Trust the process – let go of the outcome!
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley
by Andrew McKearney on 17 June 2018
A few years ago I read through the letters that I sent home to my parents when I was a young boy at boarding school. My father worked abroad, so from the age of 8 I was sent to boarding school. Imagine my astonishment when I came across a letter that I wrote to my parents when they were in Iraq. It was my first term at secondary school in Winchester where I sang in the choir. On 10 May 1970 I wrote:
‘We’re going to Iffley up near Oxford on Thursday
evening to sing.’
A fortnight later on 24 May 1970 I wrote:
‘I’m sorry I had to cut the postcard of Iffley church, but
it was the only way I could get it into the envelope.’
36 years later, in June 2006, I sent my parents another postcard of Iffley church to tell them that I’d been appointed the vicar here – and this time I didn’t cut the postcard to get it into the envelope!
I’ve no recollection at all that I came here to sing in my school choir nearly 50 years ago now!
But I do recall that when I sat here in church during my interview for this parish, I had a deep sense of rightness about being here. I had no memory of coming here as a boy, but who knows what was going on subliminally within me.
In the first seed parable that we heard Jesus give this morning, he said:
‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed
on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day,
and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know
Perhaps that feeling I had as I sat here in church was because I’d been here before and some small seed had been sown within me during that visit back in 1970.
In the second seed parable that we heard Jesus give this morning, he said:
‘The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when
sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on
earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the
greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth branches, so that the
birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
So much of our time is spent in life trying to control the outcome! We want certain things to happen, goals to be achieved, outcomes delivered. Much of our lives are dominated by this outlook, both at a personal and at an institutional level – what are your outcomes, have they been achieved?
But when it comes to the spiritual life it’s not like that. Instead we are invited to trust the process and let go of the outcome.
That’s something of what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples with these two seed parables we’ve been thinking about. What’s the outcome of Jesus’ ministry, when is God’s kingdom going to come? You sense the impatience and the discouragement on the part of the disciples – what’s the plan Lord, are we on target, are we getting there?
At this point in his ministry Jesus seeks to encourage his disciples by saying to them: think of the seed in the ground that sprouts and grows all by itself – think of the smallest seed you can think of and what does it become?
Trust the process, let go of the outcome. It’s a cardinal rulein the spiritual life!
There is just one more of these little seed sayings that we’ve been thinking about – it’s in John’s Gospel – and with it Jesus tries to explain this again. He says:
‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it
remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much
Small seeds sown and processes often hidden from view, can and do have extraordinary and quite unforeseen outcomes.
Jesus invites us to trust that – or rather to entrust ourselves to that – because it is the way of Christ.