Home Service Sunday 16th July 2023

Prayers of Approach

As we come before you, Lord God, we prepare ourselves to receive your Word. May we be fertile soil for you, the mighty sower, ever casting your seed where it might take root. We seek to rid our souls of stones and thorns and all that hinders or chokes growth; may we dig deep, and be open and nurturing to receive your message to us today.

Heavenly Father, you are a generous, loving God. Show us your work, reveal your character and shape our lives that we might follow your pattern and share in your work.

God, you are the mighty sower, the good gardener, life-giving, constant in creation. Christ, you are the face of the Father, casting wisdom across the ages, your arm outstretched to sow. Holy Spirit, you are the wind that carries the seed and causes the fruit to flourish. Trinity of creation and salvation, we worship and adore you. Amen.

Hymn God is love; his the care (R&S 274)

Readings Isaiah 55:10-13

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23


We use pictures to communicate ideas all the time. Isaiah makes poetic use of pictures to speak of abstract concepts, such as God’s word, or to express the way in which the whole of creation gives praise to God. Jesus, the master storyteller, conjures up pictures to communicate deep truths about people and about the work of God.

Isaiah has been telling the exiles from Israel to get ready to go home. But they are not in the mood to listen. He says God’s word is like the rain a farmer relies on to irrigate his crops. He has no idea really where it comes from, only that it works its magic on his land. Likewise, God speaks and things happen. In this case God’s voice raises up Cyrus who sends the exiles home in joy and wonder at what God has done.

Jesus tells the crowds a parable of seed being sown onto different sorts of ground. Later, he explains it to the disciples as an illustration of how different people respond to hearing the Word of the kingdom. This parable reminds us that God is always sowing, always blessing and speaking to us. It leads us to explore how we can receive God’s word well and thrive under God’s blessings.

Hymn You shall go out with joy (R&S 415)


Isaiah represents God’s Word as rain falling on the earth to fertilise the seed and, eventually, to feed the whole world. In the parable of the sower, the Word is represented by seed that is scattered over a field, some of which comes to nothing, but that which is productive grows enormously.

By todays methods it seems a rather inefficient way to plant seed to simply scatter it everywhere and let it fall haphazardly on the ground in often unsuitable places for it to grow well. Modern machinery allows us to prepare seed ‘drills’ where evenly spaced straight furrows are made in the soil and individual seeds are dropped in at measured intervals to ensure the best possible distribution for germination and maximum yield. For farmers in Jesus’ day however the ‘broadcast’ method allowed the quickest way of sowing over a large area even if some of the seed fell on poor soil.

Today we use the word ‘broadcast’ to refer to information that is spread indiscriminately, usually by radio or television. It is often the background to our lives, the radio playing away in the corner while we work, the television a constant stream of sound and pictures while we are doing something else. But just pause and listen for a moment – what can you really hear? Is God’s word being broadcast into your life?

Although the story is often called the parable of the sower, and an emphasis is put on the productivity of the seed, the real focus of Jesus’ words is the receptiveness of the soil. Jesus could be seen as both sower and seed as he sows the Word of God, both speaking and being God’s Word. We, on the other hand, are the soil. Jesus calls us to ‘listen’, not just to hear God’s word but to receive it joyfully, to take it into ourselves and

to bear fruit. God’s word is ‘broadcast’ widely and freely to all those who ‘have ears to hear’.

The Chinese symbol for ‘listen’ is sometimes used to help people understand just how important it is to really listen to one another. This is something very important for people who have face-to-face roles such as teachers, ministers, counsellors and police officers. Can you think of any others who need to listen really carefully?


This is ‘Ting’, the symbol for the Chinese verb ‘to listen’. It is made up of several parts. The left side represents ‘ear’ – we need them to listen. The top of right side represents the individual or ‘you’ but also means ‘king’ – we should pay attention as if the other person were a king. The symbol for ‘eyes’ also means the number ‘ten’ – so be as observant as if you had ten eyes. Below this is ‘undivided attention’ – which is what we should give to one other. And finally, at the bottom, a symbol for the ‘heart’ – listen with all your heart. So, together, these parts tell us what real listening involves.

True listening, this symbol is saying, involves giving our ears, our eyes, our undivided attention and our hearts, to the person in front of us. This is what Jesus is asking of his listeners. If you want to be the kind of ‘good soil’ that the parable is talking about, and grow as much as you can from the seed (God’s Word), then you must truly listen like that!

· Farmers used to sow their seeds by ‘broadcasting’ (throwing the seed as they went). Do you think the seed would land where the farmer wanted it to?

· In the story, what helped the seeds to grow? What helps us to grow as followers of Jesus?

· In what ways have you grown or changed in the last year?

· What makes a good listener? Are you one?

Hymn Praise and thanksgiving, Father we offer (R&S 48)

Prayers of Intercession

God, we give thanks that you are ever on the move even when we feel stagnant. Your word is not static, your wisdom not sealed and silent; like one who walks constantly, casting seed broadly, your whispers fall around us as seeds on soil. We praise you for Jesus’ teaching, which helps us to prepare ourselves to be good soil, fertile for growing the fruits of goodness and grace.

Lord God, we pray today for all the people given the great privilege of spreading your gospel.

We pray for the Church worldwide, but in particular in the places where people are still persecuted for their beliefs.

We pray for our ministers, who prayerfully seek your face, and bring us the words and understanding we need to become more faithful followers of you.

We pray for writers and poets, as they pore over your Word, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to bring your message to life on the page.

We pray for artists and all craftspeople who draw inspiration from your Word, and speak to us through their creations. Amen.

Hymn Colours of day dawn into the mind (R&S 572)


Ever-giving God, we thank you that you have never stopped sowing your word among us. Give us receptive hearts and make us fruitful for you in the week to come.

And may your blessing rest on us, now and always.


Prayers and other material © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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