June 16, 2023 - Home Worship

For the week of July 16-22 – 7th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer Loving God, Sower and Reaper of love, we admit to You that we are like stony fields, capable of growing goodness and sharing it around, but also we allow goodness to wither and weeds to flourish. Most loving God, please open the furrows of our lives to receive again the seeds of Your Gospel. Rain Your mercy upon us, shine Your warmth and light into every dark place, and bring forth in us the harvest that in Your glorious love You have destined for us. Through Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen! (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #418 We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

  1. We are climbing Jacob’s ladder; we are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder; soldiers of the cross. 

  1. Every round goes higher, higher; every round goes higher, higher,

Every round goes higher, higher; soldiers of the cross.

  1. Sinner, do you love my Jesus?  Sinner, do you love my Jesus?

Sinner, do you love my Jesus?  Soldiers of the cross.

  1. If you love Him, why not serve Him?  If you love Him, why not serve Him?

If you love Him, why not serve Him? Soldiers of the cross.

  1. We are climbing higher, higher; we are climbing higher, higher;

We are climbing higher, higher; soldiers of the cross.

Psalm 119:105-112

105 Your word is a lamp before my feet and a light for my journey.
106 I have sworn, and I fully mean it: I will keep Your righteous rules.
107 I have been suffering so much— Lord, make me live again according to Your promise.
108 Please, Lord, accept my spontaneous gifts of praise. Teach me Your rules!
109 Though my life is constantly in danger, I won’t forget Your Instruction.
110 Though the wicked have set a trap for me, I won’t stray from Your precepts.
111 Your laws are my possession forever because they are my heart’s joy.
112 I have decided to keep Your statutes forever, every last one.

Children’s Time Matthew 13:23a (NIV)

But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it.

Children’s Message

Have you ever planted anything? Perhaps you took some packages of seeds and planted a garden of vegetables. If so, you know that the type of soil that you have is very important to the success of a garden. If the ground is too hard, or full of rocks and weeds, you probably won't have a very good crop of vegetables.

In our Bible lesson today, Jesus told a story about a man who went out and planted some seeds. This story that Jesus told is usually called "The Parable of the Sower," but actually, the story is more about the soil than it is the sower or the seed. Some of the seed that was planted fell on the path where the ground was very hard. The seeds just lay on top of the ground and the birds came and ate the seeds. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground. The seeds sprang up quickly, but when the sun came, the plants dried up because they didn't have good roots. Some of the seeds fell among weeds and plants grew for a little while, but the weeds took over and choked them out. Fortunately, some of the seed fell on good soil and the plants grew strong and healthy and produced a good crop.

In Jesus' story, the Word of God is the seed, and we are the soil. Often, when we come to church, the preacher is preaching the Word, but we aren't really paying attention. Perhaps we are thinking about what we are going to do that afternoon or about what we did yesterday. We are hearing the Word, but we are not listening. That is like throwing seed on the top of the ground. It won't ever grow into anything in our life.

There are other times when we hear the Word and we get excited about it, but then our excitement fades and we drift away. That is like the seeds that fall on the rocky ground. The plants spring up, but then die because the roots are too shallow.

Sometimes we hear the Word and we believe what it says, but we want to keep on doing the same things we have been doing. That is like planting the seed in with a bunch of weeds. I can tell you what will happen, the weeds will soon take over!

When we hear the word, and we listen and try to understand what it says and put it into practice in our daily life, then we are like good soil. We are like soil where the seed takes root and grows and produces a plentiful harvest. That is the kind of soil that Jesus wants us to be. What kind of soil are you?

Dear Jesus, we want to be like the good soil. Help us to listen to God's Word and put it into practice in our daily life. In Your name we pray. Amen. (sermons4kids.com)

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight: One of the recipients of Missions giving through LUMC is City of Joy International, serving children in Rwanda.  The families are living in extreme poverty.  Your designated giving  through LUMC Missions provides access to clean water, nutrition, medical care and Christian education and development.  The mission is to elevate this community out of poverty, so that one day they will find the long term solution to the poverty of their community and country.

Offering prayer: Creator God from whom all blessings grow: as we dedicate our tithes and offerings, we acknowledge that You have blessed us to be the fertile soil from which the good news of Your kingdom will spring forth. Remind us that You are counting on us for fruitfulness, demonstrating for the world Your love, grace, and power as we bear fruit that eases the suffering sick, feeds the hungry, brings justice to the oppressed and love and compassion to those who feel disconnected or forgotten. In Christ, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #526 What a Friend We Have in Jesus

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! 

