Genesis 25:19-34
Rebekah gives birth to twins, who wrestle with each other from the womb. Then, Esau, the older twin, sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew.
Psalm 119:105-112
The psalmist celebrates God’s word, committing to obeying God’s commands even when life is difficult and enemies threaten.
Romans 8: 1-11
In Jesus we have access to God’s life-giving Spirit who frees us from the power of sin that brings death.
Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
Jesus sits in a boat and teaches the crowds through parables – in this instance, the parable of the seed that falls on different kinds of ground and produces different results.
(Bible reading summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Church of Scotland
Rex AE Hunt

Video of the parable of the sower from The Work of the People (subscription needed to download)

The parable of the sower mentions weeds, which later become very important in a subsequent parable. Weeds were a familiar problem in Palestine, especially in those areas where wheat was grown. The particular weeds in question are the folium temulentum, an irritating growth often mistaken for wheat itself but which, unlike true grain, is poisonous. It can cause blindness and even death when its black seeds turn up in the bread dough.
(Barbara Brown Taylor: The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p 34)

Seeds, Soils and Reality Parables – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
How controversial might this parable be? It seems like a gentle arable image, indeed the image we might have in our mind as we read the parable probably includes the sun just rising, the long shadow of the farmer stretching across the land as he throws with wild abandon, his seeds worrying not where they land. He probably has a smile on his face too as the birds circle overhead and all nature is at one. Nice.
Those who heard this passage, however, might have been apoplectic with Jesus as he smashed some long held beliefs and structure of their religion. If the land is a symbol of different people then some would have been very upset that Jesus suggests that God sows the seed among all people. They were adamant that God did no such thing.
Some people believe this to be true even today. They are certain that God scatters the word out to Israel, or perhaps a particular nation today (‘God bless America…’ springs to mind), or denomination, or church. To imagine God throwing the seed universally (without our involvement, take note) would cause no little grinding of teeth on the part of some of his original hearers as it does for some today.
Not only that, it’s not exactly a very good business model that the CEO of heaven has come up with here. It feels too random: just throw the word anywhere and maybe in some cases something will happen while in other cases nothing. There is no targeting, no market research, no best growth strategies which means, for a theology that likes to imagine an almighty God and a Messiah who enters the world with force (even if that is for the second coming), that the whole seed image may seem pretty shambolic and weak.
All of this also happens out of sight. The growth of the kingdom does not look that much of anything really. Indeed, while not impossible to find, you often have to look long and hard to find it. You might imagine God would use some strong arm tactic if you have an image in mind of an all powerful God ready to turn the world back to God.
The sower parable, in contrast, is somewhat lackadaisical, almost suggesting an image of a God who sits back in a deckchair having sown the seed wherever it will, watching the letting sun while chewing on a piece of dried grass with his hands behind his head and with no real concern about what the outcome might be.
Might this be a reality-parable? The four conditions of the land might represent the conditions we often experience in life. We are always gadding about trying to make things ‘right’ to sow the seed. We introduce more programmes in the church to turn us from extinction to mega-churches, we have plans and projects in order to make the field as fertile as possible. The reality is, however, all these different conditions exist and love is sown into all of them, not by us, but by the sower. Every condition is a possible growing place and is given as much chance as any other.
Indeed, when Jesus explains the parable, he doesn’t explain the sower, he explains the soil. The seed falls on different grounds regardless. Perhaps we would target our limited resources to those areas that will bring the biggest impact or return, carrying out cost/benefit analyses to aid our decision making, but this is not how it is done in the Realm of Love.
The Good News is given and offered and invited to grow no matter the condition you are in, the culture is in, the land is in, or the church is in. It is universally given and generously offered by the divine sower.
(Source: Rev Nigel Robb, Church of Scotland)

Prayer of Approach
God of grace and love,
We rely on Your love
extended to us in all ways and at all times,
extravagantly and with generosity.
We live day by day
knowing that Your care and concern is poured out for us
in Your provision for our needs
and beyond our imagining.
You entrust us with the gift of the good news of the Gospel
and invite us to be partners in the sharing of the message of grace.
Day by day we realise the many gifts lavished upon us.
We come to You to acknowledge and praise You
for all Your goodness to us.
(Source: Rev Nigel Robb, Church of Scotland)

Prayer of approach
Because of Christ, we can slip easily into worship,
without apprehension or fear.
But that should not lessen our sense of wonder
in the presence of such an awesome Love.
We are not some cosy religious club
for nice, kindly, respectable people,
but a congregation of sinners who come
to present themselves for worship.
We are in the Presence of a sublime Holiness
that veils itself lest we be struck blind and dumb
by its ineffable glory.
Here is Love, yes, but what an awesome Lover is our God!
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

