APC 10th Jan 2021 “Stories Jesus told…Seeds and Weeds”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek worship. Over the next few weeks we’re going to curl up with a good book. It’s a book of short stories written by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Though full of people and circumstances we will find familiar, these parables will sneak up on us, catching us off guard. At times they will take a sudden and unexpected twist and always we will find our secret thoughts exposed in the author’s healing light. But before we open this book and listen to the first story let us take a moment to invite the writer of this book to give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Let us pray…
Opening Prayer – Barren Soil
Almighty and loving God, we thank you for all the ways you have sown the seed of your word in our lives- through the living relationship we share with Christ, through the movement of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, through the preaching and the reading of the scriptures, through the fellowship of the church and our online reflections, through the daily experience of your love in the world around us.
Forgive us for all those times when your word has failed to take root. Forgive us for the shallowness of our faith and our unwillingness to dig deeper. Forgive our failure to prepare ourselves for worship, our carelessness in making time for you, our laziness in discipleship, our preoccupation with all that distracts us from our true calling.
Loving God, forgive us that our lives have been barren when they should have borne lasting fruit. Sow afresh your word in our hearts and nurture it within us, so that we may grow in grace and yield a rich harvest of your spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Let us join together in the words of the Lord’s Prayer…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
“Stories Jesus told… Seeds and Weeds.”
As you know, last July sadly my mum lost her battle with cancer. We miss her terribly but we do take great comfort in the knowledge that she had such an amazing love for God and that she is now safely with him in heaven. We look forward to seeing her again someday soon.
One of the things I remember about mum most was her love for gardening. Mum’s idea of heaven was to spend a whole day in the garden. She could make any little slip grow and her garden was always filled to the brim with beautiful flowers, shrubs and bushes. I’ve honestly never seen anything in her garden that wasn’t in the picture of health. You could have cut anything and sold it in any flower shop in the country.
But none of this happened by accident. Mum was constantly listening to gardening programs on the radio. She was always reading gardening books. She never missed an episode of Gardener’s world and was very fond of Monty Don. She planned everything she did meticulously before she ever put root to soil. She would consider the aspect of the garden, the condition of the soil and she would spend many hours preparing the soil with manure and grit, digging the right depth of hole and choosing the right plant before planting anything. She would feed, water, prune and tie back meticulously and at just the right times of year. No insect or disease was safe from her laser vision. Nothing was left to chance. The results were always spectacular.
Of all the stories Jesus told, mum would have loved the parable of the sower. She knew from experience that for healthy growth, nothing could be taken for granted and constant vigilance and hard work was the only recipe for success.
In this story, Jesus compares our Christian lives to the cultivation of plants from seeds. He reminds us that if we are careful, we will grow up to be real Christians who love God and whose lives are full of good fruit like kindness, generosity and love.
But he also warns us that if we aren’t careful, there are many things that can stop us from growing as a Christian. In fact He says that if we don’t look after the seed of our Christian faith very carefully then it can wither and die and we can eventually stop following Jesus altogether. Jesus entitled this story, ‘the parable of the sower’. Let’s listen to that story now as recorded for us by Matthew in Chapter 13 of his gospel…
MATTHEW 13 v 1-23
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
In this story there are four types of soil. In 3 soils the seeds don’t grow but in one soil they flourish. Let’s think about each of these soils for a minute and see what we can learn about how we can grow in our love for Jesus.
1 THE PATH
The first soil is actually a hard path. When the seed falls there it gets eaten by birds and trampled on by people walking along the path. Jesus says that our hearts can be like this when we read the bible or when we come to church or listen to something online and we don’t understand it! That’s because learning lessons from God is not like learning Geometry or how to swing a golf club. It’s not like understanding Spanish or learning to play the piano or violin. That’s because the lessons God wants to teach us are spiritual lessons. Only God can help us understand the spiritual lessons that He wants to teach us. These are lessons that don’t just stay in our head but that make their way deep down into the recesses of our souls. There they work on us from the inside out changing the way we think and act and speak.
So let me ask you a question…
If only God can help us understand and accept the spiritual lessons He wants to teach us, what should we pray to God before we step into church or open our bibles or log on to a spiritual reflection?
2 ROCKY SOIL
The second soil is full of stones. These stones stop the seeds from getting their roots down deep into the soil. That means they can’t reach any water so when the sun comes up the little green shoots get too hot and they dry up and die.
Jesus says that if we are not careful our Christian faith can be like this seed that falls on the rocky soil. Let me tell you two stories to give you an example of how this can happen. I’ve simply made up names in each case.
Michael was a young man who was about 15. He had grown up in church. When he was little he loved to go to Sunday school and youth club and summer camp. He loved to sing songs about Jesus and say his prayers at night. When he was a bit older he went to the church youth group and just last year he attended special classes led by the minister. After these classes they had a special service in church and he along with some other young people were welcomed as full members of the church. He really enjoyed being accepted like the adults and it was a wonderful feeling to be able to take the communion bread and wine. Then some of his friends in school and on the rugby team heard that he went to church. They started to tease him and say things like, “Surely you don’t believe in the bible! Nobody believes that anymore. Christianity just stops people having fun in life! Sure evolution proves that God does not exist!” Very few of his friends went to church and often they would phone him and say, “We’re going down the park to kick the ball around on Sunday morning. Would you like to come?”
Eventually the pressure became so strong that Michael told his parents that he didn’t want to go to church anymore. It wasn’t long before Michael said he didn’t believe in God anymore.
Then there’s Janet, for years she and her husband had tried to conceive. When she eventually fell pregnant they were overjoyed and so grateful to God for His miraculous answer to their prayers. But all their hopes and faith were shattered when the baby died during childbirth. Well-meaning friends tried to say that God was in control and that somehow even in this, God had a plan and purpose. All Janet heard from that message was “God killed my baby.”
Jesus said we need to be very careful because pressure from others and the deepest hurts of life can not only leave us reeling with anger and unanswered questions, they can cause us to give up on God altogether. So let me ask you,
What are the things that have happened and who are the people who might cause you to stop following Jesus? Where can you turn to for help?
3 THORNY SOIL
The third type of soil Jesus tells us about is soil that has a lot of weeds growing in it. As the seeds grow up they look healthy but slowly over time the weeds begin to grow up around the seedlings. They stop the seedlings getting enough light and they take a lot of the water and food from the soil. They wrap around the seedlings and stop them from getting tall. All this happens very slowly and gradually until eventually the seedling stops growing and dies.
Jesus says that if we are not careful we can be like this. We can look like healthy Christians, but over weeks and months and years there are lots of things that can be like weeds in our lives. These things can take our minds away from God. They can stop us from making time to pray or read the bible. They can prevent us from coming to church regularly until eventually without us even realising it we have stopped loving Jesus and stopped wanting to worship God or obey Him in our lives. Jesus describes 3 different types if weeds that we need to look out for and weed out of our lives. He calls them the concerns of life, the love of money and the love of pleasures.
How can anxieties, money or pleasures be like weeds and damage your
growth in Jesus?
4 GOOD SOIL
The last type of soil Jesus tells us about is Good soil. Here I have a tray of bad soil. It is bad because it contains a lot of things in it that would stop seeds growing. It also needs some other things put into it to help the seeds to grow. Jesus says that if we are to keep on growing and following Him then we need to have hearts that are like good soil. For the soil of our hearts to be good we need to take the bad things out of it and put good things into it. So let me ask you this question…
What changes might you need to make in your life to improve the spiritual soil in your heart so that God can produce good fruit in your life? What might you have to take away or do less of and what might you have to put in or start doing more?
Let us pray…
Prayer For those fearful of the future
Living God we pray for those who face the future with uncertainty and anxiety- those who fear it, who despair of it or who feel they have no future.
We pray for those in the troubled places of our world – those who long for peace, an end to conflict and a time of harmony, but who in their hearts have given up hoping.
We pray for those who face trauma and upheaval in their lives – what seemed secure swept from under them, what they had hoped for denied them, what they had trusted in proven false.
We pray for those who doubt their ability to cope with what life may bring – those overwhelmed by pressures, paralysed by fears, crushed by sorrows…
We take a moment in silence to especially remember all those working in our hospitals and healthcare facilities and especially those who face very difficult decisions about how we might cope with the increasing admissions to hospitals and ICU beds…
We pray for all those faced with difficult decisions- circumstances beyond their control, unexpected dangers, awkward choices.
Living God reach out to all for whom the future seems uncertain or unwelcome and bring the assurance that even in the darkest moments, the greatest challenges, the most worrying times, you are there, able to give wisdom, courage and strength, to bring light out of darkness, hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow and good out of evil.
Lord grant the confidence that there is nothing in heaven or on earth, in life or death, in the present or the future that is finally able to separate us from your love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next couple of days reflecting on the parable of the sower.
Unfortunately, but understandably, for the foreseeable future church services will only be allowed online. The good news is I will be providing online services on Wednesday and Sunday mornings until church reopens. So let me encourage you to tune in again on Sunday as we continue our journey following the ministry of Jesus. This weekend we’ll reflect on the amazing domino effect of discipleship. As Jesus calls people to follow Him and they in turn invite their friends very soon the good news spreads.
As the challenges of Covid continue I’m conscious that this is a very difficult time for us all. If you are feeling particularly low, then please do reach out and let me know. I’ll be more than happy to meet and pray with you in a safe and socially distanced way. And let’s keep a special eye out for each other by picking up the phone and seeing how someone is.
But for now, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Loving God, lead us out into the world, renewed in vigour, in hope, in faith and in purpose. Send us back to live and work for you, sharing your love and living your life. And…
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.