July 30, 2023 – Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, July 30, 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 30.
Call to Worship
One: Give thanks to God and call on God’s holy name.
All: We will tell of God’s wonderful works!
One: Let the hearts of those who seek God rejoice.
All: We will sing God’s praises!
One: Give glory to God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
All: We will remember God’s mercy in all our words and actions.
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.
“Unto the hills around” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 81). Words (1877, 1909) by English nobleman John Campbell, the 9th Duke of Argyll (1845–1914), better known as the Marquess of Lorne, the Governor-General of Canada from 1878 to 1883. The words are a paraphrasing of Psalm 121. Music (1860; tune “Sandon”) by Scottish composer Charles Henry Purday (1799–1885). Words and music in the public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
God of the past, present and future, we marvel at the wonder of your creation. We praise you for gardens growing, birds singing, stars twinkling, for shouts of playful joy and restful evening sunsets. Such delights around us remind us of your goodness. God with us, day by day, you also surprise us with moments we will treasure for ever, and with confidence that turns small beginnings into projects that make a huge difference. You promise us a life beyond anything we can imagine, a kingdom marked by grace, love and justice for all. In Jesus’ name, by the power of the Spirit breathing within us, we praise you for your loving kindness, and the hope it brings to us day by day. We will live to serve you, and offer you our love and loyalty now and always.
Merciful God, we confess we are not always merciful people. We turn away in anger rather than seek solutions. We criticize those who differ from us in culture or conviction, rather than seek understanding. We can hold grudges for a lifetime. Forgive us our failures to live out the mercy we claim from you week by week. Open our hearts with your great love.
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
Who is in a position to condemn us? Only Christ – and Christ died for us; Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. This is good news for us. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. So be at peace and make peace with one another for Christ’s sake.
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)
“Jesus, the very thought of thee” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 367). Original Latin text attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153). English translation by English priest and hymnwriter Edward Caswall (1814–1878). Music (1866; tune: “St. Agnes, Durham”) by English clergyman and hymnwriter John Bacchus Dykes (1823–1876). Words and music public domain.
Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and reburied; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
The parable of the sowers and the parable of the weeds we listened during the previous two Sundays lead to the parable of the mustard seed. May we hear the parable of the mustard seed one more time:
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”Matthew 13:31–32
The parable of the mustard seed invites us to open our hearts and ponder the remarkable journey of the mustard seed. The parable of the mustard seed is about the journey of growth, the journey of becoming.
The journey that the smallest seed undertook to become the greatest shrub and a tree must have been incredibly challenging. Enduring harsh winters, unforgiving summers, fierce winds, scorching sun, and heavy rain, I am sure the mustard seed had to endure enough challenges. Yet, amidst these struggles, there had to be beautiful sunny days that provided an opportunity for growth, precious clouds that brought life-giving water to the ground, and nurturing soil that welcomed the seed’s presence.
How can we not mention the unwavering faith of the sower, who planted the mustard seed with trust and hope. What about? the comforting presence of stars and moon in the night served as reminders that the mustard seed was not alone on this profound journey of growth and becoming.
When we close our eyes and hear the parable of the mustard seed, when we allow the parable to show us what we need to see, I believe the parable of the mustard seed would reveal to us the kind of journey we took. When we close our eyes and immerse ourselves in the parable of the mustard seed, allowing its essence to unfold before us, it has the power to reveal the profound journey of becoming we all have traversed. This parable helps us to remember and reflect the path we have taken, the growth we have experienced, and the transformation we have undergone.
It would show how everything began in our life, the people we encountered along the way, the decisions we made, the mixture of emotions we experienced- the moments of joy and sadness, love and anger, peace and endless worries, as well as the interplay between courage and fear that shaped our path. The parable of the mustard seed is our story.
The parable helps us to remember those who loved us and supported, guiding us through life’s trials and tribulations. It helps us to remember those who came to us from nowhere, during our darkest offering a ray of hope and healing.
And the parable of the mustard seed would help us to hear the voice of Jesus who asks us, “Do you see the presence of God in your life journey?”
Our journey is far from perfect. We all had to endure enough challenges in our life, but everything we have experienced, everyone we met, and every decision we made whether wise or not, have all contributed to shaping the path that led us to where we are today and the kind of people we are today.
Our lives have taught us that what it is like to get caught in the rain and get lost our way in the dark night as well as what it is like to dance in the rain and look at the shining stars in the middle of the night….
Amidst it all, our journey has taught us a profound truth — we were never truly alone. God’s guiding hand was ever-present, leading each step we took. While we may have believed that our decisions were solely based on our knowledge, feeling, expertise, and confidence, God’s presence was interwoven in every aspect of our lives. In moments of sorrow, Jesus shed tears with us, and in times of celebration, He sang songs of joy for us. The assurance of divine companionship has been a constant comfort throughout our journey.
We can certainly finish our sermon here, but there is more to this parable of the mustard seed. There is so much more in this parable….
Thomas Keating in his book, “Meditations on the Parables of Jesus” writes: “A mustard plant was forbidden in a household garden because it was fast spreading and would tend to invade the veggies.” According to Thomas Keating and other scholars, at the time of Jesus, a mustard plant was regarded as a highly invasive weed, and the cultivation of a mustard tree was prohibited by the Jewish authorities.
A mustard seed is the smallest and useless seed… A mustard plant is unwanted, uninvited and unwelcomed plant… Yet, the kingdom of God may be found in the growth of such small, unwanted and useless seed.
In our human eyes, the mustard seed may be useless, unwelcomed and unwanted, because it may not bring us profit and it may be invasive to other plants.
But, in the eyes of God, the mustard seed is where a home for the birds of the air is born.
The mustard tree symbolizes our human struggles, conflicts, failures, chaos, paradoxes, and shortcomings. Jesus is telling us that our not so proud part of our life journey may become a place of healing, welcoming, forgiveness, and courage for us and for others. Yes, if a mustard plant is planted in the middle of our flower garden, we should take it out, but a mustard plant too has its place and its purpose. It is a place for the birds of the air can build their home.
Did you know that our unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited moments of our life such as the moments when we fell, failed, and stumbled… can become a place of healing, courage and grace. The message of the cross is found in the parable of the mustard seed. The message of the cross is found in our journey of becoming one with God.
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
God of all true treasure, we offer our gifts with thankful hearts, knowing you keep providing what makes life truly rich. Bless these gifts so that your goodness is multiplied to touch the lives of those in need, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Lord Jesus Christ:
we offer you our thanks this day for you are the true source of peace and healing for us in a world that feels out of joint so often. Today we pray for those who face choices and decisions about their health: for those trying to follow good diets and exercise enough; for any waiting for appointments or wondering if they should make another call; for those who find caring for their health frustrating, and for all feeling pain or anxiety as they wait for healing and peace….
Lord Jesus Christ:
We offer you our thanks this day for you are the true source of wisdom and generosity in a world struggling to make ends meet. Today we pray for all who face choices and decisions about their finances: for those struggling with bills and budgets; for those torn between covering necessities and enjoying a treat; for all who have few choices because resources are limited, and for those who have many choices and want to make them wisely.
Lord Jesus Christ:
We offer you our thanks this day for you are the true source of love and forgiveness in a world full of criticism and self-doubt. Today we pray for those facing choices and decisions about relationships: for people we ought to call but just haven’t; for those with whom we feel a grievance but haven’t worked it through; for those we’d like to invite into closer relationship but haven’t yet found the courage; and for those we miss dearly and need to tell how much we cherish them.
Lord Jesus Christ:
We offer you thanks this day for you are the source of rest and right relationship for God’s whole creation. Today we pray for the earth and its well-being. Encourage us to care for the earth in our everyday lives so its resources last for coming generations. Inspire us to live out our good intentions for the earth in our choices big and small so that your kingdom may come on earth not by disaster but through discipleship.
We sum up our prayers, spoken and unspoken, Amen.
“O Lord my God / How great thou art” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 332). Words (1885) by Swedish poet Carl Boberg (1859–1940); English text by English missionary Stuart K. Hine (1899–1989). Music (tune: “O Store Gud”) based on a traditional Swedish folk melody; arrangement (1955) by Hine. English text and arrangement copyright © 1955, 1981 Manna Music, Inc.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
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 2023-07-31 19:20 – Added Sermon text.