simple white fading png image
notre dame montreal

Worship, Prayer and Bible resources

Ordinary 11- Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Introduction

You could get quite depressed when you look around at the world and see such a pitiful state of affairs and the inability of good people to bring about change and stop wickedness. Yet we Christians should not be surprised at our inability to make everything lovely. Jesus never promised to us that we would establish his rule on earth. Indeed it is made quite plain that God's kingdom is not a kingdom established upon this earth, with power and authority. Christians are not supposed to set up an earthly country.

That does not mean that God is not at work in this world. There is most wonderful change and growth going on, but the growth of the kingdom is imperceptible. You have to look for it very carefully and to those who lack the eyes of faith, it will be impossible to see. However those who follow the master will never underestimate the power of God. They belong not to this world but to a world to come, their country is not an earthly state but the kingdom which is growing soul by soul and silently.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
we may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
and soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
and her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.


Opening Verses of Scripture   Mark 4

"What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.

or Ps 20 v 8
'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.'


Collect Prayer for the Day

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Generous God, you gather your people and lavish your gifts upon us , day by day. Grant that each experience of your pardon may enlarge our own love, until it meets the measure of your forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Methodist Worship

Your glory, O God fills heaven and earth and all creation resounds with your praise. As we rejoice in your presence, may we know your power to save and praise you for your faithfulness, now and for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

God of truth, help us to keep your law of love and to walk in ways of wisdom, that we may find true life in Jesus Christ your Son.
 

First Bible Reading    Ezekiel 17: 22-24

'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.   " 'I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.

Second Reading   2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.
We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!


Gospel Reading    Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

 

Post Communion Sentence

Eternal Father, we thank you for nourishing us with these heavenly gifts: may our communion strengthen us in faith, build us up in hope, and make us grow in love; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
  

Commentary

To understand the original meaning of the First Reading we need to look at the imagery which is being used and the context in which these verses are written. They come at the end of a poetic allegory which is interrupted by an explanation of the symbols. The king of Babylon took the king of Israel from Jerusalem with all his followers into captivity; the symbol used is one eagle capturing another. There is a familiar theme; Israel is not being faithful to the covenantal practices and customs which have been entrusted to it. The reading from Ezekiel uses the symbol of tree-trimmings and replanting of the highest clippings back in Jerusalem. These words have echoes of the Advent promises where God is going to bring back Israel, making the valleys raised and the mountains made low. The branches of the tree will be the faithful and loyal kings, who will form the new kingdom of Israel and all creation, symbolised by the birds of all kinds, who will return to their original innocence pictured in Genesis after the flood. God is faithful and God’s mercy is God’s existence. The lowly trees will branch above the lofty who will wither and be brought low. It is the Lord who speaks and does it.

Today’s Gospel reading continues the parables in the fourth chapter of Mark. Chapter four opens with the parable of the seed sown in various types of soil, continues with the parable of a lamp’s not being hidden under a bushel, as well as a parable about measuring out what has been received. Next we hear two parables about growing things from seeds.
The first parable is about how the Kingdom of God grows within a person precisely because it is of God’s goodness, it cannot be attained by merely human intellectual processing or problem solving. It grows even while we are sleeping or distracted. The Kingdom of God parable is about the tiniest of all seeds which grows into the largest shrub and gives shade and rest to the birds of the air.
These pictures of the “Kingdom of God” are spoken and heard within the context and experience of the Roman kingdom which was occupying Israel during the time of Jesus. The Kingdom of God will not be established by any kind of force, nor reinforced or regulated by outside authorities. It is established quietly, in the inside where the heart is attracted to the supreme goodness of God. It grows almost like a weed. But it is identified by the fruits or actions of faith, hope and love. Jesus speaks in these parables for the listening pleasure (or distress) of the crowds. To His disciples He speaks plainly and yet, the story, which ends this chapter, which follows these parables, which we do have in today’s readings, is about how fragile is the faith of the disciples. They are with Jesus in a boat and the storm comes up, but Jesus is asleep. The disciples have heard the parables and His teachings, but their faith, once tested, is like a mustard seed, very small and slowly growing very slowly. They panic. Sometimes it seems that Jesus expects faith and trusting should be easy. Jesus asks Peter to leave everything to follow Him and later invites Peter to get out of a boat and walk on water! God asks Mary to believe she is pregnant and she does, but she has some very good questions first. God is always asking that we be not afraid. Perhaps that’s because He knows we sometimes can be uncertain, hesitating and afraid to step out with Him.


