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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

Ordinary 16 Year A

Opening Verse

picture of weeds

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

What are Tares ?


The bearded darnel, mentioned only in Matthew 13:25-30. It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.
 

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship
Sermon

Introduction

Newspapers thrive on scandal and judgement. The reporters and photographers search out the very worst behaviour and sometimes even induce it, so that they can actually make money from the bad behaviour they pretend to disapprove of. It is all very sordid and little wonder that Jesus teaches us not to get into the business of judging others. Instead of passing criticisms on people who behave in ways which we disapprove of, far better to spend our time in positive encouragement of the things which are good. It won't sell papers or appeal to our hypocritical 'holier than thou' attitudes, but it is much more godly and produces much better results!

Opening Verses of Scripture   Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you, that I may fear your name.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Lord God your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake: when we prosper save us from pride, when we are needy save us from despair, that we may trust in you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Grant us Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now,
while we are placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those things which last forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Methodist Worship

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word above all else; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading  Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19

There is not any god besides you, whose care is for all people, to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly; For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all. For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power, and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it. Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us; for you have power to act whenever you choose. Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous must be kind, and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.

Alternate Reading

Isaiah 44: 6-8

"This is what the LORD says-- Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come-- yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other rock; I know not one."

Second Reading  Romans Chapter 8:12-25

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Gospel Reading Matthew Chapter 13: 24-30, 36-43

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' "An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' "No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn. “Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. 

Post Communion Sentence


Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands that have taken holy things; may the ears which have heard your word be deaf to clamour and dispute; may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit; may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love shine with the light of hope; and may the bodies which have been fed with your body be refreshed with the fullness of your life; glory to you for ever. Amen

Commentary

In the parable today we read about a man who has sown a field of wheat, but it has not turned out as he would have hoped. He had sown good seed, but an enemy had come along and deliberately sown weeds in the same field. The result was a field which was a mixture of wheat and seeds all mixed up together, full of good and bad.

The disciples ask Jesus for help in understanding the parable. Jesus gives quite an extensive explanation of what various parts of the parable mean. The one sowing the seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed is those who belong to the kingdom, the bad seed is those who belong to the evil one, the enemy who sowed the seed is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, the harvesters are the angels.

The word used for weeds is a word found only in Matthew 13 refers to darnell, a common weed which plagued grainfields. As time passed the good fruit bearing stalks of wheat appeared, but so do the weeds. In this parable the weeds appear because an enemy has deliberately sown them, they are not part of a natural process. Somebody is out to ruin the work of the master of the house ! The servants naturally ask whether they should rip out the weeds, but they are told not to. There is a problem, there is no difficulty spotting which are weeds and which are wheat, but if the weeds are ripped out the wheat will be damaged in the process. The sad fact is that the roots of the darnell are stronger and deeper than the wheat. The result was that the difficult process of separation was best left until the harvest, no matter how much it would have been nicer to sort it out here and now.

This parable is clearly one with a theme of judgement, but it is also one which tells us the importance of patience. We all want to God intervene in the world to correct injustice and fight evil. However we are told that we must wait, no matter how frustrating until the harvest time.

The parable tells us much that we already know, there is good and bad in the world, and it can appear that evil overpowers good. Sometimes the righteous appear to suffer and the wicked prosper. Yet the evil at work in the world is not of God and will be overcome at the end of time.

There is much in this parable to bring out the worst in preachers. Jesus uses familiar imagery of the time, taken from Old Testament books such as Daniel, this lends itself to tub thumpers who have over time tried to frighten people into believing that they would burn in hell if they failed to believe what the preacher told them. Little wonder that some preachers have recoiled in horror and said exactly the opposite, that there would be no judgement at all, just a great big hug from a God like an indulgent parent who saw only good an errant child !

However, in the midst of the extremes, this simple parable is supposed to teach us some important lessons. There is evil at work in the world, the source of which was not of God, who wanted nothing more than it’s ultimate destruction. This evil is sometimes confusing and it is not always easy to jump to conclusions as to what constitutes good and what is bad. Whilst Jesus uses these familiar imagery of judgement, he is introducing very different ideas. Whilst judgement is certain it was not the work for human hands. The hearers at the time would have their thoughts about what constituted wheat and weeds, perhaps Jew and Gentile. Today we might have our assumptions, we love to make our judgements as to who is acceptable and who is not. However it is God who will judge and therefore the process might be more complex than any of us has ever imagined. Charles Royden

Meditation

I am going to be easier on myself and others. I will stop being so demanding of perfection in myself and others. I know that I make mistakes and I have just as many faults as everybody else. I will look right past the ridiculous behaviour of others and see beyond the things I am inclined to criticise. I will seek out things which I can affirm in myself and others and I will try to grow goodness in myself and people around me. I will stop trying to change people and make them more like me and I will find peace of mind in acceptance.

