The Good Sower Keeps Sowing

Jul 11, 2020 by

 

Preamble/Welcome:

Welcome! We are delighted to welcome friends from St. Cuthbert’s Presbyterian and Westdale United Church to our virtual worship for July 12th. Although we are scattered, we come together as a community of believers.  The Generous Sower is among us working a mystery of hope in our midst. Let us prepare our hearts to worship God.  

 

 

Prelude  Alan Hovhaness The Garden of Adonis   Opus 245 no. I – Largo     

Performed by Thomas Robertello, flute, Maria Luisa Rayan-Forero, harp  

    

 

 

Lighting of the Christ Candle

(you may wish to light one in your home)

 

 

Together, We Come to God

 

 

Call to Worship

God invites us all,

With a welcome that is unconditional.

Come join the Sower of seeds,

Who sows everywhere, regardless of the terrain.

Come this morning to the rich, fertile ground of God’s love.

It is here in God’s presence that we soften the stony ground of injustice,

And untangle the weeds of anger

With the love and compassion of the Eternal One planted in our hearts.  

Come, let our roots be nourished and our hearts strengthened.

Come let us worship God.

 

 

Hymn # 377 Come Children join to sing    

Tune: MADRID (as in the hymnbook) Organ plays 4 verses

 

    1. Come, children, join to sing – Hallelujah, amen –

Praise to our Servant King, – Hallelujah, amen –

Let all with heart and voice saved by God’s gracious choice,

Now in this place rejoice – Hallelujah, amen.

 

    1. Come, lift your hearts on high- Hallelujah, amen –

Let praises fill the sky- Hallelujah, amen –

Christ calls his people friends, lost, out-cast he defends

With love that never ends – Hallelujah, amen.

 

    1. Loud now our voices raise – Hallelujah, amen –

No power can still our praise – Hallelujah, amen –

On heaven’s blissful shore, God’s goodness we’ll adore

Singing for evermore – Hallelujah, amen.

Text © The Presbyterian Church of Canada – permission granted for website use

 

 

Prayer of Approach

God, we come together in Your presence with expectation,

hungry for an encounter with You, eager to hear Your Word.

In Your extravagance, You sow everywhere, even in dry and dusty territory,

where it would seem there are few opportunities for growth and harvest.

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 Your compassion and kindness take root in our hearts and lives,

and produce an abundant harvest of words and deeds

that show forth Your Eternal goodness.

Amen.

~ adapted from Christine Longhurst, re:Worship

 

 

Sung response

 

Text and music: © 2006, Barbara Bridge. Published by OCP. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

God Speaks to Us

 

 

Old Testament Reading:  Isaiah 55:10-13

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

 

 

Musical Reflection  The trees of the fields will clap their hands 

The Christwood Singers

 

 

 

Responsive Psalm 119:105-112 (a paraphrase, set as alphabetical acrostic)

A word of yours is like a lamp

            Bringing light to my path.

Complete allegiance is yours, O God,

            Dedicated am I to all of your ways.

Even when hardships come to me

            Faithful will you be in bringing life.

Gifts of praise I offer you, O God,

            Here I stand, a student of your way.

I will hold your words forever before me,

            Joy to my heart they bring.

Keeping your word is my life’s ambition

            Living forever in your way.

~Prayers for all Seasons

 

 

Epistle Reading:  Romans 8:1-11 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

 

 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

 

Hymn  Christ Taught Us of a Farmer    

Tune: AURELIA (The Church’s One Foundation)

intro, 2 verses, key change, 2 more verses

 

1- Christ taught us of a farmer who went out sowing seeds.
A few had trouble growing among the rocks and weeds.
But others grew till harvest in soil that was so good.
O God, you sow the gospel: The seed is your own word.

2- You sowed your word of love here so many years ago.
Your message found a welcome; your word began to grow.
By grace, this church was built here by saints who followed you.
The seed took root and flourished: we hear and follow, too.

3- We thank you for each member who lives in loving ways,
For those who seek to serve you without expecting praise.
For hearts and songs uplifted, for work and sacrifice.
The seed you planted grows here: we grow in Jesus Christ.

4- In times of joy we praise you, in struggling times we search,
And always we are learning to be your faithful church.
Your Spirit gives us vision, and hearts and lives made new.
Your harvest is for sharing: sent out, we work for you.

Text © Carolyn Gillette – used with permission

 

 

Reflection

 

Friends, like mid-summer weather, things start to heat up in the middle of Matthew’s Gospel.

