Here is the link to the YouTube worship service:

https://youtu.be/1ZZTIHHM6CI

 

A Sunday Guided Tour                            July 12, 2020 

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Sunday Guided Tour for July 12th.   This is the second summer Sunday of our services together as St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and Trinity United, so we pray the Good News of the Gospel may be ours, and ours together, and shared by each of us as we live our days in faith.  And for a number of the Trinity church family, July the 12th is the Glorious 12th, and so we pray them well, and special, faithful wisdom on this day.  

 

Please join with me as we begin today’s service with prayer:

Loving God, we come together here in spirit and in friendship and in hope.  We might not see each other face-to-face, but we can know each other’s presence in the same way we know yours, and feel connected.  Bring us close and close to you in the prayers we pray, in the songs we hear and sing, in the words we hear that are your word, and in the imagination of our hearts where we hold as true and certain the Gospel promise that is yours.  Guide us and sustain us in your love, that we can bear a faithful witness in this world of hurt.  We pray in Jesus’ name, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

            

Stand Up and Bless the Lord        (Hymn BoP #411 Tune: VU#715)

1      Stand up and bless the Lord;

        God's people now rejoice;
        stand up and bless the Lord your God
        with heart and soul and voice.

2     Though high above all praise,
        above all blessing high,
        who would not fear God's holy name,
        and praise and magnify?

3      Oh for the living flame
        from God's own altar brought,
        to touch our lips, our minds inspire,
        and wing to heaven our thought.

4     God is our strength and song;
       now is salvation ours.
       God's love in Christ we now proclaim
       with all our ransomed powers.

5      Stand up and bless the Lord;
        the Lord your God adore;
       stand up and bless God's glorious name
       henceforth forevermore.

 

Before we begin our Guided Tour for today, I would like to address a significant omission from last week’s presentation.  Last Sunday, I referred to Julien Gingras as someone who exemplified a life of Christian grace.  Julien was a member of Trinity.  I should have named as well someone from St. Andrew’s, and as St. Andrew’s knows, I could easily have mentioned Hubert Freeman in the same sentence.  Hopefully, the mention of Hubert will add an increased understanding to what I was saying last week.  I apologize for not mentioning Hubert earlier.  He was a truly Christian gentleman.

 

And as we move from last week into this week, we recognize that today’s lectionary readings present us with an entirely new perspective and approach to what we might consider to be Gospel.  As we ponder them in depth, we can begin to see and understand how Jesus’ presence in the world makes all the difference in our lives.  Overall, I think the Bible readings for today not only assure us of God’s participation in our lives, but assure us that by seeking out and by embracing God’s direction, we will find our lives fulfilled, and filled with meaning.

 

As we prepare to hear the Bible readings for today, I invite you to share with me the Prayer for Illumination. 

Let us pray:

Gracious Holy Spirit, we pray that you surround us in your love and wisdom and your understanding, that we might know the promise that is love and life in Jesus Christ, our Lord.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Our first reading today comes to us from the Book of Genesis.  It tells us of the birth to Rebekah of her two sons, Jacob and Esau, who are twins.  There are several plays on words in the story, all of which I’m sure are designed to make it memorable, and easy to remember.  But it seems to me, the overall effect of the story is to highlight some realities of human being, which might not represent the highest of ideals in being human.   Amen

[Rick:]

Genesis 25:19-34   (Jewish Study Bible)

Birth and birthright

19     This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham.  Abraham begot Isaac.

20.   Isaac was forty years old when he took to wife Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister           of Laban the Aramean.

21    Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord responded to his plea, and         his wife Rebekah conceived.

22    But the children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so,  why do I exist?”  She went to inquire of the Lord,

23    and the Lord answered her,

        “Two nations are in your womb,
        two separate peoples shall issue from your body;
        one people shall be mightier than the other,
        and the older shall serve the younger.”

24    When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.

25    The first one emerged red, like a hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau.

26    Then his brother emerged, holding onto the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old                   when they were born. 

