Sunday 26th July: Pentecost 8, with a summary of the Congregational thoughts to the Reflection Questions

This service is based around Romans 8: 26-39 and Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Our Rector, Rev Nick Wills leads the service (along with lots of different members of our church) and Rev Sue Whitehouse preaches about ‘The Mustard Seed’:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHhYHVFO1hqHLPo4GtFjG_A

Original Music Compositions by Neil Birse used with permission. Hymns sung by the Birse family. CCL Licence 43554: St Peter’s Church

After the sermon on Sunday 26th July, the congregation were given five questions to consider. They were asked to send their thoughts to Kristee, who then summarised them. (The Sermon starts at 13.22 on the link above)

  1. What thoughts have today’s parables raised for you?
  2. Is there anything that surprises you?
  3. ‘The Kingdom of God is like…..’ What present day illustrations do you notice?
  4. What is the treasure that God sees in you? In our church?
  5. How might we use that treasure to be the seed or yeast in God’s Kingdom today?

Summary below of the congregational responses by Kristee Boyd, Community Development:

The Bible records 183 questions that were asked of Jesus during his ministry. Out of 183 questions, Jesus offered a straight answer only 3 times. When asked a question, he almost always answered with a parable. In her sermon, Rev. Sue Whitehouse posed the question – would it not have been simpler for Jesus to give straightforward answers? She then explained that the kingdom of God cannot be pinned down, that it continues be mysterious and to work in a way that is so often contrary to our expectations. As always, thank you to those who took the time to engage with these parables and to send me personal reflections.

  1. What thoughts have today’s parables raised for you?

One member of St Peter’s thought about how the small seed of a calling can be fulfilled. She shared an example of an ordination of a group of men and women. She told of hardships that they have each suffered in the years since their ordination and of how suffering has helped to grow them personally, and to connect them with others, until the group has become like a tree with branches in their particular diocese. She likened growth or ‘treasure’ through personal hardship to the deliberate contradictions of the parables. When applied to the church, she said that, despite disturbances, God can make us grow together from a small seed into a great tree.

Some people mentioned the unique way that a parable can mean different things to different people, in a way that simple black and white answers cannot.

One lady unpacked Sue’s sermon and the corresponding hymn in the following way…

I appreciated how Sue split up the parables into 3 kinds, a helpful way to dig deeper.

  • Things that grow: Mustard seed, yeast: what is needed, not always what we want or expect: thinking outside the box
  • Things discovered: Treasure, pearl. Not easy to find, need to know it for what it is. Worth giving everything up for. And is this how God finds us? And how Jesus gives up everything for us?
  • Sorting the fish: There will be judgment. Would have to say that the eternal punishment aspect makes uncomfortable reading.

Also, the words of the final hymn: seeing if these parables fit! The Kingdom of God is:

– Justice (fish) and joy (pearl, treasure)

– Mercy and grace (Jesus giving up everything for us – because we cannot buy God’s love)

– Challenge (fish) and choice (fish: all are caught in the net; pearl, treasure)

God’s Kingdom is come:

  • The gift (mustard seed) and the goal (fish: keeping our eyes on the goal)

2. Is there anything that surprises you?

A few factors surprised St Peter’s folk:

  • The idea of eternal punishment
  • The idea (especially nowadays) of hoarding/hiding treasure
  • The idea of ‘us’ being the treasure

3. ‘The Kingdom of God is like…’ What present day illustrations do you notice?

So many interesting answers to this question! One lady sent the list below:

  • Something small: everyday germs, a virus?!! (No, not that one!) That starts off small and works through its host – till eventually antibodies boost and build up immunity?
  • Something precious: A derelict garden or building that someone sees the potential in: they throw everything they have into lovingly restoring it.
  • Or someone typically seen as valueless – or with nothing to contribute – by society (homeless, addict, illegal immigrant, or someone just too lacking in confidence) but helped by a person or organisation to move forward, achieve their self-worth, their potential and place among us.
  • Something that needs to be sorted out: Decluttering? But instead of throwing rubbish in the bin, mend it, give it away, repurpose, reuse or recycle. Find its worth to someone. Landfill is a last resort!

