Rev. Andrew Cunnington
13th July 2014
Do You Believe In 7-1 ?

And Jesus said “The kingdom of God is like a man who took over the running of a football team.

He taught them how to score goals, and as he taught them, some balls flew wide of the goalposts and ended up in the long grass.

Others went so high that they flew over the fence and bounced off down the street.

But some balls found the back of the net and when they did, there was great rejoicing.

There came a day when this football team found themselves playing the best team in the world, and the stadium was full of supporters dressed in yellow, noisily cheering their team on.

But our team trusted in what they had been shown and with the ball at their feet, against all the odds they scored goals, not one, not two, but they scored five, six and sevenfold, until, at the end of the game, everyone was amazed.

And Jesus said “Listen you who have ears what the Spirit is saying to the churches”

Whenever I listen to the parable of the sower, I rarely get to the end of it in one piece. For I find myself caught up in the opening bits. Seed falling on the path and being ground underfoot, Oh yes that happens a lot doesn’t it. Seed choked by thorns, yes I recognise myself there, seed scorched to death by lying on the rocks, yes I could tell you of a few people that’s happened to.

So I am left wallowing in the negatives of that story, rather like the many headlines after the football, that focussed on the poor Brazilian performance rather than the great skill of the German team.

To find the miracle of the story, you have to pass by the negatives to get to the preposterous ending, and some seed fell in good soil and yielded a hundred fold.

The so the challenge to us is, do you believe in 7-1!

Do you believe in it outside a football score line.

Today in our service we celebrate with Sue and Steve their Ruby wedding anniversary. That’s quite a score line. Our act of blessing in church is to once again thank God for his abundance, for his setting of them in good soil!

There is surely one thing I hold in common with Jesus, some people think I exaggerate the stories I tell. Well, Jesus is the past master of that surely. People would have recognised this story from their own experience, in fact it might have appeared a rather dull retelling of what they all knew until the end.

Until he told them that good seed could yield a hundred fold. Imagine that, it’s spectacular, it’s unimaginable, it means more abundance and more fruit that could be managed.

Yet so many of the stories Jesus told and so many of the situations he found himself mixed up in, ended up in great quantities of things. Wine. Bread and fish to name but three.

The Gospels are full of 7-1 scorelines. The question to the church is, do you believe in them?

Now good scholars say that the explanation given to the disciples which formed the second half of the Gospel was a later addition used to explain to the early church why the number of members was not growing as quickly as they imagined. That Jesus was trying to say, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, if you set aside in your life a patch of good soil, I will bless it and I will do wonders with it.

And I say, good soil is formed from the time you give in your life for space with God. Our prayer.

Our prayer that is not filled with needs and wants, but becomes a space for him to bless. Prayer that will listen for just a minute or two to the still small voice that is God, will indeed find life, renewed, life regenerated, life all raised up.

I wonder when the last time was that you looked properly at a £5 note. If you have, you will have stared into the somewhat forbidding looking face of Elizabeth Fry. She was a one off social reformer in the late eighteenth century. From the foundation of her prayer life as a Quaker, she found herself visiting struggling families, especially children in prison, and although described in different ways to this, her work grew like sown seed as she set up the equivalent of night shelters, foodbanks, counselling services and Sunday schools. She campaigned for reform, she cared for the homeless and the lost.

Study that next £5 note before you spend it and see the smaller picture of her going about her work as something of an Icon for us.

She was sowing seeds in difficult ground and yet because of the place she gave to her prayer, the seed flourished and it grows still.

This week the Church Urban Fund has produced a report entitiled “Good Neighbours, how churches help communities flourish” and it shows that in the past year at least ten million people have been helped by their local church in various areas of social need, the list including the things we are involved in here, which were themselves the very things Elizabeth Fry pioneered before this church was even built.

It begs of us to believe in the 7-1 scoreline, not in terms of football, but the way God works. The way he works through us, if we are rooted in prayer.

This all sounds wonderful, this all sounds inspiring for us here, but what of Christian communities for whom there is no yield?

Doesn’t this sermon fall flat on its face when pitched against, those, still missing school girls in Nigeria?

The places of worship being destroyed as Isis makes its way across Iraq and Christians are left to run for their lives. Did you know about the bombing of a cathedral in Central African Republic that was sheltering 12,000 followers at the time, I didn’t hear about that on the news. And closer to home, the hurting and wounding of people you know, or your own scars that will not heal as easily as just having faith.

This is when I must go back to the start of the parable of the sower and not apply it to myself but rather to Jesus of Nazareth. I see Him as the sower and I see that one of the reasons he is so careless with the seed, is that as he sowed, he carried a huge cross on his back.

The Seed which fell on the path, I see as the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross which he trod with his own bear feet.

The seed which fell amongst thorns, is the crown they placed upon his head as he walked to Calvary. Made of thorns, digging into him as he stumbled.

The seed which fell onto the rock and was scorched to death, that’s the rock hewn tomb in which they placed him when he died and shoved that rock across the entrance way so that no life could ever escape again.

So quite simply, for me, by his cross Jesus meets us in the very places where we have no good soil.

In our way of sorrows, in our wounding and scratching and tearing, and in our place of death.

We cannot make of those places good soil, not in a month of Sunday’s, but he can, and he will.

And it is with that hope rooted in the Gospel, we each know we can believe in the truth of 7-1

MATTHEW 13:1-9 ROMANS 8:1-11