Hymns

Please download hymn sheet

  1. God of grace and God of glory Tune Rhuddland
  2. Make me a channel of your peace
  3. The Kingdom of God is justice and joy Tune Hanover
  4. For the healing of the nations Tune Westminster Abbey
  5. Let all the world in every corner sing (Luckington) 
  6. Give thanks with a grateful heart (as)
  7. O thou, who camest from above (Hereford)
  8. Seek ye first the kingdom of God (as)
  9. Jesus is Lord! Creation’s voice proclaim it (Jesus is Lord)

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected,

it will wither and die.

Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen (Collect from Common Worship)

Just as a grain of wheat must die in the earth in order to bring forth a rich harvest, so your Son died on the cross to bring a rich harvest of love. Just as the harvest of wheat must be ground into flour to make bread, so the suffering of your Son brings us the bread of life. Just as bread gives our bodies strength for our daily work, so the risen body of your Son gives us strength to obey your laws. (Thomas Munzer 1490-1525)

O God, the father of the forsaken, the help of the weak, the supplier of the needy; you teach us that love towards the human race is the bond of perfectness, and the imitation of your blessed self. Open and touch our hearts that we may see and do, both for this world and that which is to come , the things that belong to our peace. Strengthen us in the work which we have undertaken; give us wisdom, perseverance, faith, and zeal, and in your own time and according to your pleasure, prosper the issue for the love of your Son Jesus Christ. (Lord Shaftesbury 1801-85)

Additional Material

Commentary

Waiting for the harvest is not an easy thing. Few of us spend very much time just sitting and waiting in the garden, for most of the time we are busy pruning, cutting and of course weeding. we just can’t bear to look at those weeds! So it has been in the church, we have spent a great deal of time over the years doing weeding. Crusades, inquisitions there have been many times throughout Christian history. We have heard the words of Jesus about not judging and letting weeds grow alongside the good seed, but it is just too hard for us. There is a fear that our tolerance might be regarded as moral indifference, and the good seed will become overwhelmed. In every generation something always had to be done to clean up the field. We find it impossible to believe that God doesn’t understand that too many weeds might choke the harvest?

Well of course nothing can stop the harvest at all. God is in control. Moreover the life of Jesus teaches us to be careful about making too many assumptions about who is a weed and who is good wheat. Jesus reserved his strongest criticism for those who were considered really holy, and instead he treated with compassion the very weeds who were openly condemned. Jesus loved weeds and spent time with them, the thieves, prostitutes and the ones thought to be sinners.

Nothing can stop God's work in the world. His kingdom is growing. Even when it's difficult to discern signs of the kingdom, the seeds of salvation are alive and well, growing in our midst.
It's often hard to tell who is wheat and who is weed. Indeed if we are honest, inside ach one of us there is a capacity to be wheat and sometimes weed. Sometimes we are confused as to which one we are. Fortunately time is being given us, to let the good seed planted in us bear its fruit. We can trust that God who reaps the harvest knows what to do, and we can have trust in the outcome. This is a parable of confidence. God is in charge and will help us work things out. We don't give up the struggle to do what is right, even when we feel dismayed at how much still needs to be done. Charles Royden
 
‘Better to light a candle than curse the dark’

Somebody wise once pointed out that if we start ejecting from the church everybody who is guilty of sin, then there will be nobody left. We are sinners trying our best to become more like saints. Matthew knew this when he wrote his gospel. The teachings of Jesus which he recorded in his gospel recognised the importance of decent ethical behaviour. In fact Matthew reminds the church that God was concerned about bad desires as well as bad behaviour. So it was bad to think about adultery as well as to engage in it. (Matt 5:28).

However whilst Matthew wanted to encourage the church to higher ethical standards, nevertheless he warns against passing judgement on others. "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (7:1). This is the message of the parable today, the Parable of the Weeds. In our churches and homes, in our work places and clubs which we belong to, we will see people who are recognisably more good or bad. In this situation Jesus calls us to be patient and recognise that there will come a time when God will judge. If we fall out with everybody who we consider falls short of the mark we will have no churches left, we will loose friends and our working relationships will fall apart. We must welcome others as Christ welcomes us.