Summer or winter, seedtime or harvest,
my life is continually in your hand,
and I never forget your law of love.
In success or failure, health or sickness,
your word is a lamp for my feet
and a light upon my path.
By day or by night, at dawn or at dusk,
please accept, loving God,
the vows my mouth freely makes;
and teach me, Holy One, your ways.
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

Nothing is hidden from you O God
You know us better than we know ourselves
Even the mysteries of our deepest thoughts are clear to you.
Is there anywhere we can go where you are not?
You see us even when we can’t bear to be seen.
Loving God, enfold us and forgive us,
Lead us into your life everlasting. Amen.
(Source: Mary Ann Konigs)

Prayer of Approach
Holy Friend,
give us the sensitivity to know how great you are,
the wisdom to understand how complete you are,
the humility to accept how hidden you are,
the faith to trust how close you are,
and the love to adore how beautiful you are.
Through Christ Jesus
through whom you lavish on us light and life. Amen!
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

Merciful God,
We often appear to be choked by greed and selfishness
We indulge ourselves and ignore the needs of others.
We are quick to protect what we believe is our own
And forget to share the bounty You have so generously provided for us.
We have ignored the opportunities for bringing the love
You have shown to our neighbours and those in need
We are restricted in our spiritual growth by the power of selfishness and indulgence which take root in our lives.
We know we are in need of mercy, care and compassion
And seek Your message of forgiveness and restoration.
(Source: Rev Nigel Robb, Church of Scotland)

Confession and Assurance
We know for sure that we do not have to talk God into forgiving us. God knows our need before we ask, and has provided in the crucified Jesus a therapeutic love that can never be exhausted. In confession we get honest and ask the Spirit God to come in and put things right. Let us pray.
Loving God, Sower and Reaper of love,
we admit to you that we are like stony fields,
capable of growing goodness and sharing it around,
but also we allow goodness to wither and weeds to flourish.
Your mercy has taken root in us but we do not share enough of it with others,
your justice has grown on us but we have inadequately implemented it,
your truth has showered on us but we have let it run to waste,
your love has blossomed among us but we have been slow to set fruit
Most loving God, please open the furrows of our lives to receive again the seeds of your Gospel. Rain your mercy upon us, shine your warmth and light into every dark place, and bring forth in us not the harvest we deserve but the harvest that in your glorious love you have destined for us. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen!
Listen, to this Word:
“Where sin abounds love much more abounds”.
Receive from such abundance and give thanks. You, my sisters and brothers, are among the richest people in the world. You have the wealth of Christ with you always, even to the end of time.
Thanks be to God.
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

O God of grace and glory,
We give you thank for the rhythm of the seasons
and the constant provision for our needs in life.
We are grateful for the commitment of those who look after our quality of life, through food production, health care and civic security.
We are aware of the injustices and ill division of wealth in our world, and are mindful of the message of those who challenge our life style and comfortable way of living.
We know we do not deserve the mercy and love You have shown to us all, day by day, in countless ways.
May we treasure your Word and its message
and be more and more aware of our responsibility as disciples in gratitude to You for Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Source: Rev Nigel Robb, Church of Scotland)

God of compassion
We pray for the many who are oppressed
by crushing political and economic circumstances.
Those persecuted on grounds of faith or ethnicity
or background.
Families torn apart by age-old feuds, petty tensions,
ill-founded jealousies
and destructive attitudes
based on concepts of exclusion, privilege and prejudice.
The men and women
ground down by lack of food and opportunities of inclusion.
The children oppressed by discrimination and disadvantage,
lack of resources
and failures of education.
The downtrodden
and those seen as unable to make a positive contribution to the life of the world.
Empower, encourage and endorse
the disciples of Jesus
who try to address the needs of the isolated and lonely, often at enormous personal cost.
The concerned workers
who day by day bring food and shelter, care and compassion
to the hungry and the homeless.
The missionaries in the world of business and economics who try to overturn the status quo
and bring health and healing
in an environment alien to the Gospel.
Those who hear the world’s poorest cry out for justice and mercy and respond without question or analysis of impact.
The generous who see gifts always as opportunities for sharing their good fortune.
The intrepid who take food and water
to those who are ungrateful
and resistant to kindness and thoughtfulness.
The faithful, who day by day
take time to pray and listen attentively to the Word.
The fighters for justice
who have courage and conviction
and who try to change the mind-set of exclusion and condemnation.
Those unafraid of persecution,
personal disadvantage
and power in the world
and who dare to question and speak the truth when it would be much easier to keep silent.
The sick in mind, body and spirit,
the dying, and those who care for them, that they may always be aware
of the presence of Your spirit among them and in their daily lives.
Those for whom the proclamation of the Gospel is a privilege,
but not one without cost and personal sacrifice.
For all whose lives, however apparently insignificant
and lacking in prestige and power,
are attempting to be faithful to the Gospel, in Jesus’ name,
because they are confident in the inclusive love and mercy You have demonstrated in and through Jesus. In whose name we pray. Amen.
(Source: Rev Nigel Robb, Church of Scotland)