27    When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who                   stayed in camp.

28    Isaac favoured Esau, because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favoured Jacob.

29    Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished.

30    And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished” – which is why he was               named Edom.  

31    Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”

32    And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?”

33    But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”  So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.

34    Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he rose and went away.  Thus did Esau

        spurn the birthright.

 

Far Across the Burning Desert    (Hymn BoP #188 : VU#457)

1      Far across the burning desert
        Jacob fled a brother's wrath.
        Starless night obscured his vision;
        trackless sands his only path.
        Light, unseen within our darkness,
        shining where no eye can see:
        God of Jacob, silent searcher,
       seek us, when from you we flee.

2      Lonely, cheerless, none to comfort,
        Jacob's bed was barren ground.
        Worn by guilty flight and fearful,
        troubled sleep at length he found.
        Rest of every anxious wanderer,
        healer of the heart's distress:
        God of Jacob, friend of sinners,
        meet us in our wilderness.

3     Signs of God were nowhere present
        in that distant, alien place.
        Of the hand that once had led him,
        Jacob's eye could find no trace.
        Unseen hand whose hidden presence
        leads us by an unknown way:
        God of Jacob, help us trust you
        when in darkest night we pray.

 

As I say, the plays on words in the story are designed to make it memorable, and easy to remember.  “Esau” is a synonym for “Seir”, a play on the Hebrew “se‘ar”, meaning “hair”.  There is also a play on the descriptor “red” 

(“ ‘admoni) and “Edom”, another name for “Esau”, and the kingdom descended from him.  And “Jacob” is a play on the Hebrew “ ‘aqeb”, meaning “heel”, and derives as well from a folk etymology meaning “may God protect”.  But the real significance of this passage in relation to the other lectionary readings for today, rests in its disclosure of our foibles as being human.  The story acknowledges an all-too-human readiness to choose favourites, and negotiate for advantage over even our own brother.  “You want some food?” asks Jacob to his brother.  “Then sell me your birthright.”  A not too lauditory biblical scenario, I would think.  

 

And then the psalmist catches us up.

 

Every principle and value of the psalm we hear today is tested by the precepts of God’s law.  Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm, indeed the longest chapter in the Bible.  And the verses, verse-by-verse almost, include a reference to God’s law, the “Torah”. 

 

In Psalm 119, the Jewish Study Bible identifies eight main words used for “Torah”.  It’s amazing, really, how so many of these words are in every way congenial to the vocabulary we embrace as being “Christian”.  The words the Jewish Bible recognizes as references to “Torah” are:  word, law, commandment, rules, decree, precepts, teaching, way.  The Christian derivations that are highlighted in the rendition of the psalm posted on our websites include the designations ordinances, statutes, and promise.  In our Christian tradition, we speak of Jesus as the Word, the Way, the Torah at its ultimate, the Truth.  The point the psalmist makes (regardless of our faith tradition as Jewish or as Christian) is this: as we attend to the teachings of “Torah” -  the way, the promise, the precepts of the word  -  we will find life, and be alive, and be alive to one another.  (Psalm 119:105-112; posted on the websites)

 

We can appreciate and see the exact same message as it comes to us from Paul.  Our Epistle reading for today comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.  (Romans 8:1-11; posted on the websites)  

 

I ask that you please read both the versions posted on our websites.  The first is a translation from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (the translation in the pews of Trinity United).  The second is a translation from The Message, an interpretation of the Romans passage included in the life’s work of Eugene Peterson.  I think Peterson’s work is inspired.  It serves to explain the word of Paul through the Good News of the Gospel.  And what we’re being told, in essence, is that the law of God is life and love.  The law of God is invitation and absolute acceptance into life and love made whole in the presence and the person of Christ Jesus, Son and dear Companion, who comes to us a Saviour and a Friend.  

Please do read the two renditions of Paul’s letter to the Romans as provided on the church’s website.

 

“It stands to reason, doesn’t it,” interprets Peterson in his translation of the Bible, “that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?”

 

So maybe we can more fully and with great delight and with relief better understand the parable of Jesus that we hear today.

