Sunday, 14 June 2009

Parable of the Mustard Seed: Growing in Faith

Today I took a great leap into the unknown, I met a need and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through me. Today is a day to be remembered.

Best to start at the beginning.
Yesterday afternoon I got a call from one of the church wardens "Emma, clergy A is ill and clergy B has a service elsewhere so we don't have anyone to give the 1130 Family Communion Service; could you do it for us?" My first question was one of legality, is it allowed? My fears were put asunder; I would use reserved sacrement and clergy B would discuss with me how the service would need changing. So as I managed to quash my fears and feelings of unworthiness I agreed.

The first thing I did was pray. I prayed for the strength to cope with this next step, for the inspiration to write a last minute sermon and for the peace to deliver the service. Then I took myself to the study, looked at the lectionary, prayed and after a couple of hours had an interactive all-age sermon written on the parable of the mustard seed, focussing on growing in faith.

And here it is, the words and the instructions for myself.

Sit the children around to hear the gospel reading.

Mark 4:26-34 (New Living Translation)
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.

Bring out a piece of paper with pictures of four seeds, showing the different sizes of those seeds

Mustard seed size: 1.2mm plant height: 85cm
Poppy seed size: 1.5mm plant height: 75cm
Marigold seed size: 10mm plant height: 15cm
Sunflower seed size: 20mm plant height: 300cm av (record: 716cm)

As you can see there are four seeds here, even the biggest is still small.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus told us about the mustard seed, the smallest seeds in the lands of Israel.

Jesus tell us how this smallest of seeds, grows and grows and grows and grows to become one of the biggest of the plants in an Israeli garden.

So who would like to take this piece of string and walk to the back of the church with it to see how tall a mustard seed plant can get?
That’s 85cm tall, a very tall plant.

Now how about other small seeds. We have the poppy seed which is only a tiny bit bigger, how tall do you think that gets?
(ask child to take string towards back)
That’s 10cm shorter, just 75cm tall.

So how about if we get to slightly larger seeds, the marigold seed is still really small, how tall does that get? 15cm, a lot shorter than the other two.

And finally, how about the one I’m sure you’ve all planted this year, the sunflower. It has a huge seed, 20mm long and how long does the sunflower get? Well who will take it to the back, it gets to about 3m tall in good conditions (7m in world records). But it came from a big seed, not a tiny mustard seed!

And so we come back to the parable Jesus told us. Yes there are huge seeds that will grow tall above all other plants; but the mustard seed is tiny, like the seed of love Jesus planted in each of our hearts.

It’s tiny and yet it grows, and it grows and it grows (walk down to the flower at the end of the mustard string length).

This is how the seed of Jesus grows taller and taller in each of you.
He grows in our hearts until our knowledge of Him, our love of Him and our faith in Him is so massive that we know that “Nothing will be impossible in Jesus”!

Three children helped me with the pictures and the string, at the end we had a visual image of the way seeds can grow tall and the children were all standing by the heads of the flowers.

During the service we had three hymns which I was able to choose to go with the sermon, I chose from Junior Praise:
No 188 – One more step along the road I go
No 258 – This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine
No 149 – Kum Ba Yah

The feedback on the service itself was that it was well explained to the congregation and that they were aware why I was taking it (clergy being unwell). That I made the necessary changes fluently and the congregation understood what was happening at all times. Overall the feedback was that the worship experience was enjoyable.

The sermon feedback was entirely positive with one exception which stated that the sermon did not match the gospel; I remain confused by this. The congregation felt that I had aimed at the right level by ensuring the children all understood and were involved, thereby allowing the adults to ponder on the issues further.

So what have I learned from this week and the preaching course last week?
I need to have a printed order of service for Laiety lead services.

I need not spend tens of hours writing a sermon; by following the process introduced at the preaching course I can trust the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and words to bring the message of the gospel to the congregation.

The use of illustrations and practical experiences increases the learning for children especially; they will remember the colour and sizes of seeds, height of plants and therefore hopefully the parable of the mustard seed.

This sunday has been one of considerable learning, mostly in my own abilities with the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Kathryn said...

Bravo.It sounds as if it went wonderfully, and I love your visual aid. Learning not to overprepare is one of the hardest things I think...

UKViewer said...


A valuable experience and lesson on leading worship. I think that your initiative was excellent, as getting the young ones involved is so important. You seem to be going extremely well with this and I can only hope that I would have done so well, when dropped in the deep end at such short notice.

We had a lay preacher for our Family Communion this morning - he made some good points, but suffered from continually consulting his notes and longer than necessary pauses.

Obviously, this might have been his first as I have not heard him before, so I think that he got his message across to the adults. I am not so sure for the many children there.

UKViewer said...

I have just re-read this blog. It just makes so much sense. My Vicar thinks that I want to do intercessions - as I am reading about them. I just like John Pritchard's writing, which is so accessible.