In the parable today Jesus begins by mentioning a weed, called zizanion. This is a kind of darnel, closely resembling wheat except the grains are black. Darnell has to be removed because it is mildly toxic and will ruin the flour, but the black grains were removed by hand after threshing. So in our reading today from Matthew, Jesus indicates that the wheat and the weeds must be left to grow together and the separation of good and bad is not something which we should engage in doing now.

Like most people I have a recurring weed problem in my garden. There is one weed which grows right in the middle of a Viburnum and it comes up every year and attracts aphids. I could get rid of it once and for all but I would surely kill the plant. Likewise I have this year decided to get tough with bindweed, and I sprayed it, whilst it was growing through the Pyracantha. It is a dangerous solution and I know that the cure may be terminal for both.

So it is that Jesus says let the weeds and the wheat grow together. We all find this difficult, there are people who behave badly and people who seem like saints and we all share the same bus. In truth, I don’t want to have to wait for the harvest before I pass judgement on some people. I feel able to judge some people now and I find it difficult to know why God hasn’t zapped them long ago. Closer to home there are weeds or imperfections in all of our lives, what do we do about these?

Nothing will be achieved if we become like Mr Angry waging war against weeds in ourselves and others. It is perhaps knowing this that Jesus tells us that we must wait for the harvest. It is God who will judge, not you and I. Yes there is a real battle at work in this world between good and evil and whilst we might be tempted to judge others, Jesus tells us that we must not. Unlike God, we cannot know what is inside a person's heart. We are unable to see where people's lives might take them -- their potential for redemption.
In due course the weeds will be seen for what they are, and for what they have failed to produce. Judgement is a risky business, and the task of judgement is divine, not human. How pleased we should be to be released from the temptation to think that we have to sit in judgement, this is not something entrusted to us. We are be spared the potential mistake of attacking what we believe to be weeds and which turn out not to be so.

In the meantime there is much that we can do. Let us all spend much more time nourishing the wheat, encouraging the good things which we see all round us. Our newspapers are chock full of all the bad stuff, we Christians have to get beyond the human appetite for evil and see the much greater good which lies all round us. Darkness is eliminated not by cursing it, but by lighting a candle. Each one of us must take more time to affirm the good we see. When Bing Crosby sang about accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative and spreading joy to the maximum, the sentiment was a very Christian one. Perfection is not a normal part of human nature, but surely when we concentrate on our good points the less favourable ones cease to be prominent. I am told that this is the best way to grow a good lawn, feed the grass and weeds have less and less room to grow. Charles Royden

Commentary

We often speak of "first impressions" when meeting someone, and often decide quickly whether we think we like them or not. The Gospel reading seems to suggest that we should reserve judgement because sometimes only time reveals the true nature of a person or situation. 

The "weeds" that Jesus speaks of were a type of plant that looked identical to wheat until it came harvest time. Then not only did they look different, they tasted different. The tares were poisonous to humans because of the parasitic growths they contained - ideal for the enemy, the Devil, to use.

Jesus seems to be saying that we shouldn't go in for premature judgement and harvesting, because if we did, some of the wheat may be pulled up with the weeds. 

He was clearly more concerned with the growth of the good seed than rooting out the bad. Nurture of the good seed was His principle concern. But, whilst He says there will be a time when time when the good and evil people will be ultimately separated (and the good rewarded and evil condemned), He also allows for the fact that people can and do change over time. 

God has not finished with any one of us yet, and certainly not given up on us whatever we may think. He has faith in us - and we need to have that same faith in others. To see people as Christ does, for what they can become, not just for what they seem to be now. To allow ourselves and others to be released, changed and transformed by the Spirit as we live by the Spirit. According to Paul a process that sometimes takes time and requires patience. Sam Cappleman

Commentary

It must surely be true that one of the obstacles to faith is the presence of evil in the world, and let's face it in the church as well. We look around us at the world and we see a place where goodness is often trampled upon, where bad people often succeed. With all of this evil around us, we often yearn for a glimpse of justice, and surely we can be forgiven for wanting to see bad people sorted out. Sadly today Jesus tells us that this is exactly what we must not do. As we look around at us at evil in the world we are called upon to do nothing but wait. Through this parable Jesus teaches us that evil must exist alongside good in the world, until the day of judgement, at which time it will be God who is the judge, not us.

Jesus tells this parable of the wheat and the tares, good and bad growing side by side in the field. Those people who heard this parable would have understood it very easily. The most basic staple diet in Palestine was of course bread, so wheat was critical. The weed growing with the wheat was poisonous, a kind of ryegrass known as darnel, and often translated as tares. In the early stages of development it looked like wheat, it could only be distinguished from wheat later as the ear appeared. It closely resembles wheat, except the grains are black. When harvested the wheat was taken and the tares left behing to be cut and used as fuel. Darnell has to be removed because it is mildly toxic and will ruin the flour, any surviving black grains were removed by hand after threshing. Critically, it was not removed in the fields whilst the wheat was growing because the roots of the weed were strong and wrapped around the wheat, to remove the weed would just as likely kill the wheat.

So in our reading today from Matthew, Jesus indicates that just as the wheat and the weeds must be left to grow together, so too the separation of good from bad is not something which we should engage in doing now. It should be left for the final harvest, God’s harvest at the end of time.

Accepting this presence of evil is as hard for us to understand as Christians as it would be for keen gardeners to simply try and ignore weeds in their gardens. Can you imagine keen gardeners who would stand by and watch weeds in their plants? They want to go out and spray and cut and hoe, weeds are annoying. Just as gardeners want to attack weeds, so we can become impatient to judge fellow human beings and want to see them removed. Hence this is a difficult parable and a disappointing parable for the moral crusaders and those of us who want to go around making judgemental statements !

It is very hard to understand how we can be expected to live side by side with evil people in God’s field. There is a fear that our tolerance might be regarded as moral indifference, and the good seed will become overwhelmed. We want to remind God that too many weeds might choke the harvest. Yet God does not want us to be his religious police to go around accusing others of evil and punishing them. We have seen this happen often in crusades and inquisitions, attacks on infidels and witches. God tells us that evil must exist alongside good until the day of judgement, at which time God will be the judge.

So what are we to do ? To sit back and watch ? No, in the meantime whilst we are not allowed to pluck, we are encouraged to plant In the midst of a very mixed up world we are called upon to be markedly different, to do good instead of evil.

Consider the Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

In the words of the hymn, we are to be channels of God's grace, to bring blessing to our world where there is evil, to be those who do not walk by on the other side, to show love where there is bitterness.

None of us has any idea why God allows weeds in his field, or why evil is allowed to exist in God's world. Yet, Jesus is very clear and assures us that evil is not of God, but is the enemy of God. This is quite an important lesson for us to hear today, it is a very important lesson for those who see it as a sign of God’s punishment when bad things happen.

One of the important lessons from the parable today is that we must have patience.

  • Patience in the face of situations that seem bad to us, like good people dying before time
  • Patience in the face of our desire to make judgements about others and to act on those judgements.

We leave the judgement for God to make and we must concentrate on doing what he asks us to do - which is producing his fruits in our lives, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control.

There may be good reason for this. How can I root out the bad weeds in the world, when I recognise in me also that there is a conflict between good and bad? In truth we are all 'part weed part wheat'. We must hope and pray that God works in us to make us more ‘wheat like.’ The good news is that God does this and the Bible is filled with people we might have considered weeds, but God did not give up.

Moses was a murderer, King David a murderer and an adulterer, the apostle Paul surely a murderer, he who looked on as Stephen was stoned to death and rounded the Christians up.
Who could believe that such weeds could come to be so fruitful ?

The life of Jesus teaches us to be careful about making too many assumptions about who is a weed and who is good wheat. Jesus reserved his strongest criticism for those who were considered really holy, and instead he treated with compassion the very weeds who were openly condemned. Jesus loved weeds and spent time with them, the thieves, prostitutes and the ones thought to be sinners. 

This is difficult for us, however Jesus tells us not to rush to judgement, but rather to let it be, let it go, forgive. Evil is to be dealt with through letting it be, permitting it, forgiving it. This does not mean that there will not be a time when evil is dealt with, but that will be God’s time, not ours, God’s judgement and not ours. It is only God who look and see what is a human heart.

This story is about grace, about God giving time. We might become frustrated and wanting God to act more quickly to address the evil and suffering in the world. Yet we must also recognise how committed God is in dealing with the problems of this world. One look at the cross will show us the depth of God’s commitment. On the cross, evil may seem to triumph over good, but finally, the cross tells us, God’s love overcomes and God’s goodness will triumph over evil.

