Worship Outline and Sermon

Time after Pentecost

Service of the Word

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Introduction to the day

God’s word is like the rain that waters the earth and brings forth vegetation. It is also like the sower who scatters seed indiscriminately. Our lives are like seeds sown in the earth. Even from what appears to be little, dormant, or dead, God promises a harvest.

Thanksgiving for the Word

Let us pray. Praise and thanks to you, holy God, for by your Word you made all things: you spoke light into darkness, called forth beauty from chaos, and brought life into being. For your Word of life, O God,

We give you thanks and praise.

By your Word you called your people Israel to tell of your wonderful gifts: freedom from captivity, water on the desert journey, a pathway home from exile, wisdom for life with you. For your Word of life, O God,

We give you thanks and praise.

Through Jesus, your Word made flesh, you speak to us and call us to witness: forgiveness through the cross, life to those entombed by death, the way of your self-giving love. For your Word of life, O God,

We give you thanks and praise.

Send your Spirit of truth, O God; rekindle your gifts within us: renew our faith, increase our hope, and deepen our love, for the sake of a world in need. Faithful to your Word, O God, draw near to all who call on you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.

Gathering Hymn Praise to the Lord (elw 844)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NokdqUT4-vk

Praise to the Lord, all of you, God’s servants,

Blessed be the name of our God now and ever,

From the rising of the sun,

May the Lord be praised, praise to the name of the Lord!

There is none like our God in the heav’ns or on earth,

Who lifts the poor from the dust, seating them with the mighty,

Who stoops to raise the weak and low:

May the Lord be praised, praise to the name of the Lord!

(© 1972 Ron Klusmeier (Admin. Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188) All rights reserved. OneLicense.net. #A-714392. Used by permission.)

Greeting

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,

and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And also with you.

Canticle of Praise This Little Light of Mine (ELW 677)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGxrTpadP74

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine;

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine;

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,

Let it shine, let it, shine, let it shine.

Ev’rywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine;

Ev’rywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine;

Ev’ywhere I go, I’m going to let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

(St 1.2. African American spiritual. Public Domain.)

Prayer of the Day

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13

A reading from Isaiah.

God’s word to Israel’s exiles is as sure and effective as never-failing precipitation. Their return to the Holy Land in a new exodus is cheered on by singing mountains and by trees that clap their hands.

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Hymn We Praise You, O God (elw 870)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vj7UmfCKgeQ

We praise you, O God, our redeemer, creator;

In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.

We lay it before you; we kneel and adore you;

We bless your holy name, glad praises we sing.

We worship you, God of our fathers and mothers;

Through trial and tempest our guide you have been.

When perils o’ertake us, you will not forsake us,

And with your help, O Lord, our struggles we win.

(St. 1,3. Julia C. Corey. Public Domain.)

Second Reading: Romans 8:1-11

A reading from Romans.

There is no condemnation for those who live in Christ. God sent Christ to accomplish what the law was unable to do: condemn sin and free us from its death-dealing ways. The Spirit now empowers proper actions and values in our lives and gives us the promise of resurrected life.

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For 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, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For 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. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For 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, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9But 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. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If 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.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart. Alleluia. (Deut. 30:14)

Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

The holy gospel according to Matthew.

Glory to you, O Lord.

In Matthew’s gospel, both Jesus and his disciples “sow the seed” of God’s word by proclaiming the good news that “the kingdom of heaven is near.” Now, in a memorable parable, Jesus explains why this good news produces different results in those who hear.

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When 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. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet 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. 22As 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. 23But 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.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.


Sermon – ‘Parable of the Sower and the Seed’By Deacon Michelle Collins, Assistant to the Bishop, Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario Synod

Hymn of the Day Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil (ELW 512)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RezBJBQsEBs

Lord, let my heart be good soil,

Open to the seed of your word.

Lord, let my heart be good soil,

Where love can grow and peace is understood.

When my heart is hard, break the stone away.

When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.

When my heart is lost, lead me on your way.

Lord, let my heart, Lord let my heart,

Lord, let my heart be good soil.

(Handt Hanson © 1985 Changing Church / Prince of Peace, admin. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. All rights reserved. OneLicense.net. #A-714392. Used by permission.)

Prayers of Intercession

Called into unity with one another and the whole creation, let us pray for our shared world.

Gracious God, your word has been sown in many ways and places. We pray for missionaries and church workers around the world. Inspire us by their witness to the faith we share. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Renewing God, revive your church through the ministry of music. We give you thanks for all the musicians and singers who share their gifts in this congregation, including those right now from near and far. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Creating God, the mountains and hills burst into song and the trees and fields clap their hands in praise. We pray for the birds and animals who make their home in the trees, and for lands stripped bare by deforestation. Empower us to sustainably use what you have given. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Reigning God, we pray for our nation’s leaders. Increase their desire for justice and equality. We pray for our enemies. Bridge the chasms that divide us and guide authorities to a deep and lasting peace. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Abiding God, care for all who are in need (especially). For those who are doubting, renew faith. For those who are worrying, provide release. For those who are struggling, ease burdens. For those in fear, give hope. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Listening God, hear our private prayers…Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Eternal God, we give thanks for all who have died. Comfort us in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us.

Our Father, who 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,

and the power, and the glory,

forever and ever. Amen.

Peace

The peace of Christ be with you always.

And also with you.

Sending Song The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve (ELW 551)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKyz3_e8KPw

The Spirit sends us forth to serve;

We go in Jesus’ name

To bring glad tidings to the poor,

God’s favour to proclaim.

We go to comfort those who mourn

And set the burdened free;

Where hope is dim, to share a dream

And help the blind to see.

We go to be the hands of Christ,

To scatter joy like seed

And all our days, to cherish life,

To do the loving deed.

(St. 1-3. Delores Dufner, OSB, © 1993, The Sisters of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN. Published by OCP. All rights reserved. OneLicense.net. #A-714392. Used by permission.)

Dismissal

Go in peace. Share the good news.

Thanks be to God.

From sundaysandseasons.com.

Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.

Sermon - July 12, 2020 - 'Parable of the Sower and the Seed' - Deacon Michelle Collins

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Sister Michelle Collins began her call to serve as Assistant to the Bishop for the Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario Synod in April. She is working from Florida until she’s able to relocate to Winnipeg. Sr. Michelle works with Bishop Jason and the synod council, alongside all rostered leaders and congregational leaders, to strengthen the synod’s vision of discipleship, transformation, community and connection. Sister Michelle was consecrated in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a Minister of Word and Service in 2011. She is rostered as a Deacon in the ELCA and is a member of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. Most recently, she has been serving the Florida-Bahamas Synod as the Director for Communication and Discipleship. Please welcome Sr. Michelle to our synod, as she offers this sermon!

There’s a difference between building something by following the directions correctly, and discovering something in the process of creating. Some things need a full and complete set of instructions—assembling a bicycle or fixing a machine. But other things are best created when the directions are set aside and the heart and imagination of the one creating can be let loose. When it comes to understanding what Jesus refers to as the Kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, many people try to approach it like following a set of instructions. What do I need to do first? Do I need a wrench or a hammer? How will I know if I’ve built it correctly? We seek to construct the correct way of understanding and articulating how it is that God shows up in the world, what God is up to, and who God’s work benefits.

But Jesus makes it clear that understanding the kingdom of heaven is not like following assembly instructions. It’s more like listening to a story over and over again, each time hearing something different. It’s more like the process of planting, where you watch the beauty of creation happen in ways that are largely beyond your understanding. It’s more like being in a relationship with someone who becomes more complex and multi-dimensional the deeper the relationship goes. It’s more like sitting on a hillside listening to a story and realizing that the story is not really about seeds and soil, but about the abundant potential of life and creation.

In the gospel reading today, we read the first of several stories that Jesus tells to try to describe or explain the kingdom. In Matthew, these parables are all in one chapter, while in other gospels, these parables are interspersed with other events and activities. But Matthew presents these stories all together, so while we will pick up one of them to look at it a little bit more closely, it’s important for us to wonder what we may discover when we look at them together.

LISTEN, Jesus says to the crowds, as he begins this parable. In other places he dives right into them with a phrase like “the kingdom of heaven is like...” But this story he begins with an invitation to listen. Hmmm… Already, that is an invitation to imagination. There will be time for questions and analysis later…start by listening. And he tells them a parable…which was a teaching technique they were familiar with, where a teacher tells a story that means something other than what the story was about. So, while he tells the story of a farmer scattering seeds, the disciples at least realized that he was really talking about something else. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to draw clear and concise conclusions about what each part of a parable represents. But parables were not meant to be clear and concise. They were purposely intended to invite the audience into deeper listening and wondering.

