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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for Ordinary 15 - Proper 10 - Year A
Romans 8:1-11, Psalm 119:105-112, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
"A Farmers's Parable: The Sower and The Seed"

READING: Romans 8:1-11, Psalm 119:105-112, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 SERMON : "A Farmers's Parable: The Sower and The Seed" Rev. Richard J. Fairchild a-or15sn.y-a 679 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. Sermon Sources: King Duncan "A Niche For Every Itch" Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 from Dynamic Preaching, July 1996 and William H. Willimon, "Holy Extravagance" in Pulpit Resource, Vol. 21, No.3. Year A, July, August, September 1993. Note that this sermon works in sequence with the one to come for next week. 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 The Lord who made us, made this day for us to rejoice and be glad in. P We are here to praise God's name and to call upon him in faith. L We can call upon the Lord in confidence for God is righteous and swift to answer those who trust in him. * HYMN: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" - VU 232 * PRAYER OF INVOCATION: Gracious and ever loving God - we thank you for this day that you have made - this holy Sabbath day in which you call us to rest ourselves in your presence and to rejoice with one another over your goodness and pray with one another for all the blessings that you have bestowed - and want to bestow - upon your people. Be present O God with us in this hour and help us to be present with you - we ask it in the name of Jesus - Amen. ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS Gathering in of prayer joys and concerns. PRAYER OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER Intercessions and Thanksgivings as gathered. * HYMN: "Now The Green Blade Rises" - VU 186 A READING FROM ROMANS 8:1-11 (NRSV) 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 you free from the law of sin and of death. {3} 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, {4} 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. {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 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, {8} and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. {9} 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. {10} But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. {11} 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. 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 119:105-112 (VU 841,Part 5) and Sung Refrain A READING FROM MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23 (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!" "Hear then the parable of the sower. {19} 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. {20} As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; {21} 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. {22} 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. {23} 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." 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: "A Farmers's Parable: The Sower and The Seed" "Gracious God - bless now the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. Breath your Spirit into us and grant that we may hear and in hearing be led in the way you want us to go. Amen. Have you noticed a growing trend in our society to classify people according to personality types - as if we are trying to find a niche for every itch? For example, in the world of advertising, there is a theory that divides people into different groups based on their supposed lifestyles. According to one theory of classification two of these groups are the "belongers" and the "achievers". Belongers are middle-class folks who want more than anything else to do the accepted thing. Therefore, to sell a product to people in this group an advertiser will stress that the product is the most popular product of its kind. That same pitch would not work with a group of achievers, however. Achievers, so the theory goes, are financially successful people who would not want to buy the most popular product. They only want to own things that most people can't afford. An example of how this particular theory is put into practice can be seen in advertising campaigns for the financial firm of Merrill Lynch, whose slogan is: "We're bullish on America." At one time, Merrill Lynch had a TV ad that showed a herd of bulls running about. Arnold Mitchell, the researcher who developed the theory that differentiates between belongers and achievers, argued that this herd image was all wrong for an ad designed to attract wealthy investors. "A herd is a belonger symbol," he said. "Rich people with money don't want to think of themselves as one of a herd. They want to think of themselves as achievers." If you have seen Merrill Lynch ads on TV, you know that the company has heeded Mitchell's advice. One ad showed a lone bull (an achiever) pushing its way through a herd of sheep (an achiever's view of belongers.) People are different. So are animals. According to NEWSWEEK magazine, at least one scientist is now attempting to classify cats according to personality. "Want to find out if little Fluffy will grow up to be a mouser or a lounger?" the article asks. A Cornell University researcher is developing a kitten personality test to match pets with prospective owners. The researcher hopes that this test will cut down on the number of cats returned to shelters because of incompatibility. The test categorizes kittens according to their reactions to 13 measures such as prolonged petting, new environments, moving pull toys and silhouettes of dogs. Pretty crazy stuff eh??? Nevertheless, as experiences surely does show us - there are differences among cats -- and among people. Jesus knew that people are different. Once he told a parable: "Listen!", he said, "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." Later, as we know from our reading of the gospel today, Jesus interpreted this parable for his disciples. Basically his interpretation tells us that different kinds of people respond to the gospel in different ways. Some do not understand the gospel - the pathway in their heart is too hard for the seed to bury itself and develop roots - so the seed is snatched away by the first critter that comes along. Some receive the word with joy - but the soil of their heart is too rocky - and so the word endures in their lives for only a short time - it never develops the roots that it needs to survive hard times - the times when it seems that faith might cost us something a bit more than simply saying "I believe" - that it might actually cost us our wholehearted trust. Still others, Jesus tells us, allow the living word to be choked out by the cares of this world, by the lure of wealth or power or prestige - or by their constant neglect of those things needful for growth - the pruning back of activities that crowd in upon the most important activities we can indulge in - the hearing of the word - prayer - and the fellowship of other believers. And then of course there is the good soil - the folk who hear the word and understand it, who indeed bear fruit and yield, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty. What kind of soil are you?? How do you respond to the seed that is cast into your life? The Reverend Jerry Anderson, a retired pastor in Tennessee, was an avid duck hunter as a young man. Every fall when the first cold front moved in from the north, he