Sermon on Parable of the Sower – Dean Reginald Leeuw, St Cyprian’s, Kimberley

The DEAN’s HOMILY at MASS on SUNDAY SIXTH AFTER TRINITY, 12 JULY 2020
THE VERY REVD FR REGINALD LEEUW
 
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen
 
Good morning on this very cold morning in Kimberley. We thank God for the people who are joining us through our Facebook page now, and all those who will continue to do so throughout the day and in the future. In South Africa we are slowly reaching the peak of the pandemic in terms of infection rate of Covid-19. We pray for God’s protection on citizens of our country and of the world.
 
Today we celebrate the 6th Sunday after Trinity and as we heard in our readings, if we are to construct a common theme from our readings, it will go along the lines that God’s words, will or voice, is never forced upon us, but we have free-will; in other words we choose if we believe the word and whether we are prepared to follow God’s word. God does not force us to do anything but what we do with the word of God is in our hands, to use a popular phrase.
 
So it is not everyone who will hear God’s word in such a way as to understand it or carry it out. The challenge is to come to the cutting-edge between God and ourselves, and submerge ourselves in God’s Spirit. If not we will miss the message.
 
When we look at our readings this morning, in the Old Testament we encounter Jacob at a time when he is not remotely interested in the leading of God’s Spirit. The Psalmist believes he can achieve salvation by observing of laws; Paul, on the other hand, maintains that those who live in the realm of the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:8). And in the parable of the sower, Jesus makes it clear that only some will hear and understand what the Kingdom of God is all about.
 
Our homily this morning is focused on the gospel reading, the parable of the sower, which is found in all three synoptic gospels. In the story the sower sows seed on the path (or wayside), on the rocky ground and among the thorns, and it is lost; but when it falls on good earth, it grows yielding crops that is thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
 
Even though verses 10-17 are not part of the set readings, they provide the reason why Jesus explains the meaning of the parable to the crowds. The account, which would have been easy to understand in a rural context, nevertheless causes consternation among the disciples. The telling of the parable intends that the hearers would be challenged. One should avoid the trap of over-analysing or over-allegorising this parable since it is set out to make one basic statement, yet often exaggerating to help make the point, as parables do. What then is the point of the parable of the sower you may ask? The point is that the message of the Kingdom is often not understood at all (like the seed that may be scattered on the hard path), or understood only temporarily or superficially as for an example in times of crises (the seed falls on rocky and shallow ground), or if applied with enthusiasm, only for its sharpness to wane in competition with the worldly values or what Saint Paul’s calls flesh (the seed choked by weeds)—thus leaving only those who have truly understood the message about the Kingdom (the seed that produces an excellent crop).
 
What does this mean?
 
In life, some seeds will fall on hard ground. People may be a bit lazy to think! “Leave me alone,” they might say; “don’t talk to me about politics or religion.” We all know the remarks: “don’t talk to me about Covid-19, if we don’t die now we will surely die someday”. As we face the Pandemic peak, we also face a real challenge of hopelessness and pandemic fatigue (since we have had lockdown for a long time, 108 days today to be exact, some among us may be getting tired of the strict adherence to wearing a mask, washing/sanitising hands and keeping social distancing at a very crucial time).
 
Some seeds will fall on rocky ground and thorny ground. It represents those whose faith is shallow and is swamped by matters of the flesh. It is far easier to become Christian than to remain one. When crises of life come, as they surely must come, will the believer find that their faith has deepened, or will they find that their faith is not deep enough? I think the question being asked here is how deep is your faith? Covid-19 infections have come too close for our comfort. I hear a lot of people say to me, Father we are scared. For the past few days I have heard people close to me or known to me say to me through messages “my friend I have tested positive with Covid-19.” From time to time we hear of jobs being shed, or of buildings closed for decontamination. These are times where our faith is tested to the limit. But I just want to remind you that our God can be trusted and will carry us through this time. To those who are infected, or have lost a family member, relative, friends, or may have lost a job and are unsure of the future, remember that God will carry us through this time of fear and uncertainty, as God has done in the past.
 
Fellow workers in the Lord’s vineyard, we are encouraged by the word of God to not be dismayed or discouraged by our own apparent failures or the challenges that may be beyond our control. Remember God has not called us to achieve success on our own. Jacob failed until he learned how to put his trust in God. Paul was clear that there will be a continuing tussle between our wish to succeed on our own and to submit ourselves to God’s word and will. It is only when we fully submit to God’s word and will that we become “the good soil”. It is only when we fully submit ourselves to God’s word and will that we will bear fruits. It is only when we fully submit ourselves to God’s word and will that we will join God in God’s mission of life. We will work for conditions that create and preserve lives. We will look to protect our elderly and vulnerable people by staying home, and only leave our homes when it is necessary, keeping social distancing in public, isolating ourselves if we have been exposed, keeping to hygienic standards and washing our hands so that lives will be preserved .And that is God’s will and word for our times.
 
To God be the glory. Amen

Corpus Christi Sermon – Dean Reginald Leeuw, St Cyprian’s, Kimberley

SERMON by the Very Reverend REGINALD LEEUW: CORPUS CHRISTI: 14 June 2020.
 
For the Anglican Church, today’s festival of Corpus Christi is a modern revival.* In the calendar or table of lessons, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday may be celebrated as a Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion. The festival of Corpus Christi in the whole of the Western Church is also – comparatively – of recent origin. It became a universal feast in the Roman Catholic Church only in the 13th century. One of the great 13th century theologians St Thomas Aquinas, known as the angelic doctor, wrote the texts for the feast. One of his texts we heard on Saturday in the service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
 
Corpus Christi is simply the Latin for the Body of Christ. Today we celebrate the gift of God to the Church of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Here God feeds us with the bread and wine which are the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and doing so incorporates us into the Church, which is the Body of Christ. As part of the Body of Christ, we become part of the very life of God himself. This is a wonderful and sacred mystery and is at the heart of our life as Christians. In celebrating the Holy Eucharist, we are being obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ, who said the night before he died, and as he took, blessed, broke and gave the bread, and took, blessed and gave the cup of wine: ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’
 
From the very beginning of the Church, the regular and frequent celebration of the Eucharist was central to the life of the Church. We see it in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the four marks of the Early Church. The group of followers of Jesus after they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” [Acts 2: 42] “The breaking of bread” is a clear reference to the celebration of the Eucharist. We see too in St Paul’s instruction to the Christians in Corinth the moment when this celebration began to take on a life of its own as a devotional act. “When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in?” [I Corinthians 11: 20-22]. Thereafter, the celebration of the Eucharist became separate from the community meal.
The importance of the celebration of the Eucharist from the earliest days and its centrality to the life of the Church can be seen in two of the accusations that were levelled by their persecutors at Christians when they were a little known and somewhat secret society. They were accused of incest and of cannibalism. It is easy to see where the charge of incest originated. Christians were told by St John and others to “love their brothers”. The charge of cannibalism could only have been sustained if it had become known that one of the strange and terrible things these Christians did was to eat the body and drink the blood of Christ. The gospels are clear that our Lord Jesus Christ was explicit in his instruction to that effect. As we heard Jesus say in today’s Gospel reading, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” [John 6: 53-57]
 
So, even in times of persecution, when Christians from all backgrounds, slaves and free, Jew and Greek, rich and poor, would assemble in the largest room in the house of one of the wealthier members of the Church, Sunday by Sunday, to celebrate the Eucharist together, the Church has known the centrality and importance of this act in which we participate at least Sunday by Sunday. In the early days Christians would generally take home enough of the consecrated species to allow them to receive Holy Communion at home each day until they could come together again the following Sunday. Do this as often, said the Lord, as often as you eat and drink. Perhaps even the discovery of a fragment of the consecrated bread by a magistrate on the person of a Christian would be enough to condemn him to death. Fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, they defied death.
 
Before lockdown, we for whom the reception of Holy Communion is weekly or more frequent, the risk is of over-familiarity with the Eucharist. We tend to take for granted the wonderful gift we receive. Too easily we ignore the reality of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. We become careless as we approach him who gives us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. We fail to recognise in the bread and wine the body and blood our Lord gave on the Cross for the life of the world. We must always guard against this complacency. If there is a silver lining in this Covid 19 lockdown it is the fact that the staying away from the Eucharist will increase our yearning and devotion.
 
Three things for me during this lockdown that we can learn from Jesus in this feast of Corpus Christi:
 
1. Assurance that we will not hunger physically or spiritually. Jesus gives us his own body and blood so that we may not hunger but have everlasting life. We see long lines of people looking for food; many are worried about where their next meal will come from. Corpus Christi is a reassurance that we will not hunger nor thirst either physically or spiritually.
 
2. Self-sacrifice. We see Jesus giving of himself so that we may live. This speaks to our behaviour during Lockdown. Is it life-giving or life-risking? How are we giving of ourselves to preserve and assist life, or are we just adding to the problem? How are we helping the poor and the needy?
 
3. Unity. I’m happy his morning: Fr Setesho, the husband the Reverend Martha, has joined for this celebration, as also members of the Anglican Student Federation, from all over the diocese, on this day. ‘Eendrag maak Magt’. God bless us as we seek to be more united in a world that struggles with unity.
 
