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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 15 - Year A
I Corinthians 2:1-16, Psalm 65, Matthew 13:1-9
"Precious Seed" - by Charlene Elizabeth Fairchild

READING: I Corinthians 2:1-16, Psalm 65, Matthew 13:1-9 SERMON : "Precious Seed" a-or15cef-su.y-a The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United". SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC. Charlene Elizabeth Fairchild wrote the following sermon in 1999, her first in some fifteen years, though she has done many Bible Studies and Devotions in the intervening time. The background music is "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know" which is one of the "refrains" within the sermon. Sermon Sources: Marty Ruggles in a devotional from the Cathedral of Hope Covenant Keepers daily devotional, July 8, 1999; Stephen Porter, PCRL Digest, July 7, 1999; William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2; Ben "Benchuck" Manning, PCRL Digest, July 7, 1999. GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE (* = please stand) * WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP L The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. P And also with you. L Come, let us worship the Lord our God! ............... Silence .............. L We come, O God, with hungry hearts, hungry minds and hungry spirits.. P Help us to quiet ourselves, to be still and know that you are our God, the great King over all the earth. L We come, O God, to praise and to pray; to speak and to listen. P To offer ourselves and our gifts to you, O Most High. L May our hearts rejoice in you this day. * HYMN: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" - VU 232 * PRAYER OF INVOCATION: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name; through Christ our Lord. - Amen. ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS Announcements Birthdays: Today - Alexander Gaetz; 14th Rose Collins Anniversaries - Last week - Salena & Marcel Gathering in of prayer joys and concerns. PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER -- Intercessions and Thanksgivings as gathered. Sick: Grief: Travel: Regular Concerns: - the homeless - peace in Jerusalem Other: Joys: through Christ Jesus our Lord, who taught us how to pray, saying... OUR FATHER * HYMN: "Now The Green Blade Rises" - VU 186 A READING FROM 1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-16 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. L This is the Word of the Lord P Thanks be to God. CHILDREN'S TIME: God's Tool Kit Object Tool Box with various tools in it. Theme: God gives us all we need to do his work. Source: Charlene Fairchild Base concept. Show forth a tool box and various items in it. Talk about how useful each is. Transition to if God had a tool box in which he kept the tools he needed to do his work, what would he put into it? (Invite responses) Conclude: We are God's tools. He uses us to do his work. The love, the patience, the creativity, the forgiveness, he gives to us we are meant to use within the world. * HYMN: "This is The Day" - VU 412 RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 65 (VU 782) We will skip the refrain today. A READING FROM MATTHEW 13:1-9 (NRSV) That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. {2} Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. {3} And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. {4} And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. {5} 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. {6} But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. {7} Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. {8} Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. {9} Let anyone with ears listen!" L This is the gospel of our Risen Lord. P Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. * HYMN: "Ask Me What Great Thing I Know" - VU 338 SERMON: "Precious Seed" Gracious God - bless the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts this morning that they may be of profit to us and acceptable to you. Breathe your Spirit into us and grant that we may hear what you would have us hear and, in hearing, be led to walk in the way you want us to go. Amen. Jesus did a lot of his teaching using parables. A parable is a particular story-telling method that is filled with mystery and open to a variety of interpretations much like a crystal has many facets. Each facet is part of the whole crystal. So, too, each interpretation is part of the whole story. The very purpose of a parable is to reveal some things while concealing others. At the very moment we read a parable and say, "Now, I've got it," is the moment we've lost it again. Today's gospel reading is one example of Jesus' use of parables, commonly called The Parable of the Sower. This parable is, each time it is read, a mystery. Each time a new truth emerges, a new facet. A sower went out to sow. Several weeks ago I woke up one day with a line of a hymn running around in my head. It wouldn't go away. It was persistent in my consciousness. Has that ever happened to you? Then, you'll understand. It was so persistent, in fact, that I had to pay attention to it. Where did it come from? What hymn? Why was it running around in my mind? As it turned out, it was a hymn in our Voices United hymnal and I had sung it recently. It is an old hymn written about the year 1741 by a powerful German preacher and hymn writer by the name of Johann Christoph Schwedler. The text of the hymn is based on Chapter 2, Verse 2 of the Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians this morning: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" and on Galatians 6:14 ""May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." The line of the hymn is also its title: "Ask me what great thing I know." Ask me what great thing I know. The answer, given in the hymn, is "Jesus Christ the crucified." But the persistence of the line of the hymn wouldn't let me off the hook so easy. What "great thing" did I know? I have wrestled with this question now for weeks. Each day there is some new aspect added on to my understanding of the answer. The memorial acclamation of our faith that we make at Holy Communion, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again" was one understanding that came. I began to see the answer to the question implied in, "Ask me what great thing I know," as the Gospel, the Good News in a nutshell, in a seed, if you will. The words are still running around in my head; I think they always will be. So, what has this to do with The Parable of the Sower? Good question. There are many ways of entering in ourselves to the story of the Parable. We could read the story and see ourselves as the seed or the sower or the ground sowed. Each way to look at the story is of profit. The sower went out to sow. The sower sowed seeds; seeds which were not created by any human being, so we that can garner no credit for the mystery that lies within the seed. The seed was spread upon soil which, again, no human being has created. We cannot say, "I have made the soil good" or "it's my fault the soil is hard or thorny." Today I want to look at the story from the aspect of us being bearers of the seed, carriers of the seed, sowers. But, even more I want to suggest that the seed and the ground sown are important aspects of this story. Jesus throughout his teaching and preaching career keeps talking about the Kingdom of God, about God's reign, about repentance, about the Good News. I suggest to you today that the seed contains the potential, in all its fullness, of the Good News come amongst us; the Good News of the Kingdom of God still to come. The Good News of freedom and release from bondage, of hope and love in a world desperately in need of the same, of restoration of relationship, of communion and fellowship with God and with each other. The Good News - as a response to "Ask me what great thing I know." The other day I read what one gentleman said when he was asked to share what he had learned. His name was Sir James Simpson. He was a Scottish doctor in the nineteenth century who was also a courageous scientific pioneer. In fact, his own experiments cost him his life. In those days he had to use himself to experiment on. He was in pursuit of a chemical that physicians could use that would render their patients unconscious during surgery without jeopardizing their recovery. Eventually one of his experiments poisoned him and he died. However, not before he had discovered chloroform, which saved millions of people untold suffering, until something better could be found. Shortly before his death Sir James was asked what he thought his greatest discovery had been. Now remember that this man had been knighted by Queen Victoria, been elected President of the Edinburgh Royal College of Physicians, and had been said by many to be the greatest physician of his time. In his research he had made many important discoveries. However, when asked, without a moment's hesitation he answered, "My greatest discovery in this life has been that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour." Wow! Ask Sir James Simpson what great thing he knew. Despite everything that he did; despite all of his great achievements - Sir James recognized that nothing he could achieve or own could outshine what God had done for him. The greatest thing he knew was the Good News, the seed of the Parable of the Sower. We carry seeds around with us; we are bearers of seed, bearers of Good News. There is ground to be sown all around us. Now, the ground to be sown might not look so healthy to us. Lots of weeds over here, thin rocky soil over there. Surely, we're not meant to plant in such barren spots? But that is not the way of God. God is magnanimous, generous, profligate, prodigal, abundant in His sowing. Just picture in your mind the millions of tiny parachutes floating on the air each dandelion season; the never- ending puffballs of seed from the cottonwood drifting on the slightest breeze; the hundreds and hundreds of maple keys strewn about everywhere. Wildly extravagant is our God. God doesn't quit. Neither should we. God has given us seeds to sow. Paul, in First Corinthians says that some sow, others water but God gives the increase. God provides the harvest. Remember that the next time you see a determined dandelion break through a crack in the asphalt to fulfill its destiny. We are not to choose only the fertile ground. Ask me what great thing I know. I know this. We are, bearing the precious treasure of the seed, to sow like God, generously, haphazardly, everywhere. It is not always easy to do what is required. We get discouraged. We get judgmental. We get tired and weary from depending on our own strength, our own wisdom. We begin to see hard, thorny ground everywhere. We begin to believe it worthless, pointless to keep on sowing the seeds. We never see any increase. What's the use? Just what is the hard ground in our lives? Is it the person we've known since forever who, no way, no how, is ever going to change? Is it those kids lingering and lounging on the corner, their mouths filled with foul language? Is it our neighbour? Is it someone in our family? Or, is it us, hard of heart and afraid to change? What is the hard ground in our life as a church community? Is it, "we've always done it this way" or "we tried that once before and it didn't work" or "they only come to church about once a year" or "we're too small, we don't have any money to build, we're always broke"or a dozen other pieces of hard ground that we've gotten tired of throwing seed at. Discouraged because we see no discernable results; thinking that maybe it's our job to get results. The hardest thing to learn is that the results are not up to us. They are up to God. We're just supposed to be obedient to the great commission, to go out and keep sowing, keep broadcasting the seed. We may never know what growth is taking place. H. L. Gee tells this story. In the church where he worshipped there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. He had outlived all his friends and hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, Gee had the feeling that there would be no one to go to the funeral so he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place. There was no one else and it was a wild, wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery; and at the gate there was a soldier waiting. He was an officer, but on his raincoat there were no rank badges. The soldier came to the graveside for the ceremony; when it was over he stepped forward and before the open grave swept his hand to a salute that might have been given to a king. H. L. Gee walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier's raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier. The brigadier said to Gee: "You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday School teacher; I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end." Thomas did not know what he was doing. No preacher or teacher ever does. It is our task to sow the seed, and to leave the rest to God. People respond to the Good News in different ways. The ground represents the different ways that people receive the message of the Gospel. The Good News is that God loved us enough to give his Son to die for us. But each of us reacts differently at different times to this call of love. The seeds represent the message of the Gospel, the message that God loves us, the message of faith and hope, the message that, when we least deserved it, least expected it, our Heavenly Father gave us a saviour. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He (sowed) His only begotten (seed) that whosoever (the world/the Body of Christ/the Church/you & me) believes in Him shall have eternal life. It really is that simple. Ask me what great thing I know. We have this very great treasure, this Good News, these seeds, to carry to the world, the whole world. All we have to do is keep sowing them, broadcasting them lavishly, extravagantly. Each one of us is to take that flask of precious ointment, the seed of the Good News, and break it open and anoint the world, the whole wide world, everyone, with the fragrance of the Good News. Blessed be our God this day and forever! PRAYER OF THE DAY Gracious God, your loving word has been sown extravagantly in our hearts and in our lives and we thank you for it. We praise you for how the seed lies within us - waiting for the right moment, the right conditions, to sprout, to grow, to burst forth into bloom. We thank you for how - even when the ground seems to others to not be good - you continue to call us to sow - and for how in the end - when your time comes - the yield is rich. We pray O God that we might be willing - willing to let you have your way - willing to grow - willing to produce further seed and to sow it in the lives of others.... Lord, hear our prayer... Bless we pray today, O God, those we know whose hearts are like hardened paths - those who travel in rocky places and places where the cares of this world press hard upon them. Be with those we know who are afflicted by illness - by despair - by lack of hope - or by any of the attitudes that lead to death instead of to life. Bring your healing touch to them, your life-giving word, and your saving love and help them to accept these gifts that you offer. Lord hear our prayer... We thank you O Lord for this time together and for the strength and the joy and the peace that you grant. We praise your name and rejoice in your presence - through Christ Jesus our Brother, our Lord, and our Friend. Amen * HYMN "In The Bulb There Is A Flower" - VU 703 * SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of Dedication O God - bless these tithes and offerings and use them and us in your service that this church might be a light leading the way to you and the salvation you offer freely to all. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen * DEPARTING HYMN: "I Am The Light Of The World" - VU 87 * COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of Christ. * BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ; - and may the love of God fill you, - the wisdom of God guide you, - and the strength of God support you both now and forevermore. Amen * THREEFOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace" - VU 964 copyright - Rev. Richard J. and Charlene E. Fairchild 1999, 2002, 2005 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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