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Sunday July 12th 2020 – Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Opening prayer:

Praise our God, all you his servants:
those who fear him, both small and great.

Almighty God,
your Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence.
Give us new hearts and constant wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm: 65
  1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion;
    and to you shall vows be performed,
  2 O you who answer prayer!
    To you all flesh shall come.
  3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
    you forgive our transgressions.
  4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.
    We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.
  5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation;
    you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
  6 By your strength you established the mountains;
    you are girded with might.
  7 You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples.
  8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
    you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
  9 You visit the earth and water it,
    you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water;
10 you provide the people with grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
11 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges,
    softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
12 You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
13 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
14 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Old Testament: Isaiah 55:10-13
For 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,
so 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.
For 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.
Instead 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.

Epistle: Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For 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, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For 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. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For 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, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But 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. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If 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 Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’
‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When 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. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet 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. As 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. But 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.’

I was driving down Redhill Road in New Ash Green on Wednesday morning in the rain and I pulled in to admire the beauty of what was happening around me. I was mindful of the readings for this Sabbath and how gently our maker was watering us and the planet before this water gift returned to him in vapour. 

The rain was not heavy and you could see along the avenue of trees (some overhanging the road) that the sun was trying to shine through as best it could. In that sunshine the rays of God's light was visible and the world of immediate immediacy was very evident to me.

This happens when we come in the presence of Almighty God when experiencing his creation. 

Today's readings are about rain, seed, gifts from God that we take completely for granted and even complain about when they don't meet our particular timetable. 

Isaiah likens this rain to the Word of God which pours forth from the mouth of God and does not return to it until it has achieved its purpose. He is telling us that the word of God is as precious as the rain that falls upon the earth. As the Earth cannot survive without the rain so we cannot survive without the precious nurturing Word of God.

As if on cue Matthew takes this up and you not only does he run with it he scores with it in one of the most memorable, powerful, parables ever written, that has spread throughout the planet.

This is definitely the first parable I ever learned as we took our first steps into scripture and theology at five years old. It is a timeless tale whether you are a sewer scattering seed from a bag on your shoulder trying not to waste any or an efficient mechanised farmer watching the machine do it for you, you are still going to scatter some seed on rocky ground and among thistles etc. 

It is a brilliant story whether you are a farmer, an observer or a theologian because It reminds us of the relationship between the sewer and the land he's walking on and hoping for a crop. There is an inter-dependence between the active sewer and the passive land that is to become host to the seed. 

In our 21st-century mechanised world we have lost a great deal of that relationship. We take it for granted that the soil will produce and in doing so we compliment Almighty God.

The ordinary population knows much less about the production of food than previous generations. In a well publicised study primary school children thought their daily bread came from the supermarket. Sadly to say the same applies in the general population about knowledge of God or awareness of his presence. 

The parable of the story behind it is therefore is vitally important for reminding us about what and who God is, the role He plays in our lives and the debt we owe Him for doing so. 

The simplicity off this parable is still relevant to us in the 21st-century because it shows us the massive contrast there is between our complicated lives and the simplicity of knowing Jesus and the way he spoke to us. We need this is simplicity because in complicating our lives we have become self-important and no longer concentrate on the simple things and the fact that quite simply  God made the universe and our world in it for us to enjoy and gain dominion over it……….not destroy it.

Paul brings us back to theological earth lest we fail to be grounded. He contrasts life in the flesh with life in the Spirit. Life in the Spirit cancels death in the flesh. When we simply live our lives in the Spirit, enjoying the gifts that God bestows on us we come closer to Him who simply made us her His world could accommodate us. 

Almighty God is not complicated as we have made ourselves. His relationship with us is there for the taking. Most of us reading this have started on this relationship already probably many years ago. 

Grow in his spiritual rain.

Bask in His spiritual sun’s rays.

And we will return to Him who rained us onto the earth, our purpose done.
                                                         From Joseph O’Neill-Byrne (Reader)

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Everlasting God, we bring our prayers to you, Lord of all nations, asking that your blessing of love and peace may be known to all people everywhere.  Help us to bear abundant fruit from the seeds of potential that you have planted within us.
Holy God, we pray for your church, especially for the people you have called to be prophets and teachers in our generation. We pray that they will be strengthened and protected by the Holy Spirit and that through them your Church will reveal the good news of salvation and draw all people together under your rule of justice and mercy.

As we start to move forward to meet once again into our Church buildings, we pray that we may do it safely and sensibly and in ways that help those who are still unsure about attending that this is not a problem and that we and God will understand their reticence.
Creator God, we are your chosen stewards of this beautiful world; you provide us with seed and soil to sow them in but sometimes we abuse this privilege and so we look to you for forgiveness for the damage we have done to this earth and pray that you would show us ways of healing the wounds that we have inflicted on the land, ourselves and on each other.
Father God, we pray that in our communities all will be welcome and accepted regardless of nationality, colour, gender or status and that we will seek always to serve you and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in one another.
Gracious God, we raise before you all those who seek healing of body, mind or spirit asking that they will sense the touch of your loving hands and feel your peace and presence alongside them, each and every step of their journey towards healing and wholeness.
Loving God, we remember before you all those who have died.  May they see your salvation and find their peace and final rest in you and we especially pray for those who were a formative part of our lives, who made us who we are and who we still miss.
Faithful God, we offer you these prayers for ourselves and for others. We ask you to accept them and to use them, and us so that your will may be done on earth and more of your kingdom revealed to those who seek you.

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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