Bulletin and Announcements for July 23, 2023
Dunsford United Church
July 23rd, 2023
Presider: Rev. Anne Hepburn
†= stand as you are able
WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS: Birthdays/Anniversaries, etc.
(Announcements are after the Choral Response)
† GATHERING HYMN: VU#341 “Fairest Lord Jesus”
LIGHTING THE CHRIST CANDLE AND THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION CANDLE (Lit by Laura)
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LANDS (Unison)
We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishinaabe / Mississauga peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are. We acknowledge and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect and reconciliation with all our relations.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Jesus said, “Come follow me.”
I said, “I am not good enough Jesus.”
Jesus said, “Come follow me.”
I said, “I can not find my way.”
Jesus said, “I love you and will show you the way.”
I said, “By God’s grace, I will follow.”
Written by Beth Johnston, Gatherings, 2023, p. 36. Used with permission.
† HYMN: VU #120 “O Jesus, I Have Promised”
OPENING PRAYER (unison):
God of all time,
We come today to open ourselves to your healing power. We come seeking the balm of your careful grace. We come to this familiar place, hoping to experience a new connection with you, Gracious One. Amen
Written by Jim McKean Gatherings 2023, p. 41. Used with permission.
INVITATION TO GIVE: Let us bring forward the offering.
† HYMN OF DEDICATION: VU #541 (Words: Thomas Ken)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise God, all creatures high and low; give thanks to God in love made known: Creator, Word and Spirit, One.
God of the harvest and god of the soil, we bring our talents and our tithes to you for distribution to those places where your creation needs healing, and to the neighbours who are in need.
All these things we bring for the building of your kin-dom on earth. Amen
STORY AND PRAYERS FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART
CHILDREN LEAVE FOR JUNIOR CHURCH
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD
Old Testament Genesis 28:10-19a – Jacob’s dream of the ladder (Read by Laura)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a stairway[a] set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him[b] and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring, 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed[c] in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[d] but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
New Testament Matthew 13:24-30, 35-43 – The parable of the weeds among good seeds (Read by Anne)
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while everybody was asleep an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin[h] and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[i] listen!
† HYMN: VU #520 “We Plough the Fields”
MESSAGE: The Parable of the Weeds and the Good Seed
I am not a good gardener. I try every year to plant flowers and more importantly to maintain the flower beds and pots. You know – deadheading, weeding and watering!! But every year I invariably forget (to water especially) and they get that limp droopy look! In fact, just as I was starting to write this sermon, I remembered that I had not checked the flower boxes under the windows. We do have an irrigation system but it does not reach elevated spots. My mother used to say that she had a black thumb-I might too but I am trying to be more attentive.
The text today from the Gospel of Matthew is about the parable of the weeds and the good seed. In some ways it is an easy parable or story to read. Simple really.
Good is God and bad equals the devil.
But I dislike such simplistic answers. (Although I suspect that this parable was not meant to be complicated when Jesus spoke about the example of God being good and reflected by good growth, it strikes me as too easy.)
Let’s begin by considering what a parable was meant to be – a parable is a short simple story, meant to illustrate a moral or spiritual theme. It is a brief lesson.
Unlike a fable, it includes humans rather than animals, plants or forces of nature.
We know quite a few parables from the Gospels: the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the lost sheep, the lost coin etc.
The main themes of parables are:
1. Kingdom of Heaven: hearing, seeking, and growing.
2. Loss and redemption.
3. Love and forgiveness.
5. Eschatology or end times.
Clearly this parable is about good is God’s seed, bad is the devil’s weed.
It does not account for personal growth or bad influences.
It does not allow for bad soil in some regions and good soil in others. Or rain some years and not others.
I know that the fable was meant to be a quick teaching point in Jesus’ day.
None of his disciples had the education afforded to priests. Most of them, even Jesus, never travelled much farther than the next village in their lifetime. Strangers were people outside their own village or even family in some cases.
However, we are a group of educated people. We are not a denomination that needs to be quite so literal in our interpretation of the Bible.
So, I think we need to look at this parable through the lens of an educated, experienced population. People who have travelled, seen the world, participated in the democratic process. Benefitted from science, technology and commerce; neighbours and libraries. So, where do we go with this parable?
The first thing to recognize is the dichotomy or contrast of good/bad that this parable suggests. This attitude leads to fixed thinking that a person like the seed or weed has no choice but to be one or the other. Good or bad; godly or evil.
But we know that no one is all good or all bad. We know ourselves well enough to recognize that we have all made mistakes, hurt others sometimes intentionally; sometimes not. We all have our own personal issues to work through. And most of us know our families and neighbours well enough to be aware of others’ struggles too.
So, we really do understand that none of us is perfect.
But we also have all seen in others and ourselves, the extraordinary changes that can occur. For some reason or another, a person who has always been an upright citizen turns to hate or hurting others. And someone who struggled with their own history and bad behaviour makes changes and becomes a beacon of wisdom and kindness.
These are simple examples but we all have seen these kinds of transformation and been either stunned and hurt or proud and glad.
So, when we ignore the potential for human agency and growth we ignore the limitless opportunities of human development and environmental influence.
The crazy part is that we can’t predict who will turn around or why. I am inclined to think of some possible causes. A person’s environment including friendships are part of this. Family is important and can be the source of much good or bad.
Addiction and crime are other aspects of environment that may tilt the wheel.
Poverty, school, wealth and privilege can have significant influence – either way.
When people experience a change in their surroundings they can be motivated to change. Or if they are vulnerable, they may slip into a pattern that is destructive or dangerous.
I think that everyone can be both a good person or a bad person based on their life experience and their choices. And that can vary even from moment to moment. Consider that you are driving someone somewhere and a driver cuts you off. You may say something rude. You might even honk at them!!
So how does this connect to the parable of the good seeds and the bad weeds?
Instead of seeing the weeds as all bad and the seeds as all good, I think we need to see the growing crop as a mixed harvest. Some plants will not grow to full height and may become diseased. Others will grow to be healthy and fruitful. We are God’s crops if you will. We have the ability to choose to be healthy and live fruitful lives. And we can do so without pointing fingers at those who did not.
You remember that I mentioned Prayer as one of the main themes of parables?
In the movie Shadowlands about C.S. Lewis he is worrying about his wife Joy who he recently married and who is ill. When one of his colleagues says something about praying for God to change something he answers that he prays to accept and change himself. I think that might be a central answer to simple questions and our own identity as a weed or a seed.
May it be so!
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE:
Please keep Kristen, Emma, Mary Lou, Linda, Donna B, Patrick and Abigail C and family, and CL’s Dad, Bill, in your prayers.
God, our creator, sower of good seed, we offer to you our uncultivated hearts.
Tear out the weeds of selfishness and apathy that choke out your spirit.
Remove the stones of expectation and privilege that keep us from a deep rooted faith, And plow through prejudice and resentment so that we might bear good fruit in your name. Amen
Written by Michele Rowe, Gatherings, 2023, p. 45. Used with permission.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
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, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen
WE ARE SENT OUT IN FAITH TO SERVE
COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING
† CHORAL RESPONSE: “Go Now in Peace”
Net Profit $209.67
As children of God, we are reminded of kindergarten teachings – share everything, play fair, clean up your own mess, hold hands, and stick together.