Sermon – 17th January 2021

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Plough Sunday

Sunday 17th January 2021

As public worship has again been suspended because of the pandemic the service was recorded and made available online. That can be found here.

Plough Sunday
Luke 9. 57-62

Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs

Maureen Hoobs

Before the first part of the Reflection a poem by Malcom Guite was read.

“Daily Bread” by Malcolm Guite
Give us this day our daily bread we pray,
As though it came straight from the hand of God,
As though we held an empty plate each day,
And found it filled, by miracle, with food,
Although we know the ones who plough and sow,
Who pick and plant and package while we sleep
And send away to others all they reap.

We know that these unseen who meet our needs
Are all themselves the fingers of your hand,
As are the grain, the rain, the air, the land,
And, slighting these, we slight the hand that feeds.
What if we glimpsed you daily in their toil
And found and thanked and served you through them all?
(from Parable and Paradox: Sonnets on the sayings of Jesus and other poems by Malcolm Guite – Canterbury Press Norwich (2016))

Malcolm Guite reminds us of all the work that goes on unseen to bring food to our plates. He makes the connection that God is working through the hands of the farmer, the pickers, the packager, to “Give us this day our daily bread”. He points to the presence of God in the “rain, the grain, the air, the land”

In his poem “The Everlasting Mercy”, John Masefield captures the essence of the horse-drawn plough, in its task of turning a stubborn clay to fruit, breaking open the land to make it fertile, cutting through the ‘rest-harrow and bitter roots’, to give space for the crops to grow.

It is the same task in our own hearts and lives; we need to be opened up to God; the weeds need cutting through, to allow us to grow and change. The poem continues with the words ‘O Christ who holds the open gate, O Christ who drives the furrow straight, O Christ, the plough, O Christ, the laughter Of holy white birds flying after, Lo all my heart’s field red and torn, And thou wilt bring the young green corn…. it is in truth a very long poem (this is only a very short section) but the words help us recognize Christ not just in church, but in the fields, in the plough, in the soil, in the ploughing, in everything. For Masefield there is no separation of sacred and secular, church and world, work and prayer: all is one!

After the reading from St Luke’s Gospel

Jesus talked about God and the life of faith using examples taken from everyday life and work that would have been very familiar to his hearers. We sometimes make rash promised or overambitious commitments and find we cannot live up to them. “I will follow you, wherever you go.” Sometimes we can hear the call of God “Follow me!” but we make excuses and don’t follow through. The image of trying to plough looking backwards is a comical – not to say dangerous – one! To plough a straight furrow, to live a fruitful life, we need to keep our gaze on a fixed mark on the horizon. Jesus calls us to follow him, take up the plough, to cur through all the matted roots and weeds in our lives, to break open our hardened hearts, to allow his new life to grow in us.

So here are some questions to you to consider…

  • Do I tend to look backwards or forwards in my life?
  • What are the roots and the weeds that I need to cut through?
  • What is the harvest for which I am hoping?
  • What can I do now to prepare the soil?

Adapted from ‘Ploughshares and First Fruits’, published by Canterbury Press, ©Chris Thorpe 2020.