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From the Archive: Slow Growth – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

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Originally preached on January 29, 2010, this brief homily offers a needed reminder of how different is God’s time from our time, and the rich possibilities for which it allows.
Mark 4:26-29

This parable of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26-29) is found only in Mark’s Gospel – and its teaching is urgently needed in our speed-crazed world.

God created time, and hallowed time – and I think God likes us to spend time, and not try to beat it!

“I waited patiently upon the Lord: he stooped to me and heard my cry,” the Psalmist says.

“O tarry, and await the Lord’s pleasure.  Be strong, and he shall comfort your heart.  Wait patiently for the Lord.”

We ourselves are sometimes in too much of a hurry, spiritually, expecting God, at our bidding, to work miracles overnight.

And we often judge the progress of God’s kingdom by what we can see.  But so often the real growth happens unseen.

When I was a rector, in the last days of winter, I used to like planting hyacinth bulbs in bowls.  I’d plant the bulbs deep into the soil and then put the bowls into a dark cupboard under the stairs, and leave them there.  As the weeks went by I’d often go and look at the bowls to see if anything was happening.  Sometimes I was tempted to put my fingers in the soil and start digging around to see how the roots looked – but they don’t like that!  They like to be left patiently, to grow silently and mysteriously.

And then suddenly, one day – wow – there’s a green shoot poking through the soil – then another – and soon the lush beautiful flowers, and then the whole room is filled with that wonderful scent of spring.

Perhaps God likes to surprise us and delight us.  But we have to be patient.

I think in our own spiritual lives we are often in too much of a hurry.  We long for instant change and growth.  But it’s probably in our darkest moments, when nothing seems to be happening, and we feel most anxious: it is often then, silently and mysteriously, that God is at work – ready one day to surprise us and delight us.

This is true for ourselves, our family, our parish, our community.

I find these words, by the Jesuit theologian, Teilhard de Chardin, helpful:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
— that is to say, grace —
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.

Amen.

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1 Comment

  1. Bob Steinberg on September 4, 2010 at 19:12

    HOW WONDERFUL IS GOD’S WORK!!
    MY NEED FOR EXACTLY THIS MESSAGE COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE ANY GREATER THAN IT IS AT THE PRESENT TIME IN MY LIFE. ISN’T THIS INCREDIBLE HOW HE SHOWS HIS HAND JUST WHEN IT IS MOST APPROPRIATE AND MOST NEEDED?

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