Walking on Water

Matthew 14.22-33


You may have heard the story about a man who gets too close to the edge of a cliff, loses his balance, and falls over the edge.

Just before falling to the rocks below, he grabs onto a root sticking out from the edge.

“Help, help!” he calls, “Is there anyone up there? Help me! Save me! Is there anyone up here?”

A voice answers,

“I am the Lord. I can save you. Do you believe in me? Do you really want me to help you?”

“O yes, Lord”, cries the man, “I believe in you. Please help me”.

“OK”, the Lord says, “I’ll save you. Now, let go”.

“What?” shouts the man, as the tree root begins to give way.

“Just let go of that root you’re holding on to, and I’ll save you”, says the Lord.

“You have to trust me”.

The man pauses for a moment, and then shouts out, “Is there anyone else up there?”.

Faith in times of Difficulty

All of this leads to the question: Where does our faith fit in during the difficult times?

Some claim that if you have faith life will be smooth sailing.

Some also claim that if you have faith God will cure all your ills and guard you from every danger.

However, that’s not been my experience, or the experience of anyone I know, and thankfully our gospel reading today challenges such claims.

Just before the story we’ve heard today Jesus has been having a very long day.

He’s heard about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, and tried to get away on his own, only to be sought out by crowds of people and ending up feeding more than 5000 of them on only two fish and five loaves of bread.

If you remember, the crowds had gathered, and the disciples wanted to send them away to get food as it was getting late.

But Jesus told them to feed the people themselves.

The disciples are shocked, saying, “We haven’t got enough food! We can’t possibly do it!”.

But Jesus takes the little that is available and provides enough food to leave 12 baskets of leftovers.

I wonder what the disciples made of that.

They were right in the middle of it, after all.

Maybe some in the crowd didn’t see what had happened, but they did.

However, the disciples were rather slow learners, as we see often in the gospels.

After the feeding of the 5000 Jesus finally gets a chance to be on his own, sending both the disciples and the crowds away.

I expect the disciples thought he’d get on another boat to join them or just walk round the lake, which is actually the Sea of Galilee, and catch up.

So, they did exactly what Jesus had told them to do and went out onto the lake to sail over to the other side.

However, despite doing exactly what they’d been told to do they found themselves in the middle of a big storm.

So, do faith and obedience always mean smooth sailing in life?

Apparently not!

Sometimes we follow Jesus and find ourselves in a storm.

Sometimes we’re battered by circumstances beyond our control, far from the safety of land, with the wind and seemingly everything else against us.

We all get our turn in this particular boat, usually when we least expect it.

None of us gets through this life completely un-battered and unscathed.

Returning to our gospel, though, early in the morning, Jesus comes out to join the disciples, walking on the water.

Interestingly, it’s only at this point that the disciples are described as being terrified.

They were familiar with the lake and knew all about the storms that to this day suddenly sweep down out of nowhere there.

I’m sure they were worried about being in a small boat in a big storm, but it was the sight of someone walking across the lake that really scared them.

Were the waves and wind hiding his identity?

Or was it just the sheer impossibility of what was happening – a person walking on water – that was making it impossible for them to know who it was?

But then Jesus called out to them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”.

In other words, “It’s me. You know me. I’m not here to frighten you. You can trust me”.

Then Peter, in classic form, blurts out that he wants Jesus to command him to come out onto the water as well.

I don’t know why Peter said this, perhaps he wanted proof, and maybe he regretted it as soon as he’d said it.

Jesus then simply says, “Come”.

It would be like letting go of that tree root you’re hanging onto for dear life, and Peter is probably ready to call out, “Uh, is there anyone else up there?”.

But he’s committed himself now, so he cautiously gets out of the boat, and there he is, walking on the water, just like Jesus!

But then something happens as Peter realises where he is and the impossibility of what he’s doing.

Often, we see in cartoons a moment when a character runs off a cliff and stays suspended in mid-air until he realises what a stupid thing he just did and plunges down to the ground.