Prayers for others
It is written: If you do not love your brother whom you can see, you cannot claim to love God who is unseen. Let us pray for our sisters and brothers, the world over.
Today like every day there are people who are desperately hungry for a slice of bread or a handful of rice, and there are churches and agencies trying to bring them nourishment.
Loving God, please hear the cry of human need and bless those who attempting to answer it.
Today like everyday there are people falsely accused and wrong convicted, or imprisoned for religious and political conviction, and there are churches and agencies trying to set them free.
Loving God, please hear the cry of human need and bless those who attempting to answer it.
Today like every day there are serious injustices perpetuated in our Australian cities and rural communities, and there are churches and agencies trying to bring about changes.
Loving God, please hear the cry of human need and bless those who attempting to answer it.
Today like every day there are people accidentally killed and injured, or diseased and dying, shocked and weeping, and there are churches and agencies trying to ease their distress.
Loving God, please hear the cry of human need and bless those who attempting to answer it.
Today like every day there are many unemployed and unwanted, or addicted to alcohol and drugs, or in prostitution and crime, and there are churches and agencies trying to help them.
Loving God, please hear the cry of human need and bless those who attempting to answer it.
Today like every day there is hidden frustration and sorrow, loneliness and fear, mental torment and self hatred, and there are churches and agencies trying to bring relief.
Loving God, please hear the cry of human need and bless those who attempting to answer it.
O God our help in ages past, nothing in space or time can come between you and us; nor can we ever be lost, not even in the immensities of eternity.
In all and above all and through all, keep us close to and aware of the heartbeat of your almighty love.
Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

As we offer our gifts and lives in this moment,
may we become imitators of you, Gracious God,
who holds nothing back from us,
but is generous and gracious with all that is yours.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
(Source: Thom Schuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Your word, my feet
my feet walk in your light,
my path is marked by your word.
I have promised my life to you,
I follow your Way of Love.
Afflicted, I call to you for life,
you teach me to trust your word.
Receive my praise, Holy One,
teach me your Way of Love.
I want control over my life,
but return to your holy word.
Tempted by tyranny and wickedness,
I keep to your Way of Love.
I delight in my heart in all your teaching,
my heritage is found in your word.
My heart inclines towards your own,
to live forever your Way of Love.
(Source: Rev Dr Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

Responsive Prayer: Psalm 119:105-112
Your word is a lamp to my feet, Lord.
Your word is a light to my path.
Though the world around me tosses and tumbles,
I hold fast to you.
Though I have doubts and worries and I wonder,
I hold fast to you.
Though my heart hurts, my spirit aches, and I lose my way,
I hold fast to you.
Though I encounter wickedness and hate seemingly around every corner,
I hold fast to you.
Your stories and your songs, O Lord-
They comfort me.
Your will and your way, O Lord-
They nudge me along.
Your presence and your promise, O Lord-
They give me hope.
Your world is my heritage and my heart.
And I will turn toward you forever.
I will hold fast to you.
And I will sing praises to your name!
(Source: Rev. Erin Counihan, posted on RevGalBlogPals)

Responsive Prayer: Psalm 119:105-112
Your Living Word, loving God, is a lamp for my feet,
a light on the path where I must go.
In my confirmation I have made my vows to you,
to trust Christ and try always do your will.
When I’m under pressure and feeling ragged,
give me new life, loving God, as you have promised.
Accept the songs of praise which I offer, my God,
and teach me to fulfil your loving purposes.
You hold my life in your hands continually,
and I do not forget the love you have commanded.
On a side path, evil schemers have set a trap for me
but I have not strayed outside your guidelines.
It is the way of my Lord that is my eternal heritage,
it is the very joy of my heart’s desiring.
My heart yearns to fulfil all your wishes,
to follow nothing but you for ever.
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