would take out his duck decoys, clean them up and put new anchors on them. When duck season opened, he was ready. He and his dad usually hunted mallards. Now, mallards are puddle ducks, according to Reverend Anderson. They paddle around in shallow water and feed on the marsh grasses growing there. They eat only what they can reach from the surface. Occasionally, though, he and his dad would see a redhead or canvasback slipping into their decoys. These are diving ducks. They dive to great depths to feed on plants growing on the bottom of the lake. Now, in some ways, Anderson says, Christians are like those ducks. Some are puddle ducks, satisfied with the nourishment they find in the shallows of the Christian life. Others are divers. They plunge deeply into the Word through study, reflection, and participation in the life and ministry of their church. The word yields a rich return in their lives. People are different. People respond to the Gospel in different ways. As a result some people suggest that the parable of the Sower - as this parable is traditionally titled, ought to be really titled - the Parable of the Seed. This suggestion is not that a bad an idea. It's not a bad idea because it focuses our attention on the question - what kind of soil are we? How is it that we respond to Word of God - and to the various Acts of God -in our lives? - Do we allow trials and tribulations of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us? Do we pull back when people harass us because we are believers? Do we decide that because things are not working out the way we think they ought - that God doesn't care for us - that He is powerless and weak - and not to be heeded. - Do we allow the cares of this world - our ambitions and our desires for success and happiness to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives and through the various people we encounter? - Or, to mix the metaphor a bit - do we dive to the depths of the word that we have received it might be fruitful in our lives? How we respond to the Word of God is key to how fruitful the gospel is going to be in our lives. And, unlike the situation in nature in which seed and various kinds of soil encounter each other, we do have control over how we receive and respond to the gospel message; we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are. We are not passive receivers of the Gospel - at least we don't have to be. We have power over how we respond to the Gospel. God has given us this tremendous freedom to either say "Yes" to Him or "No" to Him. And in saying either "Yes" or "No", God also has given us the freedom and the power to have hearts that are fruitful for him - or hearts in which the word is quickly snatched away or quickly withers and dies. When you think about it - there is a lot to be said for calling today's parable "The Parable of the Seed". Yet for centuries it has been known as the "Parable of The Sower" and I think I know why - I think it has been called the Parable of the Sower because this title focuses our attention on just what it is that God does and how gracious he is in it. You see there are many seeds that God casts into our lives - and all of them are meant to land in good soil and to produce abundant fruit. But, as any farmer knows, some seed is going to fall in places where it simply will not thrive. Knowing this, however, does not prevent the farmer from sowing seed - nor does it prevent him from praying for and expecting a good crop. When God deals with us - God deals with us even more generously than does the best farmer. God allows the seed to land on the hard paths and the rocky ground and in the thickets of our lives in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit - in the hope that those things which impede growth will be removed - in the hope that the soil might be just a little deeper than it at first appears to be in those rocky places. I know a couple just entering their middle age whose lives were, until recently, a total mess. He was a heavy drinker and abusive at times towards his wife and intolerant of his children. Religion to him - especially talk about Jesus - was stupid and to be avoided. She, in turn, was angry and bitter and had little good to say about her husband, her job, or her life. She had no hope and she let people know it. Neither of them seemed to be very good soil. The cares and the troubles of this world were heavy upon them. Their goals and ambitions - to be successful in business - to have children who achieved at school and in sports were all they cared about. To put the matter quite simply - their values and their lifestyle seemed to preclude any chance that they would ever be saved - any chance that the Word of God could enter their hearts and live. Yet God planted seed in their lives. They came to know that they needed help to save their marriage. And, one day, after a particularly ugly episode, they asked for help - from a pastor. And he told them that what they needed was Jesus in their lives. And that one seed - amongst all the others that had been cast their way over the years - took hold in a little bit of rich soil that existed amongst all the rocky ground and hard paths and thickets which composed their lives. I stand before you and tell you - that one seed has already yielded a hundredfold - and that other ground - that ground upon which all the other seed previously perished - it is even now being transformed. They have plunged to the depths of the word that they finally accepted - and in so doing their whole lives are being changed. Say Praise God!!!! Praise God for the miracle of growth and salvation he performs! Praise God for his healing love!. The Sower sows everywhere my friends knowing that when he does he will end up with an abundant harvest. God does discriminate between the good ground and the bad ground when he goes forth to sow. He accepts the fact that some of the seed will be snatched away, that some of it will grow quickly and then wither, that some of it will be strangled, and he sows anyway. And so we ought - So we ought to sow the word of God's love as generously as God sows. So we ought to trust that what we sow will, in the end, produce a harvest - - even when it appears that the there is little chance for it - even when it appears that every inch of ground is worthless. Today's parable is a farmer's parable it is a parable about a sower and about seed and what happens to it. It's message for us - is that there is hope for a harvest; it's message is that we should not discriminate in our sowing of God's seed, that while there are many kinds of people - and many kinds of soil - ultimately the seed that God sows, and the seed we cast in God's name will produce - some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Blessed be God, day by day. ---- Check out George Hartwell's Creative Closings - Ordinary 15 - Year A for a different prayer or meditation with which to conclude the sermon and/or lead into the prayer time below. PRAYER OF THE DAY Gracious God, your loving word has been sown extravagantly in our hearts and we thank you for it. We praise you for how it 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 sow - and for how in the end - when we are willing - 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 * MINUTE FOR MISSION: Our Life Together and In The World * 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. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999 - 2006 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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