Rev'd Daniel Irvine
I have made it a point not to talk too long this morning about the gospel text, as the focus really is about the joy we share at welcoming these new members and the thanks we have for the service of those who have been in the MU for many, many years.
But it would be remiss of me not to say anything, in particular about why I chose this reading and what it might say to those new members, and those who have been with the MU for much longer, about the nature and the role of MU and how our motivation can be driven by our reflection on the gospel.
Firstly, the passage begins with Jesus challenging those who would hear him as to what constitutes family.
Now family was and still is one of the strongest bonds in our society. In fact in the ancient world it was everything, and in our work and our values we might be tempted to try and make things more like how they were, you know, back then when things were better.
It is easy to think back and to think things were better in a bygone age, but that is not what Jesus does in this reading that I have chosen to share with you today. Instead of trying to tighten individual families to the exclusion of others, he is inviting everyone into a greater family – asking us to look past our human concerns and focus on our common humanity and our common heritage as children of God.
It was not something the crowds would have instantly warmed to, just as many in our modern church family have difficulty accepting families that don’t fit their mould. But the challenge is there to understand family as those who do the will of the Father, which for Matthew was the same as it was for Micah, to love kindness and mercy, to act justly and to walk humbly with our God.
From here Jesus goes on to tell what is by now a pretty famous parable, of the sower sowing the seeds. And I have deliberately chosen to leave off the interpretation given by Matthew to add one of my own, one that you may have remembered me giving when this passage came up several Sundays ago, and which I think is very relevant to the work of the MU.
And it has nothing to with coming up with clever ways of thinking about the places where the seeds land, but about what we are called to do in the service of God and of one another.
If those seeds that fell on good soil are able to grow and produce fruit, then shouldn’t we, who have had the good fortune of falling in that soil, and who consider ourselves blessed because of it, be working to try and improve the soil of where those other seeds fell – so that they too might be able to experience the same growth in faith and love.
In our modern world it is too easy for us to assume that if people are struggling it is because of their own choices and bad decisions, but those seeds did not move themselves to the path, or to rocks, it just happened to be where they fell.
Moving forward I can see the great challenge that still faces the MU in the 21st century, one that long serving members have been working on for years and one that the new members today are choosing to take up, is not one of harping on self-conceived notions of what family is or isn’t but rather is a task of making better soil in this harsh world so that others may grow and truly flourish into the people that God has called them to be.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen