Sunday, 13 July 2014

Can't make it to church? (July 13)

Today we have a bit of a farming theme going on (which is off as I'm at the Parish church doing 'Sea Sunday' - but more about that later) and it features one of my favourite Gospel passages and a shoe in for a song we used to sing almost every week in my University's Christian Union (so I have to include that - don't I?).

We have two parts which collide as one today for the second comes from the Apostle Paul  (a top geezer as they say in my concordance  - although it is in my handwriting!) who finishes the theme nicely for us.

Farming Today?
No, not the programme that follows the shipping forecast and prayer for the day at 05:45 every morning (which I can recommend) but a great parable which parallels the journey to faith with someone sowing seeds in a field. Some seeds fall on barren ground with no result whilst other seed takes root and yet because there is little to sustain it (perhaps because of shallowness - but that wouldn't be a popular thought, would it?)  they start off looking healthy but soon wither and die.

Others come to faith and yet that which is around them causes the promise of growth to be short-lived as situation and circumstance conspire to choke the faith life from them (this has often been because of sin (doing wrong stuff) in the lives of those around them and in the (wrong) choices they have chosen to make. I have had a few conversations of later relating to people who want to consider themselves Christian but also want to engage in stuff that denies that stated desire - this is where those people (sadly) sit :-(

Saving the best until last we have those people who hear the word and flourish and grow and grow and scatter seeds themselves and see others come to faith. The are fed and watered by the sun and rain and the good stuff in the ground and are obedient to God's word. Seems to me that there's just a bit of a hint today about choices and circumstance.

Many years ago I hooked up electronically with a chap who was totally paralysed save for the ability to move his head. We communicated by electronic bulletin boards (ah, Compuserve and JANET - computing of days gone by confirming that I'm getting old) and I would never have know about his challenges had it not been for an article in the Times about him. This man put aside obstacles and lived a full and fulfilling life.

Today the opportunity is there for us all to do exactly the same. Those of us who claim to live for God and who bear the name 'Christian' have the ability to overcome (something Paul says elsewhere in the same book) and we have the choice today:

Set our minds on the flesh or the things of the Spirit - to be hostile to God or to experience the life and peace that comes through salvation, won for us by Jesus the Christ, and by the enabling and indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

Plenty or famine?

for the reality is that we have the choice - what choices will we make today - what harvest are we sowing for in our lives and the lives around us?

Father, in all we do there are choices to be made, regardless of health, wealth and situation.
Things we can see; things we can be and obstacles we can conquer.
We pray for those who have hurt and damaged us,

For the things in our lives, in our bodies, in our minds.
Help us to choose peace and live and to live in that peace and live with all around us, and within us.
We ask this in, and through, Jesus Christ our Saviour and healer. Amen.

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.

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.

Matthew 13.1-9,18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 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.’

Gracious Father,
by the obedience of Jesus you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will, that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Post Communion
Eternal God, comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken, you have fed us at the table of life and hope: teach us the ways of gentleness and peace, that all the world may acknowledge the kingdom of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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