to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
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.
Read by Margaret Glover
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.”
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.
O Jesus, shepherd, guardian, friend,
my Prophet, Priest, and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.
How weak the effort of my heart,
how cold my warmest thought;
but when I see you as you are,
I’ll praise you as I ought.
Till then I would your love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of your name
refresh my soul in death.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Rev Julia Porter-Pryce
In the New Testament writings about the life and work of Jesus, we hear him speak to the crowds that followed him in parables – short stories that point to a moral or spiritual truth.
The parables of Jesus are not direct answers to direct questions that people want answered; they deliver their meaning in images that talk more to our hearts than to our heads. Parables are mysterious. Left alone, they teach us something different every time we hear them, speaking across great distances of time and place and understanding. Parables are mysterious; as soon as we ‘know’ what a parable means, we’re probably mistaken. But if we’re made uncomfortable by the challenge of a parable, we’re probably getting a little closer to the heart of its meaning.
Most of the gospel readings this month come from a collection of parables, sometimes called the sermon on the water, because Jesus addresses the crowds from a boat. This week the sower liberally spread seeds on every kind of ground, with mixed results. Next week’s sower uses good ground, but gets mixed results because of the actions of an enemy. There’s tension and conflict, active not passive resistance, to the work of God the sower.
Bible stories written down thousand s of years ago can be tricky to understand, but it’s in trying to work them out that we discover ancient truths to guide our lives today. It helps to know a bit about the times the stories were first told. Matthew’s gospel was written for a mixed Jewish and Gentile congregation; neither group wanted to accept the other. Each viewed the other as weeds, themselves as wheat. The Jewish Christians felt that since they were the sons and daughters of Abraham, surely they were the wheat and the Gentile Christians were an obstacle to their growth. The Gentile Christians felt that they were the wheat, with their freedom from old rules and that the Jewish Christians were an obstacle to their growth. The conflict between the two groups was destructive.
We can see still destructive divisions in our world today – religious divisions, social divisions, generational divisions, racial divisions. As people of faith, we are all called to work for God’s Kingdom of peace and abundant life for all.
And if we’re feeling uncomfortable with the challenge to make sense of this call in our own lives, we’re probably getting closer to God’s kingdom.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.