Time is a very strange thing isn’t it? So much of our lives in 21st century wants to move quickly. My iPad, your phone perhaps, demands to be opened. It sits within easy reach and tempts me to check the weather, to scroll down what’s happening in the news (again), to double check my emails or whether anybody has looked at the church Facebook account. It’s very much a ‘do it now’ kind of thing. I could tame it. I can close the door on my desktop computer in the study and leave the emails to another day…or week: slow things down a bit, take some time, be less driven but that’s hard.
Time is a curious thing isn’t it? That young mum, the one phoning to ask if I might baptise her child…I remember her from when I led collective worship at her Junior School. That professional young man: he was such an awkward teenager…who would credit it? How did that happen?
Time. The kingdom of God may come like a thief in the night but it takes time doing so. The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground…and somehow, as the days and the weeks and the years pass: it grows to become a crop that will feed and nurture others. Small things…seeds? As small as mustard seeds: tiny even. Give them time and they might grow into great trees that can shelter others.
We know this, don’t we? Or at least some of us do. Anyone who is a parent knows that it takes time for their children to grow to maturity; there will be milestones along the way….but there will also be worry and anxiety and tantrums and misunderstandings and love that will produce a harvest…given time. Teachers know that children learn at different speeds…that it will take time for the little ones dropped off at Reception to learn essential social skills, how to listen respectfully to others and to lay down the essentials for a positive school experience. Give them time though…and those ‘off the wall’ infants can become confident, articulate Year 6s… that group of loud teenagers can show themselves to be sensitive and generous members of the community.
Some time scales are short…others long. One of my predecessors at St. Mary’s (George Dugard) arrived in the parish in the late 1840’s. The church was in poor repair, the town overwhelmed by new industry, there was little or no educational or social provision…and within Dugard’s first years in Barnard Castle there was a cholera epidemic: he buried 145 people in a matter of months. He would leave the parish through ill health…and never see the fruit of his work. For he had started the first National School in the town: a school that transformed the life chances of a generation (and those that have followed) and (20 years later) was the engine that provided engaged young Christian people to help reshape the parish church and provide over 30 Sunday School Teachers and a similar number of Church Army workers to serve the community.
We’re caught in time. We are not sure whether to rush into the freedom of release from lockdown…or to wait. We’re not sure what needs to be done ‘now’…and what needs time to grow and bear fruit. We don’t know how things will pan out over these next months: we are, after all, living through a worldwide catastrophic event. We can try to live with the uncertainty…but we must never give up believing that at some point, probably when we least expect it, we’ll catch a glimpse of the Kingdom growing in the field of our lives…in our families…and this community…..and then we’ll marvel and say ‘how did that happen’?
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St. Mary’s is open for private prayer each weekday from 10.00am – 4.00pm