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Sunday, 13 June 2021
It was a beautiful early summer morning this Sunday when we met for our Parish eucharist at 10 am. The Church Yard Working Party have done a great job of tidying up the churchyard and it was looking particularly lovely in the sunshine. We are on our journey through Trinity now, and the Gospel told us of one of Jesus Parables, the story of the mustard seeds. In his sermon Father Roger discussed the use of Parables in the Gospels and how they make us work hard to deeper understanding of the Good News. You can read his words below. Our Covid Choir sang hymns and as an anthem 'Fairest Lord Jesus' a traditional hymn, set to a Silesian folk tune. 
We left church after the service to enjoy the beautiful weather,  refreshed and spiritually renewed.
the Covid Choir

Socially distanced congregation

 2 Corinthians 5:6-20, 14-17

.A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians

Brothers and sisters,

we are always confident; 
even though we know that while we are at home in the body 
we are away from the Lord— 

for we walk by faith, not by sight. 

Yes, we do have confidence, 
and we would rather be away from the body 
and at home with the Lord. 

So whether we are at home or away, 
we make it our aim to please him. 

For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, 
so that each may receive recompense 
for what has been done in the body, 
whether good or evil. 

The love of Christ urges us on, 
because we are convinced that one has died for all;
therefore all have died. 

And he died for all, 
so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, 
but for him who died and was raised for them. 

From now on, therefore, we regard no one 
from a human point of view; 
even though we once knew Christ 
from a human point of view, 
we know him no longer in that way. 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: 
everything old has passed away; 
see, everything has become new! 

Mark 4:26-34

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.

Such a large crowd gathered around Jesus
that he got into a boat and began to teach them using many parables.

Jesus said, 
"The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 

and would sleep and rise night and day, 
and the seed would sprout and grow, 
he does not know how. 

The earth produces of itself, 
first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 

But when the grain is ripe, 
at once he goes in with his sickle,
 because the harvest has come." 

Jesus also said, 
"With what can we compare the kingdom of God, 
or what parable will we use for it? 

It is like a mustard seed, 
which, when sown upon the ground, 
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 3

yet when it is sown it grows up 
and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, 
and puts forth large branches, 
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, 
as they were able to hear it; 

he did not speak to them except in parables, 
but he explained everything in private to his disciples. 


Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Chrsit's sake,
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit
one God, now and forever.


A congenial Gospel reading – plants, one of my passions. And ‘parables’, - the word links to Maths, parabolas, another of my favourites. y = ax2 + b, that sort of thing. But we must spot the main issue here. These stories might be parables about plants, but they are Jesus’ “parables of the Kingdom”. It is the Kingdom of God that we must have an eye to!

Jesus speaks about the Kingdom using many parables. The thing about a parabola in maths is that it is a curve which heads for a certain line, but never gets there. As it approaches, it veers off and turns back away again. So - a parable points to something, but doesn’t get there and spell it out – we have to think out where Jesus is pointing.

The Kingdom is obviously about the world, and people, being in line with what God wants. We look at the world, and look at ourselves, and look at the Church, and think, ‘O dear!’  Things don’t seem ideal, maybe rather depressing. But these parables today are actually meant to encourage us.
One of the crops I like to grow, in a small way, is early potatoes. As long as the soil is in reasonable shape, you plant the seed tubers, and – apart from perhaps keeping the frost off the shoots, if needed – you don’t do a lot, and get on with something else. It seems that nothing special is happening. But, but, the new potatoes develop, and when they are ready, we’re very interested then, and actively enjoy the crop, as I’ve been for the last week or so.

Our first parable is along those lines. The man sows seed; he doesn’t seem to do anything very special, but, in due course, - great! A valuable crop has been arriving. When it’s come, the man is suddenly active and excited, enjoying the harvest.

In the second of today’s parables, the tiny seed gradually becomes an impressive plant. How did that happen? We’re not sure. We may have planted a seed, but probably haven’t done anything very special towards the big successful outcome. 

So, in each case, a low-key, apparently insignificant action, followed by very little action, remarkably delivers the goods.

Jesus, it seems, is speaking of himself, and his friends and the Kingdom of God which he announces. On the face of it, Jesus is an untrained disloyal Jew going round with a group who are very far from being the leaders or scholars of their society. Jesus may see himself and his few followers as looking like a very unpromising new little group to have the momentous job of announcing the Kingdom - the great new stage of all of humanity’s life with God.

But Jesus was very likely familiar with a passage in the prophet Ezekiel, a picture about God making a very big tree grow from a very unlikely little cutting, - so that birds will come to nest in it. That picture is about God restoring the nation’s life - beginning in a very small unpromising way. 

The passage from Ezekiel goes like this:
‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. ‘“I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”’
Ezekiel 17:22-24

So Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed might be Jesus teaching that what he and his friends, - at first sight few and insignificant, - what they bring, is nothing less than the Kingdom, the great new stage of life with God. Jesus may well have known that when Ezekiel spoke about the unlikely little cedar cutting growing huge, he had hoped God would bring a great new stage of things. Ezekiel had wanted to inspire hope and confidence in God around the time the Jews were exiled in Babylon nearly 600 years before Jesus. Assurance that God can work through small beginnings.

We may well get exasperated with the Church. The whole Church has long been very divided. I find the deep divisions in the Church of England, which have now become institutionalised, and, seemingly, made permanent, - I find that inappropriate and painful, on a daily basis. In the Church some grapple with unfair workloads whilst others seem not to be contributing. Financial constraints seem to destroy sensible and appropriate clergy staffing and decent patterns of worship in many places. Clergy training moves in questionable directions. There are moves by some to try to get the bishops’ pay cut and one diocesan bishop has met a rebellion! But we must soldier on as best we may. The parable seems to say that, - in spite of all - ‘It’s essentially alright – God is accomplishing things – persevere and try to see the good’. 

Remember, too, that – as in a conflict - the frontier of God’s Kingdom is never static. It advances and retreats, and its boundary runs through our very selves. We, as individuals will not often be completely on the side of the angels!

There is a quote somewhere, which, I can’t find, to the effect that the Church has an uneasy history, and many and obvious current flaws, but it is only through the Church that any of us has received the Gospel, and it is only through the Church that future generations will receive the Gospel. We have to hang in, and we should do so with real hope. 

Fr Roger

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  1. St Mary's Facebook page
  2. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  3. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  4. Prayer for today.
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  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
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