In Jesus’ story about the farmer, the seeds don’t get much say in where they land. The image of the sower is one who generously scatters seed in all directions. It doesn’t even look like the sower takes much time to evaluate the likelihood that the seeds being sown will grow. He goes ahead and throws the seeds broadly and generously. He must know that seeds don’t grow on rocky path. He must know that seeds don’t grow well in the midst of weeds. But that doesn’t stop the farmer from scattering the seed anyway.

I can almost hear all the expert farmers in the crowd shooting their hands up and challenging Jesus’ story. They would immediately see that the sower should have known better than to scatter the seeds in places he knew wouldn’t produce life. But I can just as clearly see Jesus saying, “Listen…what else might be going on in this story?”

Throughout the gospel accounts, we read a variety of ways that people respond to Jesus’ message about the kingdom of Heaven. Some rejected the message outright. Some listen for a bit, but when the teaching got challenging or they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it, they left. Even the disciples were not always particularly receptive to what Jesus was saying, and many of them ran away when being associated with him became risky to them. In fact, many of the disciples had multiple responses to what Jesus was saying, depending on the day and the situation. But Jesus kept teaching them, kept loving them, kept inviting them into a deeper listening. He kept scattering the seed of life, healing, restoration, hoping that those who heard it would be ready for it to take root and grow in them.

And Jesus does the same thing for us. Sometimes we are the rocky path, sometimes the weeds, every now and then we’re the good soil. Sometimes we’re receptive to the word of the kingdom and it takes root in our souls, but then gets choked out by the worries of the world. Sometimes due to pain, tragedy or trauma the word of life and hope just can’t even find its way in, and gets snatched up as soon as it lands. But every now and then, the seed takes root. We hear the words of life and forgiveness declared to us and we respond through faith with love for God and neighbor. But even though we are not always the good soil, Jesus the Word doesn’t give up on us. God the Sower keeps scattering seeds, and extending invitations to us to listen, to discover the kingdom that God is bringing about, and to be open to the creative mystery of life and love that has been planted in us.

Listen, Jesus said. Don’t get caught up in judging yourself or others for the condition of the heart. That’s not what it’s about. Receive the gift of life. Participate in the mystery of creation. Tend to the environment so that life has the best chance possible to thrive. And keep listening so that when the word of God sneaks up on you, you detect it. Keep listening so that when the word of God happens to you, you receive it. Rest from the impulse to control and construct the perfect response. You won’t always get it right, and a lot of times you won’t even really understand what God is doing in your life. But listen…open yourself up to the possibility that there’s something deeper, more profound going on within and around you, and let the seed of God’s Word take root in your life.

In the Lord’s Prayer there is this phrase that is easy to rush past: “thy kingdom come.” In his explanation of this petition, Martin Luther said that “the kingdom will come whether or not we pray for it to. But in this, we pray that it comes to us.”

The kingdom will come whether or not we pray for it to. But in this, we pray that it comes to us. The sower will scatter seeds because that’s what the sower does. In this, we pray that the seeds that land in the soil of our lives and our communities will take root, will grow and will produce rich fruit as an abundant blessing to all.

When Jesus talks about the kingdom, he makes it clear that the kingdom is not something we find through our own efforts. We don’t work our way into it. We don’t pay for it or earn it. The kingdom is a gift, a seed that is planted, a treasure that is discovered. And the gift of the kingdom is for all—those who get it and those who don’t. Let anyone with ears, listen, Jesus says. Discipleship is the journey of being shaped and transformed by the seed of faith that is planted in us through the grace of God. Growing as a disciple happens as we pray that the kingdom comes to us. The seed takes root and grows in us and through us for the sake of the world.

If you find yourself trying to follow the instructions correctly in an effort to construct the most accurate understanding of what God is up to, these parables from Jesus invite you to be released from that pressure. Understanding God’s kingdom is less like following a manual of instructions, and more like listening to stories or looking through a kaleidoscope. Each time you listen, you hear something new. Each time you turn the kaleidoscope, you see something different. So, this week, pick up this story of the sower who generously scatters seed without being preoccupied with the result, and look at it again. Turn it to the left and to the right to rearrange the pieces a bit, and see what new thing emerges. Shake it up a bit and look again. That’s where growth and life happens. The sower will keep sowing seeds. The kingdom will come, whether or not we pray for it to. In this, we pray that it takes root and grows in us. Amen.