A Home Service for 19th July ’20

A gathering prayer

Lord, we gather and we pause
to think about your world:
such a beautiful place.
We want everything to be perfect,
but we accept it is far from that.
So, bring us together to learn from you
how to be your presence in the world,
how to create a right environment
and be fruitful for you in all we do.
Keep us always watchful and prayerful.
Amen.

A prayer of approach

Lord, sometimes we are just so impatient,
wanting to get on with our lives,
wanting everything better.
But we know, our ways are not your ways.
We come to you [this morning]
rejoicing in the knowledge that you
can transform our lives
and the lives of those around us –
starting exactly where we are.
Thank you, Lord.
Amen.

A prayer of adoration

Mighty God,
we come to you in humble adoration.
You take us, such very imperfect people,
and give us the chance to prove that
when we place ourselves in your care
we can be the people you want us to be.
We bless you, Lord.
We praise and adore you.
Amen.

(Hymn Lord of all hopefulness)

Readings

Isaiah 44:6-8

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Introduction

Today’s readings speak to us about God’s power and his actions in the world. They also remind us of the ongoing presence of evil and suffering in the world but give us a reason why God doesn’t just jump in and stop it all. If he did that while life is still going on – while the wheat and weeds are still growing – some good might get destroyed too. Jesus’ parable shows us that God’s justice is always blended with mercy and loving kindness, so that we have real hope.

(Hymn Praise and thanksgiving Father we offer)

Sermon

We are usually quick to complain if something is unfair, especially if we are on the losing end, but sometimes too if we see things that don’t particularly affect us but offend our sense of justice. We have seen this very forcefully in recent weeks in the ‘Black lives matter’ campaign which has swept the world. The death of a black man while being forcibly restrained by a white police officer even led to calls for the police force to be abolished since it was so institutionally racist that it could not be redeemed.

This gives rise to the question, ‘Can we just wipe everything out and start again? Should we?’ That’s a problem that God himself faced, and more than once (read the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis chapters 18-19, or before that the story of Noah and the flood, Genesis chapters 6-8). The parable of the wheat and the weeds gives us another perspective on the problem of good and evil.

The weeds in the story are probably darnel which used to be quite common in wheat fields and which looks very similar to wheat until the ears form. Unfortunately darnel has deeper roots than wheat and even if it could be reliably identified earlier pulling it up at that stage risked pulling up the wheat with it. Letting them grow together would make it easier to separate the wheat out when it was ripe and then gather up the weeds to be used as fuel. Jesus uses this familiar situation to explain that this means that good and evil will continue to coexist until ‘the Son of Man’ intervenes at the end of the world.

What about the world we live in then? It can be so easy to overlook the ‘wheat’ around us and see only the ‘weeds’. The ‘black lives matter’ movement, seeking to raise awareness of historical injustices and to explain how they had led to today’s ingrained and sometimes unconscious attitudes and bias, went on to demand that we remove all commemorations of people who were involved in the slave trade or who held views and opinions which are widely considered unacceptable today. Unfortunately the toppling of statues and defacing of memorials which followed only served to detract from the very real present injustices and refused to allow any possibility of redemption.

The saying ‘the leopard cannot change its spots’ is not necessarily true of human beings. Two of the historical figures targeted were Winston Churchill and Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout and Guide movements. Both of them in their younger days held racist views yet went on to achieve things which benefitted all races. And what about John Newton, a slave ship captain who was so ashamed of what he had been that he wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace…that saved a wretch like me’, and went on to campaign against slavery. We can’t forget, in fact we shouldn’t forget, what they were but maybe we can forgive, take inspiration from, and give thanks for what they became.  

Sometimes good and evil look alike, and we are too quick to judge, too quick to label and classify other people, and to want a purge. If we can’t tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds perhaps we should wait until they mature and see what sort of fruit they bear. Weeds and wheat cannot change but people can. Let us look for the signs of the kingdom among us rather than concentrate on the symptoms of evil, and wait patiently for God’s justice, a justice full of mercy and love.

(Hymn Come, you thankful people come)

Prayers of intercession

Lord God, we pray for our world and its people.
So many different cultures, colours, languages
– but we are all your children, all special in our own right.
Whatever our gender, race, colour or creed, we all belong to you.
We all need your love.
We pray that we might learn to live in harmony with each other,
to recognise that even someone halfway around the world is still
our neighbour in your sight. Far or near, we all belong to you.
We all need your love.
With today’s technology we have access to news from afar,
almost before it happens. Help us not to become blasé about
the situations we see, but to pray and care faithfully for all concerned.
In war or peace, we all belong to you.
We all need your love.
We pray for those near and dear to us: protect them, wrap them
in your loving arms, and in sorrow and in joy, be with them.
Near or far, we all belong to you.
We all need your love.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

(Hymn God is love: his the care)

A sending out prayer

Lord, thank you that we have been able
to spend time with you today.
We have felt ourselves grow stronger
as we have been blessed with your presence.
Send us out to spread your love,
in your precious name.
Amen.

Rev. Janet Calderley
Prayers © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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