A spendthrift lover is our Lord (12 July 2020)

12 Jul 2020 by Loraine H (Service), Paul B (Sermon), Picture by Earnest Graham, from his blog "Look Both Ways: Art & Faith" in: Online Services

 

Listen to this song as you prepare your hearts for worship.

The Spirit, Like the wind.

Acknowledgment of Country

The ancestors of this country we call Australia, who lived here for tens of thousands of years, recognised the creator Spirit. Their dreaming stories acknowledge and respect the sacred. As we come to worship today on the land of the Darawal, we acknowledge the first nations people, their elders past and present. Let us in humility, learn from our Aboriginal brother and sisters in Christ.

 

Lighting a Candle in your Place

You are invited to light a candle to represent the light that Jesus brings to the world.

As we now bring fire to this candle wick,
Making it glow with light,
May we also bring the fire of love,
To this time of prayer and worship.
May this candle send forth dancing rays,
Like sunrise on the most glorious morning,
And may these rays of light,
Encircle us and those we love. Amen.

 

 

Call to worship

 

We bring our hopes and fears,
our struggles and our lives as they are,
into the presence of the one
who leaves the doors and futures
wide open to gracious possibilities.

God’s word lights the path before us.

May this time of worship
empower us to make faithful choices
from the God given  abundance

God’s word lights the paths before us.

May this time of worship renew and restore
our relationships with God and each other.

God’s word lights the paths before us.

Come, let us worship.

 

Hymn 1 Breath on me breath of Life.

  1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Fill me with life anew,
    That I may love what Thou dost love,
    And do what Thou wouldst do.

  2. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Until my heart is pure,
    Until with Thee I will one will,
    To do and to endure.

  3. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Till I am wholly Thine,
    Until this earthly part of me
    Glows with Thy fire divine.

  4. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    So shall I never die,
    But live with Thee the perfect life
    Of Thine eternity.

Prayer of confession

I invite you to to think on current news items where division, difference and injustice is causing unrest, international tensions, persecution. How might we lead lives that disrupt injustice and open space for God’s love to enter the world? Bring these matters into the silences provided in this prayer of confession.

For hatreds between peoples,
for violence among nations,
for breakdowns in civility,
for the lack of compassion we pray (silence).

Why does it have to be this way, O God?
What choices of ours could bring change? (silence)

For estrangement within families,
for tensions among neighbours, we pray. (silence)

Why does it have to be this way, O God?
What choices of ours could bring change? (silence)

For divisions in the Christian church,
For conflict within our community, we pray. (silence)

Why does it have to be this way, O God?
What choices of ours could bring change? (silence)

For our inner struggles with an inflated ego,
or deflated self-worth, we pray. (silence)

 Why does it have to be this way, O God?
What choices of ours could bring change? (silence)

Amen.

 

Words of affirmation

Hear the promise of God.
through all these times, amidst all these conditions,
God offers the Spirit’s abundant, transformative power
for our companion, guide, and hope.

 

Thanks be to God!

Abundant God,

use our senses to open our hearts and minds to the richness of scriptures.
Help us to receive the gifts you sow so graciously and freely in our lives,
and inspire us to share such bounty generously with our neighbours.
Amen.

 

Bible readings

Matthew 13:1 - 9, 18 – 23 (NRSV)     The Parable of the Sower

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 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.”

Romans 8:1, 9 – 11 (NRSV)    Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 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.

Message. Paul Bartlett

A Spendthrift Lover is our Lord

 

You’ve no doubt heard of that Scottish joke about money which goes something like “the last part of a Scotsman to be saved is their hip pocket” or the more familiar phrase which I heard growing up “if you look after the pennies then the pounds will take care of themselves”.

What both of these phrases underscore is the frugal and careful management of your finances, of your resources. I can remember the time I wanted to buy, yes I know it dates me, amongst other things, but I wanted to buy a plastic Beatles head covering that had pretend ‘long hair and sideburns’ when all I knew from my trips to the barber was ‘short back and sides’. I had to save up the 4s & 11d which was several weeks of pocket money. But mostly, truth be told and my dentist will confirm, in the days well before fluoride, most of my pocket money was spent on lollies.

And this looking ‘after the pennies’ stuff has also been the most common way we spent our church finances for as long as I can remember in all my years of ministry. On such matters we are very careful and cautious. A scarce resource to be watched over and dispensed with bit by bit.

But now to todays’ Gospel reading of ‘The Sower’.

I must admit that when I read this parable, because I am not a perfect disciple of our Lord I have often focused on what ‘soil’ I am in this parable? Am I the beaten down hard path, am I the rocky ground with thin soil, am I the soil overrun with thorns that choke or am I the good soil which bears an abundant harvest? And then I look around and wonder which soil are the people of faith that I know!

But surely Lord I am receptive to your word, so my soil must be good…although I can be a bit busy and distracted and at times I get tired and weary…maybe the rocky or thorny soil is a more accurate description of my life in Christ. Sigh. I’ve not lived up to who my Lord wants me to be, again.

My life promises much but delivers less than is expected or anticipated!

Yes I’m definitely not the one whose life of faith is rooted in the good soil. And surely verses 18 – 23 that explains this parable, reinforces my insight.

Is this how you approach this story too? An approach that is mostly about us and how receptive we are to the Gospel and then how we might compare ourselves with others?

To find an answer, how about we go back to the title of today’s passage of Scripture.

It isn’t called the ‘parable of the 4 soils’ or an ‘introduction to Gardening Australia’. It is called “The Parable of the Sower.” It is a parable about the nature and character of God. About God’s kingdom, God’s provision, and God’s extravagant generosity when it comes to us, his beloved.

Let’s look at the actions of the sower as Jesus describes them: As Debbie Thomas brilliantly shares.