Seeds of the Kingdom grow into fruits of faith very slowly and sometimes in secret. The parable of the seed growing secretly seeks to encourage trust on the part of Jesus' disciples that the kingdom, already hidden but at work in Jesus' ministry, will, in God's good time, become visible and unmistakable. And whilst we are co-workers with God, it is also true that the Kingdom will achieve its full development by virtue of its own intrinsic power. The extension and growth of God’s Kingdom is not entirely dependent upon co-operation from the human race. We can help or hinder its growth, but it would appear from scripture that neither we, or indeed anything on earth, can stop it. It will break out where it will, sometimes without, or even in spite of, our own efforts. We may not always understand where its shoots will break through the hard rock of our world, but we should not deny that they will. We may not always see the small seeds that are planted, but they will surely grow. And as they do, as people come to see Jesus in the light of the Messiah that has come, so their lives and the lives of those around them and society at large are transformed into new creations.
Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation

Joyce Ann Zimmerman writes, ‘Much of what we do successfully every day depends upon our cooperation with others. Making visible God's kingdom is first of all the work of God, but isn't it wonderful that God chooses to invite us to cooperate in this great work!’
Today’s reading demonstrates that as ambiguous as God’s Kingdom may seem, we have a responsibility to work alongside God to bring about it’s coming on earth. Sometimes how we do this may seem insignificant, as small as a mustard seed, but God can take our lowly and seemingly small efforts, a brief word spoken, a small act of kindness, a hand of friendship, and from these, do what on our own would have been unimaginable. With God, all things are possible, even if from miniscule and small beginnings. The Kingdom of God is living and growing, and we are an integral part of its evolution and revelation.

A Summer thought
"The mind that comes to rest is tended / In ways that it cannot intend."
poet-farmer Wendell Berry. 'Sabbath',

 

Hymns

  1. Awake my soul  Tune Morning Hymn

  2. All I once held dear

  3. I vow to thee my country  Tune Thaxted

  4. Now let us from this table rise Tune Tallis Canon
     

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

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


For the increase of the Kingdom of God, let us pray to the Lord.

Fill your church we pray with confidence in Christ as her Lord, that your people might make him known by teaching and daily living. Nourish the good seed of your word in us, that it may be fruitful and grow.

As Christ died for all, may his love renew us all as his new creation.
Open eyes that are closed to your glory and the ears that will not hear the good news.
May self-interest be changed to a true desire for the common good.

Guide us to discern the signs of your presence among us, in family life, in work, in all our dealings.
Trusting in your strength, may we bring to fruition all that is your will for us.

Bless and comfort those whose work is hard and who see no results for what they do.
Give them strength to persevere, in the knowledge that you are working in all things.

We pray for those who have left their earthly bodies and come home to you. Judge them with mercy, through the sacrifice of Christ.
That we may grow in the service of Christ, we pray in his name. Amen.
 

 

Additional Material

Commentary

The Kingdom of God is like a seed which grows all by itself once it is planted. The Kingdom, like a small seed, might appear tiny and insignificant, but the kingdom of God should not be judged by earthly standards.
This teaching is encouraging for us. It reminds us that God is at work in this world. We should not be disappointed by the lack of spectacular growth, because Jesus tells us that Kingdom growth is slow, like that of a plant. If we watch it we will not see it grow, indeed it is only if we go back after a time that we will notice that there has been change. There is most wonderful change and growth going on, but the growth of the kingdom is imperceptible. You have to look for it very carefully and to those who lack the eyes of faith, it will be impossible to see.
This might seem rather lacking in excitement, we live in a consumer culture and we expect immediate results. However we should not be too disappointed. Growth might be imperceptible, but yet it is also unstoppable. Just as growth is a fact of nature, so the growth of the kingdom is unavoidable.
For this reason God's Kingdom should never be despised, simply because it lacks human appearance of greatness. So Jesus uses the illustration of the mustard seed. It would be easy to despise such a small seed, it is insignificant. yet is has within it the potential for great growth, many, many times its apparent size.
We should never judge God's work by its appearance, there is hidden energy at work which transcends the small appearance on the surface.

Jesus contrasts the smallness of the seed with the outcome of the growth which takes place from the potential stored inside that seed. There is an important message here, the Gospel has enormous power and potential, even if like a planted seed, the growth goes on without even the possibility of being seen!

So we should be aware of the importance of the small beginnings and the small changes that we see.
Some have assumed that in speaking of growth, Jesus is thinking about the growth of the church. The hymn 'The day thou gavest' has this message at its core. It speaks of the church keeping watch across the whole world, the voice of prayer never being silent, because the church is ‘unsleeping’. The kingdom of God is seen to be growing numerically, adding numbers, 'hour by hour fresh lips are making thy wondrous doing heard on high'. This kingdom of the church, unlike 'earth's proud empires' will never pass away. It is glorious and triumphant and very 19th century, we could hardly imagine it being written today! Although there are some modern songs which use this kind of imagery, speaking about marching and victory and claiming land for Jesus. I am not sure what Jesus would have thought of it all. Jesus made it clear to his disciples that his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom. 'My kingdom is not of this world' he told Pilate. John (18:36). When we read the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom it is quite obvious that he had no intention of establishing a rival kingdom to Rome, the kingdom of God is about the change in a human heart.
We all have the potential for change and growth, allowing our lives to be come fit places for God to grow his kingdom. This growth can be painfully slow. We determine that we will be nicer to our husbands and wives and families, we promise ourselves that we will practice patience and be more joyful in daily living, then we let ourselves down. Yet the kingdom still grows, even if growth, like that of a plant is so slow that stare as we might we cannot see it. Only as we look back do we see how we have changed and recognise the potential for what we might become.

There is also an important message here about our efforts. If we just sow the seed it grows by a power greater than our own. We do our own seemingly insignificant part, and great significance can result. Our part may appear insignificant it is not, it is of enormous importance. Our efforts are not the whole story, it does not all depend upon us - BUT if we fail to sow how can the seed grow?
Each one of us can sow, play our seemingly small part, we can all plant and allow the process of growth to take place. Jesus is making the point that it is not just the spiritual giants, the Billy Grahams of this world who make a difference. It is each one of us playing our part. It involves the mother with three kids who makes the effort to get to church in the morning, just as much as it involves the minister who pretends he runs the place. Both are equally important, both plant their seeds.
The sowing of the tinniest seeds starts a process over which we have no control. God will take care of the process. The growth will happen at the right pace, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Charles Royden

Meditation

Meditation A thought for our holidays
Once Abba Anthony was conversing with some brethren, and a hunter who was after game in the wilderness came upon them. He saw Abba Anthony and the brothers enjoying themselves and disapproved. Abba Anthony said: ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ This he did. ‘Now shoot another,’ said the elder. ‘And another, and another.’ The hunter said: if I bend my bow all the time it will break.’ Abba Anthony replied: ‘So it is in the work of God. If we push ourselves beyond measure, the brethren will soon collapse. It is right, therefore, from time to time, to relax their efforts. ‘The Wisdom of the Desert’

 

Hymns

God is working his purpose out

 

Now let us from this table rise  - Tune Tallis Canon


1 Now let us from this table rise
renewed in body, mind and soul;
with Christ we die and rise again,
his selfless love has made us whole.

2 With minds alert, upheld by grace,
to spread the Word in speech and deed,
we follow in the steps of Christ,
at one with all in hope and need.

3 To fill each human house with love,
it is the sacrament of care;
the work that Christ began to do
we humbly pledge ourselves to share.

4 Then grant us grace, Companion-God,
to choose again the pilgrim way
and help us to accept with joy
the challenge of tomorrow's day.

Fred Kaan (born 1929)

 

1 Lord Jesus, once you spoke to men
upon the mountain, in the plain;
O help us listen now, as then,
and wonder at your words again.

2 We all have secret fears to face,
our minds and motives to amend;
we seek your truth, we need your grace,
our living Lord and present Friend.

3 The Gospel speaks; and we receive
your light, your love, your own command.
O help us live what we believe
in daily work of heart and hand.
 

Tune Wareham or Winchester New

 

1 I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:
the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
the love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

2 And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
we may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
and soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
and her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.

Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice (1859-1918)
13 13 13 13 13 13

Tune Thaxted