Service – Sunday 19th July

Organ Sonata No 2 Opus 87a: Coda by Edward Elgar
Click here to play the music

Call to Worship from Psalm 95

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

StF 481 – Hymn – The Lord’s my Shepherd (Townend)
from a recording of Stuart Townend live.
Click here to play the music (includes introduction)

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
he makes me lie in pastures green,
he leads me by the still, still waters,
his goodness restores my soul.
And I will trust in you alone,
and I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.

He guides my ways in righteousness,
and he anoints my head with oil;
and my cup — it overflows with joy,
I feast on his pure delights.
And I will trust in you alone,
and I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.

And though I walk the darkest path —
I will not fear the evil one,
for you are with me, and your rod and staff
are the comfort I need to know.
And I will trust in you alone,
and I will trust in you alone,
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home.

Let us pray together
Creator God, we gather in the knowledge and vision of your love.

In the Risen Christ, Jesus’ disciples were filled with new hope and they saw that you called them to speak your message of renewal, commitment, forgiveness and freedom. We thank you that you have called us to share that hope, even in the uncertainty that we often feel.

You dwell with us, your love enfolds us and we find peace in your presence.

We thank you that Jesus brings new insights into the world and that through his life, death and resurrection you continue to speak with us today. Jesus reached out his hands in healing, in friendship and in blessing; may we do the same in his name today.

We thank you that you continue to reach out into the life of the world; that in our deepest uncertainty you bring the certainty of your love; in the place of deepest darkness you bring your light and into our lives you bring your forgiveness.

Creator God, we pray that you continue to inform our compassion, be our vision and bring light, hope and peace to us and to all the world.
Amen

O God, patient and forgiving,
you alone know the goodness of what you have made.

Strengthen our spirit when we are too cautious
and temper our zeal when we are rash,
that in your own good time
you may produce in us a rich harvest
from the seed you have sown and tended.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Amen

Confession
Holy and gracious God,
At times we feel so frail and fragile, getting blown about by the latest crisis, by bad news, by our own short tempers and failings. You call us to hold fast to what is good, but so often we flounder, unable to find that solid thing that will centre us again. Help us, we pray. Help us to see you as our centre, and to cling to the good that you create in the world. Help us to set aside all our jealousies and prejudices, all of our betrayals and lies, all that adds to the world’s hurt. Help us to grow even more into Christ’s likeness, that we will bear his love and truth to the world.
We pray in his name. Amen

Assurance of Forgiveness
Friends. Sisters, brothers: hear this good news and see the grace of God:
You are forgiven. You are free to go and live in the light of love.
Thanks be to God. Amen

Reading
Matthew 13 v 24 to 30 & 36 to 43

StF 469 – Hymn – I watch the sunrise
Click here to play the music (includes introduction)

I watch the sunrise lighting the sky,
casting its shadows near.
And on this morning bright though it be,
I feel those shadows near me.
But you are always close to me
following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
following all your ways, Lord.

I watch the sunlight shine through the clouds,
warming the earth below.
And at the mid-day life seems to say:
‘I feel your brightness near me.’
But you are always close to me
following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
following all your ways, Lord.

I watch the sunset fading away,
lighting the clouds with sleep.
And as the evening closes its eyes
I feel your presence near me.
But you are always close to me
following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
following all your ways, Lord.

I watch the moonlight guarding the night,
waiting till morning comes.
The air is silent, earth is at rest —
only your peace is near me.
Yes, you are always close to me
following all my ways.
May I be always close to you
following all your ways, Lord.

John Glynn

Address
Click here to listen to the Address presented by Rev Mark Barrett

You know there are times when you want to say ‘Just give it a rest’? Well that is where I nearly am with the Lord, another parable about gardening. I think the Lord is really picking on me now. I feel judged about my lack of horticultural skills.

The parable is about us and judgement. Not the judgement we will face, but the judgement we can make of others.

We are frail and foolish at times. We can be led by outward appearances, by our own conscious and even unconscious bias. We can believe that we are so right that others are so wrong.

This parable helps us to address the issue of our own views of others and others lives.

The place to start is that any weeding that is to be done is not our job, but God’s, we are not the gardener. Leave the gardening to God and get on with growing.

Just as example.

Sadio Mane, a Senegalese footballer who plays for Liverpool. He earns £150,000 a week or £7.8m. With all that money, how would he be judged. Weed or wheat? Last year he was spotted carrying an iPhone with a cracked screen and he was asked why he had not bought a new one. He said this:

“Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches and two jet planes? What would that do for the world? I starved, I worked in the fields, I played barefoot, and I didn’t go to school. Now I can help people. I prefer to build schools and give poor people food or clothing. I have built schools [and] a stadium; we provide clothes, shoes, and food for people in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 euros per month to all people from a very poor Senegalese region in order to contribute to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips, and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me.”

Remember God to Samuel as I mentioned last week. We look at the outside but God looks at the heart.

You see there is the likelihood of us being completely mistaken. The weed described in the story is a common grass that looks a lot like wheat. The good wheat and the weed are often difficult to distinguish from one another. And given that we are all something of a mixture of each, no wonder.

