Who will separate us from the love of Christ. Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
A sower went out to sow . . . let anyone with ears listen! – Matthew 13:1-9
Australia is losing its religion. That’s what the newspaper headlines trumpeted this last week. The data from the 2016 census has just been released: 30% of Australians now say they have no religion; back in 1966 it was less than 1%! And, the most godless places are the inner city areas of Australia’s capital cities, including this one!
So, when it comes to matters of religion, it would seem we couldn’t be further away from the world of 1966, let alone the world in Jesus’ times and the stories he told! Then, religion and life were inseparable, now it seems never the twain shall meet. Then, people had a connection with the land, now we don’t even have back yards! So, what’s a lovely little agricultural story about a farmer got to say to a remnant in inner city Adelaide increasingly surrounded by godlessness?
I suspect most of us city slickers don’t have much idea about farming. That’s great because Jesus tells a story about a person who had no idea about farming. I don’t know much about farming, but I met a few farmers during my time in Renmark, and if I learnt anything I learnt that farmers know their soil, they have to! And, seed is precious, so they don’t waste sowing it on land that won’t produce anything. These days with computers and GPS and hydraulics, they can sow their seed exactly where they want it, and they can put the seed to the exact depth to ensure they get the maximum yield possible. Because margins are tight. Apart from the changes in technology I can’t imagine it’s ever been any different. Farmers know their soil. They always have, and farmers don’t just scatter their precious seed willy-nilly, that makes no sense, you don’t sow seeds where they’re not going to grow!
Not on the path, not on rocky ground, not amongst the thorns! You just don’t do it!
But, the farmer in Jesus’ story does! Just throws it out anywhere, no thought about where it might land, no planning, no technique, no strategy, no profit-loss analysis. He’s obviously got no idea!
Funny, you know, that’s what they said about Jesus in his time: “He’s got no idea”. No idea what God’s kingdom is about. Look at him! Socializing with tax collectors, talking with prostitutes, fraternizing with sinners. What’s that about? What have they got to do with God’s kingdom?
Those who knew about the kingdom of God – the experts in that field – they knew God’s kingdom was a precious commodity, you didn’t just bandy it about willy-nilly, it wasn’t intended for those types of people, well, not until they got their act together and changed their ways.
But, somebody forgot to tell Jesus about the program. He really wasn’t very choosey about whom he spent time with: Gentiles, Pharisees, tax collectors, lepers, scribes, the godless, prostitutes, it didn’t matter; he scattered himself amongst them all, he touched their sores, he pointed out their self-righteousness, he healed their infirmities, he welcomed their burdens, he forgave their sins, he granted them peace. And, because he did that, it made it clear he really had no idea about the kingdom of God! It was obvious this movement he had started would come to nothing, it would soon fizzle out, and the newspaper headlines could state mockingly: ‘Christianity is dead’! Before it even started! And, soon the proof would be there, right before their eyes, before everyone’s eyes: there he was, hanging from a Roman cross, like a common criminal. Where were the members of his crew now? They’d all gone, turned away from him, deserted him. If they’d taken a census at that moment it would have recorded: Followers of Christ: Nil.
But, surely they’d made the right call, for clearly this man didn’t represent God’s kingdom! Who would follow him now? No one would want to be his disciple. No one would flock to him anymore. No one would see him as a Messiah, let alone the Son of God. Not this man: mocked and beaten, battered and bleeding; hanging there on Golgatha, the most godless place of all!
The most godless place of all! Funny, that sounds just like where Jesus would want to be!
Australia is losing its religion. That’s what the newspaper headlines trumpet. The data from the 2016 census tells us that 30% of Australians say they have no religion. And, the most godless places are the inner city areas of Australia’s capital cities, including this one!
But, a sower went out to sow, and some seed fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Let anyone with ears listen!
Grace and peace
Pastor John Strelan
Pentecost 6, 2017