            Chapter 12 narrates several stories of Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees, who are now plotting “to destroy him.” By the end of Chapter 12, Jesus appears to be at odds even with his own family, and at the end of Chapter 13, Jesus will be rejected by his hometown.

            According to the text, Jesus goes to sit by a lake and the crowd follows him. He gets into a boat to sit down. It is not clear what Jesus’ intention for leaving the house and going to the sea might have been – perhaps he was hungry, or maybe he simply wanted some peace and quiet. It is also possible that the wide, open space could better accommodate the crowd.

            By the lake, Jesus tells the crowd about a sower whose seeds fall into various places. Some seeds fall on the path and are eaten by birds. Other seeds fall on rocky ground, spring up and die quickly because they do not have roots. Other seeds fall among the thorns and the thorns choke them. Finally, some seeds fall on good soil and yield fruit. Jesus ends the parable saying, “Let anyone with ears, listen.”

            Farmers’ fields in Biblical times were not like our fields today which have been prepared by modern machinery with the crops planted in neat rows. In Jesus’ day, the farmer would cast the seed all over the ground and then till it under. The fields were in long strips with paths between them so that people could pass through. That was important in a culture where everyone walked. Sometimes the Romans built their roads next to a farmer’s field. Sometimes the land next to the field was allowed to grow wild, and it was full of thorns and weeds. In the ancient process of sowing it was impossible not to have some of the seed fall, or be blown by the wind onto these areas.

            Anyone who plants seeds, whether in a field or in a garden, knows that at least a fraction of them will not take root and grow. That is the way it is. It is beyond our control.

            Jesus and those who were following him also knew that this applied not only to farming but also to his own ministry at that time. The seed of his teaching has fallen on rocky ground. The Pharisees want to choke out his message. Jesus is soon to experience the hard soil of his hometown.

            The community to which Matthew is writing is the same. It was very difficult to be a Christian in first-century Palestine. The early church struggled with the fact that only a portion of people who heard the Good News became Christ’s followers. Many received the word but only a few had understanding.

            This parable is unusual in that it is followed by an interpretation. We are told that the reception of the seed on various kinds of soil is an allegory for varying responses to “the word of the kingdom.”

            With this parable, Jesus reminds his followers, and Matthew reminds his readers, that rejection of Jesus’ message does not mean that the message is wrong or that their efforts are futile. It is simply a fact of life, whether in farming or in faith, some seed falls on unreceptive ground.

            The parable itself is not so much about good or poor soil as it is about a good sower. The sower scatters his seed carelessly, recklessly, seemingly wasting much of the seed on ground that holds little promise for a fruitful harvest. Jesus, himself, invests in disciples who look similarly unpromising. He spends his time with tax collectors and sinners, with lepers, and all manner of outcasts.

            This sower is not so cautious and strategic as to throw the seed in only those places where the chances for growth are best. This sower is a high-risk sower, relentless in throwing seed on all soil, as if all were potentially good soil, which leaves us to wonder if there is any place or circumstance in which God’s seed cannot sprout and take root. Anywhere and everywhere, God generously flings seed. Anywhere and everywhere, God seeks to bear fruit.

            The work of the sower culminates with an amazing harvest – thirty-fold, sixty-fold, even a hundred-fold! A seven-to-ten-fold return on sowing was the average in ancient times. The harvest of which Jesus speaks is beyond sufficient. It is abundant, revealing an extravagant God of abundance.

            Abundant fruitfulness goes on in nature all the time. Seeds are scattered by farmers, by the winds, by birds and animals, anywhere and everywhere. Plants produce many, many seeds, perhaps precisely because only a portion of them take root and grow. The way plants persevere in the bitterest of circumstances is utterly heartening.

            Jesus calls us to be aware that, in spite of what appears to be inefficient, unproductive, or wasteful, God’s purposes will not be thwarted. God is a generous, risk-taking, persistent sower. We are called to be the same.

            The parable, I believe, is an invitation into the mystery of hope.

            The seeds are all our efforts to live a faithful and meaningful life. The seeds represent our effort to make this world a better place, to use the gifts God has given us for the sake of others. Sometimes the seeds we sow fall on good ground. Sometimes they fall amidst rocks or thorns or get picked off by the birds. We cannot control the results of our efforts. But we can make the effort to keep on sowing.

            In our own lives, we may be more aware of our efforts that have not borne fruit than we are of those that have borne fruit. It is easy to become discouraged or overwhelmed by the scale of problems and our own inability to meet the many needs around us. It is also likely that we do not, and never will, fully know the extent to which seeds that we have sown in kindness, compassion and in the pursuit of justice have borne fruit.

            To keep sowing in spite of complications and heavily unfavourable conditions is to image God, who keeps sowing among us with unwavering hope and confidence in the inherent energy and vitality of the spirit of life.    

            Friends, let us remember the results are not in our hands, but in God’s hands. If we can, with humility, free ourselves from the thinking that we are ultimately responsible for the sowing and the growth, and just serve Christ’s truth, we will be able to do more, and will be less crushed by disappointments should they come. Our hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of what we do in ways that we cannot see.

            As partners with God in this process of grace, let us be dedicated, generous sowers, doing what is right, simply because it is the right thing to do. Let us do our best and leave the rest to God. Let us trust in God’s goodness, God’s abundance, and God’s persistence. Like the apostle Paul, let us set our minds on the myriad possibilities offered by God’s sustaining Spirit and keep on sowing what is required of us – justice, kindness, humility. Thanks be to God. Amen

           

We Respond to God

 

 

Hymn of Response  # 663   God, whose giving know no ending

Tune: BEACH SPRING  (lyrics in video)

 

 

 

The Offering of Gifts   Alan Hovhaness The Garden of Adonis   Opus 245 no. II – Allegro

Thomas Robertello, flute, Maria Luisa Rayan-Forero, harp

 

 

 

Sung Response  

 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise God all creatures here below.

Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.

Creator, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Text: © 1989, Hope Publishing Company. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Prayers of the People  

Let us pray                 

God of grace, thank you for making us a part of a community that has a wonderful story of love and faithfulness, forgiveness and sharing to tell to the neighbours and to the world. We thank you that we are not alone, that you have given to us each other on our journey of faith, and that most of all you have given us yourself, that you are with us and within us.

We remember with gratitude those people who generously sowed the seeds of faith in our own lives. Take your truth, O God, and plant it deep in us.

Whatever we are today, whatever the mix of path, rock, thorns or soil, help us to aspire to become the good soil in which an abundant harvest may flourish. Help us to challenge ourselves to become courageous advocates for truth and justice, to stand up for those on the margins of society, to be a voice for those who are rarely heard. Help us to face our own challenges, whatever they may be, with inspiration and courage.

May we go forth and sow the seeds of your love. Let us speak of that love into every circumstance, in every conversation, that we may build others up according to their needs.

            Help us to be gentle with those who are weak and to walk softly with those in pain. Help us to speak encouragingly to those who are confused, and kindly to those who are troubled. Let your truth be shared through our lips and lives, so that the world may be changed for someone. Deliver us from causing pain by thoughtless words or actions. Give us the ability to see all persons as our brothers and sisters, no matter their origin or circumstance in life. Help us to be sowers of mercy and truth as we bring good news to our world in Jesus’ name.

            Hear us now as we ask that your gifts of healing, faith, hope and love would be with the people and situations we name before you.

            We pray for those whose lives touch ours each day – family members, friends, neighbours who need our prayers. You know the heart of each one and you understand the particular need of each.

            We pray for your healing presence in the lives of those who are ill, and those struggling to recover and return to health. We remember Jim and his family… Nancy, a friend in the community … Cheryl and Charles… Bob, as he prepares for cataract surgery on Wednesday, …. and others whose names are upon our hearts at this time …. Be a comforter and a source of strength to them and to those who love them.

            We lift before you the lonely, the anxious, those who mourn. Grant them the knowledge that your everlasting arms surround them, and may they know that neither life nor death can separate us from your love.

            We pray for peace in our world. May the day soon come when all peoples everywhere can live in security and know the comforts of plenty of food, water and shelter. We ask you to pour your Spirit upon our yearning, fearful world.

            God, we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught his disciples to pray 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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

 

Hymn  # 802    For the fruits of all creation

Tune: AR HYD Y NOS ( as in hymnbook)  (lyrics in video)

 

 

Benediction

Go forth confident in the inclusive love and grace of our God. May God light the path before you; may God’s compassion and justice be sown within your soul; and may God’s love fill you to overflowing with goodness in your heart.  AMEN

 

 

Sung Dismissal

 

Tune and Text © 1995, Desert Flower Music/Jim and Jean Strathdee. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Postlude   Prairie hymn            by Joseph Curiale 

London Symphony Orchestra

  

 

2020 07 12 MacNeill News and Notes  

 

With gratitude to Terry Dempsey for the message and pastoral prayer today; Leanne Tees for selecting our music; and Bev Leslie for making this service available on our website.

~Jennifer Nettleton, Coordinator of Worship

 

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