Lent 3: Comfort & Discomfort in the Asking

March 20th, 2022

Isaiah 55:1-9

Luke 13:1-9

Luke 13:1-9

As it is Lent, I need to start with a confession this morning. Sermon writing this week was a challenge! I have never preached on this passage on Luke, I didn’t really understand what it was about and my great temptation was to go lightly on it and emphasise Isaiah because it is so lovely and comforting. However much I delayed and tried to do it this way, my thoughts were directed elsewhere.

What is happening here? Jesus has been given some shocking news. Pontius Pilate had ordered the slaughter of a group of Jews from Galilee. He had then had their blood taken and mixed with the blood of the sacrificial lambs.
Lives have been lost and sacred religious practice has been desecrated.
The next bit of news is that a tower has collapsed and killed 18 people. The bearers of this bad news want to know why. Why did these things happen? Why is there so much pain in the world? Why does God let suffering happen?
These are the same questions that many people are asking now in light of the situation in Ukraine. We feel small, helpless and even hopeless in the face of so much suffering. We may take our questions and prayers to God and seek an answer to our whys.

Jesus, however, does not give a direct answer. Instead, there is a short parable about cutting down a dying tree. Why this?

What does this have to do with people being senselessly killed?! Jesus is looking for a different question. A direct, clean answer will not help the situation. We do live in a world where suffering exists, is unavoidable and likely will be until Jesus comes again. We want a theory to explain why bad things happen. We can’t stop asking the question every time something happens. So often we are left wanting.

Any answers that we get, hold us apart from those who are suffering, take us away from communal humanity, keeping our distance to shield ourselves.
Jesus challenges the assumptions of those who came to him that day as he continues to challenge ours. He tells the listeners to ‘repent’ before it is too late.

Debie Thomas, ‘When Jesus challenges his listeners’ assumptions and tells them to “repent” before it’s too late, I think part of what he’s saying is this: any question that allows us to keep a sanitised distance from the mystery and reality of another person’s pain is a question we need to un-ask.’

Jesus then tells the parable of the man and his fig tree. There are three characters in this story who need to be considered. First is the man who planted the fig tree and then stood back from it. He only came to look for the fruit, he had no part in the care of that tree. It didn’t give him what he wanted, so he demanded that it be cut down. How often do I stand apart from a situation, giving only my judgement that I am in no position to make? Do I call it quits too early in situations?

Second is the fig tree. It has been planted but seems unable to produce any fruit. Is it undernourished? Am I helpless or hopeless, ignored or dismissed? How can I come back to life?

Third there is the gardener. He defends the tree, pleads for another year of life for it. He is willing to go the distance, put in the work even when a positive outcome is not guaranteed? Will I give up love, time and effort for someone else? Why is not a life-giving question and Jesus knows this.

This is where Isaiah is helpful. Chapter 55 is the end of the second major section in the book of Isaiah, which up to this point has been the prophecy for the people of Israel before, during and after their exile to Babylon.
This section of Isaiah (ch 40-55) is dominated by the theme of salvation through suffering, known as the Servant Songs. Christians have long identified the suffering servant with Jesus as there are many NT references connected to this portion of Isaiah. In Ch. 55, an invitation to the whole world into the new world is extended. ‘All you/(everyone) who are thirsty’ brings before us the worldwide consequences of the Servant’s work.
What is on offer?

First on offer is free provision for every need (v1-2) through three invitations.
Come to the waters – water is essential for life, we die without it. There is a life-threatening need and an abundant supply. This first provision is for survival both physical and spiritual.

The second invitation, come, buy and eat is extended to the one who has no money and highlights inability and helplessness. We know that we can’t buy anything without money; and nothing can be had without payment – someone, somewhere along the line has paid. The implication here is that the suffering servant has paid the price.

The third invitation, come, but wine and milk, without money, stresses the richness of the provision: not just the water of bare necessity but the wine and milk of luxurious satisfaction. God is the god of luxury, of lavishness. We are to seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him when he is near. We have come to the fundamental issues in the next few verses of Isaiah. So far it has been come, come, come, listen, listen and now the full meaning of come and listen is found in the call to seek, call, forsake, turn. There is an urgency to the message of Gospel.

