As we set aside this time to worship God, we dwell for a moment on the words of the Psalmist:
"It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to tell of Your love early in the morning and of Your faithfulness in the night-time..."
Psalm 92: 1 - 2
Opening prayer - one of today's Collects
Faithful Creator, Whose mercy never fails: deepen our faithfulness to You and to Your living Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let's sing or say prayerfully...
1. Christ be in my waking, as the sun is rising, in my day of working, with my every hour. Christ be in my resting, as the day is ending, calming and refreshing, watching through the night.
2. Christ be in my thinking, and my understanding, guarding me from evil, walking in the light. Christ be in my speaking, every word a blessing, pure and not deceiving, grace to all who hear. Jesus, this is my devotion, all my life to know You, every day to walk with You. Saviour, You're my deepest longing, You're the one I live for, teach me Lord, to walk with You.
3. Christ be in my gladness for the joy of living, thankful for the goodness of the Father's hand. Christ be in my sorrow, and my day of darkness, knowing that I follow in the steps He trod. Jesus, this is my devotion...
4. Christ when hope has faded, nothing left to cling to, every pleasure jaded, every well is dry. Christ the loving shepherd draws me with His kindness, leads me from the desert to the streams of life.
Christ be in my waking - sung by St Martin’s Voices
As we prepare to read and reflect on God's word to us today, let's first pause to breathe deeply and to pray: Lord, thank You that Your words give us wisdom, insight and understanding. Help us to love them, to meditate on them and to obey them.
Mark 4: 26 - 34 Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
For the word of the Lord: thanks be to God.
“The kingdom of God is as if…”. Today’s Gospel reading brings us two seed parables: what might Jesus be teaching here about God’s Kingdom? Well, the first parable says something about both patience and trust. A farmer sows seed then must wait patiently for seed to take its natural course, because the vital growth of seed starts underground, with the roots. If the farmer digs to check what’s happening, the seed could be destroyed. The second parable, where Jesus says that God’s Kingdom is like a very tiny seed, surely teaches that the small community of His followers will be grown by God into an expansive community where many are welcomed and can flourish.
That’s the ‘surface’ meaning - but maybe there’s even more to be discovered below the surface if we think and pray further, as Jesus would have done with His disciples when He explained things to them in private. Jesus’ first followers knew their Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) better than most of us probably do today. They would have spotted that both these seed stories, like so much else that Jesus taught, echoed God’s earlier promises to His people.
In the first parable what Jesus said about the farmer going in with his sickle as soon as the grain is ripe echoes of words from the prophet Joel (3:13) about the coming Day of the Lord’s Judgement. So, Jesus is saying that although His ministry and that of His followers, sowing the seed of God’s word, might not look like a powerful revolution, although it’s like an old-fashioned farmer slowly and patiently scattering seed by hand… yet this is the seed-time for God’s promised Day of Harvest. Like Jesus’ first followers, you and I often can’t see how the seeds we sow for Him are growing; but we can patiently trust God that one day the harvest of His Kingdom will, indeed, be safely gathered in.
Likewise, the second parable reverberates with the message of other Old Testament prophecies. Jesus began this story with the words: “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?” The prophet Isaiah asked a similar question about God Himself: “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” (40:18) Isaiah was speaking of a dynamic fresh vision of the God who is totally unlike pagan idols; He is the Creator of heaven and earth, and He will come to rescue His people after their lengthy time of overwhelming bleakness. Centuries later, Jesus echoed Isaiah’s words and also those of Ezekiel and Daniel, who both used the image of a great kingdom, growing from small beginnings, growing like a tree that becomes so large that every kind of bird can shelter and nest in its branches, while animals give birth to their young in the shade of its boughs; a tree with beautiful foliage that bears abundant fruit which feeds all living beings, while people of all nations enjoy its protective shade (Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:12, 21). By choosing to develop this prophetic imagery in His own story of the mustard seed, Jesus is telling His followers, telling us, not to lose hope but patiently to trust the God who delights to do great things from small beginnings.
You and I might feel small and insignificant as Christians, powerless to change the world for good in the face of the daily deluge of disease, deceit and corruption that hits us with the news headlines Even in the difficult or depressing situations in which we often find ourselves personally, we can feel too feeble, helpless to make a positive difference.
No, says Jesus; on the contrary; learn the lesson of the seeds, which seem so tiny that if you and I didn’t know better, we might wonder how anything worthwhile could come from something so small …
God’s word to each of us today, whatever our age or stage on the Christian journey, is to remember who our God is and what He has promised. Remember that small beginnings are part of the growth of His Kingdom - the Kingdom that will eventually be revealed as the gift and goal of all creation.
Let's say / listen prayerfully....
As we enter into prayer now, we begin with words which ask the Lord to take us deeper in our personal discipleship:
Day by day, dear Lord, Of Thee three things I pray: To see Thee more clearly, To love Thee more dearly, To follow Thee more nearly, Day by day.
Richard of Chichester (c.1197-c.1253)
Day by Day – Martin How - sung by St Martin’s Voices
Now we pray for our own needs and for the needs of others, following the pattern which Jesus gave when He taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father.
Through our care for Your good creation and all that You have made: Father, hallowed be Your name.
In our homes and families, among our friends, neighbours and colleagues, in our places of work and leisure, and in our church communities: Father, Your kingdom come.
By our seeking Your guidance, our living by Your commandments, and our trusting in Your Word: Father, Your will be done.
For the millions who suffer from mental or physical sickness, including Coronavirus and long Covid, for those who live in poverty and hunger, for the outcome of the G7 summit, for our own needs and those of people on our minds today… by compassion, cooperation and generosity: give us today our daily bread.
Because we have broken Your commandments, doing what we ought not to do and neglecting to do what love requires of us: forgive us our sins.
If any have hurt us by ignorance, weakness or deliberate fault: we forgive those who sin against us.
When prosperity lulls us to false security, or hard times prompt us to despair, when success makes us boastful, or failure makes us bitter: lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
In the assurance of faith, in the confidence of hope, in the will to serve, help us to love Christ as Lord, and our neighbours as ourselves: for the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours, now and for ever. Amen.
We sing or say...
1. Rejoice, the Lord is King, your Lord and King adore; mortals, give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore: Lift up your heart, lift up your voice; rejoice, again I say, rejoice.
2. Jesus the Saviour, reigns, the God of truth and love; when He had purged our stains, He took his seat above: Lift up your heart...
3. His kingdom cannot fail; He rules o'er earth and heaven; the keys of death and hell are to our Jesus given: Lift up your heart...
4. He sits at God's right hand till all His foes submit, and bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet: Lift up your heart...
5. Rejoice in glorious hope; Jesus the judge shall come, and take His servants up to their eternal home. We soon shall hear the archangel's voice the trump of God shall sound: rejoice!
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) and John Taylor (1750-1826)
Rejoice! The Lord is King - sung by St Martin’s Voices
Closing prayer - from 2 Corinthians 13: 13
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord: In the name of Christ. Amen.
The Revd Dr Mary Barr Melton Mowbray Team Vicar
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