Here is the link to the YouTube worship service:

https://youtu.be/hHlx71vDLao

 

A Sunday Guided Tour                            July 19, 2020 

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Sunday Guided Tour for July 19th.   This is the third summer Sunday of our services together as St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and Trinity United.  The pandemic is still with us, and it seems our lives are being severely shaken by the forces of conflict, and confusion.  

 

Just recently, I found myself thinking about canoeing with my dad (a faithful and respectful Christian man).  I would be in the bow; my dad was in the stern.  In wavy conditions, we’d turn into the wind and sit low in the canoe, with our knees resting on the floor.  We’d keep our centre-of-gravity low (as Dad would say), and then he’d tell me, “Let your hips move with the movement of the boat.  Ride with the motion.  We’re good.”  And the two of us would paddle at a steady rhythm with our hips unlocked and loosened .. 

 

I trusted that canoe.  (My brother and I had grown up with canoes.)  I trusted my dad in the back of that canoe.  And in all our summers of canoeing, wind or rain or chopping swells, we never tipped.  Not once.  I never felt as though we ever could.  I like to think of that these days.  That canoe is like our faith.  My dad in the back is like the One who’s always with us  -  our centre-of-gravity, bringing us safely through.

 

It is my hope that these Sunday Guided Tours contribute to your centre-of-gravity, and help to bring you through.

 

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

Loving God, we thank you for the promise of your presence with us always: loving us, and guiding us; knowing what we pray for; sharing in our laughter and our tears, and setting out before us pathways to the promised hope that we can live with you.  Hold the days of our confusion in the vessel that is faith, and help us know you as the steady centre that will bring us to a world of life abundant, and for all.  We pray in Jesus’ name, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

            

  Will Your Anchor Hold.  ​Hymn BoP #744 (VU #675)

1        Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?

          When the clouds unfold their wings of strife,

          when the strong tides lift and the cables strain,

          will your anchor drift or firm remain?

          We have an anchor that keeps the soul

          steadfast and sure while the billows roll,

          fastened to the rock which cannot move,

          grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love!

 

2        It will surely hold in the straits of fear,

          when the breakers tell that the reef is near;

          though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,

           not an angry wave shall our bark o'erflow.  R

 

3        When our eyes behold, through the gathering night,

          the city of gold, our harbour bright,

          we shall anchor fast by the heavenly shore,

          with the storms all past for evermore.  R

 

As I have said on other occasions, the purpose of our Sunday Guided Tours is, first, to give us the opportunity to delve a bit more deeply into the lectionary readings assigned for the day, and second, to encourage us to consider how the other readings inform and maybe deepen our understanding of the Sunday’s gospel reading.  All the Bible readings for today are posted on the churches’ websites. 

 

Today’s gospel reading follows immediately the gospel reading from last week.  That Sunday, we heard the parable of the sower.   This Sunday, we hear what is being called “the parable of the weeds”.  When I was growing up, it was called “the parable of the wheat and tares”.  That’s probably the better title.  In the parable, the wheat and the weeds seem to enjoy equal status.  The story requires both.  The lectionary readings that accompany the parable are: the story of Jacob’s dream, when he envisions a stairway to heaven; portions of Psalm 139 that speak of the unfailing presence of the God of life; and the  continuation of last week’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome, where today he speaks to us of the ultimate outcome of faithful endurance.

 

For this morning, then, let’s hear first the reading from the Gospel.  As we hear it, I ask that you please keep in mind what many biblical scholars identify as the markers of a genuine parable of Jesus.  These markers were highlighted last week as well, and they tell us that a “genuine” parable of Jesus:

    1.  not allegorical

    2.  not moralizing

    3.  include exaggeration

    4.  not interpreted by Jesus

 

As we prepare to hear the readings, I invite you to share with me a Prayer for Illumination.  Let us pray:

Gracious Holy Spirit, we pray you help us hear, with open hearts and minds, the words of scripture and of Gospel, that we may be strengthened both in spirit and in soul, and follow where you lead.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

[Rick:]

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43  (New International Version)

Parable of the wheat and weeds

24.     Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

25       But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.

26      When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27      “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the                 weeds come from?’

28       “An enemy did this,’ he replied.  “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29       “No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.

30      Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie                 them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

 

36      Then he left the crowd and went into the house.  His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable             of the weeds in the field.”

37       He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

38      The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.  The weeds are the people of the              evil one,

39      and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40.     “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

41       The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and                all who do evil.

42      They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43      Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears, let them hear.

