Bible Readings: <span style="font-size: 1rem;">Isaiah 55.10-13 and </span><span style="font-size: 1rem;">Matthew 13.1-9,18-23</span>
I love the way that Jesus used illustrations, parables, to help us understand his message, when we have a picture in our minds eye it helps give us something to hang our thoughts on and remember it afterwards. Everyday images – such as crop fields.
I love going for a walk across the fields, and especially at this time of year when the wheat and barley are at their peak and ripening. We see the glory of creation, the wonder of nature that we can see God present in the amazing workings of the universe. That sunlight, water and Carbon Dioxide can be transformed by chlorophyll to make these plants grow ... to become a habitat for wildlife and food for us. It really is like in Isaiah’s words, the hills are shouting, giving glory to God, just by their being.
Jesus said look, listen. With your eyes, with your ears ... We are urged not just to see or hear, but to really take on board what we have observed.
We are challenged to ask ourselves the searching question – and answer honestly. Are we like the ground where the seeds of faith are sown but are easily plucked away or grow then wither or get choked by other priorities of life?
Or do we take the time to ensure our faith, our relationship with Jesus, is nourished, in good soil of our hearts... and what ways can we ensure our faith is given enough of what it needs – how do we ‘water’ or ‘fertilize’ our spiritual life? How do our roots of our spirituality have the depth to withstand the winds that buffet us?
Of course just as each plant has its own preferences – soil types, sun or shade, wet or dry etc – we will each find our place in a different spot on God’s farm, we will have our own ways of praying, of reading the bible, reflecting, styles of service that best feed us, even different seasons through the church year that we find the most meaning. And that’s the beauty of it – together we make up the whole patchwork of the Christian landscape.
And then in turn, comes our crop – our faith and then the ‘fruit’ that grows from us – our actions – those things we may do, that also shout of God’s love and glory.
I have been shocked in the past few weeks to read about so many cases of slavery still taking place today. I’m sure many of you are equally horrified... but maybe it feels like something also quite detached from the blessed reality of our own lives.
I’d like to say there is still a way of engaging with things like these on a more personal level, responding out of our faith – as Christians Jesus urges us to not just hear but to listen. Currently there are estimated to be 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK, according to the Global Slavery Index.
Vulnerable people are offered a job, a chance to make money and to build a new life for themselves. The job they are offered turns out to be a lie and instead they are forced to work in difficult and degrading conditions, with little or no pay.
This could be labour, like car washes, nail bars, manufacturing, agriculture.... or sexual exploitation... domestic servitude... and in 2018 there were 6 cases reported for organ harvesting. It is terrifying.
The threat of violence, to themselves or their families, traps the victims in their situation. Even if their trafficker does not technically or physically control them, that fear plus a mistrust of authority may stop the victim from going to the police.
Sadly this is the cost – human lives – of what Matthew describes as the cares of the world and lure of wealth....
And so we keep our eyes and our ears open. I encourage you to look up an organisation called the Clewer Initiative - a Christian charity that aims to raise awareness of modern slavery, identify victims and to help provide victim support and care. And what an example of the fruits of faith this is – which stemmed from a small order of city-based Anglican nuns whose work began as ministering to women exploited in the sex industry.
So our response? This is where God’s word comes back as Isaiah says - or Matthew’s idea of God’s kingdom coming on earth. This is where our faith, a deep rooted faith, spurs us on to bear the fruit of ensuring that all lives matter, and as such we need to take action – sometimes specific - against any of the various thorns that try to smother human life ...
whether that’s those who are persecuted for their race or skin colour, those who are persecuted because of their sexuality, or in this case, those who are trafficked, taken advantage of, and exploited...
Because the Christian faith teaches us that all of these are also beloved by God, and all have an equal right to a place alongside us to grow into the fullness of life, giving glory to God, in that beautiful and varied patchwork of God’s fields.