Written service 16 June 2021

Call to worship:

The kingdom of God is growing.
While we sleep and rise, night and day:
the kingdom of God is growing.
The low are brought high; the high are brought low:
the kingdom of God is growing
in us, through us and sometimes in spite of us,
the kingdom of God is growing.
Let us worship God whose kingdom cannot be stopped!

Hymn: Singing the Faith 116

Sing for God's glory that colours the dawn of creation,
racing across the sky, trailing bright clouds of elation;
sun of delight
succeeds the velvet of night,
warming the earth's exultation.

Sing for God's power that shatters the chains that would bind us,
searing the darkness of fear and despair that could blind us,
touching our shame
with love that will not lay blame,
reaching out gently to find us.

Sing for God's justice disturbing each easy illusion,
tearing down tyrants and putting our pride to confusion;
lifeblood of right,
resisting evil and slight,
offering freedom's transfusion.

Sing for God's saints who have travelled faith's journey before us,
who in our weariness give us their hope to restore us;
in them we see
the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.
© Kathy Galloway

Prayers

Creator God, maker of all that is,
we offer you our praise.
You brought light out of darkness,
you raised mountains, laid low the plains,
filled the seas with life and
sprinkled the sky with stars.
You made us in your image.
For your creative love
we bring you thanks and praise.

Loving God, you revealed your love in the life of your Son,
your Word made flesh, living among us.
You move within our lives as Holy Spirit,
opening our eyes to your grace and truth.
For your redeeming and renewing love
we bring you thanks and praise.

Loving God
accept us just as we are as we come to worship you;
forgive our failings,
those times when we have not lived your gospel of love;
those times when we have given in to despair and hopelessness.
Breathe your love and peace into our hearts, and let this time
be a still point of grace in our lives.
For we ask it in the name of our living Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Readings: Ezekiel 17: 22-24
Mark 4: 26-34

Reflection

Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a seed in the two stories we have just read. In the first story the man scatters seed in a rather chaotic manner with little planning. And yet it grows. In the second story a tiny seed becomes a plant large enough to give shade to the birds. This should be a message of encouragement for us! We are kingdom-growers in partnership with God. Nothing we do to spread God's kingdom of love is in vain - because God is our partner and will bring the seeds to fruition in his own good time. God is constantly at work in his world, behind the scenes as it were.

I suppose one message from these stories is don't expect instant results! In very few cases do you plant something and see growth straight away. I remember one of my granddaughters, when she was small, helping her Grandad to plant potatoes and rushing downstairs next morning to see if they had grown. And being very disappointed when they hadn't! We may never see any fruit from the seeds we have sown in people's lives - it may be that the result will be seen by future generations and not by us. In our desire for instant results we're victims of a culture where everything is fast food and get-it-now-pay-later aren't we? And we're not very good at waiting or dealing with situations where the results are imperceptible. But we can't control God's timing for the growth of his Kingdom; the timing is in his hands alone.

That's all well and good you may say, but look around you at the way things prosper in this world which we'd rather died! It's true that the bad things in life seem to grow at a tremendous rate as do the weeds which try and take over our gardens. And this can make us despondent. There are two things to say about this - firstly God's time is not our time. In fact time is an arbitrary division created by people - God doesn't recognise time at all, because past, present and future are there all at once for God (I know that's hard to get our heads r0ound!) And secondly we need to concentrate on the good things in life, which are there, it's just that they don't get talked about as much as the bad things. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians says "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things". We have to live in this world but with the hope of God's kingdom in our hearts. If you look back over the years and the centuries you can see that things DO change, which should give us hope for the future.

The world isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was made and is in the process of being redeemed by a God whose grace exceeds our wildest imaginings. The most basic truth about the world is that it arcs irresistibly toward the justice for which it aches, and each day is bursting with opportunities to experience God's grace, joy, peace, and love. We can be confident that even if, in this life, things don't seem to be going well, the home and identity we have as new creations in Christ are rooted in eternity and last for ever. Surely nothing can give us greater consolation than that! And with that confidence in God's love and God's grace comes a lightness of spirit, a sense of abundant life and even, dare I say it, fun - even or especially in situations the world sees as heavy and hopeless. We need that lightness. Christians without that lightness are awfully hard to live with! If your desire to spread the Gospel and the Kingdom is fuelled mostly or solely by a sense of desperation or a thirst for martyrdom then you're going to have a hard time. God calls us to participate in his mission, but God provides opportunities along the way for quiet, for laughter, for fellowship. And each of us was made to enjoy those good gifts even as we strive to make them known to every child, woman, and man.

So never give up! Let's sow our seed with joy and lightness of heart in the knowledge that the growth and the harvest belong to God and will happen in his good time. But in confidence that his Kingdom will come in its fullness because he has promised. Amen

Hymn: Singing the Faith 255

The kingdom of God
is justice and joy;
for Jesus restores
what sin would destroy.
God's power and glory
in Jesus we know;
and here and hereafter
the kingdom shall grow.

The kingdom of God
is mercy and grace;
the captives are freed,
the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed
God's banquet to share;
and hope is awakened
in place of despair.

The kingdom of God
is challenge and choice:
believe the good news,
repent and rejoice!
God's love for us sinners
brought Christ to his cross:
our crisis of judgement
for gain or for loss.

God's kingdom is come,
the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun,
in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the kingdom
shall answer his call;
and all things cry
"Glory!" to God all in all.
© Bryn Rees


Prayers of concern

Gracious God, as we rejoice in the Gospel, we pray for all
who spread the good news:
for evangelists for teachers, preachers and
those who chat their faith.
May your church grow in holiness,
in outreach and in strength.

God of compassion, we pray for your world,
where bad things seem to flourish.
We remember the people of Palestine, the people of India and Nepal, and of Ethiopia
all those who are affected by bad decisions or greed, by violence or by sickness.
We pray for the leaders of the nations,
that they may seek peace, justice and equality for all.

God of love,
we pray for all whom the world has hurt:
those who suffer from poverty, oppression or circumstance;
those who are sick, in body, mind or spirit;
those who are at the end of their rope
and can see no future.
For those known to us who need our prayers.....

Almighty God, rule in our hearts:
direct our decisions, guide our actions,
let your kingdom grow in us,
that we may live and work to your praise and glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

Lord's prayer

Hymn: Singing the Faith 503

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heav'n, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter ev'ry trembling heart.

Come, Almighty, to deliver,
let us all thy life receive.
Suddenly return, and never,
nevermore they temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise!
Charles Wesley

Blessing

May the blessing of the God of peace and justice
be with us;

May the blessing of the Son
who weeps the tears of the world's suffering
be with us;

And may the blessing of the Spirit
who inspires us to reconciliation and hope
be with us from now into eternity.

Amen.