We are all a bit wheat and a bit weed aren’t we. Those words of Paul in Romans about wanting to do the good yet still being drawn to the bad, echo in our ears and our lives. We need to do some gardening of ourselves. We need to sort our weeds from our wheat and it is there and only there that we can safely weed. I saw a piece on Facebook recently that said ‘Do not condemn me because my sin is different from yours.’ We do not know people until we know them and even then we are in no position to know well enough to judge. Only God knows.

If not careful, if not humble, if not aware of our own failings we can become over-zealous. Our attempts to weed out the problem people or problem things will actually uproot and harm the innocent. Our attempts to destroy evil in our midst become an evil in and of themselves.

Jesus knew about the impact of good and evil which was to find its full force as he walked the way of the cross. He knew about human nature. He knew that goodness, truth and justice are in the world but oppression, injustice and conflict are there also. Just like the plant and the weeds which grow together in this parable, so the complexity of human experience both good and bad exist alongside one another.

The crop and the weeds grow together as do good and evil and so does opportunity and oppression, hope and despair, light and darkness. It is only when the harvest is brought in that the weeds and the crop can be separated.

This is a parable of the hope of the Kingdom which means that forgiveness is always offered and when accepted can have a transformational impact on the way that life can be lived and hope is shared.

There is an amazing little thing in this passage that we don’t often notice unless we can read it in Greek. It is the Greek word at the start of the farmer’s instruction: “Let the wheat and the weeds grow together.” It is that word “let” or “permit” or “allow”.

The same Greek word also means “forgive”.

This is not just a passive ignoring of the problem. It is an active naming and forgiving of it. We are not called to pretend that the wheat and the weeds are no different. We are not called to refrain from calling for repentance and change. We are called to refrain from attacking what we think might be weeds and most importantly we are called to actively forgive. That may mean that we suffer the ongoing presence of those whose attitudes or actions seem to threaten our comfort or wellbeing. We are being told that the means to purge the community of malice and pettiness and nastiness is not through the violence of weeding, but through the grace of courageous forgiving and accepting.

What looks like a weed may just be an immature wheat stalk, and even if it is a weed, you’ll probably kill or wound a couple of good wheat stalks in your attempts to pull it out. Forgive.

It may be that our only experience of evil or of violence is in suffering it, but surely that is better, that is more Christ-like than inflicting it?

Let’s allow the weeds and the wheat to grow together until the harvest, and when the harvest comes, we may find that we have a whole lot more wheat and a whole lot less weeds than we thought.

StF 654 – Hymn – The love of God
Click here to play the music (includes introduction)

The love of God comes close
where stands an open door
to let the stranger in,
to mingle rich and poor.
The love of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk his way.

The peace of God comes close
to those caught in the storm,
foregoing lives of ease
to ease the lives forlorn.
The peace of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk his way.

The joy of God comes close
where faith encounters fears,
where heights and depths of life
are found through smiles and tears.
The joy of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk his way.

The grace of God comes close
to those whose grace is spent,
when hearts are tired or sore
and hope is bruised and bent.
The grace of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk his way.

The Son of God comes close
where people praise his name,
where bread and wine are blest
and shared as when he came.
The Son of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk his way.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Intercessions
We pray for the world around us;
for the environment;
for peace where there is conflict;
for racial and social justice to be seen throughout the world.

We pray for our communities; for those who are shielding;
for those who are fearful,
for those working for the good of others in many different ways in our community.

We pray for all who work in the NHS and for all key workers and those on whom we rely.

We pray for our church community as we seek new ways of fulfilling our calling as the Church in these times.

We pray for our families, friends, and neighbours.

We pray for those who are ill and for those who are struggling financially or emotionally at this time. We pray for those who are grieving as we remember those who have died.

In the stillness we take a moment we bring our prayers to God…

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
Now and for ever.
Amen.

StF 674 – Hymn – Would I have answered
Click here to play the music (includes introduction)

Would I have answered when you called,
‘Come, follow, follow me!’?
Would I at once have left behind
both work and family?
Or would the old, familiar round
have held me By its claim
and kept the spark within my heart
From bursting into flame?

Would I have followed where you led
through ancient Galilee,
On roads unknown, by ways untried,
beyond security?
Or would I soon have hurried back
where home and comfort drew,
Where truth you taught would not disturb
The ordered world I knew?

Would I have matched my step with yours
when crowds cried, ‘Crucify!’,
When on a rocky hill I saw
a cross against the sky?
Or would I too have slipped away
and left you there alone,
A dying king with crown of thorns
upon a terrible throne?

O Christ, I cannot search my heart
through all its tangled ways,
Nor can I with a certain mind
my steadfastness appraise.
I only pray that when you call,
‘Come, follow, follow me!’,
You’ll give me strength beyond
my own to follow faithfully.

A prayer of blessing
Go now to follow the way of Jesus:
see others as he did;
dare to give freely as he did;
and to love unconditionally as he did.
Go, embraced by the Source of life, love and hope;
in the company of the Word of life;
encouraged by the Breath of life.
Amen

Ceremonial March by Herbert Sumsion
Click here to play the music