Sermon by Fr. Joshua Bell SSC, Sunday 13th June 2021
Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34
Every year, Father Adrian and I have prepared candidates for confirmation from St. Michael’s and Whitefriars schools. (For those of you who don’t know, St. Michael’s school, in South Lynn, is attached to All Saints, and we share Whitefriars with the Minster.) In 2019 we prepared five candidates, who were all confirmed in early July at a lovely Mass with Bishop Norman.
Under normal circumstances, the key stage two children come to church every half term for a school Mass, and those who have been confirmed receive the Sacrament.
All of this was disrupted by the pandemic, and after the last school mass in February 2020, Fr. Adrian and I didn’t celebrate the Mass for them again for fifteen months, until last month when I was allowed into St. Michael’s for a socially distanced mass, one class at a time; and we weren’t able to confirm anyone last year either.
So it was with trepidation that I sent out the forms inviting parents to sign their children up for confirmation. I suspected that with it having been two years since the last confirmation, and more than a year since a school Mass, interest would have dropped off and we wouldn’t get anyone.
So you can imagine my surprise when the schools told us that no fewer than eighteen children had been signed up for confirmation classes! They are having lots of fun learning more about the Faith, and next month Bishop Norman will come to All Saints to confirm them.
It goes to show, that when you plant a seed, you never know quite what will happen. And this is what Jesus talks about in our gospel reading.
In Christianity, great things come from small beginnings.
Abraham was a wandering Aramean, one man whom God chose and made the ancestor of a great nation.
Jesus’s first disciples included simple fishermen and once-greedy tax collectors – hardly the group of people you would normally choose to lead. And yet every Christian in the world today owes his or her faith to those disciples.
The kingdom of God is like the mustard seed: the smallest of all seeds which grows into the largest of shrubs.
Last year, gardening fever struck the nation as we all had nowhere to go but plenty of good weather. The number of gardeners in the country, I read on Thursday, is up by 10%, making thirty million of us. Leah and I joined in, and some of you may remember us telling you about the dozens and dozens of tomato plants we had sprouting!
Well, as those things grew, we had to be patient, to wait for those first flowers that would signal the arrival of those lovely tomatoes. Sometimes this was harder to do, and I’d get frustrated when all there was just more flowers, and no fruit.
But, of course, in due time the fruit sprouted, and we were able to eat those tomatoes! We just had to wait.
That’s true for each of us, too. Yesterday we had a triple baptism at St. Peter’s: a thirteen year-old, a four year-old, and a baby. The teenager especially had lots of good, deep questions for Fr. Adrian!
At baptism, a seed is sown in the heart of the person who is baptised. With time, and with the right environment, that seed can germinate and start to grow. We might not see the growth straight away, but we can’t force it. All we can do is make sure that the soil for the seed is good soil. In the parable of the sower, Jesus warned of the seed that fell on rocks, that couldn’t put down roots, and the seed that fell among thorns, which choked it as soon as it grew. So when we receive that seed of faith, whether recently or many years ago, we can ask God to nurture that seed; and we can do our part to nurture it, too – by prayer, by reading the Bible, and by coming to Church, week by week, to be in the presence of God with other Christians.
And doing this can help to nurture the seed in others, too. Perhaps you have family members who have been christened – why not help that seed to grow, by inviting them to come back to church? You never know what size of a tree can be grown from that very tiny seed.