Sunday 26th July 2020

Call to Worship (from Psalm 105: 1-3)
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

HYMN 123 God is love: let heaven adore him(Tune: Hyfrydol)

Prayer

We give you thanks, our God,
that we have risen this day
into your presence
and into life itself.
We give you thanks, our God
that your hand is upon us
holding us in your plan
joining us to each other.
We give you thanks, our God
that Christ is between us,
that Christ is around us,
that Christ unites us.
This day, our God,
we come to your light,
seeking its leading,
following into eternity.

God of life,
grant us your forgiveness,
for our careless thoughts,
for our thoughtless deeds,
for our empty speech.
God of life,
grant us your forgiveness,
for our false desires,
for our hateful actions,
for our wastefulness,
for all we have left untended.

Loving Christ,
crucified on a tree,
yet risen on the third day,
scatter the sin from our lives.
Begin what we do,
inform what we say,
redeem who we are.
In you we place our hope,
our great hope, our living hope,
this day and evermore.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scripture Reading:

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’
He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
‘Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
‘Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked.
‘Yes,’ they replied.
He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’

HYMN 555 Amazing Grace

Reflection:

Upside Down
Have you ever had your world turned upside down? I don’t mean, of course, in a literal sense. Rather, I mean has someone or something so affected your life that it’s almost as if it had been turned upside down. For some this happens when they meet the love of their life; for others it may be a life changing incident or event; while for some it’s an encounter with God. For each, though, it is different even if externally it seems the same. Today’s reading from the Gospel is about turning things upside down. In the reading Jesus takes everyday ideas and images and turns their meanings upon their heads. At times this may be a little confusing as the same images are often used in the normal way elsewhere in the Gospel. That said, sometimes things do need to be turned upside down ……As in the last few weeks we once again see Jesus use images from nature and everyday life to illustrate the Kingdom of God. It is important to note that when Jesus uses these images he does not say, ‘The Kingdom of God is like a such-and-such’, and leave it at that. Rather, he says, ‘The Kingdom of God is like a such-and-such, which …’ It is not the object or image that describes the kingdom but what happens to it that provides the illustration of the Kingdom of God.
In a short reflection, such as this, the lectionary reading provides us with, perhaps, too much material. For that reason we will focus on just one example, ‘yeast’. Usually we think of yeast as a negative when in the context of scripture, however this week we read of Jesus inverting that idea. This week yeast becomes a good thing, and example to us.In what way does the activity of yeast illustrate the Kingdom of God? Jesus describes the Realm of God as like the work of a woman. Like in so many other passages Jesus begins by inverting the social order by not using the image of a man at work but that of a woman; he uses the image of a woman in a household doing the chores. This is someone who readies the place and provides for others, and the result is always greater than the effort put in. Whatever the kingdom of God is, and however it works, it grows.
It is worth noting here that the woman is preparing ordinary, everyday, bread as shown by the inclusion of yeast; it’s not unleavened bread that is usually thought of as ‘holy bread’ of the kind used in the Passover. There may be a sense of imperfection and impurity here with the inclusion of the yeast however what matters is the everyday nature of what is described. This is the context of the image of leavened bread and the image Jesus uses for the kingdom. The yeast, the kingdom, is hidden in the flour and it changes things unseen.
Unseen! That’s the message; that’s what Jesus is trying to get us to see. He is trying to get us to look beyond the great gestures, the fine words, and the magnificent buildings. He is trying to get us to see what goes on in the usual, the normal, and the everyday. Jesus is turning things upside down.
So how does this apply to the church today? We are regularly encouraged to make great efforts to carry out activities, and engage in programmes to attract new folk into the kingdom. We stage events, and create ‘seeker sensitive services’. We seek out enthralling speakers, and often make lots of noise and show along the way. Yet this parable shows us that the kingdom grows in the quiet, normal, and often unseen ways. There is room for better communications, and services that engage more meaningfully with the surrounding culture. But it is through the quiet everyday prayer of the faithful that the kingdom will grow. It is through those gentle daily acts of faithfulness to Christ that the kingdom will grow. Historians of revival have shown that this is how those great revivals of past centuries began. Yeast, by way of the scriptures, has sometimes gained a bad reputation but, perhaps, it is time for us to become yeast. Perhaps it is time to turn things upside down.
Amen.

Prayer

Let us pray for those who may be born this day,
and bless them in the name of Jesus.
May the joy of God shine from them,
may the presence of God be within them,
may the love of God surround them.

Let us pray for those who must work this day,
and bless them in the name of Jesus.
May the Creator bless the work of hand and mind,
may the will of God be in your desires,
may the peace of God grant you rest at the end of the day.

Let us pray for those who must travel this day,
and bless them in the name of Jesus.
May the presence of Christ be around them,
may the guarding of Christ be with them,
may the light of God guide them.

Let us pray for those who may face death this day,
and bless them in the name of Jesus.
May God provide all that is needed,
for body, mind, and soul,
as they face the final journey.

Let us pray for ourselves this day,
and may the blessing of Jesus be upon us.
May we pass this day as saints of God,
may we live this day as workers for the Kingdom,
may we end this day in the love of God.
Amen.

HYMN 167 Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah

Benediction
May the kingdom of God,
be seen in each of us,
in our words, in our actions, in our gestures.
And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all,
now and always.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible
, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayers based on Morning Liturgy D, in the Iona Community’s ‘A Wee Worship Book’ (Fourth Incarnation).