no gangnam style required

I preached on Sunday, two services, same passage. The first service was a small group aged between 1 and older! Both had a lot of ad libbing, including the prayers. It is strange I like to know there is one written but then something else comes about. The prayers for other people at the first service was totally extempore because I had a white page to look at and as I began remembered I had seen no news in the last week. I keep giving this note to myself – “At least read the headlines” but it all came through and I wasn’t stoned out the building. This service was less than an hour by some ten minutes and I wondered about that and realised there was no kid talk and the six hymns chosen from the eight provided at the other service were the shorter ones. So good point to remember, look at hymn length.

The second service was an all-age that I had brought on myself and it could have gone very wrong because what I had written down was not what had evolved in my head and so for one section I didn’t even write it out again. I felt so blessed at this service that although small in number lots volunteered (?) to help in the various aspects of the service. One person and one child stood out as being particularly good at improv, adlib and mime. Again wasn’t stoned and had lots of conversations afterwards. Was difficult to get the timing right and it lasted well over an hour but the kids were still engaging at the end and no one had gone to sleep. Must work out a way to time an all-age.

Neither service was recorded. The first because I forgot and the second because there wasn’t a static mike or me standing still. Below are the “kind of ” contents of the two services.

Good morning and welcome everyone to the service this morning. We are going to be unpacking the Parable of the Sower this morning.

Psalm 119:33-40 using the New English Translation

33 Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes,
so that I might observe it continually.
34 Give me understanding so that I might observe your law,
and keep it with all my heart.
35 Guide me in the path of your commands,
for I delight to walk in it.
36 Give me a desire for your rules,
rather than for wealth gained unjustly.
37 Turn my eyes away from what is worthless!
Revive me with your word!
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
which you made to the one who honours you.
39 Take away the insults that I dread!
Indeed, your regulations are good.
40 Look, I long for your precepts.
Revive me with your deliverance!

Let’s settle our hearts and minds in a few moments of silence for our service of worship.

Silence

Let us pray

O Lord we come before you now, all different, all unique, but all of us, equal before you, and all here for one purpose to worship you. To respond to your extravagant love with love.

Give us a desire to follow you, help us turn away from the worldly. Revive us this morning Lord.

Open our ears so we can hear, open our eyes so we can see, open our minds so we might understand and open our hearts so we can embrace, so we can welcome you into our hearts

We say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

We are going to have our praise time led by Steve…

Praise Time – 4 songs and some extempore praise and prayer

Let us pray

O mighty and wondrous Father,

You are powerful, you are mighty, the astonishing amazing God. You who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. We embrace your love. Because you are not some distant relative, you are ever present in our lives. A very personal God, a very personal relationship. O Lord we love you.

Thank you Father for sending your son, Jesus Christ who took on our human frailty, lived with us as one of us, and even today meets us in our point of pain, who transforms us and makes us into new creations.

Jesus we thank you for everything you are doing in our lives, for the past  – gone, for the future – taken care of. We don’t have to worry about money in the bank or clothes on our back because we are loved by you.

In you we place our trust, in you we believe, in you we have confidence to live in this moment with no worries. That you take care of our worries, thank you Jesus, thank you Lord. You are Lord in this place.

As we open our bibles and hear the words written down long ago help us find understanding not just in our minds but in our hearts, opening our ears and eyes to your ways. For your ways are straight and true

In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen

Reading

Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23

The Parable of the Sower

 

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

 

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Offering

Prayer

Sermon

At 11 oclock there is an all age service based on the same scripture so there will no long words so I thought I’d put them all in now. No I’m not. But I am going to start at the end and work backwards.

You see I want to be good soil, don’t  you? In Jesus’ interpretation for the disciples he is talking about people who take the word into their heart, into the centre of their being and live out their lives being “good soil”

Of course we all want to be “good soil” We want the word of God to take root in our hearts. It has been said that a person’s vision comes not from their position but from their passion. But I would go further and say that a person’s vision comes from the root of their passion rather than the might of their power.

What is your root? What is your passion?

Are we “good soil” all the way through, in every aspect of lives, are we always open to the word of God, are we always open to the nudging of the Spirit, in everything

You see it has also been said though that we are a mixture of all the soils in the parable. We have thorns and weeds, we have patches of rockiness and even the odd bit of concrete path in our good soil.

So I kind of see this parable not as something static but as a movie that changes, it is a story unfolding as our lives unfold.

Can our roots withhold the storms that batter our stalks? Can we remain with humility when things are going really well in our lives? When the most devastating thing happens can we remain anchored to Christ rather than building up barricades against him?

Going backwards then to the thorns and weeds. In Spring I go in the polytunnel and tidy up, remove all the weeds and plant my seeds, I water and tend to them but it seems like overnight they are covered in weeds and they are growing more abundantly than the vegetables. Can we see that in our lives? We want to be good soil but “good soil” takes work. We have to keep weeding it. And we do that by spending time with the Lord every day, reading the Bible, praying, listening to the Lord and spending time in fellowship. And we have to know our weeds and thorns, we need to know where our weaknesses are, as Jesus put it the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Wealth can be deceitful whether we have it or not. Since the downturn in the economy more and more people have been treated for gambling addiction. If we are wealthy we can worry about keeping it.

But there are other worries, we are told in the bible not to worry, we are preached at to not worry and yet we still do. We worry about the things we can’t change. So those worries grow like weeds choking the love of God, but we can share those worries with the one who loves us.

Later on in the polytunnel, the balance in the rate of growth changes, because of the weeding the weeds still come but they start at day one again but the veggies they grow on steadily. So the fruit outweighs the weeds. We are going to have weeds in our lives but if we keeping weeding and concentrate our gaze on Jesus they will be manageable.

The rocky ground, where roots find it hard to travel downward. What can we do to allow the roots grow? Or how do we get rid of the rocks? Anyone who has been stone picking knows, there is no end to it. There is so much broken shale around the fields of Kerry that hand picking is an ongoing task after each harvest that churns more up. In our on going journey with the Lord there are times of growth spurts. Like when we are first transformed into new creations we can get so caught up in our feelings that we forget to remain focused on Jesus. I heard this week of a church who would have say 700 at the service but barely 20 would turn up for the deeper study.  We need encouragement and sustainability and of course we are encouraged and sustained by Christ but also by each other. I have been reminded in recent weeks of the last time I went stone picking, it was in a field on the opposite hill, four families together picked the field in a day. When we come together we can share the load and help each other along the way. So we can help turn the rocky ground into fruitful ground.

And then we come to the path. That slab of concrete that’s not letting any word in. And the enemy ready to swoop down and steal away with seeds of love. But the sower doesn’t stop trying to sow those seeds.

Have you ever wondered about that? A farmer went out to sow his seed. And he wasn’t stingy, he was extravagant, he abundantly scattered the seed. The seed is the message of the kingdom of God. The sower doesn’t worry about where the seed lands because each seed can chip away at a hardened heart, can strengthen someone’s faltering faith, can remind people of Jesus and how he humbled himself to come among us. And if we are good soil – can encourage us, can keep us in the mode of readiness for when Jesus comes again.

As Christians we are called to spread the good news, to be sowers of the word. Wouldn’t it be great to be as extravagant and abundant as the farmer in the parable. To not worry about where we spread the good news. To continue to share the love of Jesus Christ everywhere we go, to whom ever we meet regardless of what we might think of them, knowing that there is grace enough for all of us, knowing that there is so much grace that it covers all things and all people. That giving God’s love is never wasted, never a waste of time, that sharing the love of Jesus is never ever a waste in any way.

Shall we try it? Not worrying? Not excluding anyone? Not trying to change anyone? There is no limit to the seeds we can plant, it’s not about the money, it’s not about the time, it’s not about who to invite.

The sower keeps scattering that seed, despite rejection, despite hardheartedness, despite whether we are good soil, or thorny weedy soil, despite what we think about each other, the seeds keep coming. Extravagant. Abundant. The lord continually pursues, continually plants, continually loves.

So no matter what kind of soil we are on any given day, God has made it possible to bear fruit.  Keep sowing… keep encouraging one another to sow… sow in abundance… be extravagant —- sow in love.

Amen

We are going to sing again, in praise and worship. Steve …2 Songs

Prayer and symbol

Grace

 

All Age

Good morning and welcome everyone to the service this morning. We are going to be unpacking the Parable of the Sower this morning and the kids are staying with us too.

Psalm 119:33-40 using the New English Translation

33 Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes,
so that I might observe it continually.
34 Give me understanding so that I might observe your law,
and keep it with all my heart.
35 Guide me in the path of your commands,
for I delight to walk in it.
36 Give me a desire for your rules,
rather than for wealth gained unjustly.
37 Turn my eyes away from what is worthless!
Revive me with your word!
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
which you made to the one who honours you.
39 Take away the insults that I dread!
Indeed, your regulations are good.
40 Look, I long for your precepts.
Revive me with your deliverance!

Let’s settle ourselves for our service of worship.

Let us pray

Silence

O Lord we come before you now, all different, all unique, but all of us, equal before you, and all here for one purpose to worship you. To respond to your extravagant love with love.

You are good, so very good and you are good to us. As we prepare to sing your praises, as we engage in worshipping you, we thank you Lord, that you are here with us.

We thank you Lord that you are with us always,  no matter who we are you love us.

Open our ears so we can hear, open our eyes so we can see, open our minds so we might understand and open our hearts so we can embrace, so we can welcome you into our hearts

We say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

We are going to sing a couple of songs, in praise of our Lord. We begin by standing.

Anne will now bring us the reading.

Thank you

The Path

Where is a good place to sow in here? In someone’s hair? Cos like hair grows well doesn’t it, we, well most of us have to visit the barbers regularly so I think it would be a good place. What do you all think?

Okay so not hair. What about the piano. Marian makes sweet music from it and we learn new songs so we are growing in the number of songs we know?

Okay so not hair and not the piano. We need someplace where the seeds will grow. What about the pulpit box thing? We grow in our faith because we hear words from there that help us in our faith journey. What do you think?

Okay I get it. This isn’t the place for these seeds. Now the story we heard. The one Jesus told the people. It talks about the seed that falls on the path. So putting seed in hair or on pianos or on pulpit boxes that’s not going to work is it. But…

Hold that but let’s go back to the passage verse 4 says As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Jesus said later in verse 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

Okay now for my But…

If we were to put seed in our hair and went outside it would drop onto maybe the grass or the path and a bird might come and take it, then later it would be dispersed or dropped in a field or garden and it might find the right place. The same if were to leave them on the piano or pulpit or wherever, maybe a mouse might take them or they cleaned up but then through a series of adventures it ends up in a field or garden.

Some seeds can only grow if they are moved from where they are made by the plant or tree.

Oak seeds, acorns never grow under existing oak trees.

Chilli pepper seeds give better yield if first they are frozen.

So sometimes it is okay for the seed to go on the path because it needs some time to be digested. We share the good news about Jesus and the Kingdom of God all the time in places and to people who maybe don’t want to hear it. Close their ears to the word.

As soon as we have opened our mouths we are shouted down and I have heard many preachers suggest that we therefore ignore “the path” or walk away from these situations.

Another but…

But the farmer – he sowed seed on the path abundantly,

Let us pray

Dear Lord

We thank you for the seeds planted in our lives, we thank you that those seeds germinate in your time and we begin to grow,

Amen

We are going to sing a couple more songs in worship to our God. Steve…

Shallow Ground

Girl

People

We will look at that in a bit more detail in a minute but we thought we’d show you what equally could happen

Girl

People

Thank you

Verse 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Roots needs three things, water and oxygen and soil that is not squashed down so that roots can grow down and out. If the ground is rocky it is difficult for the roots to get down into the goodness below. But seeds know what to do, they know to grow. So they make an attempt and they grow and grow using all their resources but what they have, comes to an end and they wither because there is no root.

Jesus said in verses 20-21

20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

What our actors portrayed first is someone who hasn’t focused on their root. There have been some pretty hefty trees knocked down in Kerry this month. Some trees survived where others didn’t. Storms happen in our life, but if we batten down the hatches and focus on our root, Jesus, we can weather any storm. This is not a platitude, this is a truth. The more stormy it gets the more we need to spend time with the Lord in prayer, in petition, in listening too, in reading the bible, in fellowship in small groups and coming together in church to worship together.

Let us pray

Lord today we think of all the people struggling in the storm. Let us reach out to them in your name and sow seeds of your love in their life. Let them in the storm find you as their anchor, their root. And Lord we too need to hold fast to our root which is you, our centre, you. As we sow seeds of your love we also receive your love. We are workers in your kingdom who keep our focus on the king. Thank you Lord for being our King. We love you. Amen

We are going to worship in song again, Steve..

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Collection

Lord, all we have is yours, our whole lives belong to you, our gifts, our talents, our possessions, please accept this, a token from us back to you to further the work of the kingdom both here and all around the world. amen

Thorny and weedy

Show video 0.27 to 3.45

Last week at the nine o clock service Laurence spoke about the things that hinder us from focusing on Jesus. And they weren’t all bad. They were family and work and hobbies, stuff like that. And that’s what the thorns and weeds can represent. When our focus isn’t first on Jesus. When we get our work title into the first line of the conversation, “Hi I’m Jenny I’m a store manager” or “Hi I’m John I am a stay at home dad.” Or we pray to Jesus to help us study or get through an exam or an interview but when we pass, we take the praise, we take the glory and forget our focus. Or maybe in church we take on a role and become full of pride at our accomplishments.

Psalm 119

36 Give me a desire for your rules,

rather than for wealth gained unjustly.

37 Turn my eyes away from what is worthless!

Revive me with your word!

The thorns and weeds of our lives are hidden until we begin to grow. And then they come up and overwhelm us, choke the love out of us. In our busyness of sowing seeds in other peoples lives we neglect our own personal relationship with the Lord, we can get caught up in what “I do” or “you do” or “we do” and forget that we can do nothing without Jesus. It isn’t us people need it is Jesus. And that’s humbling and it should be.

Because Jesus, king of kings humbled himself to come to this earth to be among us. He meets us where we are at, in whatever situation that is.

Let’s pray

Lord

We bow down before you, we are on our knees. We look back over the last week and see where we have allowed pride to get in under our skin, we see all the other ways we have messed up, even this morning because none of us here is without sin and we ask you Lord to forgive us. We thank you Lord for that forgiveness, for your love abundant and extravagant, for your outrageous grace and bottomless mercy. Help us Lord to keep our focus on you and all you have done, are doing and will do in our lives.

Amen

Bonus time now we get to sing again, we get to raise our voices once more in song.

Good Soil

We have heard about paths and rocky ground and thorns and weeds. So we must be up to the good soil.

Jesus said:

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Some people have said the sower was not very good at his or her job because the seed went all over the place and only some landed in the good soil.

There is a story of a man called Jimmy, he was full of himself, full of pride and his own abilities he was in a good paid job and was all about the money, money, money.

Well as in all good tales he got his comeuppance and lost everything and ended up in the court of the king asking for a servants job. He was given the job of water carrier.

Now this meant he had to carry a pitcher twice a day to the river which was three miles away. No car, no bike. He had to walk it, there and back twice. And on the way back carry a pitcher of water on his head.

But for him the worst part was not the walking or the carrying. It was the humiliation of doing a job that was really for women and children. On his first day full of anger and resentment he fumed as he arrived at the river. The women and children laughed at the high and mighty Jimmy brought as low as them.

I did tell you he had abilities. Well one of them was strength and the other was making things. He decided to make a yoke that would carry two pitchers. And to avoid the women he went really early in the morning. The pitchers were heavy but he did the job, and because he felt burdened by the shame of his lowly position he still went twice a day.

So the king got to enjoy more baths and the cook had more water to boil the vegetables. Everyone was happy, except Jimmy. He was angry at losing all he had, he was humiliated by the position and he got to feeling very low. Like when you feel sick but the doctor can’t see anything wrong.

All through the winter and spring he did the best job he could do but he was sad. One day walking back with his heavy load he met a man going the other way.

“Isn’t it beautiful” the man said to Jimmy

“What is?” Jimmy asked

“The path, the hedgerow, so colourful”

Jimmy looked up to where the man was pointing and at the side of the road was an abundance of colour, flowers of every kind were blooming.

“Thank you for watering the parched earth and letting the flowers blossom” the man said to Jimmy

Jimmy went on his way singing and whistling, oh what joy. He never knew who planted the seeds but it was him with his over full pitchers that watered them. People began to come from miles around to see the beautiful flowers and meet the unexpected gardener.

The flowers were beautiful but what was exceptionally beautiful was the change in Jimmy. Gone was the anger replaced by joy. He still did his job, still did as much but now he was joyful his load felt lighter and he was able to encourage the other water carriers in song and in his whistles.

The End

We as a church all of us from the youngest to the oldest have been given some questions to mull over, to pray about, to challenge us about the health of our church. So are we good soil?

Is the love of Jesus present in our lives as individuals and as a church. Is that love shown abundantly and extravagantly so seeds of the love of Jesus are planted in people’s hearts.

I believe we are good soil, I see it in the way you all minister to each other in a crisis and in lots of other ways, supporting and nurturing each other, building each other up and in the same way building the church up the body of Christ.

One final but.

But we all know at least one person like Jimmy in the story, who we think about who may be are choking in the thorns or being uprooted by storm or are a blank concrete slab so the seed bounces off. And so I invite you to pray about that one person, the one uppermost in your mind and heart and whilst praying about that person please do plant a seed to symbolically associate your prayer with the seed of Jesus’ love for that person. And I am hoping that we’ll be allowed let these seeds grow so come a few months time we hope that person has grown in faith in that love as much as the plants have.

So for the last time I am looking for a few volunteers to pass out the seed and and a couple of strong people to carry the planters.

Prayer

The Grace

pioneer pilot

Ben had put off entering the room long enough. He had done every errand he could think of, tying the parcels of books together tightly and performing a ritual double bow with a flourish. But he was out of books and so taking a deep breath he entered the refectory. Immediately his personal tutor began to rise, Ben didn’t acknowledge the ascent and the tutor sat continuing the conversation with newly returned pilots.

He made a beeline for the head of the queue, he was on a purely liquid diet due to his imminent departure. It wasn’t official, it was what he did, a ritual. Bitter Koka Rootbeer was on the left and hot chicory seed with peppermint on the right. As he was chilled to the bone, suddenly, he took the latter and then turned to see all the tables.

At the very end of the first row was a space but it was close to the Deputy High Commissioner and very close, in fact next to Clarissa Arthurs. Clarissa was allegedly the confidante of the Deputy in all senses of the word and anything said to her went straight back, but like those double bows, a little flourish was added along the way.

Ben knew that the Deputy had not wanted him on this voyage, he wasn’t the only one with eyes and ears in the building. In fact only a few hours earlier one of his first mentors had suggested caution around the said Deputy. There were a lot of people rooting for Ben, he was the first of his kind to be plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight. The limelight he detested but he knew that the piloting skills in the lower, lower quadrant were needed for the empire to succeed.

He cautiously sat down facing Clarissa and noticed for the first time the scars of sacrifice across her brow, he began to exude empathetic waves in her direction but she turned full face to him and spat,

“Ben tell me about you. I don’t know you.”

As the words were passing through ether between them, Ben noticed in the corner of his eye, the Deputy High Commissioner was listening. He was visibly rocking backwards in his chair to hear every word.

Ben pondered on this as he told a little, as little as possible, to Clarissa. She was going to add to it anyway so although he told the truth, he told it sparingly. The last time he had been on earth he had seen a live broadcast of an execution but prior to the death, the convict had sat in a seat with a bright light above him and was questioned. He had this image in his head and although he wasn’t facing death he laughed to himself that at least the prisoner knew why the questions were being asked. Clarissa continued her barrage of questions, leading him down paths he wasn’t sure the Deputy High Commissioner needed to know.

And then there was the bigger picture, the Deputy wanted the High Commissioner’s job. Ben thought about this and realised he didn’t want the job so he could do it, he wanted it so he could take it off the High Commissioner. Ben looked across at all the people he could have sat near, people he knew well, fellow pilots, he looked towards his tutor.

space

He left after an appropriate time, he felt as if Clarissa had not just eaten him for breakfast dinner and tea but had licked the bones clean and then chomped down through the bone, grinding each one until Ben was just a gooey, messy pile in her stomach. The voyage was to take place soon but there was no absolute guarantee of a place until the Day of Adoration of the Sandstorm when the great council of the wicked and wise met to discuss the pilots. He felt suddenly like some pawn in a master game of chess of which only one of the opponents knew the game was afoot.

where do you pin your hope

Sunday was one of those character building days. Many lessons learned and quite a few mistakes made. There was some yoga with a pastor’s child, some down and dirty honesty, much light and fluffiness and watching a Christian movie with my husband who didn’t grunt, moan or leave the room cos Huggy Bear was in it and was hooked on the story before he realised it had a Christian message.

There was the message I got whilst delivering the message in the second service – you gotta talk about the manure… I have written a bit about this but again the message is coming so I will write more about it.

There are a few reasons why I wear the same clothes I wear on Saturdays to church on Sunday. I hear and respect those who want to wear their best clothes to meet with the Lord and I totally get it but I meet him on Saturdays too and I might be walking in the hills or doing my shopping or driving or sitting on my couch vegging.

So what am I saying?

Well if we dress up to meet with the Lord once a week on a Sunday does that mean we don’t meet him all week?

Is it only people with “Sunday best” clothes can meet with the Lord?

Do we have to clean ourselves up before we go into church?

Do we have to clean ourselves up before we meet the Lord?

NO

Firstly we can’t clean ourselves

Focusing on what we wear means we are thinking about other people rather than the Lord

Physical appearance does not clean our hearts.

Secondly if we are meeting regularly with the Lord all week we know it is not our clothes he is talking to, it is our hearts.

BUT

Saturday I was in Cork and on the way home spilled hot chocolate over my baggy jeans and since the arse slapping incident have avoided wearing none baggy jeans to church. Am looking for some cords that I can wear all week including Sundays but thus far have only seen Tommy H ones that would blow my entire year’s clothes budget.

So Sunday arrived and I was preaching and last week had finally bought my “preacher” clothes but I had never intended to wear them in my home church, they were for other places that needed a none jeans/cords dress code. But also because of the slap, I didn’t want to wear anything too short with leggings. I wore tights once last year and got “oh you do have legs.” So again it is leggings or trousers of some description.

So I put on my “preacher” clothes and the only comment I got was “nice dress” or something like that from a lovely lady at the first service. All good?

Well no because I looked down at some point in the first service and realised I had bought a dress that looks like a pinny.

And not any old pinny, but a Mrs overall style pinny. For me actually it was both humbling and beautiful. Humbling because I am old enough to remember women who wear pinnies or housecoats to do their work, and I was working. Humbling because I had tried to buy something stylish and cheap and ended up with something that other women take off to leave the house.

But BEAUTIFUL???

Yes because my Blue, she always wore a pinny except on a Sunday when she went to chapel and for the first time since I began this preaching journey did I feel that there was a nod to it from her. Tim said a few years ago after I had filled in for bible study, about how she would be proud of me. It seemed odd to me because she never made much of humans accomplishments. She was only proud of Jesus. Or she only boasted about Jesus. She got me involved in church, not so I could make her proud but so another soul was brought to him.

So looking down and getting a glimpse of the dress as a pinny   made me laugh at myself and smile as I remembered Blue.

When clothes are our focus we are not focused on Christ. If we concentrate our gaze on him then all the distractions fall away. I ended up doing something I never have imagined myself doing. I cam home after church and got changed.

It felt so odd, so unlike me. But there is a lot happening to me these days that are unlike me. Maybe I need to just let it all happen, the pinnies, the conflict, the comments, let it all happen and let it go.

Because it doesn’t matter to me that frees me from being caught up in it. This is what is important:

Psalm 134

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

 

 

Sowing into good soil

To be “good soil” you need a whole pile of stuff to happen. A good mixture of weather – rainy days and sunny days – balanced like. Lots of worms making holes as they slither through. Lots of manure and fertilizer (organic of course)

dirt

What I mean is “good soil” doesn’t just happen. We can’t decide that today is the day we become good soil. But today can be the day we can work towards it. When I say work, I mean vocation. We hunger and thirst to know more and to know Christ. And it is that hunger and thirst that provides the motivation to  – – -read the bible, meet in fellowship, worship in church, love each other and to sow those seeds — show and tell the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom.

