Sunday 19th July 2020

Call to Worship (Psalm 139: 23-24)
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

HYMN 154 Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder (How great Thou art)

Prayer

Lord God,
the wonders of your creation,
the splendour of the heavens,
the beauty of the earth,
the order and richness of nature,
all speak to us of your glory.
The coming of your Son,
the presence of your Spirit,
the fellowship of your Church,
show us the marvel of your love.
We worship and adore you,
God of grace and glory,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God of mercy, God of love
in humbleness of heart
we confess our sins.

We forget to love and serve you,
and wander from your ways.
We are careless of your world,
and put its life in danger.
We talk of our concern for others,
but fail to match our words with action.

Merciful God,
forgive us our sins
and bring us to everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ
your Son, our Saviour. Amen.

Heavenly Father,
be with us in every experience of life.
When we neglect you,
remind us of your presence;
when we are frightened,
give us courage;
when we are tempted,
give us power to resist;
when we are anxious and worried,
give us peace;
when we are weary in service,
give us energy and zeal;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures:

Isaiah 44: 6-8
‘This is what the Lord says –
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come –
yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.’

Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared.
‘The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”
‘“An enemy did this,” he replied.
‘The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”
‘“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”’

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’
He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

HYMN 528 Make me a channel of your peace

Reflection

For those who formed the first audience for Isaiah’s words the goal was clear. It was a return to the land of promise, and to the holy city of Jerusalem. It was a return to that which they held dear, to what mattered to them. That was the goal, but they were stuck in Babylon. They were in exile. There was no clear sign of their hope of return being fulfilled. This week we, too, have a hope of return. Certainly what we hope for is not, perhaps, as significant as that of the Israelites yet for each one of us it may feel equally as profound. The goal for us is a return to the activities and places that we hold dear, the ones from which we have had to remain distant for these last months. In the air is both excitement and anxiety. The government has said that it is now safe to return as long as we are careful. We are cautious and we are hopeful.
Like the Israelites we may have our doubts. We may wonder why this happened. We may ask why God did not prevent this. We may wonder if God is truly as powerful, or benevolent, as we had previously thought. We may have many other questions on our mind, too. Of course, some of the answers to our questions may aid us as we seek to move onward in hope, trust, and safety. But there are some other, darker, questions that we may find ourselves asking. Some will, no doubt, ask who is to blame for all of this. Some will blame the Chinese; after all, didn’t the virus originate in China? Some will blame the telephone masts for the new 5G network; that’s convenient as inanimate objects don’t usually get the chance to defend themselves. The fact that science is not on the side of that idea is something that can be readily sidestepped by many. What about closer to home? What about blaming any of our governments or agencies for inadequacy in their planning and preparation? What about blaming ourselves but, then again, that’s not something we usually do? We like blame as blaming others is easy. It doesn’t, though, answer questions or help us move onward.
This latter, darker, path is one that we are warned against in today’s Gospel reading. Many of us will be familiar with it under an older name, ‘the parable of the wheat and the tares’. The old title is more accurate in setting the story in context. Tares, also known as darnel, are no ordinary weed as until harvest is almost due they look very like the wheat that grows alongside. The difference is that darnel is toxic to ingest, and can be fatal. Although the parable has a theme of eternal judgement running through it there is also a very practical message for the hearer or reader. That message is that we are not to judge, as we are not qualified to do so. As it says in the seventh chapter of Matthew, ‘don’t judge or you too will be judged.’ The questions we have that lead us to no more than a blame game are also nothing more than us being judgemental.
As we move on we are to find our hope in the same God of whom we have questions. The Israelites found that God had not deserted them but had journeyed with them even in exile. God was with them in the midst of their pain, their sufferings, and their doubt. God was not absent but present. As we continue our journey through this pandemic we, too, need to adopt the same attitude as did the Israelites. We need to trust, moving onward in faith and hope. We are not to judge. As we move we will see some of our goals fulfilled; those familiar faces will be there to greet us. The familiar places will be very much as we left them; the activities will have to change in some ways but there will be much of the familiar remaining. To live we must move on and, just as He was with the exiles, God will be with us. Amen.

Prayer

God of love and power,
We pray for your Church in this parish
and throughout the world,
that, through the courage and faith of your people,
your word may be preached and lived.

We pray for the Queen and those in authority,
that, in the fulfilling of their duties
they may be guided by your Spirit
and upheld by your grace.

We pray for our community, our country,
and the nations of the world,
that, following the ways of truth and justice,
they may be free from bitterness and strife,
and by the power of your love, live in peace.

We pray for all who are in trouble,
that those who are sick may be cared for,
those who are lonely sustained,
those who are oppressed strengthened,
those who mourn comforted,
and that those who are close to death
may know their risen Lord.

We give thanks
for those who have died in the faith,
especially those known to us,
who have entered into the joy and peace
of your nearer presence.
Grant that we may follow their example,
and come to share with them
the glory of everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
is worshipped and glorified for ever.
Amen.

HYMN 531 My Jesus, My Saviour

Benediction
Let us go forward in faith, love, and hope,
and as we go, may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
go with us now, and evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayers taken from the Third Morning Service, Church of Scotland Book of Common Order (1994)