Well, here is Peter, on the water, taking his eyes off Jesus, realising what he’s just done, and beginning to sink.

The name “Peter” means rock, but now, instead of being a rock of faith, he’s just sinking like a rock.

Panicking, he cries out, “Lord, save me!”.

We’ve all been there.

It’s the cry of every person faced with situations beyond our strength, beyond our ability, and beyond our control.

When all seems lost, we cry out, “Lord, save me!”.

And Jesus’s reaction is immediate.

He reaches out, catches Peter, gets him back into the boat, and the storm calms, to the amazement of the disciples, who’d apparently not realised, even after seeing the feeding of the 5000, that Jesus has power over all things.

Life is full of adventures and encounters and accidents and experiences that remind us, over and over again, that we are not as much in control of life as we’d like to be.

A car accident, a disease, or a relationship that breaks down might throw us off.

We might feel helpless in the face of war, wildfires, and disease.

Things can and do go wrong for all of us, and we’re not always able to stop or fix them.

Some of them are just too big for one person, some are too messy to fix, and some are just beyond our abilities to control or prevent.

And even when we’re certain that we’re doing God’s will, we can’t be sure that everything will go according to our plans.

We’re never guaranteed success in our endeavours, even those done for God.

And we don’t get a pass from heartache or disappointment.

But what we can be certain of is that, if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, then we will find faith and courage to do things we never thought we could, even when storms are raging all around us.

We can know that even those things we can’t control, or fix are not beyond God, even if sometimes we wish he’d act faster or more decisively.

Sometimes we will take our eyes off Jesus and get overwhelmed by what’s happening around us, because we’re only human.

Sometimes we will find ourselves crying out, “Lord, save me!”.

But it’s then that he reaches out to catch us.

And it’s then that he says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”.




The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43

“Listen!” says Jesus, “a sower went out to sow”.

It’s such a familiar parable, isn’t it?

How many sermons have we heard about the different sorts of ground that the seeds land on and what happens to them.

And maybe some of us wonder what sort of ground we are and whether we’re up to scratch when it comes to producing a good harvest.

But this isn’t the parable of the seeds or the parable of the soils.

Rather, Jesus calls it the parable of the sower, and that suggests this is where our focus needs to be.

So, what can we learn about the sower?

Well, first of all, he’s not a good farmer.

No self-respecting farmer would just fling seeds about all over the place with no preparation or thought for where they might end up.

Good farmers prepare the ground first and carefully sow their seeds in the best possible way and in the best possible places to ensure a good harvest with minimal waste and cost.

They wouldn’t dream of chucking seeds about in unlikely places on the off-chance that something might grow.

Such incompetence and wastefulness on the part of the sower probably made the farmers in Jesus’s audience laugh.

This is obviously not a story about farming methods, though.

Instead, like all parables, it’s trying to tell us something about God and his kingdom by giving us a new perspective.

It’s not meant to be a human view of things, but a God view of things.

And it’s not always easy to understand the God view of things.

When Jesus tells us “Let anyone with ears listen” he’s recognising this, telling us that what he’s saying is something we’re going to have to think about because its meaning isn’t obvious.

What I see in this parable is someone who is recklessly extravagant.

The sower doesn’t care if what he’s doing is efficient or likely to lead to good results.

He just wants to get as much seed out there as possible.

God’s concern is not with cutting costs, being efficient, or concentrating resources in the places that will give the best returns.

Rather, he’s interested in offering the possibility of hope and new life to all, regardless of cost or the likelihood of a good response.

So, he showers his grace and love in the most unlikely of places in the hope of seeing some growth.

God’s generous nature is on show in this parable, and while it might seem reckless, inefficient, or wasteful to us, it seems to be how he works.

Take the wedding at Cana, for example.

The guests had run out of wine.

This was indeed a social disaster for the bride and groom, but really everyone was too drunk to care what they consumed at that point.

But, instead of calculating how much people had already drunk, and assessing whether they really needed good quality alcohol, Jesus provided gallons of the best wine out of sheer generosity.

And the feeding of the 5,000.

Jesus didn’t carefully ration out the food so that everyone had their daily recommended amount of bread and fish.

Rather, he provided so much that many baskets could be filled with the leftovers.

Throughout Jesus’s ministry we see him offering the words of God to everyone, not just those who are best prepared and ready to receive it.

We see him loving, healing, and teaching to all, even helping ten lepers when only one would come back to thank him.

Jesus doesn’t make people sit tests or prove themselves ready to receive what he has to offer.
He doesn’t ask them to recite creeds or prove they know the ten commandments.

Instead, he throws out his gifts of grace, forgiveness, and acceptance recklessly in the hope that some will accept them.

We can turn to nature for more examples of God’s character, as well.

Plants produce millions more seeds than they need, so that the world can be filled with colour and life.

Birds and animals exist in an amazing array of types, colours, and sizes, from the tiniest insects to the huge blue whale.

The universe contains billions upon billions of stars and planets.

And every human being is unique and special.

Is all this necessary or efficient?

Probably not, but it makes life richer and more fulfilling.

Of course, there are different ways to respond to God’s offer of grace and new life.

Some just sneer and turn away.

Some are enthusiastic at first but quickly find it all too hard and give up.

Others are sincere and dedicated but then other things get in the way, and they are lost in a maze of worries and other concerns.

And then there are those who receive faith, deepen it, and do good things for God and neighbour.

I don’t say this to be judgemental.

If truth be told we’re probably all different sorts of ground at different stages in our faith journey.

There may be times when the claims and demands of faith seem ridiculous to us.

There may be times when seeds of a deepening faith are snatched away from us when we’re not paying attention to them.

Or when a mountain top experience like a particularly uplifting service or reflective quiet day is followed by a return to earth with a thump – to our ordinary everyday lives with their stresses and strains and challenges to our faith.

Or when we get caught up in what Jesus calls the cares of this world which can choke, stifle, or drain the life energy from our hearts and souls.

But then there are the times when we do gain new insights, learn more about our faith and ourselves.

And there are times when we do continue to change and grow so that we are always coming closer to being the people God means us to be.

I also believe that our loving and merciful God knows and understands the difference between seeds that can’t grow because of the conditions they find themselves in and seeds that refuse to grow, and that he responds with grace, mercy, and justice.

So, if we follow a ridiculously generous God who wants as many people as possible to come to him, and will go anywhere to try to draw others in, what does this mean for us?

Well, for one thing it means that we are, in the words of Mother Theresa, called to be faithful, not successful.

Just as the sower threw his seeds all over the place without knowing the outcome, and while understanding that some wouldn’t grow, we too are called to offer our gifts generously to the world regardless of the results.

Such an approach challenges us to live without judging others, without wondering whether someone deserves our help, without knowing whether our efforts are likely to work, and without knowing what the fruits of our labours will be.

And it challenges us also to go out and find those who need that sort of love and acceptance from us and offer it freely and without conditions.

This isn’t an easy path at times, but we can rely on God’s help and strengthening along the way.

And we can take heart from the fact that with every effort we make and every seed we plant we are taking part in the glorious and joyful generosity and love of our God, who gives without counting the cost and rejoices over every sprouting seed.


Wednesday Worship – 15 July 2020

People Jesus Met – Nicodemus


After a week off I am back with another Wednesday Worship series. In this series I’m looking at ‘People Jesus Met’, starting with Nicodemus.

You can watch the video here:

A service sheet is here for those who would like one:


Hope you find it helpful – let me know if you do.

Mel x

Seeing and Believing

Luke 17.11-19


That great figure of the Reformation, Martin Luther, was once asked to describe the nature of true worship.

He answered: the tenth leper turning back.

Often when people talk about today’s gospel reading they focus on the importance of gratitude – I’ve done this myself before.

But today I want to focus more on seeing and believing.

Master or Lord

When Jesus first met the ten lepers in today’s gospel reading they addressed him as ‘Master’.

They didn’t call him ‘Lord’, ‘Messiah’ or ‘Son of David’, all of which would suggest that they saw him for who he truly was.

Instead, they called him ‘Master’.

This suggests they saw him as a respected teacher, a worker of miracles, a holy man – but only a man.

They believed that Jesus could help them, certainly, but did they really see and believe what was going on and who was in front of them?

Leprosy in the Bible

The disease that these ten people had may not have been actual leprosy as we understand it today, as the word was used to cover a whole range of disfiguring skin diseases.

But regardless of what they were actually suffering from they were outcasts, required by law to live away from other people, and to shout ‘unclean’ in warning if they met another person.

And being unclean they weren’t allowed into the temple to worship God, so they were outcasts from their faith as well.

This is why when we meet them in today’s reading they are described as keeping their distance.

The idea was to protect the community from contagious diseases at a time when medical knowledge and understanding were very limited, and the simplest disease was potentially life-threatening.

So people described as lepers in the Bible weren’t just physically ill – they were also socially isolated, cut off from their faith community and feared by everyone they met.


They lived in a kind of in-between state, not really welcome or at home anywhere, even among their own families.

Strangely enough, the place where Jesus is said to have met these lepers doesn’t actually exist.

He’s described as travelling in the region between Samaria and Galilee but the two places border each other – there is no region between them.

So, either Luke was seriously bad at geography or he was making a deeper point.

And perhaps this point was to do with God being at work in the in-between places and among the in-between people.

Jesus reaches out, then and now, to the people who don’t really belong or fit, the people who are rejected and unsure of themselves.

The people who fall between the cracks in society.

The ones most people don’t want to think about.

He even reaches out to people who don’t really understand who he is or what he’s about.

The healing

So, Jesus hears the cries of these outsiders and promises them healing.

Unlike in most healing miracles he doesn’t directly heal the lepers by touching them or speaking words of power but instead sends them to the priests.

The reason for this was that only the priests in the temple could declare the lepers clean and free of disease and restore them to both worship and society.

And the lepers turn to go and find themselves healed.

Yet only one comes back to thank Jesus.

Hence the common focus on gratitude when preaching about this story.

Seeing and believing

But in fact this man does more than just thank Jesus – he throws himself at Jesus’s feet in an act of worship and praises God.

All the lepers were healed but only one saw and believed.

Only one recognised who Jesus really was and what the miracle he’d just received really meant – that God was here and at work even among those who thought there was no hope for them.

All the lepers were healed but only one saw, noticed and let it sink in.

And that made all the difference.

Because he saw what had happened that one leper recognised Jesus – who he was and the source of his power.

Because the leper saw what had happened he had something to praise and thank God for – his healing and the wide-ranging compassion of God.

And because the leper saw what had happened he changed direction and came back to Jesus – his life was changed for good.

An invitation to see differently

This story gives us an invitation to think about how and what we see and how that might affect our lives.

When we meet challenges do we see danger or opportunity?

When we get up in the morning do we see a list of things we have to do or a new chance to do some good?

When we see someone in need do we see a burden or an opportunity to love our neighbour?

When we see a stranger do we see a potential enemy or a potential friend?

And even more, when we consider God do we see a stern judge or a loving parent or friend?

When we consider ourselves do we see a failure or a beloved child?

When we look at our faith do we see rules and duties or a relationship with God?

When we look to the future are we full of fear and uncertainty or do we hold on to hope and faith?

We all have different answers to questions like these, and probably our answers change at different times, but what we see can drastically change our lives, for better or worse.

If we can look at our lives and search for the good things that are happening, instead of focusing on the bad, then we might find ourselves happier, more grateful and more hopeful.

And if we take the time to notice what is good, and remember that God is the source of all good things, then we, like the leper in the gospel, will find ourselves growing in faith and trust in God.

Then, as we recognise God at work in us, in the people around us, and in the wider world, we will want to come to him in worship and praise, finding that it’s not just a Sunday duty but a joyful daily response to seeing and believing.