Seek here doesn’t mean to look for something that is lost, it means to come to the place where the Lord is to be found. Jesus is calling us to repentance now.
Forsake and turn speak of true repentance, turning from and turning to. In turning to the Lord, he will have mercy, he will abundantly (theme of luxury) pardon.

Debie Thomas, ‘Why hasn’t the fig tree produced fruit yet? Um, here’s the manure, and here’s a spade — get to work. Why do terrible, painful, completely unfair things happen in this world? Um, go weep with someone who’s weeping. Go fight for the justice you long to see. Go confront evil where it needs confronting. Go learn the art of patient, hope-filled tending. Go cultivate beautiful things. Go look your own sin in the eye and repent of it while you can.’

Christmas Eve: The Estuary of Christmas

24/12/21

Christmas Eve – Set 3 (Year C)
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
John 1:1-14

God our Father,
whose Word has come among us
in the Holy Child of Bethlehem:
may the light of faith illumine our hearts
and shine in our words and deeds;
through him who is Christ the Lord. Amen.


The Estuary of Christmas


One of the best Christmas records ever recorded was released in 1979. It has been the soundtrack of many a Christmas in the Lepp household. I have been listening to it again over the last few days as I searched for some additional inspiration for tonight.

We have sung and will sing some beautiful pieces of music tonight. However, nothing (at least to me) compares with this album. It is silly, it is sublime, and I will go so far as to say it is also profound.

That record: ‘A Christmas Together’ by John Denver and the Muppets! I kid you not. It is a glorious mix of auditory fun. Miss Piggy’s 5 Gold Rings in the Twelve Days of Christmas is not to be missed. Ralph the Dog’s soulful rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is divine. Silent Night sung in German by all the Muppets will bring you to tears. In between the silly songs there are some profound lyrical gems that reflect the Christmas season. One of these is ‘When the River Meets the Sea’; the inspiration for the title and contents of tonight’s sermon.

The official term for a river meeting the sea is an estuary. In an estuary, the freshwater of the river meets the saltwater of the ocean. The combining of the waters makes a difference as the salt content is changed. When we discover the kingdom of God; we are changed.

I think that we see something of an estuary in our readings and songs tonight. The essence of Christmas is the greatness of God coming down to meet us and sweep us into the bigger picture of his love and His kingdom.

The people of Israel who Isaiah was prophesying to were in slavery in Babylon. They had been taken away from their homes, families had been separated and some would never be reunited. Most of the Israelites were desperate to go back home, back to what they knew and how it was. The Israelites needed to be reminded that better times were ahead. God had not forgotten them; He was making a way for them to be rescued. Isaiah is alluding to the beautiful feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation to the Israelites in captivity. This is not only physical captivity, but spiritual, emotional and social. This messenger is Jesus.

St John begins his Gospel in darkness and mystery, casting us back to the opening of Genesis when in the beginning there was nothing, but God created order out of chaos. Like a human author who creates a new world with words on a page, God speaks a word and things come to be. A burst of light and a new life coming through Jesus.

John proclaims that the light in the midst of darkness is Jesus and this needs to be worked out. These big readings hold grand visions and promises that break into the lives of people who are struggling and in need of some good news.

In an estuary, water is continually being circulated as the ocean tides and the mouth of the river combine their waters. In the estuary of these readings we see the coming of the promises of God meeting the reality of the people waiting for the Good News. When we meet God we should be continually stirred up and have our contents changed. This is the Good News of Jesus.

We sing it in our songs too:

Yea, Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning, Jesu, to thee be glory given; Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.

It came true!

‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee (Jesus) tonight.


Who’s got some hopes and fears here tonight?

Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.

Anyone meek of soul?

Good – the dear Christ wants to enter!

O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.

Anyone else weary on the road tonight? Take a rest and listen for the angels.

Shortly we will sing probably the most poignant lines of all:

Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings;
Born that man no more may die.


More light and better life in 2022 to all? Healing?

Tonight we go back to the beginning, to when the Word became flesh and all things came into being through him and lived among us. We see his glory, the Son full of grace and truth. Just as true now as it was then.

