The promise of God’s word (click here)
Lighting the Christ Candle
The light of Christ has come among us!
- There will be a Music Committee meeting on Wednesday July 15th, at 7 pm.
- Session will meet July 22nd, at 1o am.
- Thank you to all who gather to worship this morning, be it on-line or in the Church building, your faithfulness and continued support is a real blessing to our Church family. May God bless and guide us all and so be glorified as we worship Him today.
Entry of the Bible
CALL TO WORSHIP
You call us to love those whom you would love,
and give us the words to say.
You call us to bring wholeness to lives that are broken,
and give us the words to say.
You call us to bring comfort to those who are grieving,
and give us the words to say.
You call us to bring good news to those who are seeking,
and give us the words to say.
Your word, living water in desert sands.
Your word, blossoming in parched earth.
Your word, bearing fruit wherever it is sown.
Your word, your promise for us.
HYMN: Open my eyes that I may see (click the blue text for YouTube music, sorry there may be advertising)
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
We gather together in Your presence with expectation,
hungry for an encounter with You, eager to hear Your Word.
Open our eyes and ears to the presence of Your Holy Spirit.
May the seeds of Your Word scattered among us this morning
fall on fertile soil. May they take root in our hearts and lives,
and produce an abundant harvest of good words and deeds.
We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,
our teacher and our Lord.
Call to Confession
Sometimes it is hard to let go of the burdens that prevent us from hearing God’s word. Let us bring our confession before God so that we will be ready to become stronger witnesses for His. Let us seek his forgiveness so that we may receive His word and find our spirits and lives healed.
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Persistent Word, patient Teacher, persuasive Spirit, you are tireless in speaking to us, but we find it easy to close our minds, to refuse to hear what would require painful change. We don’t hear your truth because it is inconvenient.
Forgive our fearful resistance to change, stubborn insistence that our way is the best way. Continue your speaking until we hear. Try new parables on us until we think and understand. Bring your word to us again and again. Argue with us until we do your will.
What else will your love in Christ allow you to do? Amen.
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Isaiah 55:10-13 New International Version (NIV)
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
2 Timothy 4:1-2 New International Version (NIV)
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Matthew 13:18-23 New International Version (NIV)
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
SERMON: The promise of God’s word (click the tittle to view Rev. Ena's Sermon being read by John T. Hanna)
Did you know that there are passages of Scripture that we preachers get tired of preaching about? Especially if we follow the Lectionary, there are passages that come up again and again, and there are times when we feel as if there is nothing new to say.
Passages like the Transfiguration.
Like the baptism of Jesus and especially the year it comes three times in Dec/Jan
So when I was doing the research for this parable of the sower and the seed, and read the account of someone who is tired of preaching about the seed being the word of God, and the seed landing in a soft open heart, or the heart of someone whose lifestyle blocks the word, or who is too distracted to hear the word—I resonated with her.
But when she told the story of hearing a person preaching on this passage for the first time, and to illustrate the sowing of the seed, took a container full of confetti and threw handfuls (pretend to throw confetti)of it around the sanctuary, I thought wow.
From your reaction I can tell that you thought I was actually going to throw confetti. Trust me, had I done so I know full well that the Chair of the Board would have had me cleaning up every last bit of it.
And that’s the problem with confetti.
No one wants to clean up confetti. It is insidious, it lurks in hidden places. Weeks, months, even years later a few stray bits make themselves known, having been hiding under the pew leg, or in the furnace vents, or whatever places these things lurk.
Yet I am immensely grateful for the image of confetti. This is a whole new parable. And the word of God is like a party where the host throws confetti at all the guests.
Imagine that. The word of God spread in joyous exuberance, going home with all the party goers in their hair, their pockets, hidden underneath their clothes. Tracked into their cars and onto their living room carpet.
I am reminded of the lecture by Lloyd Gaston who said, the point of the parable lies in what in howstartles us and makes us look at the word of God in a whole new way. In a parable the point is in what makes us sit up and take notice about the insight it gives us about God.
This image of confetti has been in my thoughts all week. Hidden, coming out in unexpected ways and places, and what that means when we consider the seed of the word of God. The pondering of the past week has led me to look at the parable of God’s word being sown, in a whole new way.
The background of the lesson from Isaiah and 2 Timothy have helped to provide the new ways to look at that scattered seed.
So today, we look at the seed that the sower sows in 4 different ways:
- Growth that comes in unexpected places
Tenaciously hanging on
3. Fallow and yielding fruit at the right time or circumstance
4. Blooming out of adversity
We can all recount the times we have seen a seed that has sprouted in unusual places. Against all odds weeds and flowers grow out of the cracks in sidewalks, trees get rooted in rocks and boulders.
