What seeds have you been planting this week? Where did you plant weeds that would cause harm to those around you? And where did you plant wheat that would flourish and nurture people?
On Friday of last week, the first day of General Synod, Bishop Paul introduced a debate on safeguarding, which is about protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse in church. When the new legislation comes in, we will have to put systems into place to make sure that we are as confident as it is possible to be that all members of our congregations and wider communities will be safe with clergy and lay leaders.
That was planting wheat. Or perhaps it was about putting up barriers to keep the weeds out. The trouble is – weeds happen despite our very best intentions.
Then that evening, I attended a fringe meeting run by MACSAS, Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors. It was harrowing to listen to the stories of abuse, and the way this had been compounded because church authorities refused to listen and refused to take action. These people were so brave in the way they had come to tell us their stories. They will bear the scars always.
That’s weeds. Terrible weeds. Weeds that have deep roots and poisonous outcomes.
On Monday, we debated women in the episcopate. When the debate started, I really wasn’t confident that it would get through, that there would be enough votes to get the legislation through to the two-thirds majority that was required. However, the atmosphere was different altogether from November 2012 – that was when the cameras caught me and I became for a short while the sobbing face of General Synod.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgUdwrmOyBY (at 1.20)
This time, there was an enormous spirit of generosity as people who voted no last time stood up to say that they would vote yes this time, or that they would abstain, or that they would vote against the legislation, but they would work with the outcome. I made a point afterwards of thanking those whom I knew. And, as you all know, the vote did go through, and it was a great joy. And I was interviewed by Al Jazeera once again:
So seeds have now been planted that will be good for the church. However, there is still hard work to do. We need to keep the promises we made. We need to respect those who have different opinions. The minute we diss another member of the church for holding another view, we plant a weed that will come back and sting us in the future.
And here in Bensham, in the parish, day by day we are all planting seeds, seeds that could be productive positive wheat seeds, or harmful seeds.
We had Fun @ 4 yesterday afternoon here in church, our once a month service for families and others, where we explore a bible story or theme through crafts and other activities. Yesterday, we were thinking about the story of the Sower and the Seed, which was your Gospel reading last week, so seeds were very much on our mind. We planted sunflower seeds as a prayer for our own flourishing. We planted prayer seeds for others. We thought about the times when we had been bad ground for growing seeds, and we said sorry to God.
I hope we planted good seeds, seeds that will help the families grow in faith and hope and love. I pray that the seeds will sprout and grow. It won’t happen quickly. The seeds we plant at Fun @ 4 may take a long time to be fruitful.
And we plant personal seeds in the way we relate to families, friends and neighbours, and the strangers in our midst. The way we treat them matters. People remember the welcome and they remember the rejection. I read a review of a book a couple of days ago by a guy who had led a wild and dissolute life, and it all stemmed from the time when his mother and brother had been killed and his father said he wished it wasn’t the brother who had died but him. And that terrible rejection haunted him for the rest of his short unhappy life.
We also plant seeds in the way we spend our money, the way we choose the products we buy which provides an income that enables other people to flourish. We plant seeds when we give money to charity or to the church to enable God’s work to be done. We also got a sense of this at General Synod as we listened to various Annual Reports and the Budget for the Church of England for next year.
The good and the bad shoots grow side by side for the time being. When I try and pull away the bindweed in my garden, I damage the blackcurrant bush or the honeysuckle it has invaded. You have to find other ways of preventing damage caused by the bad seeds we sow. Often people don’t even know when they are planting bad seeds. They are too wrapped up in vindicating themselves that they don’t listen to their own words.
You plant good seeds when you encourage and support others. Good seeds abound where there is faith and hope and love. Good seeds need a willingness to tell the truth, but in a way that respects the other person. You plant good seeds when you do a kind act without hope of payback.
We all hope that we plant good seeds amongst our families and those whom we love – though that is never absolutely certain. We hope that doing our best is good enough, but sometimes it just isn’t, and we need to be aware enough of ourselves of the way we might cause harm. And we have a responsibility to plant good seeds in our communities, the places where we hang out, and to the wider society, and to our world.
So, I ask you, what seeds have you been planting this week? Where did you plant weeds that would cause harm to those around you or to the wider world? And where did you plant wheat that would flourish and nurture people and help good things grow?