Showing God’s love and care: a listening ear, supplies for food banks, working to save our planet

Mary Copping, 12 July 2020

Isaiah 55: 10–13; Romans 8: 1–11; Matthew 13: 1–9; 18–23

During this time of lockdown most of us have had the opportunity and time and space to see God’s creation as perhaps we have never noticed it before (and it’s great for me to be filming in the garden) – from the month of March, when buds began to appear, and now, the abundant growth we see in the trees and flowers. And what a pleasure it’s given to many people. My daughter commented, she wished she’d taken a photo of each stage of growth up until now. Some people may have done so.

Thus the parable of the seeds that Jesus told is very relevant at this time, as it was to his hearers then. They may have been puzzled at the parable, wondering why on earth he was telling them about seeds and new growth, but Jesus later explained the meaning to his disciples. The parable of the seeds – so familiar to us.

But I wonder which seed we’d identify with at this time in our Christian faith? The first, the seed thrown on the path with no room to grow: the person who hears the word, who believes, but it doesn’t mean much? Has our faith become a bit weak during this time; have we felt God being absent? Where are you in this, Lord? The seed on rocky ground trying to grow, but no roots: do we listen and become full of faith, but when trouble comes our faith is shaky and cannot sustain us? This is too much, Lord – I want to believe, but it’s too hard. The one sown among thorns is when our worries and cares choke our faith, when we feel God just can’t help us. Or the seed sown in rich soil, the one who hears the words, has strong faith in God and bears much fruit. Wouldn’t we love to be like this seed all the time? Receiving God’s love and his word in our hearts, and bearing much fruit, being God’s disciples, doing all that he wants us to do – being strong in our faith.

But we know that we can be like any and all of these four seeds at different times in our lives. But perhaps we’d love to become more of the seed sown in good soil, wanting to be open to receive from God and then more open to bear the fruit that he wants us to? Who can help us with this? From our reading in Romans, we see that the only thing that can help us is Jesus and our faith in him – Jesus, who is the living word. Our actions can’t make us more receptive to God, more open to his word and to the guidance of his Holy Spirit, but by allowing time to spend with God and putting our faith in God, we know that he does transform us and he does transform the way we live.

In this time of gradual relaxation of lockdown when people who have been very lonely can now see others, families can meet, people are going back to school and work, how as Christians do we come out of this? For some, lockdown can be compared to being in a desert without all the things we took for granted, all the distractions of daily living. In the desert many found solace in God’s creation, in spending time in prayer, in quietness and reflection, finding what was valuable and what was not, and this has perhaps been our experience.

Tearfund did a survey on spirituality and discovered that during the time of lockdown, many more people had been praying. We have been living quieter, more reflective lives – more aware of our inner selves, more aware perhaps of God’s love, and of course more aware of his beautiful creation. Having hearts more receptive to God as the seed planted in the rich soil, growing and bearing much fruit. We don’t want to lose that receptivity. We’ve been transformed by God through this time and we won’t come out of this the same as we went in.

In a recent Songs of Praise programme Archbishop Justin Welby spoke about his visits as chaplain to St Thomas’ Hospital, talking and praying with people. He spoke of it as a privilege and a blessing, the most powerful part of his week. He described how he’d seen the unity of the people working in the hospital, transforming so many lives. Asked what words of comfort he would bring to viewers of the programme, he said, ‘Words of comfort can be trite. Showing God’s love and care is what counts to people.’ He urged us to pray and prepare. He said that he had been realising more and more how powerful prayer can be and what a difference it can make. As things open up, a lot of people are shocked, shaken, living the after-effects of the illness, bereaved, in difficult situations financially. Ours is to pray for others and be prepared to be those who draw alongside others with the love of Christ.

I know that some clergy go into Winchester Hospital and listen to and pray for the staff there, a wonderful thing to do. Most of us, though, are not able to do this or cannot, but we can phone, FaceTime someone, write a letter of comfort and pray – do whatever we’re able to do. As the archbishop said, there will be many, many people affected by all that’s happened, through illness, unemployment, bereavement. As a church and as God’s people we want to continue seeking out ways in which we can help those in need: a listening ear, a comforter, food for the food banks, working to save our planet.

The archbishop said that going to the hospital felt what he was ordained for. For us all as Christians, we know that we are here to bring Christ’s love and light to those in need. We can all of us, no matter what our situation, help others. We are blessed asking God to show us those he wants us to help; and helping others, we find that we do become blessed by God. To give is better than to receive. Focusing on another’s needs brings blessing and comfort to us as well, as we know.

We can all of us, no matter what our situation, help others.

We are Christians asked by God to bear much fruit. Throughout this time we have all done what we have been able to do to help others. Let us look forward to how God is going to use us more and more to help and comfort others in the days and weeks ahead. Let us be as the seed planted in good soil. Let us take out from what has been, and continues to be, a challenging time, take out the quiet, the freedom from clutter, the peace, the time spent with God, the fellow-feeling with many others and the kindness we’ve given and received. From Matthew’s gospel: ‘Freely you have received, freely give’. Freely we receive the love of God, let us freely give that love wherever we are able to.

Some words from the hymn ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’:

We are pilgrims on a journey,
fellow travellers on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

What a privilege to serve the living God!

View the sermon here
(11: 03)