We will join with that leper in offering true worship by coming to Jesus with gratitude and praise.

All we need to do is open our eyes, see and believe.


Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16

Proper 14 / 8th Sunday after Trinity


As some of you may know I have a flock of hens in my back garden.

I find it fascinating to watch them going about their daily lives – they’re a lot more interesting and complicated than many people think.

However, although hens have many good qualities, they’re really not very brave.

And what really upsets them is the unknown.

 Change something in the garden, make them go somewhere different, give them something they haven’t had before or change their routine and you get no end of hurt looks and complaining.

In our reading from Hebrews, though, we see a very different response to being faced with the unknown.

Abraham and Sarah

The writer reminds us that Abraham and Sarah left their home, their lives and their country to go somewhere they didn’t know and start a whole new life they couldn’t imagine.

And all this was based on belief in a promise from God that they would be the mother and father of a great nation through which the whole world would be blessed, even though Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah was unable to have children.

This can’t have been easy for them, to put it mildly.

I expect they’d settled into a life that suited them and that they were comfortable in.

If I was in Sarah’s place I think I’d be up half the night thinking about all the things that could go wrong and worrying about all the practical arrangements.

Abraham was probably worried and distracted as well.

Perhaps he even wondered if he was mad to think that God had spoken to him.

And I imagine there were many discussions and maybe even arguments between Abraham and Sarah about it all.

Yet, in the end, they decided to take the risk because they had faith in God.

Centuries before Susan Jeffers’ self-help book they felt the fear and did it anyway.

The riskiness of faith

Faith is a risky and difficult business.

Faith means following God into the unknown without a signed contact or any legal proof that our needs will be met and promises kept.

It means continuing to believe that this world is not all there is even when everyone around us says we’re wrong.

It means staying hopeful that God is at work making things better even when political leaders spout hatred and division, the world faces disastrous climate change, and we’re surrounded by heartbreak and the evidence of the many ways in which people mistreat one another.

Faith, says Hebrews, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

Faith is assurance without guarantees. 

And its conviction without solid proof.  

But because faith is believing in things not seen, faith isn’t certainty. 

So faith brings risk. 


We all know that those who step out in faith, those who follow God’s call, don’t always have happy endings. 

Sometimes things just don’t work out. 

Sometimes we must face disappointment and obstacles and failure.

We might feel called to a certain profession but can’t find work. 

We might feel called into a marriage and then find ourselves facing the heartbreak of divorce. 

We might feel called to take a stand on something and then find that our friends are turning their backs on us. 

There are lots of people who feel called to do something, to say something, to be something, to follow God into unknown and risky land, only to find heartbreak, disappointment and confusion because things just didn’t work out how they hoped and believed they would.

The reasons aren’t always obvious.

Maybe they misheard, maybe the timing was off, or maybe there was some reason that had nothing to with them at all but was all to do with the brokenness of our world.

I do believe though that God cherishes and rewards our willingness to obey and try and follow even if it doesn’t always go right.

And Abraham and Sarah, on the face of it, had reason to feel disappointed, confused, angry and heartbroken.

They reached the Promised Land but then had to leave again because of a famine, and they faced many other difficulties during their lives, never seeing the full carrying out of God’s promises.

Faith despite everything

But, Hebrews says, they saw God’s promises from a distance and greeted them.

In other words, they kept on believing despite not seeing the results they wanted. 

They kept on hoping. 

They kept on in their faith even though it was a faith in things not seen.

And their faith was justified because through them Israel was founded and through Israel the Saviour of the world has appeared.

Yes, we may go through many difficulties and we’re not protected from life’s problems.

But when we take the risk, when we decide to go with God, we go because we have faith that we don’t go alone. 

We trust that we’re not left all alone on this adventure of faith.  

We trust that God is with us just like he was with Abraham and Sarah.

We carry on even when everything is hard and nothing will go right.

We carry on by faith. 