In the meantime there is much that we can do. We must avoid the temptation to pluck and instead work hard to plant. Let us all spend much more time nourishing the wheat, encouraging the good things which we see all round us. Our newspapers are chock full of so much bad stuff, yet we must recognise that newspapers are only full of bad news because we have an appetite for it. Our moral outrage and calling for justice is usually nothing more than self righteous hypocrisy. Our newspapers would never have reached the depths to which they have sunk if we had not provided a market for the dirt which they have provided on a daily basis. As Christians we have to have to get beyond this human appetite for evil and see the much greater good which lies all round us. Darkness is eliminated not by cursing it, but by lighting a candle. So Christians must be those determined to bring God goodness to overcome evil in the world.

Meditation

All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." And how can true concern flourish without realizing we're all in this together? Our roots inexorably tangled, "whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."
Conventional good guy/bad guy interpretations of the parable today limit the possibilities of continual conversion, reconciliation, maturing in faith and compassion. Rather, let the tares represent all that is within the human character that stifles solidarity with life on this fragile planet. Again, to quote from King,
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Meditation - Only time will tell

The wheat and the tares is a curious passage with many explanations and interpretations. In a theme picked up by recent 'Grolsch' beer adverts on the TV, a few years ago in the US there was a commercial featuring Orson Wells holding glass of wine in his hand. As he looked into the camera with elevated eyebrow, he said "We will sell no wine before its time." Time appears to be an important factor in determining the quality and attributes of wine and beer. Jesus too seems to be suggesting that sometimes, even for people, only time will tell…

Meditation

Seek not to understand so that thou mayest believe, but believe so that thou mayest understand.  Augustine of Hippo

Meditation

The Hungry Birds Parable

Taken from Wisdom of the Sadhu, teachings of Sundar Singh which can be downloaded on thisischurch.com

Once as I wandered in the mountains, I came upon an outcropping of rocks, and as I sat on the highest rock to rest and look out over the valley, I saw a nest in the branches of a tree. The young birds in the nest were crying noisily. Then I saw how the mother bird returned with food for her young ones. When they heard the sound of her wings and felt her presence nearby, they cried all the more loudly and opened their beaks wide. But after the mother bird fed them and flew away again, they were quiet. Climbing down to look more closely, I saw that the newly hatched birds had not yet opened their eyes. Without even being able to see their mother, they opened their beaks and begged for nourishment whenever she approached. These tiny birds did not say: “We will not open our beaks until we can see our mother clearly and also see what kind of
food she offers. Perhaps it is not our mother at all but instead some dangerous enemy. And who knows if it is proper nourishment
or some kind of poison that is being fed to us?” If they had reasoned thus, they would never have discovered the truth. Before they were even strong enough to open their eyes, they would have starved to death. But they held no such doubts about the presence and love of their mother, and so after a few days, they opened their eyes and rejoiced to see her with them. Day by day they grew stronger and developed into the form and likeness of the mother, and soon they were able to soar up into the freedom of the skies.

We humans often think of ourselves as the greatest living beings, but do we not have something to learn from these common birds? We often question the reality and the loving nature of God. But the Master has said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Whenever we open our hearts to God, we receive spiritual nourishment and grow more and more into the likeness of God until we reach spiritual maturity. And once we open our spiritual eyes and see God’s presence, we find indescribable and unending bliss.

Seek not to understand
so that thou mayest believe,
but believe so that thou mayest understand.
Augustine of Hippo

Hymns

  1. All I once held dear
  2. In full and glad surrender
  3. Blest are the pure in heart Tune: Franconia
  4. Amazing grace Tune: Amazing Grace
  5. Father, I place into your hands
  6. Take my life, and let it be
  7. I want to walk with Jesus Christ
  8. For the beauty of the earth   Tune: England’s Lane
  9. Spirit of faith come down Tune Diademata
  10. Be still for the presence of the Lord
  11. Jesus where're thy people meet Tune: Wareham
  12. The kingdom of God is God is justice and joy Tune Hanover

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead 

Our heavenly Father, we commend to your mercy those for whom life does not spell freedom: prisoners of conscience, the homeless and the handicapped, the sick in body and mind, the elderly who are confined to their homes, those who are enslaved by their passions, those who are addicted to drugs. Grant that, whatever their outward circumstances, they may find inner freedom, through Him who proclaimed release to the captives, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen    John Stott

O Lord God, the life of mortals, the light of the faithful, the strength of those who labour and the repose of the dead; grant us a tranquil day and night, free from all disturbance; that after an interval of quiet sleep, we may, by your bounty, at the return of light be endued with activity from the Holy Spirit, and enabled in security to render thanks to you. Amen

Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I look for you. For I cannot seek you unless first you teach me, nor find you unless first you reveal yourself to me. Amen    Ambrose

God give you grace to bring forth fruit by sharing what you have received with those who have not, and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen