Revd. Gaenor’s Reflections

Sunday 7th July Trinity 6 Kingdom walking

Disciples walking Mark 6

Bible readings

2 Samuel 5:1-5; 9-10

Psalm 48

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Mark 6:1-13

As it is holiday season now I wonder where your favourite place to walk is- or has been??

I know a couple who go back to the same place every year in the Lake District to walk the hills and yet every year their experience is different…even if its just the weather!

In our Gospel reading today we see Jesus continue to journey throughout his home region- this time to his hometown of Nazareth, where he had spent his earlier life working as a carpenter. And the disciples, having been commissioned and seen and heard what Jesus has said and done, now embark on new journeys on foot taking the good news of the coming kingdom to villages and towns in the region…

We could call this passage Kingdom walking- for not only is it about the launching of the disciples into God’s mission field, but it talks of reception and rejection, and speaks of the real need both for faith and hope as well as perseverance and encouragement! These are aspects of our faith that we need today-whatever stage of life we are experiencing!

  1. Travel together
  2. Travel light
  3. Travel prepared

 1. Travel together

There are TV programmes these days based on survival techniques used by the SAS where people are sent to face challenging circumstances with almost nothing to help them-except one another. In that situation members of the group very quickly become dependent on each other ad on the environment they are in. Relationships have to be made and they have to work- for the tasks ahead.

The twelve disciples have already been appointed and named in Mark 3:14 ff; they have seen and taken in what Jesus has been doing and are now sent out in twos to continue Jesus’ work- not instead of but alongside his active ministry.

They had been told what’s involved and now after a period of observation they are going to do it themselves. They are to know the risks so they can go into the task of the Gospel realistically…

And this model of going out in pairs or with others is one that has been replicated throughout the missional life of the Church ever since. It is good practice!

We see it with international mission and development organisations who work on a partnership basis resourcing local partners in places that need their help because they understand local needs so that help can be directed most usefully. Many of you will also be mission partners in prayer and in regular giving to Christian organisations…and if not I encourage you to consider this. 

There are some shining examples of mission in pairs-for example the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Liverpool Derek Worlock and David Sheppard, who worked in partnership to inspire Christians across the denominations in their then troubled and divided city in the 1980’s. Their book Better Together (1989) was well received and inspired a number of national ecumenical initiatives including Together for the Common Good

Jesus promised us his Holy Spirit to be with us always but it helps to have others working with us for the kingdom.

May be this is the right time to call on someone here to partner with Barrie- as the other Churchwarden of our parish!

I wonder who has been with you on your journey of faith over the years?

Someone who has walked alongside you and encouraged you?

Perhaps you can stop and give thanks for that person or those people now…

So in their pairs the disciples were sent out on their first mission journeys to proclaim repentance Mk 6:10 ff; they cast out unclean spirits (6:7) and healed people (6:13) and later come back to Jesus to tell him all that they had done (and I wonder how that conversation went?!)

2. Travel light

The disciples are sent out with very little- not because of aesthetics but because they have to make relationships and trust God.

In Mark the word for journey connotes ‘way of discipleship’ and the instruction from Jesus is to travel light (6:8). Indeed the first Christians were known as followers of Way- indicating both Jesus’ statement about being the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) as well as being faith on the move since as Christians we are not called to be static but mobile in our faith!

Faith is a living thing, dynamic, in need of strengthening and growth. We read Scripture and pray, meet with other believers,  and seek by grace to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in this world. 

Dark seasons can actually end up strengthening our faith in the long term, though in the short term we may feel like our faith is slipping away.

Faith is as alive as we are. As personal and human as we are. It is not something magical. And yet it is dependent on God. So that faith is kept alive by God through the Holy Spirit and yet must be lived out by us.

Jesus’ instruction to travel light can speak to us today.

How many times do we pack for a holiday (and yes that time will come again!) and end up using only half of what we packed?!

And in life how many times do we insist on carrying the heavy inner burdens that we collect over many years- and not let go and leave them with our loving and compassionate Lord:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus does not add to our burdens but willingly takes the ones that make us weary and heavy hearted and invites us to take his yoke, his guidance, his steering, his direction-giving that will bring us rest, peace and hope.

So the principle of travelling light in order to humbly rely on the strength of God is one we can learn too.

3. Travel prepared

Any seasoned long distance walker will know that the right equipment is essential. However Jesus is insistent that his disciples travel light:

The staff or stick is used for support as they walk and protection in case of attempted robbery but is also a symbol of authority cf Moses in Ex 4:20

Their instruction is also to take no bread, no beggar’s bag, no money- an instruction to trust to both in God and in neighbour for both provision and hospitality.

Mark allows for sandals in contrast to Matthew and Luke .But there is to be no change of clothing.

In Acts 13:51 shaking the dust from your feet is a symbolic judgement against those who reject missionaries. The wisdom to Jesus’ disciples is that rejection will happen just as it happened to Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth, but when this happens to move quickly on and go to places where the message of the Gospel will bear fruit.

So the mission of the disciples was three fold: proclamation of the coming of the kingdom, confronting evil and healing the sick..

Travel with humility

Both our Gospel and Epistle from 2 Corinthians underline the need for a deep sense of humility and dependence upon God and one another to work with God’s power to bring signs of the incoming kingdom.

Only by walking with God can we hope to find the path that leads to life. That is what it means to be a disciple. After all — aren’t we ‘followers of Christ’? Then by all means, let’s actually follow him. Not ideas about him. Not just his principles. Him.

John Eldredge, writer and author

We like to sense our giftedness and strength but often it is in the stretched limits of our weakness and vulnerability that we are most effective channels of God’s power as disciples.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

2 Corinthians 2:9-10

St Paul would prefer to be relieved of the things that constrain him (and we don’t know what his ‘thorn in the flesh’ was) but he comes to recognise them as a God-given means of depending on God and not proclaiming himself.

Jesus is limited by the unbelief of those he grew up with and reminds us that there will not be universal acceptance of the message of Jesus-however user friendly we might try to be- or that we have the ability to demonstrate everywhere signs of God at work among us. However he does promise that He will be with us always cf Matthew 28:19-20 and the prophet Isaiah reminds us of the purposes of God with all that we say and do in the name of the Lord:

As the rain and the snow

    come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

    without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:10-11

Kingdom walking

Jesus sends his disciples out together in pairs on their journey to preach and to heal .

This reminds us that we need each other to work for the kingdom.

Jesus sends the disciples out travelling lightly and to be dependent on others for food and drink and shelter. 

This reminds us to trust God and to let go of burdens that might inhibit our journey of faith.

Jesus is a realist- and tells them to stay where the message is accepted and to move on where it is not. Signs that the message is being accepted show themselves in the confrontation with evil, through repentance and healing and wholeness through lives transformed.

This reminds us that our words and deeds of faith might be received or rejected and so we need to rely on the grace of God to work His purposes out and that the foolishness of God is stronger than the wisdom of people.

So- as we reflect on kingdom walking-how are you being called by God today?

Your walk with God does not depend on people, places, things or events.

Henry Brandt

What skills and experience can you offer to the service of God?

How can we work together more for the kingdom of God here in Marnhull?

May we know that how ever young or old we are, we are never too young or too old to be part of God’s kingdom work.

May we know God calling us to come near, to all who are weak, all who are afraid, all who know their need of Him and may we meet God where we are, in our need and in our hope as we give our lives to Him.

May we speak, act and live as people who know the love of God that makes all things whole and may we offer the hand of Christ the Peacemaker to a world the needs to know God’s word of life and hope.  Amen.

Let us pray…

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8 KJV

Sunday 30th June Trinity 5 Faith is a verb


2 Samuel 11:  17-end

2 Corinthians 8: 7-end

Gospel Mark 5:21-end 

Faith is a verb

There are some experiences in life that take us to the very edge of our ability to cope.  You lose your job and wonder how in the world you’re going to find another one.  Or you learn that the cancer has metastasized.  Or you look at the person you’ve shared your life with and realize that it’s over.  It may take a while, but in situations like that, the stress you feel can easily push you beyond the limit of what you think you can endure.  We have a word for it: finding yourself at the end of your rope.  Most of us at one time or another either have faced or will face this kind of situation.  And, unfortunately, In those kinds of situations, our faith can seem pretty empty.

Our Gospel lesson presents us with a couple of people who had reached the end of their respective ropes: a father whose daughter was dying and a woman whose life had been almost literally consumed by her illness.  The lesson begins with a prominent man in the community coming to Jesus and asking him to save his daughter.  As they were on the way, however, a woman who had been afflicted with an illness for 12 years came and touched Jesus. The woman was so desperate, she believed that all she needed to do was touch Jesus’ clothes, and she would be healed.  And in fact, she was!  Jesus told her that it was her faith that healed her. 

It’s hard to know what it was she believed in.   The fact that she thought she would be healed if she only touched Jesus’ clothes makes it sound like she had some kind of magical view of who Jesus was and what he could do for her.  But I think more important is the faith and the courage it took for her to take the step of venturing into the crowd and reaching out to touch Jesus.  Her particular illness rendered her, for all practical purposes, an outcast.  She was perpetually “unclean,” and therefore unable to take part in any of the normal activities of life, even the worship of God at the synagogue![2]  Rather than giving up, she had the faith and the courage to seek the one who was healing people in God’s name.

Unfortunately, although the father came to Jesus first, during the time Jesus was healing the woman, his daughter died.  One would think that would be the end of it.  But Jesus told the father, “Do not fear, only believe” (Mk. 5:36)! That seems to me a strange response to death.  

Normally we would say something like, “I’m terribly sorry for your loss.”  Or “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” But to say, “Do not fear, only believe” strains our imagination.  The fact that he, an influential leader, came personally to beg Jesus for healing suggests that he was just as desperate as the woman.[3]  What was this father supposed to believe in now that his daughter was dead? 

I think the answer has to do with the whole purpose for miracles in Jesus’ ministry.  They were not meant for show, or to convince skeptics, or to gain notoriety.  They were acts of compassion in response to human need.  But they were also more than that.  They were individual demonstrations of the new life of God’s Kingdom. 

 So in a very real sense, what Jesus was asking this grieving father to believe in was that God had begun working to make all things new already in the here and now.  And that Jesus was the agent through whom God was bringing this new life into our world.  And that somehow that would make a difference even for him.

What do we believe in when we reach the end of our ropes?  Many of us these days have a hard time believing in miracles.  When life brings something so painful, so devastating that it feels like you’ve gone beyond what you can humanly endure, what then? For many of us, if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that our faith tends to evaporate. But is there some way to face that kind of devastating loss without giving up our faith?  I guess what I’m asking is what we can believe in when it seems like we have nothing left to believe in. 

We may have to start with the people around us.  We can believe in the people who continue to show us love and compassion and support—and that they will walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  That’s something we can believe in.  And we may also have to take a hard look at ourselves.  When we go through our own end-of-the-rope situations, we can believe that our life isn’t over.  One chapter may be coming to a close, but as it does, it opens the way for another chapter to begin.  Ultimately, however, I think what we can believe in is that the one who has carried us from the day of our birth will continue to carry us all the days of our lives.  We can believe that God can and does bring something good from what seems to be our worst nightmare come true.[6] We can believe that God is working in and through all the heartbreak and suffering in this world to bring new life. 

There are times in our lives when things happen that press us to our limits and beyond.  When that happens, we have a choice.  We can pull the covers over our heads, isolate ourselves, and try to escape from it all.  Or we can embrace what we’re feeling and move forward in faith that God has a future for us.  Just because we experience devastating loss doesn’t mean our lives are over.  It could very well mean that our lives are just about to truly begin- that we too may know resurrection and life.

Let us pray

L. Backhuysen Christ in the Storm in the Sea of Galilee 1695

Sunday 23rd June 2024     Trinity 4

Surviving in a crisis

Bible readings

1 Samuel 17:32-49

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-end


Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,

Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,

What matters beating wind and tossing billow

If only we are in the boat with Thee?

“Hold us quiet through the age-long minute

While Thou art silent and the wind is shrill :

Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it;

Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?”

Amy Carmichael

For those of us in the UK with our relatively temperate weather, truly terrible storms are thankfully fairly rare and the experience of being ‘at sea’ is more likely to feature as a metaphor than in reality for many of us. 

Nevertheless, we all know what it’s like to be at the mercy of forces stronger than us, or problems that strike us out of the blue when we are unprepared, bringing us to our knees in fear and anxiety: serious illness, accident and injury, relationship breakdowns, bereavement, redundancy and not least the covid 19 pandemic…

So, we’ve all, like the disciples in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 4.35-41), felt the power of the storm and sea against us and known that we cannot stand against it.

But our God, who ‘answered Job out of the whirlwind’ (Job 38.1), can stand against it.

And more than that, as Jesus did, he can still the storm, because ‘even the wind and the sea obey him’ (Mark 4.41). Our God is the Lord who can say to the sea: ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther…’ (Job 38.11). And so, with God, we can stand firm against that sea of troubles.

It’s simply said, but much less simply believed and relied upon. The disciples knew Jesus well, but they were still afraid until the storm was calmed, so it should be no surprise if we find it hard to rest in God’s love when faced with difficulty.

But, like the disciples, we can nevertheless run with our troubles to Jesus, and trust that he will say ‘Peace! Be still!’ And from that small start, we too can begin to practise that ‘great endurance’ demonstrated by the apostle Paul, suffering, yet still thriving in the Lord (2 Corinthians 6.4).

Mark gives us vivid details of a dramatic story in order to help us feel our way, not just into the text, but into the kind of situation he is portraying.

