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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Sunday 31 July 2011 (Year A. Pentecost 13.)

Worship Service for 31 July 2011

Year A. Pentecost 13. Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21. Green.

Call to worship
See what God has done!
The hungry are fed
The sick are healed
The poor and the outcast have a place to belong!
With God, all things are possible.

Hymn Together in Song 107 Sing Praise and Thanksgiving

Prayer of adoration and confession
Holy God
We thank you for the wonder of all your works -
for the beauty and mystery of your work of creation -
for the love with which you sustain and care for all of your works – especially us.

We thank you that your love for us knows no bounds -
that you understand and meet our deepest needs -
we thank you that in Jesus
you meet our deepest need of all -
our need to know you, and to know your love for us.

We confess our failure to trust in your love.
So often we speak and act as if everything in our lives depended on us.
So often we try to find our own strength and wisdom apart from you.
So often we try to meet our own needs and solve our own problems without consulting you.
Forgive our attempts at independence -
putting limits on you.
In Jesus' name we pray.
Amen.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time – Erica

Hymn Together in Song 155 How great thou art

Scripture
Genesis 32:22-31
Matthew 14:13-21
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

When we look at the story of the feeding of the 5000 people (or maybe up to 10000, 15000 or 20000 if you count the women and kids), there's a few approaches that are fairly common.

You can look at the question of whether it was really a miracle, or whether handing out this food encouraged those who carried food with them to share what they had as well. Those scholars who suggest this is what happened would say the real miracle was that Jesus inspired the generosity that allowed people who were keeping things to themselves to share their resources.

You can look at it as a precursor to the Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion, as Jesus prays, distributes the meal, and everyone shares together.

You can look at it as an example of God's amazing provision – the food didn't just feed the huge crowd – there was heaps left over as well.

Or you could ask the question “why not counting women and children?” The answer to which question is not about whether women and children are important in the kingdom of heaven, but whether women and children were considered important by the man who recorded this in a time and culture where women and children tended not to be counted.

Today, we're going to take the approach of looking at the real human beings involved in this story – not just as people “back then” - but as people who are actually quite like us in many ways. We're going to look firstly at Jesus, then at the disciples, and then the crowd. We're going ask the questions of what was happening from their point-of-view, and what this incident meant for them.

Let's start with Jesus.

As the story begins, Jesus had just had news of John the Baptist's death. And he didn't die peacefully, in his sleep. John had been killed by Herod and his head presented on a platter as a favour to Herod's his step-daughter.

John wasn't just another itinerant preacher. He was a relative of Jesus, of a similar age, and as their mothers were close enough to support each other through pregnancy, we can imagine that Jesus and John had probably known each other quite well growing up. So there was a close family and emotional tie there.

Jesus respected John as a prophet, even likening him to Elijah. And they shared a ministry – John prepared the way for Jesus, and even baptised Jesus at the very start of his ministry.

When Jesus went off in the boat to be alone – he was experiencing real grief. He just needed to get away, to be away from all of the crowds and the demands, and to be away from the people who had done this horrible thing to John. He crossed out of Herod Antipas' territory, going into the Gentile territory. He got away from Herod and his henchmen, and away from where the crowds were likely to follow him. He needed peace and quiet, and time to deal with his loss.

The crowds were determined, however, and they did find him, going around the lake on foot to meet him on the other side. And they brought all of their needs, and particularly all of their sick family and friends with them.

At this point, Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He put their needs ahead of their own He cured their sick and met their immediate needs. He continued to put their needs ahead of his own until it was quite late.

Jesus had to have been completely exhausted when the disciples pointed out how late it was getting, and suggested he send the people to get some food.

They were in Gentile territory, however, and Jews could not eat the food available in Gentile towns. Jesus, exhausted, had been meeting everyone else's needs all day, and this time told the disciples to deal with the situation. They could organise some food.

They, of course, told him it was impossible. And he gave them detailed instructions on what to do, to allow God the opportunity to make it possible, and still at the end of the day found energy to give thanks to God for what they had.

Shortly after this, when the crowds did disperse, Jesus finally had the time to go away by himself to pray, to deal with the grief of the loss of his relative and friend.


Let's look at the disciples.

They'd also heard the shocking news about John. Some of them had started out following John – and the others would have at least known him as Jesus' relative and as another preacher and prophet. They may also have been grieving over John's death.

They were also probably concerned for Jesus, and were more than willing to be part of the plan to get away from the crowds for a while.

Imagine their surprise (not a pleasant surprise) to make it across the lake and discover the crowds they thought they'd left behind.

When they suggested Jesus send the crowds away to find food, it would have been a very sensible suggestion. The crowds needed to eat, and Jesus and the disciples needed to be left alone! It would have been a very practical suggestion. Sure, it wouldn't be religiously pure for a Jewish crowd to be eating the food they could buy in Gentile territory, but it's easy to see how, from the disciples' point-of-view the practical might outweigh religious purity at this point.

Imagine how they felt when Jesus told them: “Feed them yourselves.” This is a logistical nightmare, even if they did have a source for enough provisions. Catering for any large function is difficult enough if you have plenty of preparation time. This was a crowd of maybe ten to twenty thousand people, if the figure of five thousand men plus their families is accurate. There was no preparation time, and no real resources available. This was an impossible task. They were tired, they were worried about Jesus' in his grief, they were feeling their own grief and perhaps fear – what had happened to John could as easily happen to Jesus' and maybe them as well. They would have felt helpless in the face of the task before them and the limitation of the resources they had

Despite all of that they were faithful. Even when the instructions Jesus gave them didn't make a lot of sense. Even though they didn't understand, and probably really didn't have the energy left to do the work, they did as Jesus said.

A miracle happened, because people who couldn't see what Jesus was up to, followed his instructions anyway.


Now, let's turn our attention to the crowd.

The crowd either didn't know or didn't respect Jesus' need for some time out.

Some of them were acting like the fans of modern celebrities – just to get close, to see and hear him, maybe get his autograph and make all the other girls at school jealous.

Some were hoping or desperate, taking their sick family members to a miraculous healer – their last hope.

Some probably wanted to challenge Jesus or debate with him.

And some would have had real faith They had heard something of Jesus, and desperately wanted to see and hear for themselves what God was doing in and through him.

They were all there to have their own needs or wants met. Effectively the crowd was selfish or self-centred. Each person saw their own needs. They did not see that Jesus and his disciples were also suffering, grieving, and had needs they wanted met. Yet, Jesus had compassion on them.

So the point of this quick visit to the characters in the story? Well it tells us both something about Jesus and something about ourselves.

Looking at Jesus: it tells us about his humanity – about his love and grief and need to be alone after John's death. Jesus in his full humanity shares our human frailties and our human needs and feelings. Jesus, in his divinity, in his being one with God, has endless compassion, gives of himself, heals and provides for people's needs despite the cost to himself.

Looking at us? Well, sometimes we will have things in common with the disciples, and sometimes with the crowd.

We may see practical needs, and want and expect God to provide practical solutions – so we limit God to what we think is possible. Therefore we feel helpless in the face of situations that seem insoluble to us. If we can't see any way it can be fixed, then of course it can't be fixed, right?

We tend to think of our own needs and wants, rather than what Jesus might need or want from us.

Like the crowd and the disciples, we are accepted and loved by Jesus, despite our failings, anxieties, self-centredness. We are accepted and loved even without our changing to working to measure up. We are loved exactly as we are, and then challenged to realise that God is bigger than the limits of what we can see or imagine.

Like the disciples and the crowds, we are faced with the challenge to accept that with God, all things are possible.



Hymn Together in Song 260 He walked on earth

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People

Loving God
we read of miracles where people are healed and people are fed
And we look at the world around us and see that so much is still needed.

There are so many people with so many real needs -
and so often there seems to be so few resources.
When we hear Jesus command to go and meet the needs we have seen -
we feel helpless and see only the needs, not the solution.

Help us, we pray, to be a part of the solution -
to the needs you show us day by day.
Show us how to use whatever little we have
to share your love with those who have less..

In a short time of quiet we pray for the specific needs we are aware of,

For the needs of our own congregation,

Silence

For those we know and love who have special needs at this time,

Silence

For the life of the wider church

Silence

For the wider world – particularly those in Norway, in the Horn of Africa, for everyone facing or recovering from disasters, either natural or of human origin.

Silence

For those in our world who see no solutions to their problems apart from violence.

Silence

Gracious God
This is your world
We pray that you will feed all of its hungers
and heal all of its hurts.
In Jesus' name we pray.
Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 473 Community of Christ

Benediction

Threefold Amen.


Newsletter reflection: Living with other faiths

Newsletter reflection 24 July 2011

Good morning,

I had an interesting phone call the other day. A heavily-accented male voice (and the accent is important for what he was doing) said, “I'm from the Department of (something unintelligible).”

I said: “Sorry, I didn't catch that.”

He said, “I'm from the Department of (something unintelligible). We are sending you $3658.”

Before he could ask for my bank account details, I said, “OK. Thanks.” I hung up the phone. After all, any actual Government Department likely to send me money already had all of my details. And the last I heard, the Department of Mumble, isn't actually giving tax refunds, centrelink payments, or anything else likely to result in me receiving money. (If this money should suddenly appear, I will revise my scepticism.)

Sometimes, it's healthy to be sceptical about things.

For example, not everything you see on current affairs programs meets the journalists' code of ethics requirements for fairness and balance.

There was one report recently about Moslems in Australia putting Sharia law ahead of Australian law. What it failed to mention is that to Moslems, Sharia isn't a rival legal system – it's God's law. It's like the Torah for Jews, or like “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself,” for Christians. Strangely, all the Moslem people they asked said they would, in fact put Sharia law ahead of Australian law. None of them were given a chance to go on and explain what they meant by that.

If you ask me whether I'd put God's law ahead of Australian law, I'd have to be honest and say “yes” as well. Does that mean it's dangerous to have me here? Or that I should be banned from practising God's law?

According to 100% of the kind of people who respond to current affairs programs phone-in polls, Moslems should be banned from practising Sharia law in this country. I'm going to guess that most of these people didn't bother to find out any more than the current affairs program told them about what they were voting on. But think of the implications if they actually got their way:

If Moslems were banned from praying, how long before Christians were banned praying? If another woman is banned from wearing a veil to show her faith, will I be banned from wearing a cross to show mine? If the mosques were closed down, would the churches also be closed down?

In a world with people of many faiths, and also many secularists, we have as much in common with our Moslem neighbours as we have distinct from them.

Grace and peace

Iris





Friday, 22 July 2011

24 July, 2011. (Year A. Pentecost 12.)

24 July 2011

Year A. Pentecost 12

Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. Green.


Call to worship Psalm 105:1-3 Responsive from Uniting in Worship


Hymn Together in Song 164 The great love of God is revealed in the Son

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Loving God
We thank you for the wonder
and the mystery of your creation:
for the life held dormant in a seed, waiting to grow
and be far more than it appears.
For the possibilities we can only guess at
in the people and things we can easily overlook
For the mystery that your royal reign
is growing in a world
that seems to ignore you
or even to be hostile.

We confess that we overlook the signs of
your kingdom of work.
We fail to see your love
growing in the people and events around us.
We fail to take the opportunities you give us
to share your love with others.
By our words and actions
we deny the power of your presence
in your world, and in our lives.

Declaration of forgiveness

...our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!

Kids' time – Lyndal

Hymn Together in Song 467 I am the church

Scripture
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Sermon

When we think about the parables Jesus taught with , we often think about the long, complicated ones, like the sower or the prodigal son. But he also told lots of short, sharp stories. Some of these stories were taken from everyday life his listeners would be familiar with, even if it's a little outside our experience. And some of his stories were unbelievable, both then and now. Each parable is meant to give us a piece of a picture – to tell us something about the basselia: the kingdom, reign or dominion, of God. They tell us something of what it is like when God is in charge, and recognised as in charge. (You may want to pick up your Bible and follow along with this.)

Let's look at this batch of short, sharp, parables.

Verses 31 to 32 take us to the story of the mustard seed. It's a garden herb, a plant from about 60cm to 2m high, but not really a tree. When we plant a mustard seed, we expect a herb plant, a bush at most. A tree, with birds nesting in it, now that would take us by complete surprise. The kingdom of God might be found in the most unexpected of places, in the most humble of things – like a herb out of the kitchen or garden. And it can take us by surprise, and grow beyond all expectations.

From the mustard seed, we jump to verse 33, the parable of the yeast. We begin with a woman. (This is a surprising start. Jesus at times told parables about women, talking about the reign of God. Yet everyone in Jesus' day knew women never did anything important.) She began with three measures of flour. Doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary – unless you know that this is enough to make sufficient bread to feed 100 to 150 people. It's very extravagant – over-the-top, more than any reasonable woman would be doing in her day's work. Then she “hid” the yeast into the flour. It doesn't say she placed the yeast in the flour, or kneaded it in. She “hid” it – as if it was something secret. If you don't know the yeast's there you may be surprised to see what it does – and this was a lot of flour to leaven! The yeast is hidden – so you can't always see where the kingdom of God is actually at work – maybe in the church, but maybe also in surprising places outside of the church. God works in “hidden” ways. And sometimes what God does is not only incognito, it's totally, unexpectedly extravagant, so over-the-top that no-one could have expected anything like it.

Verses 44 to 46 take us to the hidden treasure and the pearl. The basselia is like some thing of great value that is worth so much you should do everything to get it – by any means at all possible. The ploughman's actions are both illegal and immoral – but the prize he's after is far more important than anything else in the world, and it's worth committing every for. The pearl buyer's actions are legal, but they're bizarre, to give up everything for one tiny pearl The basselia is worth the commitment of everything. (Remember the story of the rich young man who couldn't follow Jesus because his wealth was too important to him?)

Now, verses 47 to 48, we have the parable of the net. It's a regular, normal first century event. There's a dragnet, operated by several men, bringing in all the fish. Once the fish are on shore, the men sort them; saving the good, discarding the bad. There's a slight variation from reality here: the inedible fish were either thrown back in the water or they were buried – wet fish weren't gathered up and burned on the beach. It's a story about sorting and separating. All the fish are in the net together, and no-one can tell them apart until the net is brought in. Like the parable of the wheat and weeds we heard last week, there's no telling whether the fish in the net are good guys or bad guys until the time of sorting. They're all gathered in, because until it's revealed which is which, any one of them could turn out to be a worthwhile fish. The fish don't sort themselves out. Who is and isn't in God's royal reign, is God's choice, not ours. We don't get to look at the other fish in the net with us and decide we're in and they're out.

So what do we learn from our visit to quick parables about the kingdom? It's surprising: we find God at work in places we never expected. It's hidden: we don't always see where God is at work even in our own lives, let alone other people's and the world around us. It's often unexpected – God works not just when we ask, but when we don't even realise there is a need to. It can be very small – we may overlook something because it seems insignificant, but it can prove to be very important to the way God is working either in our lives or in the world around us. God does work in the little things. It is growing beyond all our expectations – God's vision, plan, and royal reign extends beyond anything we can see, plan for or even imagine. We sit in our little church here on Sunday morning and have no idea where we fit in to the kingdom, or just how big the thing we are a part of is, or is becoming. It's extravagant – God doesn't do things by halves – if we need the price paid for our sins, God won't just give us a loan, but goes to the extreme of paying the bill for us, in the form of Jesus. It's worth giving everything else up for. - there is absolutely nothing else in this life or the next that is more valuable than God's love for us. It's made up of the people God recognises as a part of it – whether or not we recognise these people as part of God's kingdom. And God's kingdom isn't just what happens when everything is sorted and all is revealed – it's here and now among events, people, and times, so ordinary that we may overlook it – and living alongside and intertwined with the everyday world.


Hymn Together in Song 608 Where cross the crowded ways of life

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People

Gracious God
We pray for this world -
a world of your making
and the object of your love
So often, things in this world
don't seem right to us.

People are hungry -
people suffer abuse -
people live in poverty -
people live with fear -
people live amid war -

We don't understand
how all of these things
can be a part of your world -
but you know.
Help us to trust that is enough.

We hand the needs of this world over to you -

And in a time of silence,
we pray for the special needs
that are in our hearts and minds ….

silence


Gracious God
You know and care about
all the needs of your world.
And we give you thanks
and praise you that
amid all we don't understand
the mystery of your kingdom is alive and well.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 411 Filled with the Spirit's power with one accord

Benediction

Threefold Amen

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sunday 17 July 2011. (Year A. Pentecost 11)

Service for Sunday 17 July 2011

Year A. Pentecost 10. Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 130:1-12, 23-24; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Green


Call to worship (Based on Ps 139)
God, you know me
You know everything I do
and what I'm going to do
You know what I say
and what I'm going to say
You know me better than I know myself.
In life or in death – you still know me
Wherever I go, whatever I do
You will still be with me.
There's nothing I can hide from you
even it I wanted to.

God, you know me,
you know the good and the bad.
Guide me as I go through my life
so I will have nothing I would want to hide.



Hymn Together in Song 105 Let all the world in every corner sing

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Holy God
we are awed and full of wonder
at how well you know us.
We are amazed at love so great
you would even count the hairs on our heads.
Love so great
you would listen to our thoughts,
and our deepest needs,
before we can form them into words.
Love so great
that before we can ask,
or even understand our deepest need-
you have already rushed to met it,
by giving your own Son as a way
for us to come into relationship with you.

Merciful God,
we are not always
quick to invite you
to search our hearts and minds
There are times when
we are ashamed, or embarrassed,
by what we know you will find there.
In all of our lives,
there are things we would rather were not there.
We confess the things we know are wrong
and ask that you would help us to change,
that you would lead us in the way everlasting,
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time (Leave bear in back pew before service.)
Hey guys, do you want to see my bear? He's a special one. My sister brought him for me last time she visited Australia. He's from England. He's got a blue ribbon around his neck saying “Cheshire Constabulary 150th Anniversary.” My sister works for the Cheshire Constabulary – that's the police force in the part of England where she lives.

Bear's just here – or he was. I'm sure I left him just here. You guys didn't take my bear away did you? He's not a live bear, he can't just walk away by himself. He's got to be here – I'm sure this is where I left him.

Bear, Bear, where are you? Come back. Help me find my bear.

What's he doing way back there? Oh, wait a second. I remember now. I put him on the seat there when I turned on the lights! How silly of me. I forgot that. I thought I left him right here. I made a mistake!

Do you ever make mistakes? What kinds of mistakes have you made?

Grown-ups, have you ever made mistakes?

Do you know someone who never makes a mistake? God never, ever, ever makes mistakes.

Anyway, we've got a story from the Bible this morning, a story Jesus told about making choices. He was talking about plants – it was a parable. You know what parables are. (Not two boy cows that's a pair-a-bulls.) Parables are stories that make us think about things.

Jesus talked about sorting out weeds from good plants – but what he wanted us to think about was that people can sometimes make mistakes sorting things out, and sometimes, when things are really important, we should wait for God make the choices.


Hymn Together in Song 216 Rejoice, the Lord is King.

Scripture
Genesis 28:10-19a
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Sermon
Gardening can be a very frustrating business, especially for people who are new to it.

I can remember, as a child, my first-ever foray into the world of gardening. I was trying to grow a bed of carrots. You might think that's a very safe thing to begin. You'd be wrong.

I planted seeds and watered. Eventually lots of little green things came up. A lot of different-looking green things came up. I realised that since I'd only planted carrots, the un-carrots had to be weeds. But which was which?

There was one stringy, weedy-lookiing thing in the the bed, which was the only plant of its type. Since I'd planted dozens of carrots, this was definitely a weed – there was only one plant that looked anything like that. So I pulled it out, pulling up a very very tiny carrot – the only one in the whole bed! I would have been better off leaving the weeds and plants, or plant, grow together and sorting later – at least I'd have had one carrot.

The parable of the weeds is a strange story. And it raises a number of questions. Why would the owner of the field go and do the sowing himself, when his servants appear to be doing nothing? Why would an enemy bother gathering seeds from weeds and sneaking around at night to sow them – especially as weeds grew wild in the crops anyway? And why just leave the crops and weeds together? And why bring in someone else, other than the servants to gather the harvest?

In last week's parable of the sower, the seed was God's word, spread throughout many people's lives, and many kinds of people's lives.

This week, the seed is human beings: good seed, planted by Jesus himself, and weed seeds planted by an enemy. In the parable of the sower, what happened after the seeds were planted, was strictly between the seeds, the soil and God, the sower didn't get involved.... Here, when it is people's lives which are being planted, what is happening, is between the sower and the seed – no-one else can bring a human being into relationship with God, but Jesus Christ. The servants do take an interest in the crop, but it's clearly not their crop. Theoretically, if he's scattered good seed, the crop should have a few weeds, but not too many.

But an intrepid enemy has gone to the trouble of gathering weed seeds, and sowing them during the night. This seems strange behaviour, but there was actually a Roman law against sowing darnell – a weed which looked almost exactly like wheat – in someone else's field. Some people had gone to this extreme to ruin another's crop – if they hadn't there'd never have been a law made about the situation. So it's not just the weeds the enemy has sown in the field, but probably weeds which look remarkably like the crop itself.

The plot thickens – what do you do if you can't tell the weeds from the crop? Well, if you're like me you might go out and pull up anything that looks suspicious: and if you're like me, you might pull up the wrong thing.

The servants come to their master, wanting to know: What do we do? Can we just go out and pull up the weeds now? But how are they going to know which is which? How do we know, meeting someone at a point in their life's journey, all that they will be when the journey is ended?

So what can they do? The enemy has been extremely clever. The can't do anything! It must be very frustrating for the servants, who want to rush out and fix the problem. But the master sees that it can wait, in fact it must wait. Treat the whole field as if it has a good crop in it. Look after the bad along with the good.

It must have annoyed the servants, to know that half of what they were caring for was weeds. It's like Jesus' followers being told to love their enemies, along with their friends. Pray for those who persecute them, not just those who care for them.

It seems like playing into the enemy's hand … But really, it's the only way to defeat the enemy in the end. If they tried to do something, anything, to get rid of the weeds too soon, they could make a mistake and pull out the wrong plants. If they tramped through the fields, they could step on the precious, growing crop.

They had to wait until harvest time – when they could see what each mature plant produced – and it would become obvious which was wheat and which was darnell.

The reformation theologian John Calvin had a theory of two churches: the visible, and the invisible. The visible church was the people we can see worshipping God, who say we are Christian, who appear to be Christian. The invisible church is made up of all the people, of all times and places, who truly are a part of God's dominion. The visible and invisible churches will have some people in common, but they are not made up completely of the same people. We might be surprised who turned out to be where.

In the visible church, and in the wider world, the wheat and the weeds grow side by side. The problem with trying to weed them out, either in the church or in the wider world, is that we can't tell which is which.

Even when it comes to harvest time, in the parable, the servants aren't sent out to bring in the harvest. Expert reapers are brought in. They are to sort out the good from the bad, and deal with it accordingly. Although the crop is matured, and it should be clear which is wheat and which is weeds, the landowner isn't going to take the risk of his servants making a mistake – not one precious grain out of this harvest is going to be lost.

There is a simple, strong message in this story for us. It is that God doesn't see people the same way we see them. (Didn't Samuel hear that about Jesse's sons – it's not really a new message.)

We can't know another person's relationship with God, what it is now, or what it will be in the future. People change. Jacob, the cheat and liar, encountered God, and received a promise that God would be with him. If he lived in our community, would we have considered him to be a stalk of wheat or a weed?