What does that tell us about the seed that falls on the path, or the seed that falls in rocky soil. That it is possible for the word of God to penetrate in the unexpected places.
How many times in Scripture have we seen the incident of those unexpected changes of heart. Saul’s conversion for example. He infiltrated the followers of the way of Christ in order to get enough information to convict them of blasphemy according to Jewish Law. It would seem, that the word of God never got into him, and yet it must have. That pivotal moment when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus became the point where the word he heard proclaimed in all of his undercover missions was able to begin to sprout.
Following that event Saul retreated to the house of his friend Judas of Tarsus, where he sat praying. No doubt in those prayers he pondered what it meant to have encountered Jesus. Was it real? If so, what was God saying to him?
And what about Ananias, who argued with God about going to see Saul, worried that he had done terrible things and was just here to arrest more followers of Jesus. Wouldn’t it be a waste to tell him about God’s love?
And yet, God had plans for Saul, to be the one who would bring the gentiles into the kingdom. All that word that Paul knew from the Scriptures and all the word he had heard from the followers of Jesus were about to find their way into the hardness of his heart and to put down roots and flourish.
In Isaiah God promises that his word never returns unto him void. No matter where it is scattered, it will do the work it was meant to do. Even the most hardened criminal or the most cynical realist who hears the word of grace and love and forgiveness will find that seed growing within him.
As a part of this lesson we are reminded that our job is to spread the word. Where it lands, is up to God. How it grows in the unlikely places is up to the Holy Spirit.
It is not our job to keep going back and replanting the word when we don’t see a result. The result is not our job.
Don’t be like that child that brings a bean plant home from school, and then every few days digs up the plant to see if it is growing.
Let the soil, the moisture, the darkness and the warmth of the sun do its work. We may never see the results in our lifetime. That’s okay. I have a friend whose deep concern for her daughter who is an unbeliever. She prayed that she would see her child come to Christ. And then one day she came to the realization that God did not need to prove himself to her. She needed to trust God…simply trust God.
When God sends us to the most unlikely people, whose lifestyle shows that they neither respect nor serve God, then we go, do as asked; and leave the rest to God. God can make that seed flourish wherever it lands.
That is because the seed is tenacious.
When we stop to look at a plant growing in adverse and unexpected places we see the effect the seed has had on it’s environment.
Those seeds produce roots that break apart boulders, lift sidewalks and open up cracks so that they can spread and flourish.
In the explanation of the parable Jesus says: When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
20-21 “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
22 “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
Yet, we and presumably also the disciples, have seen the effect that seeds have had on weedy soil, rocky soil and hardpacked earth and even mountains. We know that Jesus knows and understands the word of God as given to us in Isaiah, and he knows that God’s word is effective every time it is spread, no matter where it is spread.
The message is clear. Spread the word. Spread the word. Spread the word.
What may look like a seed being sown in a place where it cannot flourish, is simply a matter of letting the work of God begun in creation to continue to do its job. If God can speak and the world bursts forth from his word, then his word will also work in the hardest of hearts, including our own.
That is why Timothy is urged by Paul to speak the word in season and out. Paul before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, heard the word out of season and yet that word brought forth a miracle. The seed of God’s word produced fruit a thousand-fold.
How does that happen?
We have all seen images of the desert blooming. Isaiah writes about that where in chapter 35 we read: The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
Indeed this is true in our own hearts. We can all likely recount times when we have struggled with something, and a person spoke to us in those days, prayed with us and shared Scripture. But, for whatever reason, we did not want to hear or were incapable of hearing wise counsel at that time.
Some times stubbornness of heart, sometimes the depth of our pain, sometimes pride or other reasons kept us from hearing what God was saying. Yet, we can also tell the ending of that story, where we woke one morning thinking about that advice from God’s word and things began to make sense to us, and we could see what we needed to do in our circumstance.
The instruction to Timothy is clear: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
In season and out, with patience and instruction. When preaching to the choir or to the most hardhearted sinner. When the people want to hear and when the people don’t want to hear. Because God’s word never returns to him void, there will be a time when the word will speak within the heart of the one who heard.
Those seeds that blossomed in the desert, they were sown at a time and in a place where they could not flourish. In the day or two that the plant lived it dispersed its seed into the sand of the desert where for months, years the wind swept the seed all around.
Until--until the right day, when a rare shower came upon the land and it suddenly burst into bloom. The event all the more beautiful because of how rare it is. That is the thing about God’s word, even if it produces fruit at the most unlikely place—it will, at the right time.
Sometimes that right time is the result of adversity.
Sometimes the word comes out of season because of the very difficult circumstances of a person’s life. Yet it is the glimpses they had of God and the way his word burned in their heart that brought that seed into flourishing strength.
When we read the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, we see how this happens. The disciples deep in grief and giving up on the promise of the kingdom return to their home. Along the way a stranger speaks with them, outlining the Scriptures and how they taught that the Son of Man must die and on the third day rise again. They listened, but they did not hear. But when Jesus sat with them at the table and broke bread, their eyes were opened, their hearts rejoiced and they heard. On the way back to Jerusalem their comment was: was not our heart burning within us.
Sometimes adversity is what brings that seed to flourish and bloom. Like fireweed blooming after a fire. That seed had lain on the ground fallow, for years, even decades and then as a part of the recovery after the fire they bloom, bringing not only beauty to the charred earth, but recovery for the whole environment.
So when we go to speak with those grieving following the death of spouse, friend or child, or to the person struggling with unemployment, or the person who lives in dangerous situations: we take on the responsibility to speak comfort and hope. Because those are the two kinds of seeds that will flourish and bring the fruit that God desires.
Whatever the place, whatever the impossibility of the situation, whatever the season or difficulty, our job, our only job is to speak God’s word of grace and love, hope and joy, peace and comfort. Then, we have to get out of God’s way and let the Holy Spirit do his work of bringing that seed into season.
We sing of this truth in the hymn: In the bulb there is a flower.
In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree
in cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free
in the snow and cold of winter there’s a spring that waits to be
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
The word of God comes to unexpected places
with strength and tenacity
when the time is right and when the time is wrong
in good times and bad
Regardless, it bears its fruit, when God reveals its growth in his own time.
Praise be to God. Amen
HYMN: Word of God across the ages
Online: thy word is a lamp unto my feet
Today we remember the gift of Jesus Christ given to us.
For ways in which to bring your offering into the storehouse check the front page of the website. Thank you.
Let us now pray for the offering received
Gardener God, thank you for all the blessings you have poured into our lives. Receive these gifts that they may become seeds of hope and love. AMEN.
GATHERING PRAYER REQUESTS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God who plants seeds of hope and justice within our lives, we are so grateful for this community of faith and for all, anywhere, who hunger and thirst for your healing, reconciling word. You know all the things that are on our hearts today and you bring us together in love and support. We ask your healing mercies with those who struggle with illness of every kind, with feeling lost and marginalized; for those who mourn and for whom the darkness of sorrow enshrouds them. We ask your growth-producing love for all those who celebrate and rejoice today.
For all the blessings of this life, we give thanks to You, Creator God.
For families, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers, who nurture us, that the love of God may grow within.
We ask your blessing on our joy, that Your love, your Word, like a seed,
may grow to produce in us, good fruit.
For the leaders of various nations and cities, that they may lead with strong hearts and gentle hands and generous spirits, with compassion and mercy, with wisdom and grace. May they reflect your will guiding all their actions and decisions.
For those who live in areas of war and strife,
those who live in fear, those who worry about employment, bills, food, and struggle just to find dignity in life. May your grace bring peace and safety to all people, one to another.
Refugees, those people who live in places of flooding/fire
For those who suffer from any illness or disease—
of mind, body, or spirit.
Helen (Clara’s sister)
Those needing surgery this week
Those hospitalized for a variety of reasons
Restore these, and all those we carry in our hearts, to fullness of health—
health as only you, O God, can bring.
May your mercy shower each of us with healing mercy and love.
We pray for all those who willingly take on the tasks of servants.
For those who work in the hospitals, who restore our power when the lights go out, for those who replace rooves after the hail storm, and this day especially for fire fighters whose work brings them into danger, who run into burning structures to save those trapped by fire. Keep them safe O Lord in the work they do, and bring them home at the end of the day knowing that they have done well and touched lives with mercy.
For all the places and people for whom we have prayed, and for ourselves that we may grow as your servants….
May your love, your mercy and your healing be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.
In the strength of our love for you, in the grace of your love for us, we pray, lifting our voices as Jesus taught us, saying
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
HYMN Sing them over again
BLESSING AND BENEDICTION
Go into God’s world as scattered seed, telling of the good news of God’s abundant, lavish love for all creation. Go, as scattered seed to be a witness to all the miraculous possibilities for hope and peace.
Benediction Song Go now in peace