The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Ploughing a Subversive Furrow

Sunday’s coming and I’m going to take part in a subversive act.
To the outside eye it may look decidedly quaint – a benign relic of a bygone age, like Morris dancers outside Tesco. But the reality will be different. In a society where, with the exception of Remembrance Day, almost every trace of the divine has been expunged from our national rituals and shared imagination, where Christmas has become Snowmas, Easter Chocaholiday, and Whitsun BBQit, Christians face a challenge.

How do we create a rhythm to our year that does what the original biblical calendar sought to do: remind us of our dependence (economic included) on God, and enable us to ponder the implications of God’s past actions for our present lives? How easy, for example, for Advent to cease to be a season to reflect on the liberating implications of Jesus’ second coming for our lives today. And how easy not to invite God into our economic year.

Which brings me to Sunday.

It’s Plough Sunday, the day in the Anglican year when a plough was traditionally brought into the sanctuary and the community dedicated their ploughing to God, seeking his help and his blessing on the work that was so vital to their very existence.

As it happens, I will be celebrating Plough Sunday as a visitor in a Baptist church in a non-agricultural town. And there will be a plough at the front. There will probably also be memory sticks and corporate coffee mugs, Nordic walking poles and football boots, two ladders and a mop, van keys and Allen keys, schoolbooks and a stethoscope… all brought by the people who use them in their week. And each person will dedicate the work of their hands – home and away – to the Lord their God, in the hearing of their fellow believers. And each person will be commissioned for their work, in the presence of their fellow believers.

And this communal act will quietly subvert the self-vaunting ideology of our age, that it is by algorithms and systems, hi-tech and nano-tech, human strength and human ingenuity that nature yields its bounty and that economies and nations thrive.

As we go into the new year, Plough Sunday reminds us of our total dependence on God, and that, whatever we do, with him we plough a different furrow.


Mark Greene
Mark is the Executive Director of LICC

This week the Church of England is launching Everyday Faith, a series of reflections and prayers to help you find and follow God in everyday life, featuring thoughts and stories by Mark Greene. You can sign up here to receive them straight to your inbox, every day for three weeks.


Mark Greene


  1. Thank you , Mark. Thought provoking as ever. It reminds me that, whilst many of the tools that we may use in our working lives today are digital, we are made in the image of God, each one of us unique, each one of us a spiritual being, and each one of us definitely analogue! May your Plough Sunday be richly blessed.

    By David Henderson  -  10 Jan 2020
  2. Thank you. And that’s a beautiful picture.

    By Bruce Gulland  -  10 Jan 2020
  3. Hi Mark,
    You reminded me of this quotation…

    “In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.”
    ― Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance:

    By Lynda Gould  -  10 Jan 2020
  4. Sounds like a great idea. When you mentioned the plough it did make me think of the ‘swords into ploughshares’ passage, and reminded me that God is a God of peace and justice, who weeps at the fact that arms company shares are soaring at the moment because of the US / Iran tensions. Perhaps an opportunity to offer support to those within the engineering sector who greive their company’s connections to the global death and injury trade (‘the arms trade’). Just as early Christians refused to serve in the army because they would have to idolise the emperor as well as because of Jesus’ teachings on non violence, I wonder if today there are industries that idolise money over all else (God’s creation, human life) that should be avoided also? Or maybe we hope these industries can be redeemed?

    By Peter Bee  -  11 Jan 2020

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