Mark 4:26-32

Happy New Year!  Today marks the first Sunday of the calendar year, we began the church year a few weeks ago at the beginning of the season of Advent, but most of society has been celebrating a new beginning in the last couple of days, that is the first few days of the year 2009.

How did you celebrate?  Did you stay up and count down to the New Year?  Were you with family or friends?  Did you have a few drinks or go out for a meal?  Was there something memorable about the event?  Did you go to bed early and avoid the festivities altogether.

Each of us have a different way of recognising a new beginning don’t we, that’s because we are all at different stages in our life journey, some things are more important to us than they are to other people, we all have different priorities in life.

It’s the same with our spiritual journeys too.  We are all at different stages.  Some have been lifelong Lutherans, others are converts from other denominations or faiths, and some are new to Christianity or any faith for that matter.  That’s partly why I wanted to preach a series on the Seasons of Discipleship.  The other reason was that we are taking a step in faith this year by changing our model for resourcing our ministry to our community.  I think this gives us a chance to take a look at where we’re at and where we’re headed. 

I was originally going to run a consecutive series for 6-8 weeks, following a suggested series from one of my resources, but with the timing of the holidays for our members and other plans that just won’t work, so I hope to focus on a season at a time in the midst of our usual lectionary based themes and sermons.  I hope that this will work.

During the year I’d like to spend some time changing or reinforcing the idea that we are not so much members of the church but disciples of Jesus.

What I mean by that is to emphasise that we don’t become members of the church as we would a sporting club or gym, expecting to get a certain benefit from paying a membership fee.  The church and your faith journey require participation, following Jesus, learning from him and growing in faith.  It doesn’t happen by osmosis, if you sit back and do nothing, never open your Bible, never attend worship, never receive Holy Communion, it’s like putting a plant in a dark corner and giving it no water, eventually, actually quite quickly it will wither and die.

We need to nurtured, watered, fertilised, we might even need to be pruned occasionally, that way we can grow.  The Seasons of Discipleship begin with PLANTING, like the seed in our parable, the Word of God planted a seed of faith in us at some point in our lives.  We all have our story and during this year I hope to call on some of you to share aspects of your story in WORSHIP!  Each of us had a season where faith was planted in us.

The next season is TAKING ROOT, when the seed started to send down roots, to deepen the grip of faith in our lives, it happened at different stages in our lives, but here our faith became more established, rooted in love together with all the saints.  It can be hard to see roots forming, sometimes we might be surprised at just how deep someone’s roots go, but it’s not for us to measure.

Then the GROWING season begins in earnest, but once again every plant grows at a different rate.  Some are like the western myall that takes years to grow out in the red sand dunes of the outback, others are like bamboo, growing centimetres a day, reaching up and stretching as they soak up the nutrients in the soil and then start to spread.

Once we have grown we begin to form and BEAR FRUIT.  Yet again each plant bears different fruit, some form sweet soft fruit that appeals to the palette, others form beautiful looking fruit that’s sour or bitter, but it is none-the-less fruit.  Some plants simply produce seed, hard, rugged, but useful to many, like wheat or barley, or even the tough Macadamia nut.  We are called to bear fruit in our Christian lives, as a response to the grace of our Lord, in thanks for all he has given us, ourselves, our time and our possessions, but most of all our lives, now and beyond the grave.

All of this growing and bearing fruit can be tiring, and that’s why in Old Testament times, the Lord commanded a year of Jubilee, where the ground would lie fallow, have time to recuperate and become ready to nurture and grow new seeds following its Sabbath rest.  We require a period of LYING FALLOW as well. 

Sometimes we have been so busy growing in our own faith and caring for the faith of others that we are exhausted and need a break, I know for a fact that we have people here who are in that phase of their lives.  This phase might also be brought about by difficult periods in our lives, like illness, or the loss of a loved one, work stresses, or any number of other reasons.  Through this season and all of the other seasons, there is one constant, that is a need to be nourished.

How are we nourished?  In WORSHIP!  That’s why our church council have been so passionate about getting me to focus on making worship relevant and engaging.  It’s in worship that we receive our primary nutrition for spiritual growth and sustenance.  If we don’t come to worship on a regular basis we begin to struggle in our lives and become more self-centred and self reliant to try to recover, what we really need is regular feeding in the Word and Sacrament.  If worship doesn’t give that to us in a way that nourishes us, it makes it even harder to come back to the source of your nourishment.
Worship also takes place in the home, at school, wherever you make time to read, study or hear God’s Word and apply it to your life.  Worship is our breath and no disciple can grow without breathing deeply on a daily basis.

Throughout the year we will be running various courses, Bible studies, workshops, and fellowship events outside of regular worship to give you the opportunities you need to be nourished by God’s Word and loved by his people, so that you are then able to share your journey with others by sowing a seed in their lives and prayerfully nurturing it with God’s help. 

We have a wonderful community here, there a fantastic things happening, we have an amazing message to share with all people, let’s pray for God to empower us as we move forward into this New Year in faith, hope and love.