The sermon except below comes from a sermon preached at Christ Church Cataraqui Anglican Church in Kingston Ontario, Canada on July 27th, 2014 by Rev. Dr. Ian Ritchie. The full sermon is found at http://ianritchie.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/summer-is-mustard-time-3/
What a glorious time is summer! I love everything about it. The smell of the air and the land is just different, sweet with flowers… birds chirping, squirrels scolding, even in the city, let alone in the country.
This summer has been a healing one for me. And I know many others have found it a healing time as well. Nature in itself, God’s Creation, is known to have healing properties. Many people report how healing it is to dig in the garden. But it is only recently I read that 7 out of 10 of the drugs prescribed for the most common diseases last year were originally developed from antibiotics found in the soil. So it isn’t just the psychological effect of being outside in nature, but also there is a scientific, medical reason for that “feel good” feeling that you get in nature too!
The wonder of summer and of our closer feeling to God’s Creation in summer may help us as a starting point to understand the parables of Jesus we hear this morning. So many of them use examples from the natural world: a mustard plant, a field, seeds being sewn on different types of ground. These were images certainly familiar to people in ancient times, and even to some who live in cities today, (though some who live in inner cities may need to get help to experience even that much of the natural world.)
Recently I read Leah Kostamo’s new book Planted [Planted: a Story of Creation, Calling, and Community, (Eugene, OR.: Cascade Books, 2013).] I found it wonderfully encouraging to read there that their Christian conservation centre called A Rocha plays host to student interns and volunteers who experience the healing powers of time spent working in the soil, tending vegetables and animals, and also receives young people who have had a first psychotic break.
Leah Kostamo says [pg. 45]: “some of those we welcome are part of the Early Psychosis Intervention Program. EPI is a service offered by the Fraser Health Authority through which young adults aged thirteen to thirty-five receive help in regaining their mental and emotional footing after their first psychotic episode.” They volunteer time at A Rocha and find working there a healing experience.
The same therapeutic experience was also found by inmates who worked in the prison farms in Kingston, before the government closed them. We recently heard first hand [at a recent showing of “Till The Cows Come Home” a new documentary on the closing of Canada’s Prison Farms] the riveting story of Pat Kincaid, who had had nothing but brushes with the law until he was 16 when he went into juvenile detention. After some time in prison he was put with the farm animals, where he says, he eventually learned patience from working with the cows. Pat said: “I never learned any skills for living a normal life up till that time. And no human being taught me that important life lesson – it was the cows who taught me how to be patient!” he says.
Pat has now finished his time in prison and is gainfully employed because he has learned patience from the cows.
Creation has an inner intentionality about it, and humans are truly blessed by God’s Creation. Sometimes when no other human being can reach us, an animal, or something in nature does.