What season are you?

A truly blessed day in Athlone & Tullamore, met lovely folk, visited relatives and spent quality time with my husband. In the service we explored the life of Thomas, a man who showed courage & passion, humility & faith and once had a season of doubt.

I promised to record the service but due to some extremely klutzy behaviour on my part I ended up without a phone and therefore no recording device. However today opened up a window of opportunity and I was able to record it, although there was no congregation I imagined Charlene sitting on her deckchair by the empty pool listening in that intense way she does.

The transcript is below but neither service heard the exact words as written, it was a good guide though:

The Seasons of Thomas

Thomas was one of the twelve named disciples and we first hear dialogue with him in John 11. The friend of Jesus Lazarus lies ill and his sisters have sent word to Jesus. But when Jesus says to his disciples  “Let us go back to Judea,” in verse 7. The disciples are not happy and tried to persuade him not to go. But it was Thomas who stood apart and said “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Verse 16.

Let us go also so that we may die with him.

These are courageous words. These are words of martyrdom, of standing up for Jesus. I wonder if we didn’t live in comfortable Ireland, if we lived in say North Korea or Eritrea or Indonesia or Syria would we be coming together so readily on a Sunday morning to worship the Lord. What would we be willing to do for the Lord? How far would we go?

I managed to get hold of the first volume of Crookshanks History of Methodism in Ireland recently and it makes fascinating reading. These people who put their lives on the line to share the gospel message to the towns and villages around Ireland.

Here is a short passage, from this neck of the woods:

“Then a party of seven started for Athlone. Some persons overtook them on the road running in great haste, and one horseman riding at full speed; but they suspected nothing, and rode on singing till within half a mile of the town. As they ascended a little hill three or four men appeared and bade them go back; but they did not mind them, thinking they were in jest. Then they were attacked by a mob, who saluted them with a shower of stones; but by spurring on their horses, they escaped without serious injury, except J. Healy, who was knocked down and severely hurt…”

It goes on

“The man who wounded Mr Healy was about to finish his desperate deed with a knife, swearing that he would cut him up, when a poor woman came to the assistance of the wounded preacher, and swore as stoutly that he should not be touched. The ruffian half killed her with a blow, from the effects of which she afterwards died, yet she restrained him until help came.”

The woman has no name in the book but she stood up and the gospel was proclaimed many times in this area bringing many souls to Christ. If Christianity was outlawed in Ireland would we still gather?

Could we be courage in our faith like Thomas?

Let us go also so that we may die with him.

The next time we meet Thomas is in John 14. And we meet another facet of his personality, he is not afraid to ask questions of Jesus. Jesus has just explained to them that he is going to be leaving them and finishes by saying “You know the way to the place I am going”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

If Thomas had not asked the question, we would not know the answer, one of the bible verses we all know

Jesus answers “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Have you ever been in a bible study and wanted to ask a question but thought it would sound daft or that people would laugh? Two years ago I was asked to take over a bible study in a neighbouring county for a while and they were mid study of the letter to the Ephesians. I think it was about chapter 4. So I turned up and before we had started the study, a shy lady nudged me and asked if she could ask a question. I was new to leading studies so I was thinking of all the desperately hard questions it might be. And she said “What’s a gentile?” Ephesians is littered with the word and I also knew the person who had been leading the study and they would have given a very thorough explanation of what a gentile was. But sometimes we miss one sentence and then it doesn’t compute for us and we ask the question. Or do we? Are we like Thomas asking for further clarification or do we just leave it because we don’t want to lose face? Thomas showed humility in asking the question.

Could we be more humble like Thomas?

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

So Thomas before the Crucifixion was humble and courageous. What was he like after? Thomas will tell you in his own words:

Hi, I wish I could stand here and tell you my nickname is Captain Courageous or Wonder Tom but you have all read about me and you know I am known as Doubting Thomas.

Which is really unfair because I wasn’t the only one doubting – all the disciples did, Mary did. But I was the last of those to doubt so the name stuck. And it’s okay I am over it. But it is unfair. I’m just saying.

Let me tell you what happened. I had heard about Mary and the gardener who she said was Jesus, Cleophas and his mate had told us about meeting this guy on the road to Emmaus who they said was Jesus. And I had gone off on my own trying to think these things through.

And then I get back to the meeting place and there is uproar. Everyone is laughing and singing, you’d think someone was getting married instead of the awful truth, our teacher Jesus had died and someone had stolen the body.

Our lives had been changed by this man, he had taught us about the kingdom of God, he healed people, he drove demons out and when he showed his power over the elements. I mean he was awesome. He was special, the greatest prophet ever. He talked in riddles to us, and sometimes we didn’t understand and sometimes we asked him to explain again.

He never tired of telling us over and over again. He loved us and we loved him. But the guys, that day, they were telling me he had appeared in the middle of them, inside the locked door. They said it was really him, in the flesh.

Now a ghost I could understand, but they were saying it was really him, and that he showed the his hands and side where the nails had been driven home and where the spear had pierced him. Well I just couldn’t help it I told them I don’t believe it.

I actually said ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

And then began the worst week of my life. All around me it was party, party but I was in a desperate place. I loved Jesus and I missed him, not like missing him a little bit, but my heart groaned with the ache of not having him near. Of all the people in the world I would turn to at a time like this, it would have been him and he wasn’t here, he was dead and I was distraught.

A week later we were meeting again in the locked room. You have got to understand we were scared that the Jewish authorities would come and have us arrested. So we were in the locked room, and a guy appeared in the middle of room and said “peace be with you” and I knew who he was.

He said “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

I didn’t need to I knew and I suddenly knew a whole lot more. It was like my mind and my heart suddenly started working together and I was so happy, so joyful and well gobsmacked really

Because I got it. This was God, Jesus who I had followed for three years was who he had been telling us. He is God. I don’t know how I got the words out but somehow I said, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Forever I will be known as Doubting Thomas and that’s okay, because I met Jesus and followed him, I watched him die, I saw the empty tomb and I met the risen Christ, Jesus. We were changed by him, are you?

Thomas doubted and then he believed when he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Just like when we explored belief and doubt in the all age message earlier. It is a lot easier to believe something if we can see it. And more so if we touch it, feel it, hear it, smell it. When all our senses are working together.

Thomas we think went onto share the good news of Jesus as far as India, he was a man of passion, humility, courage and the occasional doubt.

So finally in our scripture passage we come to that inspiring verse:

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

And in 1st Peter:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1Pe 1:8-9

That’s us. That is all of us here this morning. We believe. We have passion and courage. We have faith. Praise God

And we also have occasions when we doubt.

Thomas knew who to turn to in doubt. Do we?

Are we willing to face the doubts that we have about God?

Are we willing to talk to Him about it?

Are we willing to listen to the answer, even if the answer is “not telling”

He will meet with us and, he will hear us and he will in a very real and personal way answer those questions and doubts.

Why will He? Why will he meet us in our doubts and questions?

God loves us

And God is able to handle our doubts,

He is bigger than our doubts.

He able to handle our anger as you cry out “Why Me? I’m a good person. Why me? Lord, Why did it have to happen to me?”

So we should embrace our doubts, love them, explore them, encourage others with doubts, be honest, open ourselves up to one another.

The great thing about doing church is we get to meet people. The wonderful life changing thing about being church is we can be like Thomas…

Passionate

Courageous

Humble

And when we have doubt… we can be there for one another.

We need to let go, surrender, trust.

So let’s take God out our boxes, let’s stop trying to contain him with our doubts. And live in fullness and joy.

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:21

We need to have faith like Thomas we need to bring our doubts to God, we need to release them so that we with Thomas can say, “My Lord and my God”

Amen

Sermon 25~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 5

“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you: Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For verily I say unto you: That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 6:1–15.

I was struggling with one of the commandments, it caused me to walk away from church as a teenager and when I returned it was still there: Front and centre. Joining a Bible study didn’t help, we were studying the Sermon on the Mount and so I heard what fulfilling the Law by Jesus meant and that it wasn’t about following the letter of the Law but following the explicit and implicit nature of the Law. So not only the act, but the first iota of an inkling of the act.

I spoke to one of our Local Preachers about it and they said and I quote:

“oh don’t worry about them that is why we have the New Testament we don’t have to worry about the Old Testament at all.”

Now young as I was in my faith walk this didn’t make sense, firstly if we weren’t to worry about the Old Testament then why was it still attached to the New physically in our bibles. Secondly we hear Jesus himself saying

“I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

The LP in question were themselves living a precarious life – preaching without call and preaching when preaching itself was contrary to their beliefs, but I found this out later.

But it raised queries for me and sent me on a journey of discovery of how to ‘without a shadow of doubt’ be following the ten commandments, I left the 613 other laws alone as I am partial to a fried prawn curry and my friends were not abominations.

Two things I discovered in my journey and these are vital for spiritual growth:

1. you have to ask, not just of God but of godly men and women whom you trust and listen to their replies with discernment. The wisest of the wise of humans can get it wrong sometimes too.

2. this is not a solitary journey, people walk alongside, some for a season, some for a season or two but all who walk have their own backstory and motivations.

Jesus did not land on this earth so we can read his words and go – “oh that’s nice.” No he came to change the world, change history, change us, individually – you and me.

March 2014 a vid was shown in church, to show a model of mission and specifically shown to me to raise questions about where is the mission field. Like the questions weren’t there already. A few years ago I had the privilege of viewing and touching some of the modern art held by the Methodist Church in Britain. Yes I did say touch, I couldn’t help it, it was so tactile it drew me in and I touched.

It wasn’t the Diwali madonna or the graphic depictions of the death of Christ, it wasn’t five and chips on the mountain. It was “Cross over the city,” a mixed media (Polyester, brass and mosaic, relief panel) conceptual depiction of The Cross over a city. For me it spoke missionally of housing estates where God is not known. No Pharisees live there and the law is that of the concrete jungle – the hierarchical nature of crime- controlled by the older but carried out be the very young. How do we reach those children, whose light quickly fades and is not present from the age of eight? How can hope be found for those that see life as endless drudge of pain and painkillers? Where the rite of passage into adulthood is not a ritual of confirmation into a church but a gang rape for her and needle for him and where that ritual takes place in ever lowering ages. What age will it stop?

These people do not know the commandments, do not know anything about the Lord and his saving grace, do not know anything about right from wrong. I call them people because children are humans too. How can they even hope to have the righteousness of a Pharisee with no knowledge of the Lord?

And where are we? Tucked up safely in our homes, barricaded in – lest they take out. Where we have no concept of how others live. Someone told me once that everyone has a choice. But not if they are living without choices – where children are groomed to accept whatever is thrown at them.

Jesus came for all of us, not just the twin set and pearls and suited ones, but the raggedy ones, the ones like me and you.

I may have openly struggled with one of the ten, but I was struggling for more secretly with others but until I sorted the open one I was held in grace until such a time was right, timing is everything with the Lord.

Sermon Six Righteousness of Faith

The righteousness of the law given to Moses expected perfection. There was no allowance made for falling short. It was all about being perfect without interruption or intermission.

Wesley argues that righteousness of faith is different from its counterpart of the law. The law is perfect, it comes from the Lord and He is perfect. But we are not. Anyone who thinks they no longer sin is kidding themselves and Wesley points out the errors in this thinking. We are given the gift of faith and forgiveness, covered in a covenant of grace.

We don’t deserve salvation, we don’t deserve anything from the Lord. We are not entitled to anything. But He loves us so much, the whole world and everyone in it, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ. Righteousness of faith is the condition of justification and present and final salvation.

It has been described to me that to aim to be Christ like we actually have to aim. There is no gain in firing arrows at the floor if the target is on the fireplace. But we have to start somewhere. Some people won’t come to church because they think they aren’t ready enough, clean enough, good enough or worthy enough. If we are to reach out to people in this world, we have to somehow show that walking into church is just like putting a stamp on a letter and posting it. It in itself is an act of faith. The first step into a building, for some people, is a giant leap of faith. They don’t know what we will make of them or what they will make of us. There are so many barriers to that first initial step, our role is to not make ourselves a barrier too.

There is a swathe of moral relativism and being part of a church community does not change this. Perhaps we expect more of our pew partners, but why should we? Unless we walk in another’s shoes we can not know where they are at and what has brought them thus far.

John Wesley said at the end of the sermon:

Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou
art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness,
and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”

In our English:

Now in this very second, this moment, and just as you are, yes you are a sinner so am I, but just like that, with all your stuff, all your backstory – believe, have faith in the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ and He will be merciful and forgive your sins, and they will be forgotten. No need to hang onto old friends, shame & guilt, make new friends with LOVE.

Sermon Three ~~~ Awake Thou That Sleepest

When we have reached the age of seventy five we will have slept for twenty five years. A third of our life is spent asleep. Sleeping is almost as important as breathing and eating. Breathing is involuntary, eating is voluntary and sleep is somewhere in between. Deep sleep physically is the time when the body is repaired and rejuvenated, when energy levels are restored.

In complete contrast when we are spiritually asleep we are in the hands of Satan, living a sinful life with no dissatisfaction with that state. To become awake, we need to cast off this deep sleep. However many people just move from deep sleep into a day dreaming doziness, which Wesley compares to the Laodicean church – neither hot nor cold but lukewarm.

In our society this would be people going through the niceties of religion without any commitment. All churches have these people, willing to come to a service but not willing to commit any further, perhaps going as far as seeing the fire but not willing to jump in and be refined by the Spirit.

I remember being on the edge of the fire twice before I just leapt in, an amazing journey started in that first step. I woke up from my deep sleep and awakened into a new life. John Wesley also moved from sleep to awake and I think this is the power of his preaching. When he shouted to the gentry in the paid pews “Awake!” “Awake!” he wanted them to have the revelation of Holy Spirit that he had. He was passionate to bring many souls to the Cross and he didn’t assume that just because a person was sitting in the pew they were an altogether Christian.

In the last paragraph he urges them individually and corporately to awaken before the great trumpet of the Lord is blown! and our land become a field of blood.

unintentional hiatus

After setting myself the challenge of Wesley’s Sermons in his english I was then scuppered by technological issues. The second sermon I recorded four times and lost three of them. Over the past number of days I have been trying to recover them, to no avail.

So last night I began again and the phone hopped, the dog barked, the kitties needed food. I was beset with difficulties but as is my wont I strode through and got to the other end, recording not one but two of his sermons.

Oh how I love the richness of his thoughts, the pattern in which he lays out his sermons, the deep theological mindset behind the simple words that even one such as I can understand. Time travel is not an option, I shall have to wait until heaven to sit down for my ‘java with John’

And inspired by him, and reading Sangster I wrote my next sermon this morning. I knew that was going to happen. The sermon spoken on Sunday would not be acceptable in two weeks time. And at this point – if I get to a week on Saturday and get told “tell them something else” I will, I will write another. Because not only is it ‘all practice’ and as I write them, hopefully, the ability increases.

Yes my confidence was at rock bottom towards the end of December but, socks pulled up, hat straightened, no thing// nothing is gonna stop me now!

Well there are things, but will just keep ploughing on till told to stop and would it be so bad 40 peeps x 7.5 hours once a week for life (Yes, but if I had to do it I would.)

Wake up you sleeper!!!

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.”

 

Announcements

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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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

fed back into life’s river

Yesterday I was immersed in writing, I wrote on three blogs that I own and had been invited to join another blog. In all seven pieces were written and it felt good. The imagination, heart and mind working in unison to create work that people then read and commented on.

People were reading my stuff, for so long I hid my writing, I hid my everything, not just under a bushel but under an entire landslide. The worst thing imaginable would be someone reading it. Now I welcome peoples’ comments, I encourage people to feedback, I anticipate bad reviews, I suppose I expect bad reviews because that is my normal. People don’t “get” me so why would they get my writing. It is an extension of me.

The great projector in my life was given a poem to read. “I don’t understand random lists like this” was the feedback. The poem was my baby I began to defend it’s honour, my honour. Within seconds of beginning this defence, I folded. “Well you may not “get” it.” was my eventual response. I left it with them, I don’t need to defend my writing. It is what it is. Some people will see a random list or a few bug eyed sentences and the great projector, of course her poetry, her freaking everything is better than mine. If we were men, she’d p**s better than me. There is something very freeing in knowing this, if you can’t win a p**sing contest with someone don’t enter the race. I gracefully retire.

There’s a guy in the States hates my writing, comments freely on my abuse of scripture, my position of a female writing does his head in. I should be at home (I am) caring for my family (I am) and not doing man’s job. It is the man who should write about scripture. That’s the guy’s position, he wholeheartedly believes to the very core that I am wrong and he is right. I spent time looking at things from his perspective and then I asked another American guy’s opinion. I am certain the original guy did not attempt to look at things from my perspective or ask another female from Ireland their opinion. I would not enter into a discussion with him as I have seen bigger and better humans (men) chewed up and spat out by the rhetoric of similar guys to this. I don’t defend.

There’s a woman in the world who loves my non-fiction and hates my fiction. She “gets” my point of view on scripture and she says it adds to her own understanding. She doesn’t “get” my fiction, she doesn’t believe people live like that in rural Ireland. She has her opinion and I don’t defend.

