People of God, let us join in the work of the Sower, Jesus our Lord and friend, who sows love and hope, for we are the fruit of the love and hope that Jesus is for the world.

Welcome to a gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, 19th July, 2020.

Service led by David Sang-Joon Kim.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
it will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the totara,
and instead of briars the daphnes will grow.

As we worship our God of Jesus Christ, may his word find a place of nurture and growth in our hearts that by the Spirit we will bear fruit to become the totara that brings rest and the daphnes that brings joyful scent for the world God loves.

Prayerful Reflection:  Video: In the fields of the Lord by The Porter’s Gate

Song: ‘As We Worship’ [God is Constant Pursuing Love] to the tune HFTC #212 Hyfrydol (‘Love Divine’)

Welcome and Notices:

Praying the Psalm: We will pray a psalm together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. This section of the Psalm speaks of the desire to live faithfully according to the way of the Lord. The poet delights in following the way of the Lord. However, there are challenges, even suffering, for there are those whose ways destroy rather than give life. There are moments when decision needs to be made. We hear the struggle, a wrestle, which resolves to a willingness and perseverance seeking to follow the path of love and resisting the ways of destruction.

Have you moments of decision where it seems easy to just follow the crowd rather than the truth? Have you moments of struggle where you want to follow the path of love but it is just so hard? As we pray the psalm together, may our resolve be emboldened to follow the way of our Lord Jesus, as he showed us how to live a life of love, the way of the cross. Be encouraged by your Lord and friend, Jesus Christ. Also, may it become a prayer of encouragement to those who seeks truth and justice for the sake of love that their words and action may not be wasted but by the Spirit bear fruit for us and for our community. Let us pray together. Please respond in the words of colour.

Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much;
preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.

The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage for ever;
they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.

 Prayer for others: We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together [offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]:

Offering and Dedication Prayer

Song: ‘Every Day I Will Offer You’ AA #36

Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 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. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 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. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.”

Choir: ‘Like The Murmur Of The Dove’s Song’

Sermon reflection:  Like the murmur of the dove’s song, come, Holy Spirit, give us ears to hear, prepare the soil of our hearts to bear fruit, healing of division, ceaseless voice of prayer, power to love and witness, peace beyond compare.

Have you heard of a phrase “slow life”? It has become a movement of some sort. In a world that’s fast changing, in a world where we are told our desires and wants need to be met instantly, slow life movement has become a way to resist the negative trends of a fast-paced world.

With every development and technological change, the focus is largely on the betterment of our lives. However, it is true also, that with every intention for good, it can be utilized by us for the worst.

Social media of the internet world has allowed us to be connected in ways that was not possible ever before. With us living apart from our families more than ever before in different parts of the country, in different parts of the world, and during the lockdown, we have seen how wonderful it is to be able to see live streams of faces that we love.

Unfortunately, if we do not check our heart, we can cultivate our heart in ways to expect things in an instant and even demand it. We may say, why doesn’t my friend or family give me a video call, when it’s just so easy and quick? Our work has also become so mobile that it is so easy to work over weekends under the pressure of the boss looking at your work performance. It’s just a quick call, just an email they say.

Jesus speaks of the work of God, the work of heaven on earth, the work with which the church partners with God. Jesus compares this work to the work of sowing seed.

In gardening terms, there are different types of soils. A soil that is no longer a soil but a hardened patch. A soil that is too shallow. A soil that is choking with weeds. And a soil that is sufficient. The soil Jesus speaks of is the people, our hearts. The work of God, the field of God’s work, are people. One theological commentator compares the soil of the garden to the soil of God’s work in this way. She says:

Soil, like human beings, is shaped by its environment. So, if soil is walked on over and over again, beaten down so that it becomes packed hard, it is no longer fit for the planting of seeds. We see this in the human community too. People who have been walked on over, and over, and over again often develop a hardened exterior to protect themselves. Rocky soil, says Jesus, describes those who lack the staying power to deal with—well, rocky ground. When the going gets rough, they go into retreat. The soil filled with thorns easily translates into our overcrowded lives; there is no room in an already overplanted plot for anything more, even with double-digging the beds.

Isn’t this so true?

I don’t know about you, it will be easy now to start talking about how we can prepare people’s heart to hear the word of love from God. Of course, in today’s world, we have tools and resources that can fast track the growth of our garden, by topping up with compost, by turning the soil over, by providing nutrients, or weed killers. So it seems easy to now turn to people and say what is the compost for their hearts, what is the work of turning over their heart, what is the weed that resides in our heart and what is the weed killer that we can provide.

Yet Jesus doesn’t speak about how to prepare the ground with methods and skills to produce and yield in the field of God. In comparing the work of God, to sowing seeds, Jesus focuses not on how to maximize and fast-track the produce, rather Jesus speaks of the sower who sows, relentlessly, persistently, in the act of sowing. Scattering seed even in places that there seems to be no hope of the seed being received and thrive. There is something very slow about this and even foolish we might think.

Jesus is the sower, who sows the word of the Kingdom of God that is not like the kingdom of this world. The kingdom of God is maybe better not to be called a kingdom at all for the reign of God, the world God intends and toils for, is unlike this kingdom that seeks fast-tracking solutions, of highway making and bulldozing over land and people. The reign of God is slow but persistent.

Jesus the sower is a sower who sows words of love and hope impartially -even to people who will not hear of it. Rejection doesn’t make the seed, the word of love and hope, useless or worthless. Rather, it is given to all because the seed of the word of God is precious and so good that it must be shared with everyone.

This work of God, the sowing of the seed, is slow, because it is love, love that is patient, love that is persistent, that sees the hardness of our hearts and believes that they can become soft to receive, sees the shallowness of our hearts and believes they can become spacious and deep, that sees the cheapness of hearts that gives over to every kind of deception of loves and believes that they can become a heart faithful and wholehearted to the beckoning call of true love. Though humanity may betray it, God believes and expects the best of us.

Every time we reach out, every time we receive one another in grace, every time we forgive, every time we seek reconciliation and peace, every time we return a word of violence with a word of love, every time we return a cold gaze with a caring gaze, every time we return rejection with acceptance, the work of God, the sowing of seeds, in the field of God’s work is being done. For the fruit of the harvest in the work of God is the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. People of God, let us join in the work of the Sower, Jesus our Lord and friend, who sows love and hope, for we are the fruit of the love and hope that Jesus is for the world.

Song: ‘Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness’

Sharing of the Peace of Christ: Peace of Christ be with you

Song of Sending: ‘Now Unto Him’

Benediction:   The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever. Amen