Those activities aerate our soil so it becomes a pleasant place for seeds to grow and become beautiful plants but the real beauty comes in how we handle the manure that gets thrown on our soil.

Do we try to get rid of it, because it smells? Like hiding a gas bill in a drawer so we ignore it and it just gets bigger and bigger.

Do we leave it on the surface, like a label? – don’t come near me I am too {angry, hurt, hurtful, criminal, tired, sick, unloveable}

OR

Do we work it into our soil? Our past experiences, our current trials allow God to hone us, knock off our sharp edges but more than that. We are released from our past. Wherever we have been, whatever we have done.

Whether we have dirt under our fingernails or beautiful manicured hands

Whether we wear preacher clothes or torn jeans

Whether we have white pearly teeth or broken brown yellow ones

We all need to work in the manure deep into our soil to make it “good soil”

And we need the manure

It might not smell nice, it might be a horrible experience but afterwards when we have worked it in, it makes us better for it. And when it is worked in completely it no longer smells. {bonus}

So fertilizer – all those devotional things – bible reading, fellowship, worship, praise, prayer, listening to God and promptings by the Spirit.

So worms – people that we like or don’t like that move through our lives changing bits about us, changing our life experiences, changing our church life.

So manure – the stuff – the good and the bad, the sin, the stuff done to us

So rain – we got to have rain to see rainbows

So sun – when every thing is peachy we can forget to lean on the Lord, on His strength, on His understanding

don’t worry ’bout a thing

Children’s church on Sunday looked at worry and discussed our worries (mostly homework.)

We then read from Matthew 6, what Jesus talked about worry and how even in this little thing he turns our worlds upside down. We don’t need to worry because God provides for our needs. The children were then asked to respond to the passage by creating flowers and birds using construction paper or colouring or in working with words and numbers looking at the passage.

 

In this world where we think so often in terms of wants or manufactured false needs, we sometimes need to think in simple terms of food and clothes. We don’t need ten pairs of shoes. We don’t need exotic ingredients.

 

Simple living is about recycling, reusing and reducing waste. It is about spending less so we can give more. And we refer back to the beginning of Matthew 6 in how we are to give – not with a fanfare of trumpets and an oversized cheque but quietly, anonymously without our egos attached. For example if we have an old coat with a broken zip, we fix the zip for ourselves and buy a new coat for a homeless girl or guy. We follow the Lord who provides abundantly for us, by providing abundantly for others.

 

To live, to really live we have to learn to let go of our “material possessions” mentality. Some challenges to finish: We can live without the internet. We can live without mobile phones. We can live without central heating. We can live without dishwashers and tumble dryers. We can live without running hot water. We can live without the latest styles both in food and clothes. We can live full and complete lives without all of these things. We can live simply.

 

Matthew 6:25 (The Voice)

Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up.

 

Don’t Worry

We love Jesus

We love Jesus

We love Jesus Christ (chorus)

 

We don’t worry ‘bout

Money in the bank

Cos we trust Jesus Christ

 

chorus

 

We don’t worry ‘bout

Food in our belly

Cos we trust Jesus Christ

 

chorus

 

We don’t worry ‘bout

Clothes on our back

Cos we love Jesus Christ

 

(slower)

We love Jesus

We love Jesus

We love Jesus Christ

 

We trust in Jesus

We don’t worry (why?)

He abundantly provides

flowers that grow on my side of the street

in a couple of weeks I am going to be preaching and using a tale about flowers in the desert. I am reading a book called “On which side of the road do the flowers grow” about ordinary Christians in an ordinary congregation doing extraordinary things through Christ. Stories of transformation, of healing, of love, of death, of changes in heart, addictions removed, addictions returned. Messy people in messy situations but who had a very real personal relationship with the Lord.

On another blog, I found this sometime ago (2010) and it is now time to share:

First I was invited to one of my favourite couples (don’t tell the congregation I have favourites…it probably isn’t ethical).  When we arrived at their house, we slowly realized they’d been burglarised while we were at church.

HOW TERRIBLE!

Fortunately not much was taken, but we were just a wee bit shaken.  I tried to get my best comedy on though and keep the mood light—I described the episode of the Middle when the neighbor thinks the family has been robbed but really they just left the house a mess.  It is a classic episode (and probably a foreshadowing of my own life).  Despite the crime—it was an absolutely wonderful afternoon with two people who love the Lord and with whom I enjoy spending my time.

I was invited to that lunch, but had to be some place else, i.e. home, so I didn’t go. I don’t know how I would’ve reacted, possibly with humour like the blogger above. But most importantly I do concur with bloggeress K that the couple is absolutely one of my favourites in the congregation. (and not because I know that one of them reads this)

When I first arrived in Killarney church it was small conversations with this couple that drew me slowly into the family of believers that worship in our church. It was this couple who on Wednesday nights dragged words out of my shyly reticent body, it was in their company I first prayed extemporily albeit very quietly and quickly. And the very first time I sang unaccompanied for the first time in thirty years was with these people at my side.

So I know there is love shared among us and I would never be offended by anything they said. There is more to our journey which has included admonishment, tears and laughter, it has included conflict and resolution but all done within the boundaries of love.

Today I was approached and quite rightly was lovingly admonished for an oversight on my part and all I could think was how much I love this woman who cares for me enough to help me keep on a straight path. I am hoping I have righted the wrong and I am grateful to her for pointing it out.

As we grow in our faith, as we mature in our Christian walk we have these people who help us, encourage us, challenge and love us. We need these people, no one is ever good enough to walk alone. We are bound together by the love of God. This man and woman are flowers in my life blooming in their faith and helping me bloom in mine. God is in this mix, he is in our relationship. God is love, His the care. We are His care. Together side by side we are the body of Christ and we bloom where we are planted, together creating a beautiful bouquet with a pleasing aroma for the Lord.

maelstrom thoughts

You never know what your words are going to do to another person. Sometimes it is obvious from the reaction received. Like when I told my husband that I was racked with pain and my hands were swollen and tender, the reaction – please go to the doctor. The tenderness with which he spoke those words confirmed his concern for my well being. Beautiful on many levels.

Last week I had a conversation that mentioned in passing “cantankerous male organist” within the main body of a longer verbal output. The reaction was not palpable in the room. No one present could have known what was going on inside my panic stricken body. I staved of the historical reaction of running screaming from the room and to all intents and purposes was as peaceful and calm as the previous minute.

In the British methodist church I know there are male painists and organists, I am facebook friends with a few of them. They appear well read, articulate and intelligent with a passion for worship music among other things. So that’s the first thing I knew.

Men can be cantankerous and so can women and entering into a church or chapel does not change that aspect of their personality. God can change it if they are open to changing but walking into a sanctuary does not change any element of our personality. Of course there are those who have a personality transplant on entering church, I believe the term is hypocrite. I am not talking about those. So the second thing I knew is there are cantankerous people in church.

But what I didn’t know, or what had not appeared as a blip on my radar was that in Ireland there could be male organists, cantankerous or otherwise. I had only spoken to female pianists, full of passion and on fire to deliver melody lines for the congregations to sing to. And even as I write this I realise I have met a wonderful male organist in Bandon. It is amazing how context is everything.

You see a hundred years ago I attended a chapel with a male organist. I was two when I first met him and he was a bit part player in my life before taking a lead role one night when I was eight. Many things I had forgotten over the years, one of which was his role in churchlife. Again, amazing how time changes context.

When the old chapel became disused when I was about four he didn’t attend Sunday services in the new one with his wife. And no one ever asked. I suppose the congregation, and it was big so wasn’t closed due to dwindling numbers, dispersed to other churches and some like him stopped going.

I am reading a book today full of stories of ordinary people who lived lives of faith that planted seeds in other people. His wife planted a seed in me, for many years it lay dormant but began to grow again so that now I take on her mantle to sow, to proclaim the good news vocally but more importantly in the way I live my life.

This man was not cantankerous so I don’t know why I suddenly was transported back to that first methodist chapel. Me bringing up the NCH offering with him playing softly in the background. Oh so many years have past, so many wrong turns, u-turns and running round in circles have happened since then.

It is good to have another image I can call on now when I think of him. I began to tell my husband about the conversation I didn’t get past the word organist and he swept me in his arms. Time heals. God heals.

And I live a healed life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30