Jesus’ decision to cross to the other side of the lake is the only way he and his disciples can leave the crowd behind. But no sooner do they embark than Jesus and his friends experience the danger of sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee. 

Lightning starts flashing, waves come crashing over the side and the boat appears to be sinking.  Even these veteran sailors become panic-stricken before a power that they are completely unable to harness; and they cry out to Jesus, who appears to be totally oblivious to 

what is going on.  

Jesus had asked his friends to go out on the boat and now he is asleep under the stern of the boat, probably resting on a cushion or nets stored under there. His friends are rowing and he is sleeping near the place of the coxswain- the one who would direct the boat… 

Where is Jesus? Jesus asleep in the stern (where the coxswain would be)

As the New York Times’ Juliet Macur wrote in 2012, a coxswain “is like a coach in the boat, steering, executing race strategy, keeping a crew synchronized and motivating rowers to pull harder on their oars.

“‘Go faster’ could mean pull harder with your arms or it could mean swing more with your body or step quicker with your legs. 

“So when I want them to go faster I have to specify where and how we’re going to do that together.” A US coxswain.

A coxswain is the brains and director of the boat.

And when this particular coxswain woke up, when he is roused out of sleep, Jesus rebukes both the wind and the sea, as if he were in command of them (as well as the boat) all along.  Then he chastises his friends for “losing it” as if they had been neglectful in their duty.

Sea stories are enough of a rarity in the Bible that they invite our attention.  And if you know your Bible, you will notice the obvious similarities in this week’s gospel with another sea story, that of Jonah, as he sought to escape God’s command to go to Nineveh. 

Once the storm hits in that story, Jonah is out of control. He had been in control before the storm.  He had decided to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh.  Since Tarshish was in Spain, it took him a long time and a lot of money to get all the way through the Straits of Gibraltar.  What Jonah was doing was taking charge of his vocational destiny, telling  God, in effect, what he could do with his command to prophesy to the city of Nineveh. 

But God wouldn’t take “No” for an answer and sent a violent storm that threatened everybody on board Jonah’s ship, including Jonah. Jonah, the story says, had the good sense to get off the ship, inviting the sailors to dump him. His trip to Tarshish was, thereby ruined, but his real vocation in this world was saved.

The other famous sea/storm story of the Bible, in between which Mark’s story is sandwiched, is the story of St. Paul’s shipwreck journey in the Book of Acts 27.  Paul is being taken prisoner aboard a ship bound for Italy.  No sooner does the voyage start when winter storms threaten everyone’s safety.  Paul advises they shelter at the Cretan harbour, Fair Haven, but the captain and shipowner override his advice, making the decision to sail on for Rome, presumably for reasons of greed.  It is not long before disaster strikes.

Money, a powerful element in the story of just about everybody’s vocation, holds a key place in both these stories, Jonah using his excessively large sum of money to purchase a passage across the Mediterranean, and the shipowner’s money interests setting aside Paul’s advice. 

Significantly- the power of money disappears in the storm.

There is only a single power to deal with: God – and the salvation God intends to give.  

In both Jonah and Acts, the ships are heading west across the Mediterranean sea. Both are overtaken by severe storms. In both, the chief characters and the crew are in danger of drowning.  And in both, vocations are saved- Jonah is turned back from his disobedience to his calling and Paul was confirmed in his calling.

Mark’s storm story also uses another element common to Jonah’s and Paul’s sea journeys. It is a transitional story in which Jesus is “crossing over” into Gentile country. 

Probably nothing felt like the cosmic forces of opposition more than the enmity between Jew and Gentile in Mark’s church. This ancient hatred was regarded as the prototype of human hostility and the separation of these two people was seen as part of the natural order. 

The controversy that eventually developed in the early church about whether or not to take the gospel to the Gentiles must have seemed like “the perfect storm”. Such a “sea crossing” would have been regarded as, not only difficult, but virtually inconceivable. In all likelihood, Jesus’ disciples ended up feeling completely helpless before such a task – just like they do in today’s text.

Mark’s story, like that of Jonah and Paul, is a story about saving one’s vocation- doing what God has called them to do.

Being in a boat or small ship in a raging storm at sea is the environment in which we either lose our lives or are saved;  There are no safe places from which to enjoy the lightning and thunder, the waves and breakers of the storm. We are in it, prophet and people, sailors and saints. 

Nothing else matters at this point; it is life or death. Whatever else has been on the agenda is on it no longer. There is this single item: Am I going to be saved from the storm or not?


This vivid account in Mark clearly points to the elemental forces of the universe, which have a way of reminding the disciples who is really in charge. The story ends with Jesus’ friends commenting about Jesus something like, “Who was that masked man!?”

So as we think about this reading through the week a few questions to ask you:

How has this week’s gospel and reflection put into perspective some of the storms you have experienced in your own life?

What did you learn about your own calling to follow Christ through such experiences?

Have you ever felt like “jumping ship” in today’s religious climate?

What is it that God has called you to do for him- and are you doing it??

In the storms of life, we are being reduced to what is elemental, and the ultimate element is God. 

The moment we begin to drift from dealing with God primarily (and not merely because God fits into our agenda), we are no longer living vocationally, no longer living in union with the vast reality that constitutes our lives and the entire world around us. 

This storm is either exposing the futility of what we do or confirming the integrity of it. Either way, we are being compelled to acknowledge who is really in charge of things and it isn’t us!!

And more than that, as Jesus did, he can still the storm, because ‘even the wind and the sea obey him’ (Mark 4.41). 

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”

Our God is the Lord who can say to the sea: ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther…’ (Job 38.11). 

God knows our human limitations and our fears. 

God knows that we try to trust Him.


Lord God,
you were there at the beginning of time.
You created this planet,
its seas and lands,
its creatures and people.
You made me – and you know me.
You know what things frighten me,
what makes me angry,
and what makes me laugh;
what things make me want to sing and dance,
or to run away and hide.
Help me to know you,
trust you,
to see you at work every day,
and to praise you for your fearful,
wonderful creation.

When storms and troubles come,
keep my eyes fixed on you and on your steadfast love,
so that I may be able to help others who can’t see a way through,
and speak your words of peace and stillness.


Sunday 16th June 2024 Trinity 3 

Seeds of the kingdom

Bible Readings

1 Sam 15:34-16:13

2 Cor 5:6-17    

Mark 4:26-34

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”  Julian of Norwich

Plant growth

Our gardens look wonderful at his time of year with plants bursting with life and colour!

And a field, park, garden or window box are familiar places to find plants… but where is the strangest place you have seen something  grow…maybe against the odds…? Maybe a plant seemingly hanging off a rock face..or in a desert or tundra…or as I remember vividly when passing through Bristol years ago, when there were still bombed out derelict houses and trees growing out of old windows and roofs!!

Some plants and trees defy us as to where they can grow- especially when it doesn’t make sense to us- but it does to them!

So where’s the best place to grow a plant? In a garden or field that has soil rich in nutrients, drainage, sunlight and in an area where it can ‘breathe’…

Gospel parables

The Gospel reading from Mark 4 is unique to the evangelist where the comparison of the kingdom of God is made to the planting and harvesting of a crop and the growth of a mustard seed.


In our Gospel reading Jesus seems to be saying that the kingdom grows organically within individuals and communities…and our involvement is in partnership with God, not in place of God.

We can’t hasten the coming of the kingdom ourselves- by our own effort or zeal- it is in the Lord’s hands and in the Lord’s timing…

Both in its fulfilment (in the future) and now in the present “thy kingdom come” is for God alone to determine.

The parable that Jesus uses here reminds us that God is in charge: Just as the farmers crop grows without human aid or force so the kingdom’s coming depends on God’s power alone to bring it, on which we must simply wait.

It reminds us that God goes on working even when we are on holiday, when we are ill or asleep… just as the crop grows while the farmer sleeps. Although we are part of the growth of the kingdom, the whole thing will not fall apart whenever we are not personally involved.

The flip side of this is of course that rather than just let God get on with it and be totally disinterested in the growth of the kingdom- if we call ourselves Christians- then we are also called to be part of God’s work in the world. We are ‘Christ’s hands and feet to the world’ as St. Teresa of Avila famously noted.


The parable continues with the mention of harvest of the crops which of course is the final result of the growth.

The harvest in this parable is closely associated with the final judgement: 

Here the note of judgement is muted and the stress is on the end that comes at the decisive point. In terms of the parable the expected conclusion follows very smoothly from the initial action of sowing. The end is already concealed in the beginning… So the future harvest of the kingdom God will produce can be awaited with confidence. Mark’s reader is thus challenged to see that all who open themselves in faith to the future God will surely give may be freed from frustration and anxiety even in the most straitened present.  Commentary: H. Anderson

So this parable is a parable not just of the promise of growth in the kingdom whether we are aware of it or not- but also is a parable of hope– that when we trust God for the future, for the ultimate end of all suffering, all evil, all that seeks to destroy humanity, for the final judgement and restoration of humanity, then whatever the present brings is seen in that perspective.

As Christians, we don’t live just for the here and now, we live for the here and not yet. We have an eternal perspective, we have the perspective that God will bring about the final harvest and that God is ultimately in charge.

And we are reminded too that there are no upward steps to the kingdom of God…

No moral or cultural goal to be achieved toward which men and women can reach through hard work or even heroic endeavour !The kingdom is not something humanity earns, but something God GIVES.

If there is nothing we can humanly do to bring the kingdom nearer, this means that once we are free from the pursuit of human progress, we are then free for such active obedience to God’s will that it will transform the present…

Planting environment

The central point [of this second parable] is the contrast between the insignificant and obscure beginnings of the kingdom in, with and around Jesus, and the magnificent ending that God has in store for those who are prepared to trust him in the quite unspectacular present….

So just as those of Mark’s generation saw Gentiles entering the Kingdom in spite of missionary failures and hindrances- so we are challenged to see our own day in its apparent significance…as bright with the promise of the final consummation of God’s purpose.    Anderson

We hope and expect our plants to grow- but do we hope and expect the kingdom of God to grow- not just around the world, through all the mission and Christian development agencies- but HERE among the people of Marnhull?

What kind of environment are we creating to enable the kingdom of God to grow here?

Is it just happening in the less than perfect environment like a tree growing out of a derelict building – or are we actively facilitating its growth, giving it the very best environment to flourish?

Are we enabling faith to grow within us as individuals and as a congregation and also attracting others to Christ?

Small beginnings

Our Gospel reading reminds us that we should not look down at small beginnings- a moment of sensing a vocation, or when two or three gather to pray or worship or plan- that they often are the beginning of some great new initiative that God has in mind.

We are reminded again that although Jesus’ ministry didn’t look like the kind of Kingdom of God movement that people were expecting, it was, as Tom Wright describes it:

…the seedtime for God’s long-promised and long-awaited harvest. 

People wouldn’t be able to see how God’s promised plant would grow form this seed; but grow it would and harvest would come.

So we are encouraged to not look down on the small things we do in God’s name, the small differences we make to our neighbours and community through kindness and hospitality, the small acts of compassion and grace we show to friends and family and the honesty and justice we stand up for with our colleagues…

We are also encouraged that we should not underestimate the plans of God and we should ensure that as individual Christians and as a church we are enabling the kingdom of God to flourish amongst us; to be aware of when we are blocking God’s growing kingdom by wanting it to happen in a particular way for us, for our family or for our church.

We need to strike a balance between taking everything into our own control, not allowing God ‘to be God’ in a particular situation and becoming disinterested in and disconnected from the growth of God’s kingdom here in the parish and in our own lives.

When we pray “your kingdom come” do we include ourselves in the answer to that prayer? 

Are we willing to be agents of God’s growing the kingdom here on earth?

Are we also willing to let God get hold of all our good ideas and indeed our work for the extension of the kingdom and maybe change them, transform them- or allow God to change our direction??

Have you ever wondered what Almighty God might do with your little bit of faith? 

Have you ever thought that now you are out of the hurly burly of working life that you no longer have the means or method to make a difference in the world, let alone in the kingdom of God?

Trusting God for the growth


The Gospel reading reminds us that ultimately for all those who believe and trust in Him- at whatever stage of life we are in- that the growth of the kingdom of God is not entirely down to our activity or striving but in the hands of God and we need to be prayerfully open to how God might use us for his kingdom purposes here in Marnhull.

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”

(Distribution of mustard seeds to be placed in hands)

A seed meditation 

Just a tiny seed, but with such a hope of life;

Energy and possibility crammed into a tiny shell,

Waiting for warmth and moisture to unlock all its potential.

God our creator,

Bestower of our life, giver of our gifts, 

Plant us in the warm earth of your love,

Shower us with grace,

So that we are awake to the possibilities of change and growth 

and alive to our potential to work for your kingdom.


Taken from Roots for worship 2012


Trinity Sunday On being born again

Bible Readings 

Isaiah 6: 1-8

Romans 8: 12-17

John 3: 1-17

A story is told of a little girl who was asked to write an essay on “birth”: She went home and asked her mother how she had been born.  Her mother, who was busy at the time, said impatiently ‘the stork brought you darling, and left you on the doorstep.’

Continuing her research she asked her dad how he’d been born.  Being in the middle of something, her father similarly deflected the question by saying, ‘I was found at the bottom of the garden. The fairies brought me.’

Then the girl went and asked her grandmother how she had arrived. ‘I was picked from a gooseberry bush’, said her grandma. 

With this information the girl wrote her essay.  When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “There has not been a natural birth in our family for three generations”…..

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus of being born from above – 

  • he was not talking of a natural birth.  As he explained to Nicodemus, he was talking of a spiritual birth- a birth that was, and is, supernatural.

 “Very truly, I tell you”, Jesus said, “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is Spirit..”

What do we know about God through our readings today?

We have and we know the God of Isaiah

the God who is high and lifted up in his temple 

the God who speaks and brings forth all of creation,

the God who is judge, lord, ruler, king – 

the God who is in light inaccessible hid from our eyes..

This God is beyond us

this God we daren’t touch

even though we know this God and he knows us,

even though we see this God’s signs all around us in the earth, the wind, the air, and the fire

And then we have and know the God who is Christ  

   the God whom is lowly, and humble

   the God who reaches out and touches others,

   the God who serves others, 

   the God who walks the earth with us, 

   and cries and laughs with us;

       the God who calls God Abba, Father, Daddy..

       the God who is tempted with us

       the God who hungers and thirsts with us

       the God who embraces us and encourages us

       the God who surrenders himself to death for us

having only the promise and the hope of being raised again.

And we have and know God the Spirit

   God the bringer of visions and of dreams,

       God the source of strength and of hope,

God the supplier of healing words and of comfort filling prayer

   God the wind, the breath, the air we breath

       God the transformer, the one who gives new birth, new life,

God the presence within us and the presence all around us

   God calling to us – calling for us – calling through us,

        calling in us..

We are the children of God, says Paul, 

   When we cry Abba -, Father, it is the Spirit of God bearing witness with our Spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

As a Christian I do not know all about God that there is to know, because God is always greater than my knowledge of him –

but I do know what God has shown about himself.

CS Lewis – in his book Mere Christianity tries to describe part of this experience – this three-fold knowing – this three-fold loving – in his description of a Christian praying:.

 “An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers.  He is trying to get into touch with God.  But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God so to speak, inside him.  But he also knows that all real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God – that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying – the goal he is trying to reach.  God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on – the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. The whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary act of prayer.”

What so many people lack in their lives and are consciously or subconsciously searching for- is a sense of the mystery of God and of the mystery of the life that God gives to them…

Our God is a mystery and the life that our God gives to us is a mystery, but because God, within that mystery, touches our lives, it is mystery that we can experience and savour and know something of ourselves:

One Christian writer said of this experience:

When I became a Christian,

when I yielded myself to the outrageous claims of Jesus

his claim to be the Son of God, 

his claim to be the way, the truth and the life,

his claim to be in the Father, and the Father in him,

something happened to my life.

My vision began to change .I began to see new things in the world around me/ I began to see the hand of God in the lives of people around me – stirring them up.  

I began to sense that God was reaching out to people and calling them to himself. I began to sense that God was in people, struggling to convince them of the beauty that is in them,I began to see the world as a magical place, full of enchantment full of purpose and of meaning and I began to feel compulsions to do things that I had never done before,

   the compulsion to pray for others,

   the compulsion to tell others that God is all around them,

   the compulsion to suddenly stop in the midst of turmoil and to thank God for little things,

   or simply to take a breath 

   and savour the fact that in it is some divine purpose too deep for words. 

and I began to experience within myself a growing peace,

   a peace that continues to grow,

and I began to experience in others – in their struggles and in their joys, in their sufferings and in their triumphs, the working of the God that is in my life.

What I experience now is not something that came to me as the result of my first birth- nor did I learn it somehow by going to this or that school, nor did I earn it by living a better life than most other people around me, it just happened 

– as a result of coming to believe in God, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and asking him to be my God, my personal God – in the way Jesus taught.

All Christian believers, from their baptism, know that they are born from above – and as in their first birth, they know it is totally miraculous, totally the work, the labour, of another.

And Christian believers – as a result of our experience, come to see the words of the Bible about God as true, we come to see that God has revealed himself, and reveals himself still, in many ways:

the way that shows God as creator, redeemer, and sustainer,

the way that speaks of God as Father, and as Son and as Holy Spirit,

the way that tells of God being a loving parent, a dear brother, and a caring presence,

that this is a true way, a life giving way..

That is part of the truth that Jesus spoke of when he spoke to Nicodemus.

Nicodemus had a hard time grabbing hold of that truth, he couldn’t quite understand how one could be born again- it didn’t seem natural to him –and it isn’t natural of the human world alone-because it is the gift of the God – the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit out of the love God has for us.



Let us pray: 

Holy Trinity, one God, 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
empower us by your presence,
and fill us with your love.
Take us and form us
as people of good news
to praise, love and serve you
that the world may believe.
Glory to you, now and for ever!  Amen.

Holy God, faithful and unchanging:

enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,

and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,

that we may truly worship you,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Ascension Day 2024 Where is He?

There is a very old legend concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to heaven after his Ascension.

It is said that the angel Gabriel met him at the gates of the city.

Lord this is a great salvation that you have brought about said the angel.

But the Lord Jesus only said yes.

What plans have you made for carrying on the work? How are all to know what you have done? Asked Gabriel.

I left Peter and James and John and Martha and Mary to tell their friends, their friends to tell their friends, till all the world should know.

But Lord Jesus said Gabriel, suppose Peter is too busy with the nets or Martha with the housework, or the friends they tell are too occupied and forget to tell their friends- what then?

The Lord Jesus did not answer at once; then he said in his quiet wonderful voice

I have not made any other plans. I am counting on them.

The Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ appearances on earth and his physical, historical ministry. It is also a beginning because the moving away from the confining qualities of time and place means that Jesus will be present everywhere and always.

It also means that the humanity of Jesus is now within the nature of the wholeness of God.

Our God has scarred hands and feet and knows what it is like to be severely tempted, acclaimed and despised and has raised our humanity to the heights of his throne…

In one way it is at the Ascension of Christ that the value of all the risk and suffering involved in the Incarnation of Jesus becomes apparent. The saving victim takes his rightful place in the glory of heaven and only that can enable God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out in wave upon wave of loving power that stretches to all people in all generations.

Amazingly our own parish, our own congregation is part of this glorious celebration with its far reaching effects and is part of the answer to the question where is Jesus now?

Each of us living squashed into a particular time frame lasting merely a human lifetime can be drenched in the power of that Spirit and caught up in the energising nature of it.

I have not made any other plans. I am counting on them.

One writer puts it this way:

The Risen Christ commissions the apostles to make disciples of all nations. God’s salvation in other words opens up like a horseshoe and extends until the whole of creation is within its embrace. It is of universal significance and application. But how is this to be communicated in a way which triggers peoples’ imagination and claims their hearts and minds? What exactly is to be proclaimed and how might we live it out? The answer to these questions might be found in an unlikely source, a well known children’s nursery rhyme:

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen. Pussy cat, Pussy cat, what did you there?

I frightened a little mouse under the chair!

The implication of this rhyme is that the cat despite his adventurous excursion remains preoccupied with the usual cat routines of life and so failed to glimpse the light of majestic glory which was the object of his journey.

Unlike the cat in this rhyme why failed to see above the skirting board, Christians are invited at Ascension tide to raise their sights above their daily preoccupations to see the whole picture and then to regard everything else in its light. 

Ascension tide with its imagery of the glorified Christ seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty  in heaven (Hebrews 8:1) summons Christians to raise their sights, to cast off the blinkers of prejudice and to contemplate the final scene, the full picture of our human flesh borne and presented by Christ to the Father

So where is Jesus? 

He is where He belongs in glory but He is also present within us now by His Spirit.

I have not made any other plans. I am counting on them.

So how can we be counted on, if we are to remain faithful to Christ?

Firstly – we need to remember to focus on what is happening now, not on what is going to happen later, remembering that Christ is with us NOW.

Secondly – we need to be follow the commands of God and keep connected with him through devoted prayer so that we are strengthened and prepared –

And thirdly in the times between – we need to trust and have confidence that what has been promised to us by God will come to pass.

         – whether that promise is of a spiritual gift,

         – or a promise of comfort and of a new life

         – or a promise to bless us and use us in some particular way in His service.

We need the confidence, not because our confidence will change the outcome – what God promises to us will come to pass but that we need this confidence because when we have it, we open ourselves up to the peace of God and the other blessings that God has for us right now in the present moment – now in the time between all those other promises and the time when they are fulfilled.

We remember Isaiah’s words:

those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up on wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Is 40:31)

And we notice in this promise the words – will and shall…

It is not – they who wait for Lord might renew their strength,

it is not – maybe they will walk and not faint.

It is – they will renew their strength and – they shall walk and not faint..

These are unconditional promises which are attached to a simple statement of condition – the condition which says  “They who wait for the Lord.” 

So in the times between, the times of waiting, as we wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, may we actively: 

-trust in the Lord and as we wait on God we may find renewal

         – remember his resurrection and his ascension into heaven to be at the right hand of God, that we may have full confidence in the majesty and power of Christ

         – remember what he has done for each of us in the past, that we may know his promises are sure and true

         – and wait for God- for the next act, the next promise to come true with a firm hope and steadfast love..


A Collect for Ascension 

Risen Christ,

you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:

help us to seek and serve you,

that we may join you at the Father’s side,

where you reign with the Spirit in glory,

now and for ever. Amen.