 

On hearing the parable, and in light of the markers of which we have just been reminded, the parable in this passage doesn’t seem to qualify as a genuine parable of Jesus:

    1.  it’s allegorical 

    2.  it’s moralizing

    3.  it does not include exaggeration (although the farmers of Jesus’ time

          would never have allowed weeds to grow up with the wheat)

    4.  and it appears to have been interpreted by Jesus

 

This is not to say that the story should be discounted.  Not at all!  The parable is still a part of Gospel.  It comes from Matthew, whose life has been redeemed and given meaning in the Living Christ; and so we need to take it seriously, and what it says.

 

We’ll leave it for a moment, sing a song, and then explore the other readings for today to see how they inform our understanding of the Gospel.

 

Bringing In the Sheaves   Songs of the Gospel #52 

1         Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

          sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

          waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

          we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

          Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

          we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;

          bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

          we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

 

2        Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,

          fearing neither clouds nor winter's chilling breeze;

         by and by the harvest, and the labor ended,

         we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.  R

3        Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,

          tho' the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;

          when our weeping's over, He will bid us welcome,

          we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.  R

 

Bringing In the Sheaves  -  as old as this gospel song is, I actually think it provides a pretty solid interpretation of the parable.  But more about this a little later.

 

The reading for today from what is called the “Old Testament” in the Christian Bible, is the story of Jacob’s dream, where Jacob envisions a “stairway to heaven”.   Hear what the authors of the story have to tell us:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 28:10-19a  (Jewish Study Bible)

Jacob’s dream

10      Jacob left Beer-sheba and set out for Haran.

11       He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of               that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.

12       He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going             up and down on it.

13       And the Lord was standing beside him and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the

          God of Isaac: the land on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring.

14       Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the

          north and to the south.  All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.

15       Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not                  leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16       Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is present in this place—and I did not know it!”

17       Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the

          gateway to heaven.”

18      Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and  

          poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that site Bethel. 

 

This passage from Genesis records Jacob’s first direct encounter with God.  In his dream, Jacob has likely been inspired by his appreciation of Mesopotamian temple towers (ziggurats) which were equipped with ramps of the sort he envisioned, and atop of which the deity was thought to appear to communicate to his worshippers.  Jacob’s dream has been appropriated by the Christian tradition, and re-envisioned in a spiritual which is utterly familiar to so many.

 

Traditional Spiritual  We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

 

1         We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

          we are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

          we are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

          soldiers of the cross.

 

2        Ev'ry round goes higher, higher,

          ev'ry round goes higher, higher,

          ev'ry round goes higher, higher,

          soldiers of the cross.

 

3        Sinner, do you love my Jesus?

          sinner, do you love my Jesus?

          sinner, do you love my Jesus?

          soldiers of the cross.

 

4        If you love him, why not serve him?

          if you love him, why not serve him?

          if you love him, why not serve him?

          soldiers of the cross.

 

  The psalm today is Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 (and as I say, all the readings are posted on the churches’ websites).  The passage includes the words:  

 

7        [O Lord,] where can I go from your spirit?
          Or where can I flee from your presence?
8        If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
          if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9        If I take the wings of the morning
          and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10      even there your hand shall lead me,
          and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11       If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
          and the light around me become night,”
12       even the darkness is not dark to you;
          the night is as bright as the day,
          for darkness is as light to you.

 

We hear the words of the psalmist and we can be sure of the utter and absolute faithfulness of God, no matter where we find ourselves, or whatever our condition.  The psalm assures us of the faithfulness of God, no matter what.  In God, there is no condemnation.  In God, there is no separation.  And I believe there’s nothing more that we could ask for.

 

The reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans seems to be on script, as well.  It’s Romans 8:12-25.  When we read it first, it seems to be judgmental, condemning matters of the flesh, and rewarding matters of the spirit.  But I don’t believe that that’s at all the understanding we can have in light of what is Spirit and the Gospel.  I believe what Paul is saying is that we don’t have to surrender to the limitations of what he calls the “flesh”.  We don’t have to surrender to the things we think we know, or understand; the things which we assess to be the way things are.  To these things, Paul says NO.  