The final thing about estuaries is that they are, according to National Geographic, excellent for community living. They provide fresh water and hygiene. The earliest civilizations in the world developed around estuaries around 4000 thousand years ago. Where the river meets the sea is good for life and living. Not just for us but for everyone. Jesus came for everyone, every single person. No one is excluded – however much we may wish to exclude ourselves.

The Word made flesh and dwells among us full of grace and truth. This is no man-made solution; this is all God. Jesus came from the will of God.

Like the river meeting sea, we can flow into the life and love of God and become part of his most glorious story. I will end with the words from this beautiful song.


When the River meets the Sea

When the mountain touches the valley
All the clouds are taught to fly
As our souls will leave this land most peacefully
Though our minds be filled with questions
In our hearts we’ll understand
When the river meets the sea

Like a flower that has blossomed
In the dry & barren sand
We are born & born again most gracefully
Thus the winds of time will take us
With a sure and steady hand
When the river meets the sea

Patience, my brother and patience, my son
In that sweet and final hour
Truth and justice will be done
Like a baby when it is sleeping
In its loving mother’s arms
What a newborn baby dreams is a mystery

But his life will find a purpose
And in time he’ll understand
When the river meets the sea
When the river meets the almighty sea!

Christmas Sermon: The Story We Need

I preached this last night at Midnight Mass at St Thomas Colnbrook.
Merry Christmas!

St Thomas Colnbrook – Midnight Mass
Set 1
December 24th, 2020

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20

Lord Jesus, Light of light,
you have come among us.
Help us who live by your light
to shine as lights in your world.
Glory to God in the highest.
Amen.

I think this year, more than ever, we need to hear the story of the first Christmas with fresh eyes and open hearts. In our world of restrictions, lockdowns and tiers, we are easily distracted by the stressors and anxieties of life.

Yet this story is still told. We see it in the pictures on Christmas cards; we hear it in the words of Christmas carols, even in online Crib, Carol and Christingle services. There is a comfort in this first Christmas story. I am not sure about you, but I find that I need this story more than I ever have. I need something bigger, more substantial to believe in, to find comfort in this year.

I am not sure which parts of this story warms the cockles of your hearts the most. There are so many moving parts – the government, those with power making those without power move around to be registered like cattle (the hauliers stuck in Kent), the loyal and devoted Joseph, the young and heavily pregnant Mary, the birth of their firstborn son, the inn (probably a family home) with no empty space, the shepherds living in the fields, watching over their flocks by night, the angel of the Lord and the great multitude. Glory to God in the highest heaven indeed!

I love to picture the angel and the shepherds in the field. The Good News of Jesus coming to those on the margins, the outside first – in a burst of light. There was nothing subtle about this announcement. It was a dark, probably ordinary night for those shepherds. Nothing but a few baas here and a few baas there, the stars for light, each other for companionship.

This year has highlighted so many people who are on the margins, the unsung heroes – shelf-stackers, delivery drivers, bus drivers, postal workers, cleaners, of course NHS workers, lab technicians, police officers. I am not meaning to exclude anyone – please spare a thought and prayer for those who have been important, essential to you this year. People who, in ‘normal times’ are on the edge of our lives, not often thought of or acknowledged, who have suddenly become much more important to keep our lives and their lives going.

It is to these, the shepherds, that the glory of God first comes when the angel came and stood before them. The appearance of the angel should make one marvel at the creativity and beauty of God – who says Christianity is boring when there are angels! Angels are not, as popular myth claims, recycled dead people – as comforting as this might be. Angels are part of God’s created order, admittedly it takes some imagination for us – but they are real.

The angel knows that their appearance will shock the shepherds. That is why the opening greeting is ‘do not be afraid’. The phrase ‘do not be afraid’ appears 366 times in the Bible. One for each day of the year and an extra for Leap Years.

Both the angel and the good news proclaimed to those unsuspecting shepherds was utterly overwhelming! When was the last time you were truly overwhelmed by something good?

I know and you know people who have been utterly overwhelmed by bad stuff – 2020, unemployment, sickness, separation, anxiety, depression, loneliness, uncertainty, death. Many people at Christmas find themselves utterly overwhelmed and exhausted by the darkness of this world – more than usual.

Yet, as John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford, wrote, ‘Christmas is that wonderful time when we enter into another world. Just temporarily we bask in a different glow, and old hopes are reinstated, and the world is a little less chilly. But if it’s true that at Christmas we enter into a different world, it’s also true that for Christmas to be authentic another world has to enter us. ‘Where meek souls shall receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.’ There’s another world, one not made or bought by us, but a gift, given and received, fragile, mysterious, and utterly breath-taking. We only catch a glimpse of this other world; too much of it would blow our fuse, we couldn’t take it. But this much we can receive. This much – Jesus.’

We can receive Jesus again. I love this little line tucked into verse 6: ‘the time came for her to deliver her child.’ The time came. Again, we can receive Jesus at anytime and anywhere, but he was grounded in a time and place. This baby born unto us has come to bring us hope and is the tangible sign that God really is with us. God ceases to be distant or removed or too awesome to encounter. Instead, with Jesus’ arrival God becomes intimately involved in his creation and in our lives too. And when God is with us then there is hope.

The hope of the gospel overcomes the darkness, every darkness. It is not a fairy tale, it is not false optimism. However dark the world is or feels, the hope of God overcomes it. There are few things worse than disappointed hope. God does not disappoint. Hope comes in believing that we are part of a bigger, grander story.

Wherever you find yourself in the Christmas story this day – spend some time at the manger, bend a knee and gaze again at the baby who came at the right time and in the right place to bring us hope and be with us.

We also need to look in the manger – not just at it. Many people, Christians too, come to see the manger – but they never look in the manger. For some, Jesus remains the baby forever. A baby that is easily contained in the manger that gets brought out once a year – looked at – and then put away again.

Jesus is not meant to be contained to the manger. Isaiah 9:6 – ‘For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders.’ Now I don’t know about you – but I have not heard that said about many new-born babies. A baby may be a good eater, sleeper or pooper but has authority resting upon its shoulders?! Jesus did not just appear one night in Bethlehem as if out of nowhere. He has always been around – part of the Trinity. Always more than a baby!

This little lord Jesus becomes the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I love these names, I can identify with each of them. He is my Counsellor when I struggle; Mighty when I am weak; Everlasting when uncertainty threatens to overwhelm; the Prince of Peace when I am distressed.

I hope that you will know and experience the great love God has for you this Christmas. Not just at Christmas but at every moment of every day of your life – when things are calm and happy but more so when things are sad and messy.

I hope that you will know the Lord’s favour upon you.

I hope the name of Jesus falls sweetly on your ears and off your tongue. May the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace lead you and guide you always. Bless you & Happy Christmas.

Remember Who I Am & Who You Are

It will be 24 years this week since my much loved and wise Dad died. I can’t help to remember one of the most valuable lessons he taught me as I reflect on who Jesus is.

23/8/20 – 11th Sunday after Trinity

Isaiah 51:1-6

Romans 12:1-8

Matthew 16:13-20


I grew up in Canada – just outside of Calgary; and I would say that I was a pretty good kid – a reasonable student, polite, well behaved, didn’t get into much trouble, etc. This carried on largely into my teenage years with the odd scrape, of course. Becoming a teenager means doing things independently of one’s parents and exploring night life. I grew up in a small town, so it didn’t take long to explore! Once curfew times had been negotiated and I got ready to go out, my Dad would almost inevitably say ‘Susan, remember who you are.’

Man! Sometimes it really bothered me! Especially if I hadn’t fully disclosed where I would be going or what I would be doing that evening. It was my Dad’s way of telling me to behave, to remember how I had been raised and what was acceptable behaviour. There were times when that sentence would pass through my mind and – I believe – steered my behaviour. As I grew up and matured, I have come to realise that ‘remembering who I am’ is a very valuable thing to know.

In the Gospel reading this morning we are asked to consider who Jesus is. This is a pivotal moment in Peter’s life and in the lives of the disciples.

Why is Jesus asking this question?

Over the last few weeks in the lectionary we have been talking about weeds, wheat, pearls, treasures, mustard seeds, bread and fish. These are all stories about Jesus taking very little of something and making it very, very big. The miracles displayed in these stories show us God’s power displayed through Jesus in the provision and generosity given to those who choose to follow. We also had the feeding of the 5000 and the woman with the demon-possessed daughter. These stories are pointing to the person of Jesus and who he is.

One of the recurring themes throughout these readings is Jesus having to continually prove himself to the disciples and the crowds. They are still doubting as they do not yet understand who He is and what he came to do in the building of the kingdom of God. Up to this point Jesus has been seeking to prove his claim of messiahship through words and deeds. Now it is time to see if the lesson has been learned. Jesus starts with a ‘public opinion’ survey: ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’

He is given a variety of public opinion answers and this opinion is divided. Some say he is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. These answers are interesting – people did not think of Jesus, meek and mild; not the cosy friend of little children – but rather like one of the wild prophets of the Old Testament. One who stood up spoke the word of God fearlessly and against the rulers of the day.
Then Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter: “Who do you say I am?” Suddenly there is no public opinion to hide behind. They must make an intelligent, personal choice based on the witnessed miracles and heard messages.

Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. An answer which gets him some serious praise and blessing. The importance of Peter’s answer is that he acknowledged that Jesus was not just God’s mouthpiece against injustice and corruption, but that Jesus was God’s Messiah – God’s king.

Take a moment now and consider that question for yourself. Who is Jesus to you? A good moral teacher? Jesus meek and mild – the baby in the manger that seems to stay there? Jesus on the cross who doesn’t seem to get down. Jesus the Prince of Peace, wonderful counsellor, Mighty Saviour, Name Above all Names. This is an answer with not only eternal consequences but with consequences for the everyday trials and triumphs of walking around on this planet.

Jesus had a word for Peter after his announcement. Tom Wright writes: ‘if Peter was prepared to say that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus was prepared to say that, with this allegiance, Peter would himself be the foundation for his new building. Just as God gave Abram the name Abraham, indicating that he would be the father of many nations, so now Jesus gives Simon the new name Peter, the Rock.’

Peter went on to do just that. This was not – of course – without trials and tribulation for Peter. As we know he denied Christ before the crucifixion and had to live with that guilt and shame. Never forget that Jesus restored Peter on the beach.

This is really helpful for as and when we forget who Jesus is – we – like Peter can be restored to the body. We need to take ourselves to Jesus, ask for the forgiveness and start again.

The opening verse of the Isaiah reading tells us to look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look at Jesus again. He loves us – loves you. His grace is sufficient.

It is through God’s grace that we have been restored and redeemed and it is also through grace that we have been given the gifts of God. Anyone need to hear this today?

In the Romans reading we are reminded that we are one body with many members and being members of one another. We have been given gifts – ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion. This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many, many more gifts of the Spirit. These are the gifts that we need, our families, friends and the wider world need us to use. The body of Christ is desperately needed! This is why we need to know who Jesus is – we are part of his body – best to know something of the person in whom we dwell and dwells in us.

By knowing who Jesus is – we can have a clearer picture of who we are. We can remember who we are and who we were we made to be when we know who Jesus. The beloved children of God.

The Generous Sower

Yesterday’offering…

We have some extraordinarily rich readings this week! The images provoked are beautiful, profound, and full of joy. Who could not use a little more joy at this time? Images of growth and freedom – the work of rain and snow, the earth being watered, joy, peace, the mountains, and hills singing, fields clapping their hands. These things are not concerned with social distancing, what is opened or closed, R rates and travel corridors.

There is great joy in Paul’s declaration to the Romans that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus and that a mind set on the Spirit is where true life and peace are found. Jesus telling the vast crowd before him about the sower who flung seeds all over the place with joyful abandon. Some of this seed ‘brought forth a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’ Listen to a God who is generous, full of compassion and working out his purposes in those He loves.

There is not much we can do in these days with reckless abandon. Everything we do seems to require advanced planning and preparation, taking along gloves, masks, and hand gel. We had to be vigilant of everything we touch and who is around us. The freedom of the sower to go wherever they like is shocking! His freedom makes me envious for the freedoms that we had, that seem a distant memory. I need the boost of joy that the sower gives!

There is also something about the extravagance of God shown in Isaiah and Matthew. Again, we are not living in extravagant times. Many are in financial hardship if not ruin, people will be losing jobs and then living with the consequences that follow. Prices are rising as incomes fall – hardly a time to be thinking of extravagant or wasteful spending.

In Isaiah, God is generous with the rain (maybe a bit too much this week) and the snow to water the earth, bring forth the sprouts to give seed to the sower and bread to the eater. God has an endless supply of these things and he is generous with them! I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that God is somehow stingy or a minimalist. I have been reading through Job with a group I share Evensong with. We are in the final chapters where God finally replies to Job with a series of questions such as: ‘have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?’ In Job chapters 38-40, we get a sense of the greatness, the generosity and extravagance of God; there is nothing he has not thought about!

We see this same extravagance and generosity in the Jesus’ sower. Often times, and I have done it, we rush through this parable to focus on the four types of terrain and ignore the sower.

American essayist Debie Thomas writes: ‘If your experience is anything like mine, you’ve read this parable many times, and focused exclusively on the four types of terrain Jesus describes. You’ve thought about the people you preach to week after week, and worried over who is hardened, rocky, thorny, or “good.” You’ve agonized over how to find and cultivate more fertile soil in your church or community. Or else — also like me — you’ve read this parable and walked away, feeling bad about your own faith life. Feeling judged. Feeling inadequate. Feeling anxious. You’ve wondered how to make your spiritual soil less hard, less rocky, less thorny. You’ve designed all sorts of self-improvement projects to fix what’s “wrong” with you. More prayer. Less Twitter. More Bible study. Less cynicism. More church. Less television. You’ve read the parable as an indictment of your relationship with a Sower who just can’t seem to find an appropriately hospitable environment in your messed-up heart.’

We all need times to consider the condition of our hearts and what is growing in them. Of course we do. There is nothing wrong with some honest and humble self-assessment. There are also times when we need to consider the love and lavishness of the sower who we often overlook in the quest to be better, less rocky, or thorny or hard. We tend to forget there is good soil too! This is a place that hears and understands the Word and ultimately bears fruit. We all have places in our hearts that bear good fruit. And we can overlook these parts as we get overly wrapped up in where we need improvement.

Consider again the sower as they sow the seed everywhere. Everywhere. In all type of places and circumstances – hospitals, prisons, grocery stores, schools, flat blocks, fields, meadows, car parks and playgrounds. They do so with an open hand and endless supply of seed. There is no way to sort it or save it, it will scatter everywhere. And you know what?

The sower does not seem to mind in the least! Debie Thomas again writes: There is in him a confident realism, a sense that what needs to flourish will flourish. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not everywhere. But that’s okay. In other words, the sower in Jesus’ parable is wholly unconcerned about where the seed falls or lands or settles — all he chooses to do is keep sowing. Keep flinging. Keep opening his hands. Why? Because there’s enough seed to go around. There’s enough seed to accomplish the sower’s purposes. There’s enough seed to “waste”.

I think that as Christians and as a Church we need to reflect on our view of God as the sower in these times. How do we view God in the wake of Covid? Robin spoke about this two weeks ago after reading Tom Wright’s book ‘God and the Pandemic’.

God has not changed – he is still in charge of the storehouses of snow and hail; He is still watering the earth. True life and peace are found when we set our minds on the Spirit. There is still no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He is still the most generous and lavish sower and giver we can ever imagine. Our hearts, our mental health, our sense of security, our finances may have taken a pummelling in these last few months, but God is still good. I cannot let my circumstances dictate my theology, my ultimate belief in the goodness and love of God.

The sower, I hope, reminds me and us that despite our own stinginess of Spirit or belief, God is still generous. I hope, that despite a lack of confidence that is His word will go out and achieve his purposes, no matter where it lands – that it really will. I hope that God’s ability to clear or soften whatever ground there is of rocks and thorns – outstrips the doubt I have.

I will finish with Isaiah: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving the seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’

God’s word will not return empty to him and shall accomplish its purpose and it will succeed. Let us receive the seed that He is sowing, the lavish gifts of love, joy, peace, grace. God is at work in the world, through Jesus and through us and this work continues. Sometimes it takes some time and thought to work out what exactly this means for each one of us. Trust the sower and his seed!

We have been freed from sin and death to live in the Spirit – to have life and peace. To have hearts that are soft and not hard, heart that are free from rocks and thorns – but full of good soil with seed to share.