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

     All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

  1. Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged: take it to the Lord in prayer.

     Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

  1. Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? 

Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.

     Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?  Take it to the Lord in prayer! 

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.

Scripture:  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

13 That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around Him that He climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore.

3 He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. 4 As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. 6 But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. 7 Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. 8 Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. 9 Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

18 “Consider then the parable of the farmer. 19 Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. 20 As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. 21 Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. 22 As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. 23 As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.”

Message:  Testing Your Soil       Rev. Ron French

Somewhere I saw a long list of wise sayings attributed to farmers. Let me share just a few with you. Maybe you can relate to one of them.

          FIRST: Keep bankers, lawyers and skunks at a distance.

          SECOND: Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

          THIRD: Do not corner something that you know is meaner then you.

          FOURTH: Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

          FIFTH: When you wallow with the pigs, expect to get dirty.

And this last bit of advice:

          SIXTH: Always drink upstream from the herd.

          Jesus told lots of stories about farmers. Today’s lesson is one of them. However, the farmer in this story is not particularly gifted at his profession. A farmer went out to sow seed, said Jesus. As he was scattering the seed, some of fell along the path. Everybody knows you don’t plant seed where people are going to be walking. It’ll never grow. It can’t penetrate the hard packed soil. So, said Jesus, the birds came and ate the see that had fallen along the path.

          Some of the other seed, said Jesus, fell on rocky places where there was a deficiency of soil. Again, not a very good place to sow seed. The resulting plants sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

          Other seed fell among thorns, Jesus said, which grew up and choked the plants. So they didn’t survive either. The farmer is now 0 for 3. Looks like it is going to be a poor harvest this year.

          Finally, however, he got lucky and some seed fell on the good soil where it produced a crop – a miraculous crop – up to a hundred times what was sown. This will not be a bad year after all. Where good seed falls on good soil, amazing things can happen.

          It reminds me of something Robert Schuller used to say: “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” The greatest things in this world, including the Kingdom of God, grow from tiny seeds. Of course, this story which we normally refer to as the Parable of the Sower is not about farming at all. And it’s not about a careless farmer, but about a generous God – a God who sows seeds of love and acceptance for all people. But different kinds of people respond in different ways to that love and acceptance. Jesus used four different types of soil to describe them.

          Some people He describes as hard soil. This is the seed sown along the path. Now you may think Jesus is talking here about atheists and agnostics. Not necessarily! Pastor John Huffman tells about a man he knows named Bob. Bob is in his mid-sixties, has gone to church all his life and thinks of himself as being a very religious person. However, he has never let his religion get in the way of his lifestyle. Even though Bob considers himself a good church-going man, and is probably sitting in church right this very moment listening to a sermon. He really likes to control his own life. He hears the Gospel every Sunday, but the seed never really penetrates the soil of his heart. Very few of the things that he hears in church are translated into his everyday life. Bob knows what he wants and very little of it fits the claim of Jesus on his life. The altar Bob worships at is the altar of Bob. The problem is that he has committed himself to himself instead of to Jesus Christ. Bob is his own lord. Bob is king of his own life. He gets turned off by preaching that quotes too much from the Bible. He wants no mention of sin from the pulpit. According to Bob, “That went out of style with the Middle Ages.” Bob gets turned off by anything that might take him out of his comfort zone. You see, sisters and brothers, for Bob going to church is like an inoculation for a contagious disease – he wants just enough religion to keep him from catching the real thing.

          Can you see that Bob is just as hardened to the Gospel as the most adamant atheist or agnostic? In fact, maybe Bob is more hopeless than they are since Bob has no apparent awareness of his own need. You can’t always judge by outward appearance who had hardened their heart to God. This is the seed that was sown along the path.

          There is a second group, represented by the rocky soil – people who had faith at one time but it was not firmly rooted, and they let it slip away. We can feel great compassion for these people. Tom Sutherland is just such a person. At one time Tom was an outstanding Christian, an elder in his home church. But that was before he was held captive in Lebanon for 6 ½ years. “During his captivity, Sutherland was held in 26 different locations. Some of his cells were cold, dark, underground 6’ x 6’ holes. After 18 months of captivity, Sutherland was put in a solitary underground cell.” He became so discouraged that he tried to commit suicide three different times by pulling a plastic bag over his head. But each time, he would think of his wife and three daughters and stop short of taking his own life. Tom is a free man today. However, one casualty of his experience in Lebanon is that he no longer believes in God. When asked why, Sutherland answered, “I prayed so many times, and so hard, and nothing happened.”