 

When we cry, “Abba! Father!” [says Paul] 16 it is the Spirit in person bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, recognizing that our suffering is with Christ, and so, with Christ, we will be glorified as well! 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 24 It’s in this hope that we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what they see? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

Paul tells us we have HOPE.  He assures us that our hope is real; that our hope is present with us and forever; that our hope’s embodied in the One we know as Christ, and in the Spirit.  The promise that is Paul’s is Jacob’s and the psalmist’s just the same.  Our hope is of the days to come, and the promise of our hope sustains us through the days that make our lives. 

 

Ministry of Music  -  My Lord, What a Morning

In his vision, Jacob sees a stairway to heaven; and in God’s angels going up and going down, this patriarch of the faith is assured of God’s living presence in our lives.  God’s living presence in our lives:  it’s the promise that is Jacob’s for each day he lives; it’s the promise that is Jacob’s for the life to come, regardless of the “sufferings of this present time”, as Paul would put it.  It’s the promise that is ours in faith today.

 

The psalmist says the same:  O Lord, where can I go from your spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.  If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.. 

 

The psalmist promises God’s presence every day, and every where  -  this very day, and every day to come .. for ever.  His promise is of every day “God with us,” even in the depths he knows as Sheol.  It is the promise that foreshadows   Emmanuel, God-with-us!  And when we hear it, when we know it as we’ve known before, or hoped for, it’s as though we’re stable once again in that canoe, safe, and with that sacred pilot with us as our centre.

 

And so, it’s with these thoughts in mind that we perhaps re-hear the parable that Matthew tells us of the wheat and weeds. 

 

Scholars tell us that it’s not a parable of Jesus because:

  •   it’s been interpreted as allegory: The one who sowed the good seed (we are told) is the Son of Man.  The field is    the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.  The weeds are the people of the evil one,      and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

  •    it’s moralizing:  The Son of Man will send out his angels, (we read in Matthew) and they will weed out of his          kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where      there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of
       their Father. 

Scholars tell us that it’s not a parable of Jesus because:

  •    there really is no exaggeration or hyperbole explicit, and

  •    there is interpretation accredited to Jesus

   

But what if we can say there still is Gospel in the story?  What if we can say the parable is Matthew’s, but born, out of his living faith and heartfelt calling to be a follower of Jesus and evangelist?  What if we can say the message is consistent with God’s absolute assurance, and God’s promise for the days through which we live, and for the days that are to come?

 

The wheat and weeds together are realities of life, and of our lives today.  The good seed is the good seed of the farmer  -  the good seed that is wheat and nurture and the source of life.  And the weeds are simply weeds  -  not “the people of the evil one”, but rather the growing things that threaten life  -  the things that diminish life and hold life in disdain  -  like prejudice and greed, ignorance, injustice, selfishness and hatred and division.  In faith, we are assured the grain and weeds will be harvested together.  At the last, they will be gathered all together; and the weeds, the things that diminish and cause death and separation; the things that separate and come between us, will be burned; and there will be gnashing of teeth by all those filled with hate.  The wheat and life and good will overcome; the weeds of death and life diminished will be undone. 

 

As in the readings we have heard before, the Gospel passage speaks the promise that is God; the promise that is God in Christ:  and that promise is our hope.

 

As we persevere, and as we tend, the life, the good that we embrace and that we honour, will prevail.  It takes hard work; it takes determination, dedication and commitment.  But without our ready and our faithful, deep commitment, we risk losing all our living faith proclaims:  that Christ has come that we, and not just we, but all the world, might have life, and have it in abundance; that, in the Spirit, God is with us, to walk with us and give us strength; that hope is stronger than despair; and in the name of Christ, we all can build a better world.

 

This is the promise of the Gospel;

it’s the promise of a small canoe on chopping swells, 

held and guided by the One who is our centre;

and we can say:

Thanks be to God!

 

  For the Healing of the Nations  (Hymn #678 verses 1, 2 and 4)

 

1        For the healing of the nations,

          God, we pray with one accord;

          for a just and equal sharing

          of the things that earth affords.

         To a life of love in action

          help us rise and pledge our word.

 

2        Lead us forward into freedom,

          from despair your world release;

          that, redeemed from war and hatred,

          all may come and go in peace.

          Show us how through care and goodness

          fear will die and hope increase.

 

4        You, Creator-God, have written

          your great name on humankind;

          for our growing in your likeness

          bring the life of Christ to mind;

          that, by our response and service,

          earth its destiny may find.

 

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  -  All the Way, My Saviour Leads Me. 
 

Bible Readings for July 19, 2020

Genesis 28:10-19a  (Jewish Study Bible)

Jacob’s dream

10     Jacob left Beer-sheba and set out for Haran.

11      He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of               that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.

