Summary: The talk given at our Church Annual Meeting 2011. God's calling us to sow generously into our community.

I am standing here today as a result of a long string of events, many God-incidences where people sowed the word of God into my life. I’m here because of my Sunday school teachers John and Hilary Stainer. I’m here because of my Boys’ Brigade leader Michael Hunt. I’m here because of the Reverend Harry Wilson. I’m here because of Mark Vernon who was the paid Youth Worker at my local Church when I was a teenager; and I’m here because of Christian friends who prayed for me and encouraged me. I’m here because people sowed the word of God into my life.

We just heard these words in our Bible reading; ‘Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously’ (verse 6).

Now I’m no gardening expert but some things just seem to grow all by themselves without any encouragement and without any work – and I’m not just talking about weeds; whereas other plants need careful tender attention, regular pruning, the right soil and just the right amount of water.

The Bible talks about the growth of the kingdom in the lives of people by referring to seeds, plants and children. From tiny beginnings there is the potential for growth. Every time Jesus preached he was ‘sowing’ the word of God into people’s lives – and as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today his Church is called to join in with ‘sowing’ God’s word.

In Mark chapter 4 (1-9) Jesus sits down in a boat at the edge of Lake Galilee and begins to teach. “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.”

“Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil …other seed fell among thorns which grew up and choked the plants; …[and] still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop”.

I believe we are called, appointed and commissioned as modern day disciples of Jesus to go and to sow God’s word, but doing so aware that sometimes we do the sowing, others do the watering, and God gives the growth. That was St. Paul’s experience when he wrote this: ‘I planted the seed, [someone else, a man called] Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose; and each will be rewarded according to his own labour’ (1 Corinthians 3: 6-8).

Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4: 34).

“The saying ‘one sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour” (John 4: 37-38).

You may recall me saying a couple of years ago that there’s a type of bamboo in Asia which grows to amazing heights and at amazing speeds - sometimes as much as 20 metres in six weeks! However, before that growth spurt, the seed lies in the dark beneath the ground for up to 5 years. Those farmers who make a profitable living from the bamboo would have given up long ago and changed crops if they didn’t know that plenty was going on beneath the surface despite the fact that there was no outer, visible sign to encourage their perseverance. Every bit of watering and waiting, praying and persevering, is worthwhile.

At the age of 14 Phil Sheldrake was invited by a school friend to attend an event called Festival ’89.

The event was being held on Sun Corner in Billericay and hosted by the preacher J. John. That night, Phil came to find a personal faith in Jesus. With his best friend, Phil attended Pathfinders and other Youth groups here at Christ Church. A member of the staff team here a man called Ron Bradford was instrumental in Phil’s growing faith, and Phil himself takes up the story: “I won’t say I was the finished article at this point. Who is? The pressures of adolescence kept me on the fringe of church from 16 to 18; yet I still attended youth club and the occasional Sunday service. What I will say though, is that the patience and love shown through the members of Christ Church was priceless. I didn’t have a family who loved and spoke to me about Jesus; but here in Billericay there were people who did. At university I got hooked into a loving Church that gave me opportunities to explore leadership, develop skills and talents, make mistakes, celebrate success and be discipled.”

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