Uniting together, Caring for all, Seeking God

Service Sheet 12.07.20

Uniting Church Sketty and Wesley Church, Clydach, ‘Worship from Home’ 12th July 2020

This ‘Worship from Home’ has been prepared by the Revd John Atkinson.

Prepare for worship

Wherever you are sitting, at whatever time of day, however you are feeling, take a few moments to become aware of God and of your fellow Christians who with you are members of Christ’s body; one in his Spirit.

Opening Prayer

God of the vast spaces of our world and of the incomprehensible dimensions of the universe; you are also the God of the small and apparently insignificant, the creator of galaxies and of viruses, of black holes and bacteria. All life in our world comes from you, all that is familiar and all that is hidden. We can only reflect in wonder.   We praise and adore you. Amen.

Forgive us Lord for our failure to recognise your presence in the world and the people that surround us. Jesus taught us to know you as Father but we have been ungrateful children. Your Spirit enlivens our lives but we fail to use your gifts and graces. We live in a society whose wealth was built on the exploitation of others. Father forgive us and help us to do what we can to make amends. We offer our prayers in Jesus’ name trusting in your infinite grace. Amen

Hymn:  From all that dwells below the skies (StF 75)

Sing or read or pray or listen and watch here:

Our Bible Readings

The two readings today relate to the relationship between natural and spiritual growth.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13

Gospel Reading: Matthew13:1-9,18-23

Reflection

Why didn’t the duck cross the road? Because the chicken said “Don’t do it. If you do they’ll never stop talking about it!”

I feel a bit the same about the parable of the sower! 

It is so familiar that this week I want to do something slightly different.

The general line of interpretation focuses on either the ground – good ground, stony ground, weedy ground – or on the seed – are we good seed that will produce a good harvest? Elsewhere Jesus tells the parable of the farmer who prepares the ground and plants the seed but who has to wait for the growth to take place. The true miracle is that any growth takes place at all. The true miracle is the miracle of life. Life which is initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God.

This is something which links our readings and has relevance for each one of us. The presence of God’s Spirit in the world as a whole and the Spirit in the life of the believer.

In Isaiah 55 the prophet compares the promise of God with the natural process of the world. Just as rain comes down and doesn’t return to heaven without producing some kind of growth so God’s word will always have an effect. The connection with the parable of the sower is evident but I want to go one level back from the parable to the process. Some of us are aware of the connection in Hebrew between the Spirit and life. The word Ruach means both spirit and breath and is therefore inextricably linked with life. The Spirit was also present “brooding” over creation (as some versions have it). The Spirit then is the means by which God creates life, the Spirit is the source of energy. So everything which lives is given that life by God’s Spirit.

I find that, I have always found that, a very helpful way of looking at the world, of understanding the processes of evolution, adaptation and development. God enters into the whole creation through his Spirit. God is therefore present in all living things. That is ground for responsible environmental policies. And to that extent we find ourselves at one with Buddhists who honour all kinds of life.

That puts a slightly different slant on the curious image of the mountains and hills bursting into song and trees of the field clapping their hands when the day of the Lord finally comes. As all creation is said to groan under the weight of human injustice and exploitation so the whole creation will burst into praise when God’s perfect kingdom is achieved. Whether you choose to think of that literally or figuratively it is nevertheless a powerful image of the joy and relief when God’s will is finally achieved. It is perhaps especially powerful for those who feel especially close to God when they are surrounded by the beauty of the natural world. It is certainly an eye-opener for those who see God’s activity focussed exclusively in us humans.

But the opposite also applies. God is not simply the spirit of the universe. God is a being who communicates with his creation. That is the whole essence of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It is essential to the gospel. John expresses it in terms of the logos – the eternal word of God. But Jesus also makes it clear through the whole of his attitude towards God and through his teaching. He spoke of the God who loves us and forgives us, the God who accepts us, who treats us as a perfect Father would. This God then not only empowers us to live – breathes life into our nostrils, so to speak – but enters into our minds and our experience, empowering us to rise beyond the level of the instinct to the level of moral consciousness.

The seed which grows is transformed from a seed into a blade of corn. In that process of growth it may be hindered or encouraged but a new kind of creation is achieved. The human life in which the seed of the Holy Spirit is brought to fruition is also a life which will be transformed. And according to circumstance it may even bring forth a harvest of a hundredfold. It’s worth contemplating what that might mean so I’ll leave the thought there hanging…

To Ponder

What might it mean in your own life to produce a harvest for God from the seed he has planted in your heart?  

Prayers

Let us bring into God’s presence the needs of the world which touch our hearts. 

We think of those struggling with the continuing reality of pandemic, those who are ill and those who care for them. And we remember those whose treatment has been delayed as a result.

We pray for all in power that they may act wisely.

We pray for the Church that all Christians may act in the power of the Holy Spirit.

And we pray for ourselves that we may bear much fruit.

In the name of Jesus, the True Vine.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

In our own homes, we pray this prayer alongside sister and brother Christians around the world.

Hymn:  You shall go it with joy (StF 487)

Sing or read or pray or listen here:

Blessing

The blessing of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit be with you and with all those for whom you pray, today and for all eternity.  Amen