12     He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going              up and down on it.

13      And the Lord was standing beside him and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the

         God of Isaac: the land on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring.

14      Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north            and to the south.  All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.

15      Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not                leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16     Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is present in this place—and I did not know it!”

17      Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway            to heaven.”

18     Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil          on the top of it. 19 He called that site Bethel.[a

 

Footnotes: that is House of God

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24   (New Revised Standard Version)

The promise of God’s presence

To the leader.  Of David.  A Psalm.

1    O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
      you discern my thoughts from far away.
3    You search out my path and my lying down,
      and are acquainted with all my ways.
4    Even before a word is on my tongue,
      O Lord, you know it completely.
5    You hem me in, behind and before,
      and lay your hand upon me.
6    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
      it is so high that I cannot attain it.

7    Where can I go from your spirit?
      Or where can I flee from your presence?
8    If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
       if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9    If I take the wings of the morning
       and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10    even there your hand shall lead me,
        and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
       and the light around me become night,”
12   even the darkness is not dark to you;
      the night is as bright as the day,
      for darkness is as light to you.

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my thoughts.
24  See if there is any wicked way in me,
      and lead me in the way everlasting.

Romans 8:12-25  (Revised Standard Version, alt.)

The promise of God’s hope

12   So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—

13   for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you            will live.

14   For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.

15    For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of kinship.                When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

16    it is the Spirit in person bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

17    and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Christ in order              that we may also be glorified with Christ.

18   I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed            to us.

19   For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God;

20   for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope;

21    because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the                    children of God.

22    We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;

23    and not only the creatio. n, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait

        for adoption as daughters and sons, the redemption of our bodies.

24    For in this hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what they see?

25    But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43  (New International Version)

Parable of the wheat and weeds

24   Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

25   But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.

26   When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27   "The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the                 weeds come from?’

28   “An enemy did this,’ he replied.

       “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29   “No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.

30   Let both grow together until t. he harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie            them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’

36   Then he left the crowd and went into the house.  His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable          of the weeds in the field.”

37   He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

38  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.  The weeds are the people of the         evil one,

39   and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40  “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

41   The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all        who do evil.

42   They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43   Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Morning Prayer        

                 

Loving God, we thank you for the strong assurance of your presence with us  -  a presence that encourages and strengthens, and sets before us pathways that bring hope and light and life amidst the darkness of despair and worry, and of possible surrender.  Help us never to surrender.  Help us never to give in to forces that are bullying and deadly, and dismissive of the value and the worth of every human life, and of all life around us.  Help us to remember Christian living isn’t passive, but enabled and enabling by the strong persuasion of the living Christ, who gave his life that we might live  -  for one another and your world.  We pray in Jesus’ name.

And Gracious God, we pray today with others, in Christ’s name.

We pray for insight and for responsible decisions, informed by knowledge and by science, as plans are made and executed to address the crises of our days.  Make leadership to lead by their example, and give to them commitment, and the creativity to effectively address the complexities of keeping safe while returning both to work and school.  We need to care for one another and ourselves while, at the same time, determine and decide the ways to be at work.  Dear Lord, deliver us, we pray, from hollow platitudes and meaningless and deadly political ascriptions, and bring to life the informed, intelligent and determined leadership we need.        We pray in Jesus’ name.

We pray the voices of stupidity and ignorance and ridiculous ideals might be seen for what they are, and readily dismissed.   Make us stand and challenge challenges to wearing masks; make us stand and challenge fools who live and shout in racist themes; help us recognize and challenge institutions that perpetuate racist deep perspectives; help us challenge and decry so silly an assertion that “singing is a biblical mandate”, when the Christ of God declares our first command is to love our neighbours as ourselves, and care for them, respect them, wear masks if masks must be, and keep them safe.  

 

We pray for the hungry and the homeless and the poor; for the unemployed, and underemployed; for those whose employment puts them at risk; for those whose employment is so precarious and day-to-day.  Help us all to see that those employees are like every one of us  -  first worthy of regard as men and women, fellow beings, children of the loving God,

 

We pray for those who mourn, and those who face the challenges of illness and bad health.  Help each person, one by one, know you close; know your healing, and your healing love; and bring them into peace and strong assurance, and total health in all that is your Spirit that surrounds them and dwells in them.

 

Dear Lord, we pray for peace.  And all in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca