Welcome to Totley All Saints and this week’s virtual service. Today is the start of the six week summer holidays for most of our school children and, even though schools might normally wind down a little before the end of term, there is usally great relief that finally school is out for the summer.
This year though has been a little different to say the least. Scary for some, easy for some, much harder for others. The school year has just sort of petered out without the normal events that mark the lead up to summer. Lockdown has been downright discombobulating if nothing else, particularly for our children . So in your own prayers this week i ask you to think especially of our young people, that they would have a good summer break and that they would be able to return to school in September refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to cope with whatever learning looks like next term..
As you know from last week we are using some online sermons prepared by the Bishop and his team over the summer period however I have a dilemma… I wrote half of this week’s before that decision was taken and I found the particular passage that I have chosen to both follow on nicely from what I was taking about on Trinity Sunday a few weeks back and to be extremely encouraging for me personally.
So For that reason there is a 2 for one deal this week – 2 talks to choose from – Please choose whichever you like as you see fit and follow whichever theme works for you this morning…
Before we start lets pray together
Father God we pray that as we come to you this morning you would calm our minds, and open our hearts to you. We pray that you would be with us in our prayer and praise this morning, that your spirit would guide our worship and our understanding of you. That above all you would be with us as we come to you in faith today.
So let us offer to God our thanks and praise as we listen or sing along to the song below.
And a very simple song to help us focus on God’s spirit this morning.
You now have two choices (or do both!): The first reading and talk is based on Romans 8: 12-25 while the second is Matthew 13 24-30 and 36-43: The Parable of the Weeds
A few weeks ago,when I talked about the Trinity we looked at how the Holy Spirit is the part of God here on earth. Today’s passage we have from Romans tells us a little bit about the relationship we have with the Holy Spirit and how we can be different because of it.
Our body is vital for us to live in the world, to interact with everyone and everything around us but Paul makes the pioint that we need the Spirit to help us live in the way God wants. You know that saying where something is only skin deep? , its shallow, only skimming the surface. Paul is telling us that without the spirit our faith is only skin deep. He says those who are led by the spirit are children of God – and that the Spirit isn’t there to makes us slaves but instead adopts us for God. Whenever we say “Abba, Father” (ie we call him “Dad”) v 16 The hOly Spirit testifies that we are God’s Children. That means that God CHOOSES us to be his children – I am chosen, you are chosen, every one who accepts the Holy Spirit is one of God’s children – we are taken in, we are adopted into the family of God. And Paul goes on to say that if we are adopted then we become heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus. We are all heirs together of God no matter who we are or where we come from.
Paul, didn’t know most of the people he was writing to in Rome – He had never been to Rome and so the people he was writing to were strangers. But He preaches a grace in his letter to the Romans that is available to anyone,– that comes from an impartial God, who doesn’t see skin colour , or ethnicity, or wealth or social standing or job or anything else – a God that values everyone no matter what.
According to most scholars Paul borrowed the idea of adoption from Greek or Roman Law – Jews didn’t practice adoption in the sense that we know it but in the law it meant “being given the full rights and priveledges of belonging to a family that one does not belong to by nature” In other words Paul is trying to explain we are not born Christian – it is something we become, not something that we have a birthright to but which comes to us solely through God’s grace.
Paul has told us how we need the Holy Spirit in order to be the children of God – how the spirit can help us when the body is weak. Being a Christian is not easy. Resisting sin is not easy. Enduring persecution is not easy (alright, in this country we have it easy there are many places where it isnt). Coping with day-to-day life in our messed up world can be hard – there are trials and tribulations everywhere. HOWEVER here comes the good news, Paul says, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v. 18). Just as there was for Jesus, there is joy coming for us — a future so wonderful that our current problems will seem minor.
But we are not the only ones who will benefit. Paul says that there is a cosmic significance to God’s plan being worked out in us: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (v. 19).
The creation not only wants to see us in glory —creation itself will also be blessed with change when God’s plan is brought to completion, as Paul says in the next verses: “For the creation was subjected to frustration…in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (vv. 20-21). He is saying that the whole of creation (ie not just man), suffers as a result of our sin. You might find a modern day analogy to what Paul says in what we as humans are doing to creation, how we pollute the world we live in for example.
The creation is decaying, but that it is not the way it was designed to be. At the resurrection, when we are given the glory that rightly belongs to God’s children, the universe will also be freed from its bondage. The entire universe has been redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ – Paul wrote in Colossians that through Jesus all things on earth and in heaven would be reconciled.
Paul has personified the whole of creation and describes it as Waiting patiently
BUT Even though the price has already been paid, we do not yet see everything the way God wants it to be in the end. “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (V:22). The world itself is in pain, almost as if it is giving birth to us and our new life. Not only that, “but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). Even though we have been given the Holy Spirit as an advance payment of salvation, and we know we have been adopted by God , we also struggle right now, our salvation is not yet complete. We struggle with sin, we struggle with physical limitations, pain and sorrow — even while we rejoice in what Christ has done for us and the hope of what is to come.
Salvation means that our bodies will be made new, and transformed into glory. The physical world is not just junk that must be tossed aside — God made it good, and he will make it good again. We do not know how bodies are resurrected, or what we will look or feel like , but we can trust God to complete his work.
We do not yet see a perfect creation, neither in space nor on earth nor in our own bodies, but we have can be confident in our hope that it will be transformed. As Paul says(v:24-25).: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
And so we wait, with both patience and eagerness, for the resurrection of our bodies, when our adoption will be completed. We live in the situation of “already but not yet”: already promised redemption, but not yet completely redeemed. We are already freed from condemnation, but not yet completely freed from sin. We are already in the kingdom, but it is not yet in its fullness. We live with aspects of the age to come, even as we struggle with aspects of the old age.
Simply put, in this life we have the help of the holy spirit to keep us on track, to help us fight our human failings. And also because of our acceptance of that holy spirit we are to be adopted into the family of God, no matter who we are – a process that will not be easy or smooth, as human life often isn’t, but we can look forward with confidence that when it is complete, at the end of our earthly lives, what comes next will be completely amazing as part of the family of God.
Lockdown has meant that, for once, the Rectory garden has had significant time investment – by my husband rather than me, I have to admit. He recognizes that he’s even starting to talk like a gardener. And he’s only really noticed the presence of weeds because he’s put a lot of effort into weeding. That’s the thing with weeds. You get everything under control, you tend your garden like you’ve never tended it before. You turn your back, and before you know it, there they are again. They have a life of their own. If ever we, as the human race, supposed we had life under control, the pandemic has reminded us that there are always things beyond our control. Weeds are part of life.
On Good Friday, we used the local community Facebook platform to invite people, out for their permitted daily exercise, to perhaps pause at the large wooden cross in the churchyard to pray. Not all comments were positive. Some clearly expressed the question of how a good God could send a pandemic and why should we thank him for it. Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds addresses that age old-question, which has been grappled with from time immemorial, about the presence of evil. The weeds were never part of the plan. They are not what God intended. But they are a reality we face.
So, why not just get rid of them? Why do evil people thrive alongside the good, and it seems they get away with it? It will be a question you ask yourself, and a question others will ask of you when they see injustice going unpunished. The very fact that Jesus tackles that question suggests he thinks it is a good question.
Weeds, which sap the soil of nutrients, and wheat, which grows something nourishing, are more complex than they appear. They are not like the plate of peas and sweetcorn my children used to painstakingly separate because they only liked one and not the other. Those things are easy to separate, and no damage is caused in doing so. But that’s not the case with plants, because of their root system. Their roots are intertwined, they impact one another, their systems of nourishment are shaped and directed by one another. Even if you could see the root system, you’d be hard pressed to tell which belonged to which plant. Sometimes that’s a challenge even above ground – wheat and weeds can be very similar to look at, especially the immature plants. By the time they’ve reached maturity, the root systems are well- developed and interwoven. Their life is intermingled. All that is positive in me is impacted by the soil I share with others, and the intermingled root system of our life. Evil is not some entity ‘out there’ that God could banish, or we could uproot, and our lives would carry on unharmed in the process. The roots of evil and selfishness and injustice are twisted around all that is good in our lives and the life of our communities.
All this, I think, has something sobering to say in a society which quickly points the finger of judgment at the other and demands removal, as if it were as simple as a plate of sweetcorn and peas. Finding scapegoats will not serve us well, for it perpetuates the myth of our own innocence. There is a complex root structure in me too, weeds in the soil of my own life, some very deep rooted. We are all a complex mixture, we all stand in need of forgiveness. The roots of our own institution, the Church of England, the turbulent history which gave it birth, was a complex mixture of the good and the not so good. The roots are messy, but untidy, but to uproot is not the answer, for all that is good would be jeopardized in the process. So, what is the answer? Do nothing, and let evil thrive? No – grow and multiply the wheat so that there is no space left for weeds to embed themselves.
How are we to understand this teaching of Jesus? What is his point? Is it simply a sort of morality tale akin to Aesop’s fables, exploring, in story, the way the world is? That doesn’t ring true for me as I hear the broader scope of Jesus’ kingdom call. I hear the words afresh when they echo alongside some other words Jesus spoke. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies it bears much fruit.” Anticipating his impending death, Jesus knew he, the grain of wheat – the stuff of the bread of life – was being uprooted as a worthless weed, whose ministry was deemed to be sapping the cultural soil. They do, after all, look remarkably similar. Those who were intent on this were oblivious to any impact it would have on them. It seemed as simple and uncomplicated as sorting peas from sweetcorn, but was far from that. The roots were intermingled in the soil of their shared heritage, and their own were compromised in the uprooting. And the fruit borne from that grain of wheat, as Jesus foretold, has disseminated a crop around the globe. It is deeply rooted into the heritage of our nation, and many other nations, and cannot be uprooted without lasting damage. The kingdom crop, still often uprooted today as worthless weeds, in many countries around the world, is still bearing kingdom fruit. It is woven into the root structure of our world, until the kingdom comes, and the harvest song of heaven is finally sung.
Prayers of Intercession
A prayer for others
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 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. 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 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 belong to you and need your love.
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020.
Reproduced with permission.
A prayer for our children and young people
Father God we ask you to be with all our young people as they break up for the summer holidays. We pray that they would be refreshed and re-energised over the summer period. We pray especially for those that find being away from school difficult, those who have difficult home lives and those who may be falling behind due to the current disruption. Send your holy spirit to comfort and guide them all we pray.
The Lord’s prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”
Blessing and Dismissal
Father thank you so much for being with us this morning – thank you that you are an ever present force in our life, thank you that you sent your spirit to be with us here on earth to help us do you will. Bless us by the power of your holy spirit that we would know you more clearly and live our lives in your service.
So lets go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ – Amen!