We move forward by faith. 

We face disappointment by faith. 

We live through heartache by faith. 

We sort through confusion by faith. 

We risk everything and follow God by faith.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

Faith brings risk. 

Faith isn’t certainty. 

Faith doesn’t always lead us to a happy ending in this life. 

But faith does keep our eyes turned to the horizon. 

Faith keeps our heads up in hope, because we know that, although God calls upon us to take the risk that comes with faith, God takes an even greater risk on us. 

God’s faith in us

God takes an even greater risk in loving us fearful, hesitant human beings, who are sometimes more like my hens than we like to admit.

God is willing to take a risk on us. 

God is willing to step out in faith for us. 

God is willing to sacrifice everything for us. 

And such a God deserves the same from us. 

Such a God is worthy of our faith and the risks that faith brings.

And if we can only keep on in our faith then our God will gladly give us the kingdom.

Miracles, Faith and Free Will

6th Sunday after Trinity / Proper 9

Mark 6.1-13 / 2 Corinthians 12.2-10


Mark tells us that Jesus has come home to Nazareth after performing a string of miracles, but if he’s hoping for some rest and comfort among his family, friends and neighbours, he’s going to be disappointed.

He goes to the synagogue on the sabbath and begins to teach, and people are reportedly ‘astounded’.

The word translated in our reading as ‘astounded’ is ‘ekplesso’, which doesn’t mean happy amazement but rather disbelief and scepticism.

And it’s not just what Jesus is saying that upsets them.

Their reference to Jesus as the son of Mary is a roundabout way of calling Jesus illegitimate.

Even if Joseph had died Jesus should still have been called Joseph’s son.

He’s still Jewish because Judaism is passed down through the mother’s line but he’s tainted by shame.

So Jesus is scandalous just by his very existence, and now he’s presuming to stand up in the synagogue with all the good, legitimate Jews, and tell them what to do.

Even worse, he’s just a local handyman, not a proper rabbi at all, so why should they take any notice of him.

They knew him when he was just a kid running around in the dirt with his brothers and sisters, so what makes him so special now?

The end result of all this is that Jesus can do almost nothing in the town, apart from heal a few sick people.

Before this point he has stopped a storm, freed someone from being tormented by evil spirits, healed a woman who’d been ill for years, and brought a young girl back to life.

But now, suddenly, all that power is gone, and Jesus can’t do anything.

But why?

Was it to do with the town’s lack of faith?

In his previous miracles Jesus has responded to requests.

He stopped the storm when his disciples woke him and demanded help.

He freed a man from evil when he ran to Jesus and begged for assistance.

He healed a sick woman when she reached out to touch his cloak.

And he helped a dying girl when her father begged that he would come.

But now no-one, apart from a few ill people, has even the faith to ask.

They’re too wrapped up in cynicism and doubt and preconceived ideas about Jesus to see and hear what’s happening right in front of them – the breaking in of God’s kingdom and the start of God doing something new.

And because they don’t believe they won’t ask for help – why would you ask for help from someone you think can’t provide it?

And because they won’t ask Jesus is unable to act.



Now, I’m definitely NOT saying that if we don’t see miracles or get answers to prayers it’s because we don’t have enough faith or haven’t prayed well enough.

Probably all Christians, even ones of great and deep faith, at one point or another, experience times when they pray for a miracle, a change, a healing, for things to be different, and are disappointed.

Paul refers to this when he talks about his mysterious ‘thorn in the flesh’.

He asks God to take it away three times but his request is refused, and I don’t think anyone could accuse Paul of lacking faith.

Sometimes we have to live with things for reasons that are unclear.


But there does seem to be some kind of link between God’s power and our willingness to ask.

There’s a scene in the film Life of Brian where a healed leper complains that Jesus came along and just healed him, when he was doing very nicely begging.

Jesus doesn’t work like that, though – we were created with free will, with the ability and right to decide whether we want anything to do with God or not, and he’s not going to march in and override that.