 

Ministry of Music  -  Just As I Am

 

As we begin to better understand the parable we hear today, we can ask:  What is a parable of Jesus?

And in answer, we can say:

    It is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels

And by way of parable, Jesus tells us of a sower and the seed.  The parable of the sower is included in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), and almost word-for-word.  (The different readings are all included in the Bible readings posted on our websites.)  The parable we hear today comes to us from Matthew, and this is what we hear:

 

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (New International Version)

The parable of the sower

1.     That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.

2      Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on

        the shore.

3      Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.

4      As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

5      Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.

6      But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

7      Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.

8      Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

9      Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 

[10   The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11     He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not

        to them.

12    Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have               will be taken from them.

13     This is why I speak to them in parables:

        “Though seeing, they do not see;
        though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14    In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

        “You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
        you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15     For this people’s heart has become calloused;
        they hardly hear with their ears,
        and they have closed their eyes.
        Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
        hear with their ears,
        understand with their hearts
        and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

16    But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

17    For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear           what you hear but did not hear it.]

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.”  

 

Footnotes: [a] Isaiah 6:9, 10 (see Septuagint)

 

God, Whose Almighty Word.  Hymn #313

1      God, whose almighty word

        chaos and darkness heard, and took their flight,

        hear us, we humbly pray, and where the gospel day

        sheds not its glorious ray, let there be light.

 

2      Jesus, who came to bring

        on your redeeming wing, healing and sight,

        health to the troubled mind, sight to the Spirit-blind,

        O now to humankind let there be light.

 

3      Spirit of truth and love,

        lifegiving, holy dove, speed forth your flight;

        move on the water's face, bearing the lamp of grace,

        and in earth's darkest place let there be light.

 

4      Blessed and holy three,

        glorious trinity, wisdom, love, might,

        boundless as ocean's tide rolling in fullest pride,

        through the world far and wide, let there be light.

 

 

Students of the Bible say several things, particularly, about the parables of Jesus:

        1.  not allegorical

        2.  not moralizing

        3.  include exaggeration

        4.  not interpreted by Jesus

 

So today we hear the parable of the sower.  And when we consider the other readings for today, we can maybe ask how does Jesus’ parable relate?  How do we interpret Jesus’ parable of the sower as it applies to our own lives?  And I believe that’s exactly what Jesus would want us to do.  Jesus would want us to apply the parable to the realities of the life that we experience in our day.

 

Students of the Bible tell us that the interpretation of the parable as recorded in the gospels is not from Jesus.  They tell us that Jesus himself did not provide interpretations of the parables he gave.  And when we look carefully at the actual interpretation of the parable in the different gospels, we realize that none of them is specifically assigned to Jesus.  The text of the New Testament, as recorded originally in Greek, contains no punctuation, so when we look at the words interpreting the meaning of the parable of the sower, we can permit ourselves to allow that the interpretation is the interpretation of the gospel-writer, and not necessarily of Jesus.  Jesus himself would want us to take his story, and apply it to our lives, and not have us lock a single meaning in for every single person and all time.  Of course, in the time of the early Church, Matthew would have his community of faith interpret the “seed” as the word, “the message about the kingdom”.   The designated psalm today would have given Matthew a clear warrant.  But I believe that Jesus never intended his parable to be that confined.  I believe that Jesus spoke his parable to all people, and all ages.  Of course it finds application to Matthew’s life, and to Mark’s and Luke’s as well.  But the life and love and living message that is Jesus must have application to our own lives too; and to Jacob and to Esau and their parents.  

 

The seed: the seed must surely be the essence that is life.  Without the seed, there is no life, and then no life to follow.  Of course the observation about the seed falling on the path and being carried off is true.  It’s part of the truth that is our life.  But maybe it’s got everything to do with systems that appropriate those lives that are among us, and assign them to destruction.  The seed on rocky ground might be considered life that has no chance; life that’s burned away by prejudice and ignorance and power; and the seed choked off by weeds is perhaps the life choked off and suffocated by the powers of the status quo; the powers that are completely irresponsive to the cries of lifelong injury and injustice.  And then there is the good soil: the soil receiving seed that’s life and love and everything that’s whole; the soil that is the heart and soul of people of goodwill and faith who, in their actions and response, make all the difference in the world.