“The sower goes out to sow, and as he sows, the seeds fall everywhere. Everywhere. Imagine it — a sower blissfully walking across the fields and meadows, the back lanes and footpaths, the playgrounds and multi-story housing estates of this world, fistfuls of seed in his quick-to-open hands. There is no way to contain that much seed. No way to sort or save it. Of course it will spill over. Of course it will fall through his fingers, covering the ground. Of course it will scatter everywhere. How can it not?”

“But here’s the surprising part of the story: the sower doesn’t mind. He doesn’t mind one bit.  

There is in him a confident realism, a sense that what needs to flourish will flourish. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not everywhere. But that’s okay. In other words, the sower in Jesus’s parable is wholly unconcerned about where the seed falls or lands or settles or on whom — all he chooses to do is keep sowing. Keep flinging. Keep opening his hands. Why? Because there’s more than enough seed to go around. There’s enough seed to accomplish the sower’s purposes. There’s enough seed to “waste.”

And undergirding this extravagant dispersal of seed is the always expectant hope that ALL might just  respond to the seed of life that Christ offers to us wherever He finds us. Whatever our previous experience of life, whatever ‘soil we might be’ and our attempts to follow him and to then ‘bear the fruit that endures to eternal life’ as it is called in John Ch 6 vs 27.

The Sower is of course our God. God’s actions seem wanton, naive even foolish, it would send an accountant mad. Why don’t you just sow more seed where the soil is deep and receptive Lord and the bounty is many fold, surely that would be more prudent, just, common sense & economical.

A targeted distribution which then maximises the return on the costly gift of Jesus’ life and ministry. After all, those whose lives are hard, shallow and thorny obviously aren’t up to scratch!

Is this how you respond in the secret recesses of your heart to this parable?

I don’t believe this story is primarily about how receptive we are to the actions of God in our lives, in-spite of verses 18-23, it is a story about the extravagant nature and love of God who keeps persevering, who keeps casting his life bearing seed far and wide so that ALL may receive.

Abundant generosity is at the heart of God.

This generosity is therefore not surprisingly also one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5) and such generosity is also to be at the centre of our interactions with ourselves and with each other.

Rev Thomas Henry Troeger who wrote TIS 676 calls our Lord a ‘spend-thrift lover’. I love the phrase!

Such reckless generosity is also found in the feeding of the 5,000; in the wedding at Cana in Galilee where 6 large stone jars of water are turned into the equivalent of the best 700 bottles of red you can ever buy and the extraordinarily large catch of fish in John 21 that threatens to swamp their boat.

All these stories reinforce God’s persevering, abundant generosity.

In our current COVID-19 world of doing without, of saving and hoarding, of not spending, because of fear or because we have less, this story is a good news story of Joy and Hope.

For the sower continues to go out to sow and the seeds fall everywhere. Across the fields and meadows, the back lanes and footpaths, the playgrounds and multi-story housing estates of this world, in your street and work place and at mine, everywhere. Fistfuls of seed in his quick-to-open hands. There is no way to contain that much seed. No way to sort or save it. Of course it will spill over. Of course it will fall through his fingers and cover the ground. Of course it will scatter in every direction. This is at the very heart of God. May it be so in our lives too. If we have ears to hear! Amen

 

Hymn 2:   A spendthrift lover is the Lord.

A beautiful piano rendition by Reed Bernick who recorded this hymn for use during the Covid 19 crisis. You will need to follow the music with the following words of the hymn.

  1. A spendthrift lover is the Lord who never counts the cost
    Or asks if heaven can afford to woo a world that’s lost.
    Our lover tosses coins of gold across the midnight skies
    And stokes the sun against the cold to warm us when we rise.

  2. Still more is spent in blood and tears to win the human heart,
    To overcome the violent fears that drive the world apart.
    Behold the bruised and thorn-crowned face of one who bears our scars
    And empties out the wealth of grace that’s promised by the stars.
  3. How shall we love this heart-strong God who gives us ev’rything,
    Whose ways to us are strange and odd, what can we give or bring?
    Acceptance of the matchless gift is gift enough to give.
    The very act will shake and shift the way we love and live.

Prayers of the people

God of each, God of all:
we pray for our families,
those with whom we are drawn together
by birth or by marriage or by adoption.

May they receive abundant care and love
from you and from us as well.

We pray for our friends and neighbours,
those with whom we are drawn together
by common places of work or learning,
by common aspirations and values.

Strengthen the ties between us,
and may we find in these relationships the freedom
and companionship and community
that nurture us and the world around us.

We pray for our fellow citizens,
those with whom we are drawn together
by birthplace and nation, 
by regional ties and societal traditions.

Fashion these bonds so to insure
the relationships and ideals we claim
are paid more than lip-service,
so that who we are and have been
never closes us to who we may yet become.

We pray for those who are part of this community
and in the whole Christian Church,
those with whom we are drawn together
by a common faith and uncommon grace.

May we thrive in ministry,
may we expand in mission,
may we deepen in spirituality,
and may we grow closer to one another and you.

 

Hymn 3 Come as you are.

Come as you are, that's how I want you.
Come as you are, feel quite at home.
Close to my heart, loved and forgiven
Come as you are, why stand alone?

No need to fear, love sets no limits.
No need to fear, love never end.
Don't run away, shamed, and disheartened.
Rest in my love, trust me again.

I came to call sinners, not just the virtuous.
I came to bring peace, not to condemn.
Each time you fail to live by my promise
Why do you think I'd love you the less?

Come as you are, that's how I love you.
Come as you are, trust me again
Nothing can change the love that I bear you
All will be well just come as you are.

 

Blessing

As we leave this worship time, may you
find the strength to right any wrongs,
be the peace brought to division,
be the spend-thrift love that is needed within the world.
Go in peace. Amen.