it may deepen our love for you
and strengthen our faith in you.
That Christ may dwell in our hearts.                                               Amen.
On Thursday it was my great pleasure to take a service of Holy Communion in the Church- the first for 16 weeks. It was wonderful to be together again and yet strange because we maintained a safe distance from each other and we didn't share communion fully together.
It struck me as very comforting that Thursday's reading from the prophet Hosea seemed to speak directly into this strangeness. Hosea uses the image of God as a parent teaching us, the children, how to walk. God is the One who will rescue us and enable us, and yet also the One who sets us free to walk our own path. Overall though, Hosea reminds us that God will never forsake us.
That is of course greatly comforting at such a time as this. Everything around us seems so unsettled. It certainly is ever-changing. So we can derive great comfort from thinking about God as a parent, whose love will never leave us and whose arms are constantly there to prevent our fall, or to help us regain our balance, or to hold us and comfort us.
In today's readings we have another image of God- that of the seemingly willfully incompetent farmer! For which farmer do you know who would so casually, almost wastefully, chuck seed about like the one in this parable?
Like most parables, we are lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to understanding what Jesus is trying to say. It seems so clear- the seed is the Word of God and that seems to mean that we are the soil. Some people, like the hard path, do not receive the word at all. Some, like the rocky or thorny soil, receive it to an extent but their fledgling faith is choked before it becomes strong enough to withstand testing. And yet others receive what is sown and grow abundantly, like the good soil.
It seems fairly simple- we are to be the good soil allowing the Word of God into our hearts and lives. After all, good seed plus good soil results in an abundant harvest. So why then does the farmer not just plant those precious seeds in the fruitful soil? This question brings us back to the most important function of any parable or imagery used in the Bible. And that is to give us some understanding of the overflowing love of God.
If you are a gardener, or a creator, or a dreamer, maybe this image of the farmer speaks to you. Perhaps you know something of trying many different options before finding the one that really works. Perhaps you have experienced the wonderful mix of optimism and awe when an idea seems to take and then to develop a life of its own.
If you are very practical, a do-er or a finisher, maybe the image of the parent speaks to you. Perhaps you know something of the incremental steps that need to be taken to reach the bigger goal. Perhaps you have experienced the wonderful mix of  determination and contentment when action brings a project to fruition.
In both of these images of God as the farmer and the parent, we begin to understand something of the depth of God's love for us. We are created and brought to birth by God. From the beginning, in the beginning, all that God has created is described as good. Everything that makes you, you, and me, me, is loved by God, even our much less attractive and loving characteristics. Despite our attempts to grow and develop on our own, God does not leave us to falter or fall but rather enables us and guides us to freedom.
There is one particular characteristic that strikes me again and again from these images and from living through these past tumultuous few months. That is God's permanence. The One who was and who is and who is to come. Though everything about us may be changeable and unpredictable, God can be relied upon. We are safe, held in the everlasting arms of God, our Creator and our Redeemer.

Revd Caroline Risdon, 11/07/2020
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