The month of September is the time when many folk in our churches will be thinking about harvest preparations. We look forward to our own harvest service at Uppermill on the 24th Sept. I’m sure those leading it will make it a very meaningful act of worship. It is also one of my favourite months, a time of transition when summer begins to give way to the richness and variety of autumn colour vividly displayed in the lanes, fields, valleys and hedgerows. September is also significant to Debbie and I because it’s the month when we were married, and so we will look forward to another anniversary.
At this time of year we also think of those who plough and sow and reap and, in doing so, we may be drawn again to one of Jesus’ best known stories, the Parable of the Sower. Naturally when telling the story Jesus used imagery which would be very familiar to the people of Palestine. That said, its familiarity must not be lost on us today. As you read it you are left with the impression that the sower was engaged in work which brought him pleasure and purpose. To our minds there appears to be a happy abandonment to the way he scatters the seed. We can almost see the pleasure in his eyes and feel the buoyancy in his step as he takes the seed from his bag or basket and freely casts it into the air to land where it may.
And we know how the story unfolds for not all the seed would fall on good ground, some would and some would not. He knew how much would depend upon his own toil, and he faces the unpredictable forces of nature through which the seed must pass in order to bear fruit. Despite all the possible hazards, he still sows in hope that there would be, in the course of time, a good crop. He believes he will see ends in beginnings. He knows that he has to look beyond the present and exercise trust for the future. I think that there is something quite visionary about him in that sense.
Interestingly, September also marks the beginning of a new Methodist church year which will bring about new challenges for the church. I believe it will be a significant year when we think about the future in new ways. Of course, we will continue to try be faithful in daily work and witness, but we will also be called upon to have a visionary eye on the future. The Transforming Churches and Communities initiative we are about to engage in will help us do that, and all of us are invited to be part of it. Essentially it will mean working together to sow seeds in the present, which in time will prove to be seeds of renewal not only for ourselves, but for future generations who will follow us.