That means we can't give up on people or write them off just because we don't see any sign of growth in them. (No matter how frustrating it is to put work into, for example RE and Sunday School, and then see people leave the church after our work.)

It also means that we can't ever give up on our own spiritual growth, our own relationship with God. (Because whether we are wheat or weeds won't be known until it becomes obvious what fruits we've produced, at harvest time.)

Hymn Together in Song 689 Lord, hear my praying, listen to me

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People
God of the harvest
We pray for your harvest in this world.
For the wheat and the weeds,
growing together, unknowing,
for lives that are changing and will be changed,

For those who prosper unjustly,
believing that you will never call them to account,
For those who suffer unjustly,
wondering if you will ever come to their help,
For those who are faithless,
believing they have all the time in the world.
For those who are faithful,
making the most of the time you have given them.

Gracious God, we pray for your harvest in this world.


(Prayer points from newsletter.)


The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness

Benediction

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Sunday 10 July 2011. (Year A Pentecost 10)

Service for Sunday 10 July 2011

Year A. Pentecost 10 [15]. Genesis 25:19-34, Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-0, 18-23. Green. Holy Communion.


Call to Worship
A seed is planted in the earth
the sun warms it
the rain waters it
the soil protects it
and a new plant grows...

God's word is planted in our lives
God's love warms it,
Jesus' leading nurtures it,
The Spirit protects it,
And faith makes it grow....


Hymn Together in Song 135 All things bright and beautiful

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of Creation,
of each new morning,
we give you thanks for your works,
for your goodness.
We give you thanks for sunshine and rain,
day and night,
the cycle of weeks and of seasons.

We give you thanks for each new morning of our lives,
for all your works within us,
for your goodness to us,
for the sunshine of joy, the rain of tears,
for days of hope and nights of despair,
for the cycles of growth and seasons of our lives.

We thank you for your presence with us by your Spirit,
for encouragement, and nurture,
for strength in our weakness,
for home in our fear,
for your promise when we despair.

We confess that we do not always live as your people.
When we should be growing, and bearing good fruit for you,
we wither, and refuse to bear.
When we should be stretching,
reaching beyond ourselves,
out to others in your world,
we draw back, we close in ourselves
and choose ourselves ahead of others.

We deny you by our words, by our acts, by our thoughts.

Forgive us, we pray, teach us to grow in grace,
to welcome your gifts,
and to share them with others.

In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

….our sins are forgiven
Thanks be to God!

Kids' time: Lindy

Scripture
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Hymn Together in Song 130 We plough the fields and scatter

Sermon

We're very aware of waste now. Every home has a recycling bin. Shopping centres are starting to get recycling bins for bottles and cans. We're urged to turn off our standby power. People have compost bins or worm farms for their kitchen waste (and those of us who don't have them can feel guilty about not having them.) Even garbage dumps are now waste transfer stations, where as much as possible is recycled instead of simply buried. We have spent years rationing water, and recycling the washing water, having shorter showers, and all sorts of other things.

Waste is a bad thing. We know that don't we? We don't deliberately wast money or resources or time or anything. We're aware of the value of everything.

But look at the sower in the parable!

With great abandon he throws the seed everywhere: on the path, on the rocks, in the thorn bushes, as well as on the good soil.

His planting stock can't come for free, whether he's bought it or he's not sold it out of the previous year's harvest, it is worth something. Everyone knows seed isn't about to grow on paths or rocks! You and I know that, the professional whose livelihood depends on it surely knows it.

This is extravagant and wasteful! None of us would bother planting on the path – we know what birds are like, and we know nothing's going to grow where it would be walked over anyway.

So why the waste? Why go through the disappointment of seeing all that didn't grow?

Well, it wasn't necessary that it wouldn't grow. It was highly likely that it wouldn't grow. But sometimes plants will grow under the strangest of conditions... like the plant that seems to be thriving, while growing outside the sheer face of a cliff, like the wildflower which clings obstinately to life, growing in a crack in the path.