 

But maybe, these interpretations and the ones that Matthew gives us are a bit too complicated.  Maybe, when all is said and done, Jesus wants us simply to observe the sower.  Jesus is speaking to an audience of fishermen and farmers, of tradesmen and of merchants and of shepherds.  They all would know the farmer’s lot.  And maybe Jesus is just asking them to see themselves.  He knows their work.  Jesus knows their work.  He knows the trials and hardships of their lives.  He knows sometimes the seed falls on the hardened paths, or on the rocks; he knows sometimes the grain is choked off as it grows.  But he knows the seeds the farmer sows fall on good soil too.  He trusts the farmer won’t give up. He trusts the sower will persevere and keep on walking; keep on sowing despite the obstacles and hardships.  He knows the farmer lives his life for good and for the ones he loves and for his community  -  who trust him to do his job and to continue in his labours and routine.  The sower is a part of life.  He’s part of their lives, and Jesus says, “I’m with you in your life and in your labours; and with me, your life will yield abundance:  thirty-, sixty-, or even one hundred-fold”  -  a huge exaggeration in a time when a bumper crop would be a crop four-fold or maybe five.  “See your life,” says Jesus.  “See yourself.  See how valued and how cherished you really are!     Know, with me, your life; and know it in abundance!”

 

The Gospel message is never one of judgment or demands or condemnation.  It’s always one of prayer and invitation and compassion: invitation into life and life made whole for all the world.   The gospel that is life and life made whole might have changed the attitudes of Esau and of Jacob, of Isaac and Rebekah; the gospel that is life and life made whole reflects the faithful affirmations of the psalmist; it’s captured in the free translation of Eugene Peterson who says: “It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?”; it’s captured in the words of Jesus’ parable when we hear:

   “Still other seed fell on good soil, 

    where, despite the hardships and intrusions of outside forces, 

    and the pain of rocky ground, 

    and the deep distractions of our living day-to-day, 

    the seed produced a crop—

    a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

    Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 

 

“I am with you,” Jesus says, “and with me is life abundant!”

 

This is the Good News of the Gospel;

this is the call to life and love and promise we embrace;

the call that, in its turn, embraces us.

And we say, “Thanks be to God!”

 

When Seed Falls on Good Soil.  Hymn #503

1      When seed falls on good soil,

         it's born through quiet toil;

        where soil receives, the earth conceives

        the blade, the stem, the fruit, the leaves.

        Good soil, O mother earth,

        the womb, where seed takes birth.

 

2      God's Word in Christ is seed;

        good soil its urgent need;

        for it must find in humankind

        the fertile soil in heart and mind.

        Good soil! A human field!

       A hundredfold to yield.

 

3     Plough up the trodden way,

        and clear the stone away;

        tear out the weed, and sow the seed.

        Prepare our hearts your Word to heed,

        that we good soil may be.

        Begin, O God, with me! 

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

(from “Walk Worthy”)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and the Risen Lord, Christ Jesus.

Go in peace.

Give your hearts to God.

Live always bearing fruit for him.

Be strengthened by his might 

to ever walk worthy of the Risen Lord.

Amen.

 

Postlude  -  God Who Gives to Life Its Goodness 

Bible Readings for July 12

Genesis 25:19-34 (Jewish Study Bible)

Birth and birthright

19 This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham.  Abraham begot Isaac. 20Isaac was forty years old when he took to wife Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord responded to his plea, and his wife Rebekah conceived. 22 But the children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so,  why do I exist?”  She went to inquire of the Lord, 23 and the Lord answered her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    two separate peoples shall issue from your body;
one people shall be mightier than the other,
    and the older shall serve the younger.”

24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first one emerged red, like a hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau. 26 Then his brother emerged, holding onto the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp. 28 Isaac favoured Esau, because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favoured Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished” – which is why he was named Edom.   31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”  So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he rose and went away.  Thus did Esau spurn the birthright.

 

Psalm 119:105-112 (Jewish Study Bible)

An homage to the guidance of God

105  Your word is a lamp to my feet,
        a light to my path.
106  I have firmly sworn
        to keep your just rules [ordinances].
107   I am very much afflicted;
        O Lord, preserve me in accordance with your word.
108  Accept, O Lord, my freewill offerings;
        teach me your rules [ordinances].
109  Though my life is always in danger,
        I do not neglect your teaching [your law].
110  Though the wicked have set a trap for me,
        I have not strayed from your precepts.
111    Your decrees are my eternal heritage;
         they are my heart’s delight.
112    I am resolved to follow your laws [your statutes]
         to the utmost forever.

 

Romans 8:1-11 (Revised Standard Version)

Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 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. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.

 

Romans 8:1-11 (The Message)

The solution is life on God’s terms

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved.  Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud.  A new power is in operation.  The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son.  He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant.  In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.  The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it.  And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life.  Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!  Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.  Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.  That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.  And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.  Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about.  But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms.  It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? 

 

When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life.  With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

 

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (New International Version)

The parable of the sower

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 

[10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:  “Though seeing, they do not see;  though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding;  you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused

they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.]

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.”

 

Footnotes: [a] Isaiah 6:9, 10 (see Septuagint)

 

Mark 4:1-20 (New International Version)

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake.  The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen!  A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil.  It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”  9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.  But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable?  How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 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. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

 

Footnotes: [a] Isaiah 6:9, 10

                    

Luke 8:5-15 (New International Version)

5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,  "though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root.  They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

Footnotes:[a] Isaiah 6:9

Morning Prayer 

                          

God of all, we thank you for the gracious, loving presence of your Spirit here among us, and within us, day-by-day and every moment of our lives, through all the moments of our lives, and then beyond.  We thank you that your Spirit finds us and that, in that same Spirit, we can find each other, and know ourselves in one another, and in you.  And we thank you for the parable of Jesus, who lifts us up to help us see ourselves and one another as who we really are and can be: as worthy and as cherished and beloved, with great capacity to empathize and understand and care for one another  -  reflecting all your sacred care for us in the One we know as Christ.  Gracious Saviour, help us know you near this very moment, and take us with you, all together, as you sow the ways of love and healing through the world.  We pray in Jesus’ name, for Jesus’ sake.

And gracious Saviour hear the prayers we join with those of others.  We pray for family, friend and neighbour, near and far, who bear the terrible burdens of pandemic  -  fear and separation, loneliness and helplessness and deprivation.  Help us all exert concerted effort now, and press to be considerate and cautious and credibly informed, so suffering now, together, we can share recovery and restoration fully, in the truly shortest time.   We pray for our friends and our good neighbours to the south, who suffer so a chaos born of ignorance and arrogance and utterly misguided selfish interest.  We pray that leadership of character and courage and compassion might well up in different places across the land and educe a common voice for planning that is effective and progressive and productive.  We pray in Jesus’ name.

 

We join our prayers with those who pray for justice and equality and positive regard for every fellow being.  We pray the forces that are prejudice and ignorance might be undermined by integrity and honesty and unselfish, deep commitment.  We pray for our leadership here at home, that the good that has been found in common cause might be sustained; that dialogue, rather than debate, might more regularly be the order of the day; that a bad decision in one area might not completely undermine good decisions in an array of others; that responses to concerns about policing might be progressive and creative, well-informed, and effective; that the process of decision-making might be opened to a healthy variety of eyes and ears and voices that truly have a place.  And gracious Saviour, we join our prayers today with all who pray for comfort and encouragement and strength; for understanding and for healing; for health and deep relief; for family and ones so deeply loved, or deeply missed; for shelter and for food, and for a job that satisfies and honours, and elicits mutual respect.  Gracious Saviour, hear our prayers, and guide us in your answer.  Dear Lord, we pray for peace.  And all in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca