|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the particular spiritual sayings I often return to is from the Irish poet-priest John O’Donohue: ‘When you see God as an artist, everything changes.’ We are so used to hearing about God as a law-giver, an instructor, and/or a judge, that we can so easily miss this central truth of living faith. Of course, law and specific guidelines and moral codes can help us in our lives. Yet we have often so over-emphasised the will, and judgement, of God almost to the exclusion of the imagination and creativity of God. That is one reason to look at Van Gogh’s great painting of the Sower at Sunset alongside the parable of the Sower and the Seed in today’s Gospel. For we are helped by viewing the parable as art. Indeed, we might see Jesus’ life and teaching as so much more a great artwork than a set of rules, never mind a clear blueprint for living. Like a great artwork, the parables particularly invite us into fresh perspectives, and encourage us to become artists of our own lives, sharing in God’s imagination and creativity…
As a small child, one of the most wonderful things I remember my school asked me to do, was to grow a plant. Now it didn't appear to us children to start well. For we were each given a very unassuming brown bean and an empty jam jar. We were instructed on how to fill the jar with soil (whoopee!) and put the bean into it so we could see still see it, and we were told to keep watering and looking after it. To begin with of course, nothing happened, or seemed to happen. It was seemingly just a boring glass jar with dirt inside it, together with a seemingly even more boring brown bean. TV, and football, seemed much more enjoyable. Watering and caring for the bean seemed pointless. But I did persist. Then, amazingly, one morning, I woke to see a shoot beginning to break out of the bean, and then another, and another. These beautiful white strands of life then began to break through the surface of the soil into the light, sprouting even more gorgeous green leaves. For the small child I was, it was spectacular. TV was one thing, and football - well, maybe even football - was another. This however was a wonder, and a wonder I had myself helped to nurture.
Do we lose that sense of wonder as we grow older, do you think? Do we stop learning that new life is always possible - that it will break out extraordinarily by God's good grace, and a little human care? Do we fail to realise that we too are not destined to be boring brown beans in boring jam jars, imprisoned in dirt? The good news - our Gospel message - is indeed that we too are called to sprout, reach out and flourish in the light. Moreover, this morning, what a better way do we have to express that than in our prayers and blessing for Clara, as she sprouts into the authentic light of who she is, in God's grace, as a transgender person?...
sermon by Jonathan Inkpin for Pentecost 5, Sunday 13 July 2014
Sometimes the names we are used to calling things keep us from seeing their full value. This is certainly the case with Jesus’ teaching. A few years ago for instance, in some Christian quarters, we stopped referring to one of the Jesus’ great stories as simply ‘the Parable of the Prodigal Son’. It had become too predictable and limiting. Instead we also started referring to it as ‘the Parable of the Father’s Love’ and the Parable of the Two Sons’ as we started noticing other features in the story which are very life-giving. I suspect it is the same with the story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel reading. Maybe we should look at the so-called ‘Parable of the Sower’ in other ways, if we want to hear more of what God is saying to us through it.
Here are three suggestions…