As I write more and more, the “voice” I am writing is becoming clearer. It is distinct in the fiction, the non-fiction is most definitely, without reservation, me, but the fiction is no longer the cathartic needy unhealthy me, I am able more clearly to delve into the character as a seperate entity to me, to give them emotions and feelings that I have never had, to give them motivations I would never have and to give them differing levels of faith depending on their circumstances.

There are a few people who offer genuine critique, for example, story great but ending is fanciful. This is great feedback. The bare bones, the skeleton of the story is good but the ending needs work on. This is good feedback. I have discovered since I started reviewing other peoples’ work that to start with a positive before moving on to any negatives is likely to be accepted by the author. Works for me.

Tomorrow I head in for critique of my recently delivered sermon, as I have had positive feedback all week I guess it is time for the negatives. I know some of them already, I totally said the wrong word at one point and had to try and catch it before it fell and failed miserably. I was visibly and audibly nervous which did not go away so the entire thing was done with a shaky voice. My hands, that I had trained in the week to move at certain times stuck together in front of me. I am no orator as I am now and where I would have to put myself to be that person, to harden myself, or steel myself, I lived for many years with immense barriers around me, an entire castle and moat were surrounding me and my hardened heart. My heart is now soft and I will not backtrack just so I give a performance. Does that mean I am defending my delivery, not at all, I know it wasn’t great. I don’t defend, I am open to criticism.

Sermon Forty Four The right way to use money

john                                audio clip

Wesley talking about money is like a fisherman talking about herrings. He loves it. He doesn’t love money, he loves talking about it. He loves to extoll the virtues of earning, saving and giving.

Give to your utmost – he says

There is an American writer and pastor who gives 90% of his income away. Now in royalties alone for his books 10% of his money is probably more than 200% of mine. Also because most of his giving is through church, he has probably a nice office with the best chair. His church has the best technology available and he is able to pay for services, so has a big paid staff.

Just this week I had to account for my spending to a government department and I can say the last time I bought clothing was August for my child’s school uniform and before that it was June, a second hand winter coat in the sale in a charity shop for me. My average grocery bill was €28.76 per week and my heating for the next two years has cost €200. Sounds frugal enough? Well the reason I live so frugally in terms of food, clothes and heating is because my other expenses far outway them. My study costs this year have been vast and I can rationalise it by saying I am studying God’s word but I have been extravagant in this area, not in an ostentatious way, I don’t have walls lined with books but I do have an iPad chocablock full of ebooks, many free – I do love a bargain. But some quite expensive pieces too.

I give and I am not going to write here how and why and to whom but I don’t tithe. Sometimes I think I am arrogant in that I give in my own way not to the church and no doubt I will be challenged along the way on this and maybe even coerced or forced into changing my position. I like the word challenged best. I had a discussion on the subject of tithing recently and the person pointed out there would be no buildings, no paid ministers if we didn’t give. Flippantly, I admit, I said there is no harm, we can meet in a field, we can meet in houses. Undeterred they said – what about ministers. Flippantly again, I said there are many unpaid pastors in the world, they don’t stop what they are doing because they aren’t being paid – there is a call on their life. To not pastor would be disobedient to that call from God.

But how many paid officials in any church would continue what they are doing if they were not paid. There is another American pastor who has sold everything they have and moved into one room at the back of the church so the giving could hurt.

Wesley talks about money, don’t love it he says but he implies – love what it can do!

My husband struggles with my giving, but I told him of one gift last night and for the first time he didn’t counter it. He is beginning to accept that I like the second US pastor would give everything away and have a mattress in the back of the van because I truly believe it has to hurt.

Emptying the purse at the beginning of the week and seeing if you can survive on a fiver – YES YOU CAN!

I thank the lovely civil servants who last year for six months made me live on less than twenty euros a week. I rediscovered my ability to forage, to renew, to restore, to make meals out of nothing, to feed my family and be able to give.

Someone said to me when I suggested that a collection in certain churches were not appropriate, that even if you had €20 you could give €2, a 10% tithe. Now if you earn €1000 a week and tithe €200, you can live an expensive lifestyle, eating out, huge mortgage, the best of everything. Ten percent is not appropriate there it should be more like 50%. Having too much money makes a person spend it foolishly. But if you only have twenty, tithing two might mean your kids go to school in holey shoes.

I was at a meeting recently and my boots felt embarrassed for me! They were bought in 2003, they leak at the sides and have a tear down one of them. It is not discrete, it is a big tear. But everytime I go to replace them I cannot find a pair in my price bracket. So I looked at the other people’s shoes with their labels of Caterpillar or Vans and I pondered, I have no idea where I got these boots from, I don’t know if they were made by Chanel or Joe Soap and certainly any evidence has long since gone.

The first time I ever had money in my married life, my husband and I travelled to the nearest city and spent the day doing “BAGS” we shopped all the way down the main street and got oodles of “stuff.” First and last time. I still have some of those clothes, I still wear them. But there was an emptiness to the whole day because we hadn’t saved up, we weren’t buying for the kids, just for us. WE indulged ourselves but it felt wrong somehow.

Whenever I feel like splurging I think back to those feelings and it stops me because there is nothing to be gained but debt.

Maybe in time I will tithe. I have found the church I belong to so maybe it is time to think about it, seriously. I just don’t want people to know. Giving is a private thing. Preferably an anonymous thing but it should always be private. Ostentatious displays in public are not giving the way Jesus prescribed.

 

Sermon Forty Three Stop criticising

john                              audio clip

This is a fine example of expository preaching. Wesley does not waver from the points in scripture, he merely expounds it – making it culturally appropriate for his time. There have been times when I have been in the company of people criticising others and I have been guilty of it myself.

I am well known for going to B from A via every letter in the alphabet to avoid criticising something or someone but, under pressure of being dreadfully hurt I can like the rest of humanity explode into a gossiping session.

That is what criticising is – if not done directly to the person. Backbiting, gossiping, criticism are all of the same root and it is not of God.

However, when one of us has done something wrong (how appropriate for this week) there is a format of how to deal with it. Now I have an acquaintance in a position within a church who on knowing someone has done something wrong sits back and waits for that person to appear. Well if the person has rationalised their sin in their own minds they are not going to come. There is a need for individual Christians to be proactive in this regard. And I don’t mean going round everyone pointing out where they are going wrong – “Sure if everyone did it MY way we would all be right with God” No that is not what I mean.

So imagine there are two brothers in a church. Brothers in Christ rather than biological. They don’t have the same personality, one is extrovert and the other introvert. At a meeting the extrovert is loud and bumptious but the introvert has much to say but can’t speak, feels censured by the louder one. The meeting ends in disarray. No one comes away joyful, and this is church, remember.

So what is to be done? Well an older wise brother was also at the meeting and over the course of the next week spoke at length with the two parties. Neither of which were willing to budge. In fact the introvert by this time has rationalised the meeting as the extrovert being a bully. The extrovert feels that no one listens to him, especially the extrovert. At this point the first criteria of the passage from Matthew where Jesus says – go to him is being fulfilled – kind of. The wise brother is being the go between.

But the wise brother is being triangulated by the two injured parties. Would there be anything gained from the two being together alone? No not at this stage. So the wise brother takes another brother with him to first one party then the other. Both injured parties pontificate wildly about the other person. But neither of them see their own fault in the matter.

It is a difficult situation, the wise brothers love the two errant brothers but can’t see how there can be a reconciliation so they take it to the elders of the church. The two are brought before the committee and the extrovert using all their powers of charismatic persuasion sways the meeting in their favour. The introvert leaves the church and is treated like a pagan by the rest of the church.

So yes, ideally the way Jesus outlined should work, if all parties are invested in a solution because we are in church for God’s glory. But we are messy people, some of us are being used by the devil wittingly and unwittingly. My parable is probably one that is more common in church than we like to think, we get very childish in our ways when we know we are in the wrong or have wronged someone.

Wesley puts a challenge on us at the end of his sermon. I should like, he says that Methodists be called “the people who never gossip”

Now that is a challenge to us all!

Jesus loves us, so we love others, love means caring in a very, very compassionate way everyone else.

I watched a youtube clip of Miley Cyrus singing wrecking ball in a live event for radio. She sat on a stool, her hands on her thighs and sang from the depth of her heart. It was one of those moments when you sit in awe of someone’s talent. She has a massive vocal range, she has been given the gift from God and if she were my friend I would tell her certain things. To do so here would be gossip. That is what Wesley is talking about, we don’t have to share with the whole world our opinion on some matter or someone’s behaviour. We do, if they are in our circle, have the responsibility for correcting someone BUT ONLY IN LOVE, not to bolster our own sensitive ego, not to show them up, but quietly and consistently being there for them as they revert to the path to the Lord.