          We can all feel compassion for Tom Sutherland. You and I don’t know how we would react in such a terrible experience. However, we do know that there were others who went through the same sort of experience and came home with their faith strengthened, not weakened. Jerry Levin, a Middle East bureau chief for CNN, was taken captive in Lebanon, and he not only held on to his faith, he even learned to pray for his captors and forgive them. Different people respond to life in different ways.

Some of us lead very sheltered lives, but one day we, too, will be tested. We will lose someone we love, or we will fall on hard times ourselves. Is your faith rooted in good soil that will sustain it?

          “As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away.” (20-21)

          The seed which fell among the thorns, said Jesus, refers to believers who have allowed worldly concerns such as material choke their faith. Brothers and sisters, Jesus might just be talking about us. We live in a very materialistic society.  Some people believe they can buy their way to happiness. Others believer that they are somehow superior to those who have less than they do, especially the poor. Indeed, the seed that fell among thorns may be the largest group in our land.

          A short time back, the pop singer Madonna – the Material Girl herself – said: “We as Americans are completely obsessed and wrapped up in a lot of the wrong values – looking good, having cash in the bank, being perceived as rich, famous and successful…” If Madonna is right, and certainly she is for a segment of our society at the least, could it be that mammon is America’s God? USA Today told of a Pew Research Center pole that asked people what their life goals were. According to this poll 81% of young adults between the ages of 18 & 25 said that getting rich was their most important (or 2nd most important) goal in life. Does that disturb you – that getting rich is the number one or number two goal of the vast majority of our young adults?

          Some of the seed falls on the path where the soil is hard and it is eaten by the birds; some falls on rocky soil and does not establish firm roots; some falls amid the thorns of worldly concerns like material wealth and is choked out. But some of the seed falls upon good soil. Says Jesus, and that is the Good News for today.

          The message of the Kingdom sometimes falls upon hearts that welcome it. And when good seed falls on good soil, miracles occur. Seeds really are miraculous. Consider the potential of one kernel of corn. A kernel of corn buried in the soil will produce one corn stalk. Each stalk will produce at least one ear of corn. The average ear of corn has 250 kernels, so a single kernel of corn, under the right conditions, can yield a 250% return on investment. We need to be reminded sometimes that when good seed falls on good soil in God’s abundant world, wondrous things come forth. Sisters and brothers all is takes in one tiny seed!

          Two weeks ago we celebrated Independence day. We celebrated how much our freedom means to us. And we have this freedom because of some amazing people – people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and many others. These people planted seeds in this new world, seeds of democracy and human rights – and from those seeds sprang a nation. That’s how it works. Good seed is sown on good soil, and miracles occur. Of course, since we are talking about God’s good seed, sometimes it will even fall on unpromising soil and will produce abundantly where we would least expect it.

          Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India died as a world-known figure. But who would have ever thought she would have attained such influence when she first began? What did she have that would recommend her? A tiny woman who began with the most meager of resources. Mother Teresa told her superiors, “I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage.” “Teresa,” her superiors said, “you can’t build an orphanage with three pennies...with three pennies you can’t do anything.” “I know,” Teresa said smiling, “but with God and three pennies I can do anything.” Mother Teresa understood the principle of the seed. It takes very little – but very little blessed by God – miracles can occur. This of course is akin to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere, that faith the size of a mustard seed can produce an enormous bush. (Matthew 17:20)

          Hymn writer Natalie Sleeth writes,

“In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree.

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free.

In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be.

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

Natalie Sleeth was a church musician who died in 1992. She wrote these beautiful words as a part of an anthem which she dedicated to her husband, Ronald, who was a well-known professor of Homiletics (preaching). At his request it was sung at his funeral. It is a song of hope and promise. As long as there is a seed, no matter how tiny or unpromising, there is hope.

          Of course, in Jesus’ parable, God is the sower of the seed. We are the soil. This day Jesus would have us look within and ask what kind of soil is there? Have we become so hardened by self-preoccupation like Bob that the seed cannot penetrate our hard hearts? Are there rocks in our soil that keep the roots shallow so that it will not survive in the time of testing? Are there worldly thorns like love of material possessions which might choke the life out of our spiritual devotion? Or do we have receptive hearts prepared to go where God wants us to go and do what God wants us to do? God wants to plant a seed in your life, today. Is your soil ready?

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dream in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future, what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season. Something God alone can see.”

Hymn: #707 Hymn of Promise

  1. In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

  1. There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

  1. In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.