July 23, 2023 – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, July 23, at 11:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time. A video recording of the live stream will be available on our YouTube channel from 6:00 PM EDT on Sunday, July 23.
Call to Worship
One: We gather in the presence of God;
All: We have come to worship and praise God’s name.
One: We gather in joy and expectancy;
All: We have come to encounter God in beauty and wonder.
One: Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening;
All: Speak your Word of life to us, O God.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
“God, reveal your presence” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 414). Original German text (1729) by German hymnwriter Gerhard Tersteegen (1697–1769). English translation by English minister Frederick William Foster (1760–1835) and John Miller (1756–1790). Alterations by English minister William Mercer (1811–1873). Alternate version (1997) by The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Music (1680; tune: “Arnsberg (Reverence)”) by German minister and hymnwriter Joachim Neander (1650–1680). This alternate version of the words copyright © 1997 The Presbyterian Church in Canada; used by permission. Music public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
Creator God, in you we live and move and have our being: You have been with us through good times and hard ones. You give us strength to face the challenges around us. You offer us rest for our bodies and souls when life seems too demanding. We turn to you for wisdom this day, trusting we will find the peace and comfort we long for in your presence. We praise you for all you offer us in your great faithfulness. Fill us with your Spirit in this time of worship. Open our minds and hearts, so that we may see as you see, love as you love, and follow your ways for the sake of Christ our Lord.
Ever present God, you know our inmost thoughts and see our thoughtless actions. We confess our impulsive reactions, when we spoke before we thought, and ask forgiveness if we have hurt others. We confess our stubborn attitudes, and ask forgiveness for refusing others mercy. In your kindness, O God, forgive who we have been, amend who we are, and direct who we shall be through the grace of Christ, our Lord.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
Remember that God is slow to be angry and quick to forgive; kind and gracious to all. Know that your sins are forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, and forgive those who have sinned against you, as Christ teaches us.
All: Thanks be to God!
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Special Musical Presentation
Fun with the young at heart (children’s story)
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
“Tell me the stories of Jesus” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 348). Words (1885) by English hymnwriter William Henry Parker (1845–1929). Music (1903; tune “Stories of Jesus”) by English composer Frederick Arthur Challinor (1866–1952). Words and music public domain.
Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while everybody was asleep an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
Abraham Joshua Heschel writes: “We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have the answers.”
The more I read the Bible, the more I discover that Jesus encourages us to ask and ponder our faith, our relationship with God, and the meaning of life, rather than providing us with a simple solution. We know what happens to Nicodemus in the gospel of John chapter 3, he leaves Jesus with more questions. A young man from the gospel of Luke (chapter 12) comes to Jesus with the question of, “What must I do to inherit the kingdom of God.” He leaves Jesus with more questions. … Jesus often invites us to deepen our questions, because the questions we carry in our hearts often lead us to deeper understanding of who we are and who our God is. The parable of the weeds we read offers us questions to deepen our understanding of God’s grace.
Let us look at our text, I am going to read verse 24, “He put before them another parable”: The gospel of Matthew wanted us to know that there was another parable before the parable of the weeds we read today. In order for us to understand the depth of the parable of the weeds, we must remember the parable of the Sower that came before.
Matthew 13: 3–8,
“Listen! A Sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on a path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
What a lovely parable. Now may we go back to the parable of the weeds we read today, verse 24–28,
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field 25 but while everybody was asleep an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while everybody was asleep an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’”
After telling us a beautiful parable of the sower which brings us comfort and healing, after telling us that God does not never give us up and continues to spread the seeds of love and hope on our hearts. Following that beautiful parable of the sower, he presents a rather peculiar and strange parable of the weeds. By doing so, Jesus is saying, “Wait. I am not done. That is not how the story ends. Do you remember the how the parable of the sower ends? Verse 8, “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” What a lovely end, seeds that fell on good soil end up producing grain, a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty…. Yes, God is constantly spreading the seeds of hope and love in our hearts. Yes, there are these thorns, stones, rocks and unhealthy grounds that may hinder the full growth of our faith, but nothing will ever hinder the seeds of hope and love from blossoming. Jesus is saying, “Wait, I am not finished with my story. There is more to the story. It is not that simple. There are more players in my story and in your life? What do you mean by that? There are the weeds that grow in our field and there is an enemy who spreads these weeds in our hearts.
In our Canadian society today, the term “enemy” is a very disturbing and unfamiliar concept. It is a word rarely used today. The Greek word for an enemy is Echthros —the literal meaning is the one who is hateful, the one who is hostile…. I don’t think Jesus invites us to spend too much time thinking about who this enemy is or why there is an enemy. Jesus always wants us to pay our full attention to God always and only. … I do believe an enemy in the parable refers to anything, anyone, any thought, any word, any feeling, and any action that prevents us from setting our minds on God…. An enemy is whoever and whatever that is preventing us from seeing and following God who is very much alive in our life today. Whatever and whoever is hindering us from seeing the Risen Christ in our brothers and sisters we see today is an enemy.
I don’t think Jesus wanted us to spend our time thinking about why or who is planting these weeds in our hearts, but he encourages us to acknowledge and accept that there are these weeds, unhealthy and harmful plants in our field, in our relationships as well as in our minds, hearts and souls. I believe by telling us the parable of the weeds, Jesus encourages us to accept that our life can be messy and be far from perfect.
Yes, we want our life to be a neat, nice, and clean always. We want our life to be full and perfect. I mean who does not want that? Who wants to have conflict, misunderstanding, disagreement, chaos, ambiguity, and confusion in their life? I certainly don’t, but it happens. Be honest with you, it happens too often. We all want everything goes according to our plan, we all want to succeed and do well, I mean I certainly do, but we humans do stumble, misunderstand, fail, and fall. Indeed, our hearts bear a treasury of beautiful thoughts, cherished memories, profound feelings, and boundless love. Yet, alongside these positive aspects, if we are honest with ourselves, we may also find the capacity to carry thoughts of vengeance, despair, fear, and animosity. At times, we demonstrate exceptional kindness towards others and ourselves, but also at times, we mistreat and misjudge both ourselves and those around us.
How do we make sense of that? How do we make sense of these weeds we may find in our field? The parable of the weeds we read today does not try to answer our questions. The parable invites us to acknowledge and honor our human questions. In fact, the parable of the weeds invites us to deepen our awareness of the weeds we may discover in our field: our struggles, our paradoxes, our mixed emotions, our complexities, and our unsorted thoughts. Jesus does not want us to settle with a quick and shallow understanding of our struggles and shortcomings.
Jesus does so by telling us this, I am going to read Verse 29–30,
The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’
I love Jesus, I mean that is why I do what I do today, but I mean I am just amazed by the way Jesus teaches. Jesus is saying, “You think you don’t understand why there are these weeds in our human hearts and why we humans are so complicated and hard to understand at times? Why do we say things that we will regret one day? Guess what, try to understand God. Try to understand God who says, “Let both of them grow together. Let us wait until the harvest?” What is with this waiting? Why wait? We are not even asking you to pull the weeds, we want to do it for ourselves. But why don’t you let us to go the field and pull the weeds out right now? Is it because you are afraid of harming the good plants accidently when we take out the weeds? Or is it because it is hard to distinguish which is which, until it is fully grown? But then, why do you allow that to happen in the first place? I mean how could you allow an enemy to visit the field? Why don’t you protect us from this enemy in the first place? Do you enjoy looking at the weeds in our field? Do you enjoy watching us struggle and stumble?
Jesus neither dismisses nor outrightly answers our questions about God; rather, he recognizes and respects the presence of these unanswered questions and pondering in our hearts and minds. However, he does present us with a different question to ponder. What does God want us to learn from this parable? What can you learn from this farmer who is willing to wait until the harvest, the farmer who is willing to allow both the weeds and the wheat to grow?
First, we can learn God loves us for who we are, our strength as well as our weakness. God loves us our achievements but also our failures. God love us, all about us. It does not mean God wants us to stay the same. I am not saying the unconditional love of God is the unconditional approval. The love of God empowers us to protect, speak out and change. But it does suggest that God loves us far more than we do for ourselves. God is patient with us, far more than we are with ourselves and each other. The love of God does not make sense and should not make sense. Second, the parable teaches us that faith does not prevent us from failing, stumbling, and falling, it does not prevent the weeds from our field, but it allows us to go on even when we stumble, it allows us to go on even when we fail… by trusting God who loves us unconditionally…. At the end of the day, that is the knowledge of faith we want to share and pass on to our next generation and to each other…. I know we have so many places that say, “I know what we need to do.” But many places I am not sure what I can do, but I know I am not alone, he will, she will, they will, and you will help us to see what we don’t know today, you will help me to grow and learn… The purpose of the faith community is to help each other to stand up again embracing our failures, shortcomings and struggles. That is my responsibility and that is your responsibility. When we see our brother falls and when we see our sister stumbles…. “I knew you were going to fail. I knew you were going to fall.” But I know what it is like to fall, I am here if you need someone to help you to get up.
May we present our gifts to God in response to what we have received from God?
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Gifts
Our offering will now be received.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306). Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.
Prayer of dedication
Gift-giving God, we are so grateful for all that we enjoy in the world around us, and in the assurance you love us all. Bless the gifts we offer today, that they may express your love for the world itself and to all who need to know you care, through Christ Jesus, your greatest gift.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Thank you, O God, for welcoming us into your presence again. Sometimes we can simply breathe in the wonders of your creation, on a summer evening or in a quiet forest, and know you are near. Other times you surprise us in a word, an unexpected kindness, a sense of your tenderness with us in prayer. Whenever, however we meet you, we are so grateful for your presence at the heart of our lives. Assured of your great love for us, we bring before you the people we love and the situations that cause us deep concern.
Today we pray with those who rejoice at a baby’s birth or a summer wedding, and with those who mourn the loss of a friend or loved one… We pray with those whose work has found success and reward, and with those who are anxious because there is no work to be found… We pray with those who feel bored, without enough to do this summer, and with those who are exhausted, facing still more to do… We pray with those grateful for renewed good health, and with those who find illness, anxiety or uncertain health lingering… We pray with those who have found peace or safety after turmoil, and with those who fear what tomorrow might bring… We pray with those who enjoy the love of family and friends nearby, and with those who feel lonely or isolated…
Ever present God, we thank you that you hear us in every situation of life, for we all find ourselves in these situations sooner or later. Help us to support each other, standing together in gladness and challenge. Strengthen our life together as your people. Give us the generosity we meet in Jesus to respond wisely to those whose lives touch ours — inside and outside your church. May our hands serve as your hands in all that we do for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
“Precious Lord, take my hand” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 675). Words (published 1938) by American evangelist and composer Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1899–1993). Music adapted (ca. 1855; tune “Precious Lord”) for the hymn “Maitland” from an earlier gospel tune by American composer and geologist George Nelson Allen (1812–1877), then arranged for “Precious Lord, take my hand” by Dorsey. Words copyright © 1938 Unichappell Music Inc.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music in the public domain. Original arrangement copyright © 1938 Unichappell Music Inc.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
You may may also enjoy this lovely version on our SoundCloud channel, with an arrangement, vocals and guitar by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the risen Christ), the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. AMEN.
“Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-07-23 23:10 – Added Sermon text.