Another person sent the following reflection:

“The story of Jesus’ birth has always fascinated me. Why was Jesus born into such vulnerable circumstances to a poor single mother, who belonged to a group despised by the political and religious elite at the time? Why did God choose ‘the least of mine’ for people to have to look at to find God? If Jesus were born today, where would we have to look for him? Would we have to scour homeless shelters or immigration detention centres? Would we have to look among the groups we had always considered to be less worthy of our time and attention? This is what I think of as the Kingdom of God being like today – it’s having the wisdom to look for God in all of the places we least expect to find Him.”

4. What is the treasure that God sees in you? In our church?

In you: The only person who answered this question powerfully remarked, “The treasure is not in me, it is me. The spiritual ‘me’ I was destined to be, the spiritual ‘me’ at my very core who was born with all kinds of incredible potential has become clouded over by my upbringing, societal influences, my own fears and follies. At this point in my spiritual path, more and more all I want to do is to keep acting from the core of my being, my soul, the treasure beloved and created by a God who does not make mistakes.

In our church: Some mentioned our welcome and hospitality, particularly in light of the on-going work to make our facilities more user-friendly, safe and appealing. Hidden gifts were also mentioned – the idea that there are skills and talents that are, as yet, unused in service of our church.

5. How might we use that treasure to be the seed or yeast in God’s Kingdom today?

Some interesting points were made here:

  • Being willing to help when asked or recognising God’s call?
  • Are there organisations poor in wealth but rich in goodwill who would use our building(s) and be willing to give something back in kind? Can we reach out without our priority being to balance the books (although of course we have to)?
  • What internal treasures do we each have that are hiding behind our insecurities and fear of failure? Is playing it safe preventing us from expanding our church?
  • Is there a way to assess the hidden treasures of St Peter’s congregation?

In answer to this last question, I am attaching a Community Assets Survey that was passed on to me a while ago by Building Bridges Director, Pall Singh. If you feel inclined to answer these questions, I would truly love to hear from you! Email: communitydevelopment@stpetersedinburgh.org

The 25 Good Life QUESTIONS

These Good Life Questions are a specific tool that practitioners and citizens can use to change the conversation. A set of questions, developed by Cormac Russell that aren’t intended to be used like a survey but to help steer us towards more life enhancing conversations, not better assessments. The following questions help people to explore what contributions they might make to communities in which they reside.

1.      What contributions do you like to make to others?

·        What’s your thing?

·        What’s your jam?

·        What do you like doing that makes you forget time?

2.      What matters to you that you’d join with others in doing?

3.      If three of your neighbours were willing to help, what would you love to do to make your community a better place to live?

4.      What are the three activities you do best?

·        Would you be willing to show someone else how to do one of them?

5.      What are the three skills you would most like to learn?

6.      What are your passions?

7.      What gives you greatest joy or pleasure?

8.      What kind of job (paid or unpaid) might be associated with your passion?

9.      What are your gifts of the head? What do you know about? (music, movies, singing, playing music, history, languages, birds, sports, books, etc.)

10.   What are your gifts of the heart? (volunteering, listening, being with children, nursing, poetry, caring for others, etc.)

11.   What are your gifts of the hands? (recycling, gardening, cooking, walking, stamp collecting, quilting, fishing, arts and crafts, driving, plumbing, delivering, sewing, cutting hair, ushering etc.)

12.   Which clubs or groups do you belong to?

·        Which are organized around your passions?

·        Which ones exist in your community?

13.   What could you teach others?

14.   What would you like to teach others?

15.   What product or service would you enjoy selling?

16.   If you could start a business, what would it be?

17.   What are your favourite games?

18.   How do you have fun?

19.   Do you have other hobbies or special interests we have not talked about?

20.   Have you ever made anything?

21.   Have you ever fixed anything?

22.   What is your greatest accomplishment in life so far?

23.   What will be your greatest accomplishment in the future?

24.   Can you imagine your most challenging characteristic turned into a gift or contribution?

25.   Where in the community do you think you could make your contribution/share one of your gifts?

This pandemic poses a major challenge to our ongoing finances. If you are able to help by contributing financially to aid the continuation of the work of God in St Peter’s, we would be enormously grateful. Please click here for more information or donate to St Peter’s: http://stpetersedinburgh.org/giving-to-st-peters

SEC Service: for this week’s service, Rev Canon Ruth Innes celebrates the Eucharist from Saint Fillan’s Church, Buckstone, in the Diocese of Edinburgh, joined by the Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh. https://www.scotland.anglican.org/broadcast-sunday-worship/