Worship at Home Sunday 12th July

Welcome to our worship this morning.

Today is also Action for Children Sunday. See below for information and to make a donation if you wish.

Action for Children

Action for Children is the children’s charity of the Methodist Church. It was founded in 1869 by Methodist minister Revd Thomas Bowman Stephenson in response to the poverty and danger faced by vulnerable and destitute children and young people living rough on the streets of London.

Today, Action for Children, (formerly, NCH – National Children’s Homes) has grown to become a leading children’s charity running over 500 projects and working with more children and young people affected by poverty, disability and abuse than any other UK charity.

Action for Children Sunday is held on the second Sunday of July. It is the anniversary of the opening of the first children’s home and a chance to celebrate the work of Action for Children and its partnership with the Church at services and activities throughout the country.

Worship at Home 12th July

Isaiah 55: 10-13,  Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

Between a rock and a hard place!

The short passage from Isaiah tells us that God’s words are like the seeds planted in the earth being watered and making it sprout food to nourish those that receive it, and that those so nourished will go on to accomplish God’s purposes which can be seen in the rejoicing of all creation.

Jesus may have been thinking of this passage when he also talks about his words and how they are like seeds being sown which, when they bear fruit, allow God’s plans to be accomplished. They enable the kingdom of God to bear fruit as he has described in earlier chapters. But this is also a warning against allowing those seeds to be prevented from bearing fruit. There are four things that can happen when a person hears the words of Jesus about the kingdom. 

The first is represented by the seed that falls on the path.  A path is a hard, barren place for a seed to try and grow. It is more likely to bounce off than to find the nourishment it needs. Jesus says the seed on the path represents those who hear it but fail to understand it. Perhaps you are someone who has never had much time for faith and so have never allowed yourself to listen to what Jesus has to say. Maybe you think that you’re doing ok and don’t need God in your life.

But the challenge is to really think about why we are here and how the wonder of creation that is all around us came to be and continues to provide for all that we need.  The most important decision we have to make in life is whether or not to put our faith in God. Either he exists or he doesn’t. It has to be one or the other. If he does then everything we are and do has meaning and we need to take notice of what he tells us. God calls us into relationship and to a Christ like way of life. There is life beyond what we see.

But if he doesn’t exist then finding real meaning in life is much more difficult. There is no joy, or pleasure or hope greater than what you see – this is all life has to offer.

But accepting God may be only the first challenge. Then you need to explore what God is asking of you and your life. In this we begin by exploring the teaching of Jesus in the gospels..

The second thing that can happen to God’s word is that it falls amongst rocks. This represents the person who hears, accepts and grasps God’s words with great enthusiasm. But it has no root. As soon as the troubles come: the difficult questions, the hardships then the person falls away from faith.  But Jesus never said following him would be easy. He never said “follow me and everything will be fine”. He said “take up your cross and follow me”. Jesus never promises that if we follow him we will not face troubles and hardship. What he does say is that he will always be there with us in those troubles, that where life is at its toughest is where he is to be found.

The third place that the seed might fall is among the thorns. This is where his word is choked away by the lures and distractions of the world. We might have heard the word of God at Sunday School or at Church then, gradually, Sports, shopping, diy, car boot sales, family life,  the lure of wealth came along – none bad or wrong in themselves, but when we allow ourselves to become so totally distracted from God’s word that we have ceased to hear it altogether then we are caught up in the thorn bushes.  The kingdom of God fails to make progress through the word that has fallen to the thorns.

So maybe at this point some of us are feeling rather smug. We went to Sunday School and have been going to church all our lives. We, surely, are the seed that fell on the good soil? Well that is not necessarily the case. The question is how well we have enabled the kingdom to grow through the seed that was planted with us. 

The Church exists as a place for the seed to be sown, nurtured and harvested. It may contain seed from all four of these groups.

A church is like the soil in the parable, so that others may grow in the faith, from the youngest to the oldest. It strikes me that this sower isn’t a very good farmer! His yield would be higher if he fenced off the path, cleared away the rocks, pulled out the thorns and so on.  Preparing the ground first, nurturing the seed carefully.

I challenge you to think about your church. What is hindering growth in your church? Which paths need fencing off? Which rocks need clearing away? Which thorns need pulling out? How can we make the church a place of good soil, that grows new Christian men, women, boys and girls? 

This present time of forced exile from our building should have taught us something about what is important for our churches. The buildings have been closed but the church has continued. We have continued to worship, to pray, to reach out, to preach the word. What we haven’t been able to do is meet one another in fellowship. But much of what the church exists for has continued.

As we begin to start thinking about how we emerge from lockdown we are encouraged by the Methodist Church to consider the following questions:

  • What have you learned during lockdown as a church that excites you about worship? What have you learned about evangelism and building relationships with new people? 
  • What have you not grieved for or missed as a church during lockdown? What might you decide not to pick up again? 
  • How have you perceived God’s presence and hiddenness? 
  • What has lockdown taught you about the foundations of your mission as a local church? 

I would be interested to hear your views on these questions and perhaps use them to inform an update to our mission planning in the weeks and months ahead.

Andrew Biggs

6th July 2020

Published by andrewpbiggs

Methodist minister currently serving the Gloucestershire Circuit. Married to Julie. Enjoy reading and playing the guitar badly.

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