*Note: Corpus Christi including a procession (along with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament) has been observed at this Cathedral for at least half a century.
Image: Benediction on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 2015.

Helping Sri Lanka after the Floods

You may have read about the devastating floods and landslides in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago. If your parish would like to help the Church of Ceylon (the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka) with its relief efforts, the details for contributing may be found here. You can also find updates about the situation on the Church of Ceylon’s general website.

MANNA Assists Diocese of Niassa Relief Efforts after Mozambique Floods

Many of you will remember the horrendous floods in Mozambique in 2001 and the famous baby that was born in a tree as a desperate lady waited to be rescued. Sadly the reality is that Mozambique is all too used to atrocious weather conditions and although disaster planning and mitigation has improved over the years, it is still an ongoing issue for one of the poorest countries in the world today that is three times the size of the UK.

A few weeks ago, in mid January, the Zambezia province in central Mozambique experienced horrendous flooding once more. Over hundred people were killed, an estimated 157,000 have been affected with over 10,000 losing their homes. 11 million people north of the Zambezi river have no electricity and many roads were destroyed. Bishop of this area – Mark van Koevering says: “We must have had about a months worth of rain in just one day”.

The local Anglican churches in the Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique has been right at the heart of an emergency response to this crisis through their ‘Teams of Life’. Niassa Diocese is one of the fastest growing dioceses in the Anglican communion and is in the process of multiplication into three. In 2003, there were 7 active priests which has now grown to 61 today; 159 congregations in 2004 has grown to 442 today and 34,465 members in 2004 has grown to 63,973 today.

Staggering statistics in the face of huge difficulties which frankly are a challenge to us all?!

Growth in depth and numbers can be put down to huge variety of factors but one is their formation of ‘Equipas de Vida’ from the diocesan mission department – these ‘Teams of life’. These volunteer teams ‘homegrown’ from the local Anglican churches respond to the most pressing health and development needs of their own communities. The leaders of these teams, initially trained in HIV prevention, treatment and community mobilization are also are trained in health and development issues and so they were best placed to make a fast and strategic disaster response. Over these last weeks, this emergency response has involved supporting 1,000 families across 18 communities with kits of food, water purifying equipment, mosquito nets and farm seeds and implements.

MANNA is a long-standing UK registered charity that exists to enable and grow the churches in Mozambique and Angola and supports the Diocese of Niassa and the ‘Teams of Life.’ Elizabeth Thomas who worships at Marcham Church in the Oxford Diocese has recently come on board as MANNA’s Executive Officer and is delighted that MANNA can support this appeal. She says:

This is development at its most effective. It is grassroots work that comes from the local churches who know their greatest needs. Moreover MANNA is just one of the mission and development agencies that is working in partnership with the Niassa diocese. It is collaboration together like this that ultimately brings about good long-term change in developing countries; we are simply facilitating these local churches to do God’s work.”

Another one of these partners is ALMA – the London diocese’s links with Mozambique and Angola which in turn has grown some incredibly fruitful partnerships between parishes. How exciting and encouraging that the Anglican church is right at the heart of this emergency appeal and how fitting that we as fellow Christian servants of the Gospel of the poor should partner with these Mozambican churches at this time.

For more information:

https://www.justgiving.com/MANNA-Floods-2015-Appeal/

http://www.manna-anglican.org/2014/10/community-health-and-development-teams-equipas-da-vida-in-niassa-mozambique/

https://www.facebook.com/MANNAANGLICAN

PWM Photo Competition

Share your photos. Share your stories.

Does your church have a mission link? Do you have photos that tell a story about the people and places involved? If so, enter our competition!

We want to celebrate the way that the people of God are working together across the world. And so we’re looking for pictures from your mission links! They might be of people; they might be of places. The picture above is of Ivy Molema, secretary of the Valley of Hope, a charity based in our link diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman. Ivy is showing where the Valley of Hope was planning to extend a community vegetable garden. If you look closely, you can see a tomato from the garden alongside her car keys!

We’d love to see your picture. And we’d love to share it: selected photos will be on display at the Grand Day Out. There will even be prizes for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place choices!

How To Enter

  • The Competition is free to enter and is open to all church members.
  • Send your photos to Partners in World Mission at pwmoxford@hotmail.com.
  • Photos should be high resolution.
  • Please send them with your name and telephone number, the name of your parish and the parish/agency with which you are linked, a title for the picture, and up to 100 words of description.
  • The deadline has been extended to 3 September to include photos taken over the summer … so you have a little more time … but don’t delay!

For more information, contact:

Anthony Boyd: bruncketts@googlemail.com