Wayward Seed
You are so extravagant, God!
Throwing Your truth and grace out into the world
like a carefree farmer sowing life’s seeds
with no concern for where they may fall.
We are so grateful,
because we may never have heard Your word,
we may never have received your love
if it could only be found in the ‘proper’ places;
in neat rows of carefully tilled hearts,
in the securely-fenced fields of respectability.
So, we praise You that You sow wayward seed,
and that it found a place in our hearts
where life could grow and transform our barrenness into fruitfulness
our wilderness into garden. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The seed of your kingdom
The seed of Your kingdom is forever being sown
into our lives, our world, O God.
But it doesn’t always take root.
Sometimes it fails to find a place to grow.
And so we pray…
For ourselves and others when life makes us hard and resistant
like a well-trodden path
where old habits, old systems and old patterns of thinking
keep your message from growing;
For ourselves and others when we become so immersed
in the short-lived, shallow, rock-hiding soil of the moment
where Your life too easily gets blown away by the wind;
For ourselves and others when our fears, insecurities,
desires and self-absorption
tangle like thorns around Your grace
and choke it into silence;
For ourselves and others when Your truth brings out the best in us
and we grow fruitful in compassion and justice
in service and worship.
The seed of Your kingdom is forever being sown
into our lives and our world, O God;
May it find good soil, may it grow
and may it produce a harvest of life, peace, joy and love
in us and across the globe. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The parable of the parables
Barbara Brown Taylor says in “The Seeds of Heaven” that if the people were expecting to hear in depth theological discussion when they went to hear Jesus the day he told them the sower parable, they were disappointed because he told them stories from the everyday instead. In fact he offered them pieces of poetry and dream like pictures. Perhaps these are more likely to be picked up by the soul. So here’s a few of the 7 parables in this chapter of Matthew in limerick. I doubt Barbara Brown Taylor imagined them as this kind of verse but hey ho. Between each (there will be seeds being sown as a symbol throughout), verses from ‘For the World and all her people’ (Somos Pueblo que Camina, from Nicaragua* – We are people on a journey:pain is with us all the way) are sung. So here are some of the seven parables of Matthew 13 in poetry form ready for hearts to hear them. (Roddy Hamilton, Mucky Paws).
Trying to source the musicanyone have any leads?
For the world and all its people
we address our prayer to God
Confidently, all can worship
in the presence for the Lord

A farmer who went out to sow
sowed more than he could ever know
despite weeds and hard soil
and rocks and birds toil
his grain-sacks would soon overflow

There are some who never will hear
so listen if you have the ears
for these stories disclose
that the kingdom is close
and through them God’s way is made clear

All the powerless, all the hungry
are most precious to their God
Confidently, all can worship
in the presence for the Lord

There was a man who was not very enthralled
By his mustard seed which seemed very small
but it put down some roots
and grew up some shoots
until it was tallest of all

And a woman who never could bake
found flat bread was all she could make
but adding yeast and some know-how
raised the dough, and then somehow
she discovered the flour was awake

For the poor, God has a purpose
for the desperate, a word
Confidently, all can worship
in the presence for the Lord

There once was a man who sowed seed
and another who among them sowed weed
the seed became corn
and the weed became thorn
and the farmer knew not how to proceed

I’ll leave them to their own endeavour
But I’ll not leave them in there together
for when the season has turned
the weeds will be burned
but the grain will be stored up forever

Christ is here, and Christ is stronger
than the strength of sin or sword
Confidently, all can worship
in the presence for the Lord

Each parable is an everyday story
sometimes gentle and sometimes a bit hoary
but can transform how we live
and together we give
the world hope and God all the glory

But there are some who never will hear
so listen if you have the ears
for these stories disclose
that the kingdom is close
and through them God’s way is made clear

God will fill the earth with justice
when our will and his accord
Confidently, all can worship
in the presence for the Lord

(*Somos Pueblo que Camina is the processional song for the Eucharist from one of several Central American folk masses after Vatican 2. The opportunity for Central Americans to express themselves within Catholic Mass through their music was empowering. Years of political oppresssion for impoverished people gave way to hope for justice and liberation. This song describes who will attend ‘la cena del Senor’ and unites them as singers on a journey towards the table and therefore towards liberation. (Source: The changing world religion map, ed Stanley D. Brunn)

May God’s living
be sown within your soul.
May God’s life fill you with goodness and God’s love bear fruit
in you and those you meet.
And may you know fulfilment
in the growing,
in the gleaning,
in the gathering,
in the freshness,
in the flavour,
in the fullness,
in the trying,
in the taking,
in the tasting
of the life-giving Christ
today and always.
(Source: Alternative Material ©2014 Spill the Beans Resource Team)

Sending Out
May God be the light on your path,
the breeze on your back,
the music in your ears,
the song on your lips,
the curiosity in your mind,
the happiness in your heart,
and the peace in your spirit.
Go well.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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