It was likely that all the plants on the path, on the rocks, in among the thorns wouldn't grow – but there was a slight possibility they might. Some plants grow and thrive in spite of their circumstances.

The seed in the story, Jesus tells us, is the Word of God. It's spread freely, all over the place, in the most unlikely situations, in places you'd never think it should be. Sure it's spread in a lot of places it's unlikely to grow. But it's still worth spreading it – because it only has the chance to be that tenacious plant that survives against all odds, if the seed has been placed there in the first place.

If you've tried to tell a friend, neighbour or relative about what your faith means to you, and they've reacted as if you were speaking a different language, you might wonder why you bother. You don't get anywhere at all. It just doesn't sink in, they completely miss the point. Why bother sowing seeds on the path, they'll never take root? Yet the sower did.. Perhaps a seed on the path could grow despite its circumstances...

If you've ever put work into leading someone in faith, nurturing them as they seem to be growing, and then seen them give us as soon as they've had a problem that wasn't “fixed” the instant they prayed about it, or as soon as they realised Christian commitment isn't always easy, you might wonder, why bother? Why bother if people have no depth in their lives and in their faith, if they have no personal strength? Why bother sowing seeds on the rocks, when you know they won't last the distance? Yet the sower did.... Perhaps a seed on the rocks could grow in spite of its circumstances....

If you had spent years teaching Sunday School or RE, and had spent years and years seeing young people leave the church, you might wonder, why bother? They show some signs of faith, then decide to do what all the other people their age are doing, or they get so caught up in study and career there's no time for faith... So why bother? Why bother throwing seeds among the thorns? The sower did. It was just possible, a seed among the thorns could grow, in spite of its circumstances.

We'd all like to sow seed in the good soil. We'd all be great evangelists, if people were always going to listen attentively, with respect, and grow into a strong faith as a result.

But have you ever noticed that nothing in the Gospel is ever as neat and tidy as we'd like it. The sower just goes out and chucks the seed around everywhere, as if there was an endless supply of the stuff. It's spread everywhere, no matter whether the ground is worthy of it or not. The sower doesn't even stop to say, does this piece of ground deserve the seed? Is it going to do anything useful or constructive with it?

He spreads the seed everywhere, and then leaves it. He doesn't blame himself or the soil in the cases where it doesn't grow. He doesn't let it worry him, and he doesn't lose sleep over it. The only responsibility he takes is to spread the seed. Everything else happens without his participation.

Why bother? God's reign in this world, and in the next, isn't just available to those most likely to accept it. It's not just available to those who are deserving of it. Jesus came for all people, for everyone. The only limiting factor was how people respond to him. So the word of God is not a secret to be hoarded among the privileged few. It's a glorious, abundant gift to be shared as widely as possible. Because plants have been known to grow in the most unlikely places; and the most unlikely people have been known to have their lives completely changed.



Offering

Notices

Prayers of the People
God of Love,
We pray for your world,
a world which you have always loved,
but which has not always accepted your love.

We pray those your word is reaching out to,
Those who are hardened, like the path, and can't hear or accept your word,
Those who are shallow, like the stony ground, and try to respond, but can't cope long-term,
Those who are caught up in other things, like the thorny ground, who are tangled up in problems and worries, and don't have the time or energy to deal with your word.
And for Those who accept your word and respond to it joyfully, completely.

We pray for all of those who spread the word of your love,
Who give their time and their effort out of love for you and others,
Who are sometimes dejected and defeated because they don't see a response,
Who share your love with others, but sometimes wonder if they are achieving anything at all.

Loving God, we pray for this world which you love,
For all its people, who you reach out to,
For your word, as it goes out to them.
We pray that your word will bring peace, hope and joy,
that your word will take root and grow.


Prayers from newsletter.



The peace

Hymn Together in Song 526 Lord Jesus Christ

The service of Holy Communion (from Uniting in Worship p.163&f)

Hymn Together in Song 599Take my life and let it be

Benediction

Threefold Amen.