We may not always get what we ask for but if we don’t ask God won’t force his power on us.

What God can do, though, is find another way.

When Jesus can’t get through to his home town he goes to the surrounding villages and sends out his disciples to spread the message around the area.

And maybe the message filtered back into town and people were able to hear it then, separated a little from the Jesus everyone thought they knew, and maybe not, but the point was that Jesus didn’t spend his time trying to force the kingdom on people.

Instead, he offered it to them, and when it was rejected he accepted their answer and found a new way to get his message out and to bring help to people who needed it.

And if they won’t ask Jesus won’t force his help on them.

Instead he goes elsewhere and finds a new strategy, sending out disciples to spread his message to people who will listen.




This gives us both help and a pattern to follow.

It helps us because it prepares us to face opposition and rejection, even and perhaps especially from those closest to us, because we know that Jesus has faced the same thing.

This means we aren’t alone, and we haven’t necessarily failed.

It may be that the people we’re talking to aren’t ready to hear the message, at least from us, or prepared to be part of God’s kingdom, although that doesn’t mean they won’t ever be.

There’s always hope while God is at work.

And we have a pattern to follow because this story shows us that if something isn’t working we can change our plans, be flexible, find a new way of going about things, maybe involve new people.

The God we follow is living and active and prepared to adapt where things aren’t working, and calls us to be the same.


So let us pray that we will always have the faith to ask for God’s power to help us, the courage to bear it when we don’t get what we ask for, the consolation of knowing that we’re not alone in facing difficulties and rejection as we try to spread God’s kingdom, and the openness to God’s Spirit to go to new places, try new things, and see what God can do.

On Small Things: Or a Path to Faith

I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the importance of small things in sowing the seeds of faith.

Sometimes it seems like it’s something we say to convince ourselves that our efforts are worth it when we feel a bit small and unimportant (or maybe that’s just me).

Less cynically, though, I really do think it’s true, based on my own journey into faith.

I grew up in a family which was basically indifferent to religion of any kind. It was never discussed, thought about or considered important.

When I was very young we sometimes went to Midnight Mass but that fizzled out after a while. I remember those few services, though, the light and colour and singing and sense of wonder.

Easter was just a chance for extra chocolate. The idea of going to church would never have crossed anyone’s mind.

There was also a huge old children’s Bible in the house which I think belonged to my grandmother (at least it seemed huge then) and I liked looking at the pictures, although I don’t think I really understood that the stories were meant to be true.

Then, when I was about 9, we moved to a new house and the local primary school was a Church of England one, so I had a couple of years of Christian assemblies and visits to the parish church. It didn’t seem to make any difference at the time as I didn’t really think about it, but I still remember enjoying singing the hymns and looking round at the church.

I was also a Brownie for a short while and then a Guide, and there was some Christianity hanging about in the background then. I remember that the only times I went to church on a Sunday at that time was for parades because I wanted a chance to carry the Brownie or Guide flag up the aisle. I know it sounds shallow, but it was an opportunity to be part of something and have a role.

Then I reached the age of 12 and we moved again – this time to France. This was a lonely and extremely difficult time for me, with no friends, little knowledge of French, problems at home and my sister remaining behind in England.

Sometimes I would go and sit in open churches, just on my own, not knowing anything other than that they were places of peace and refuge.

But it was then, when I was at my lowest point of despair, that I suddenly became aware of God’s loving presence all around me. It’s hard to put into words but I knew at that moment that God was real and loved me.

This was a dramatic moment, but I truly believe it wouldn’t have happened without all the small things that came first.

If I hadn’t had that sense of wonder at Christmas services, some idea of Christian ideas through hymns and school and Guiding, a bit of knowledge of the Bible from playing around with an old book, the chance to just sit and be quiet in a holy place, I don’t know that I would have been able to receive and understand the experience that I had.

And so yes, all the small we things we do as churches and individuals to show love, help others, spread the gospel, serve the community, go into schools and so on – they are important and may bear fruit long after the people doing them are gone.


“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6.9