The lessons chosen in the lectionary for us to read each week are cut out of longer biblical passages. The divisions into chapters and versus was not done by the writers but by later compilers to make reference easier. This is especially true of the division of Paul’s argument in his letter to the Romans. Chapter 7, which Eryl reflected on last week, leads into today’s reading from chapter 8. Eryl made clear that in his inner struggles Paul “needs saving from himself” and the only source of help is “God through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
We are not meant to be alone in our struggles. We are relational beings, meant to know each other but above all meant to know God, to live our lives in fellowship and communion with God. Christ came to break down the barriers, to make us at-one with God, to bring reconciliation and overcome the sin which separates us from God.
Early in each service of worship we confess our sins. Here is where we rediscover that we are forgiven by God. It brings release from the past, reconciliation, restoration of relationship with God, acceptance by God in spite of all that has gone before. As Paul triumphantly declares in today’s reading: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
It is like experiencing resurrection. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit.” (NEB) So we are not fighting a lone battle but instead the Holy Spirit is communicating with our spirit, guiding, supporting and empowering us in our inner struggles and in our outward actions.
The thought of God’s Spirit working within us takes us to today’s gospel reading and what is usually called the parable of the sower, perhaps it is better called the parable of the seed. The parables of Jesus have one main point. In this case the point is about the superabundant fruitfulness of the seed which falls on good ground. Never mind the wasted seed, look at the prolific impact of the seed, which takes root, the seed of the word of God, especially the word of God in Jesus’ preaching of the coming of the kingdom of God on earth.
Go back to the reading from Isaiah. God has prepared and watered the ground and God’s seed, God’s word, God’s communicative relationship with us, ”shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace”
Did you notice in the collect for today a prayer for “all God’s faithful people in their vocation and ministry”. It is not only the leaders of the church but each of us has a vocation and ministry. With the coronavirus epidemic we are in a deep crisis of international proportions. In theological perspective a crisis is an opportunity to see the world afresh, a time to be open to the God who makes all things new, a time to seize God’s moment.
At this time many in and out of the church’s regular worshipping community are rediscovering their vocation and ministry in supplying the needs of neighbours, a pretty basic element in the work of the church. Our worshipping congregations are small and declining but a much larger proportion of the population have followed on line worship or have volunteered during lock down. The big questions for the future are:
How to continue helping and being there for all who need us not just those who have joined us? and,
How to continue in the future to meet the real spiritual needs of those who have been following on line worship? May the worship of God and the ministry of Christ in the world through power of the Spirit be developed and sustained after the crisis is over.