Sunday Service – 26th July 2020 – Pentecost 8

The coming of God’s Kingdom is a mysterious divine initiative
that we should humbly watch for and welcome.

With thanks to Revd Canon Alison Peden – our Interim Pastor

Hymn:  listen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx1eMwlDFb8

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;  to His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me His praise should sing?
Praise Him ! Praise Him! Praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for His grace and favour to our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same for ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless
Praise Him! Praise Him!  Glorious in His faithfulness.

Father-like He tends and spares us; well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes.
Praise Him ! Praise Him ! Widely as His mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore Him, ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him, dwellers all in time and space.
Praise Him ! Praise Him ! Praise with us the God of grace.

Preparation:  Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: the first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all Your strength.” The second is this:  “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.       Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Collect:   O God, protector of all who put their trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:  fill us with your mercy and your grace that with you to rule and guide, we may so use the good things of this present life that we do not neglect things of eternal worth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Reading     1 Kings 3:5-12:    
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Gospel    Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 
Jesus put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 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.’
He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.’
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

 Reflection:   It’s tempting to react to stress, change and uncertainty with a desire to manage and control what we can, to be active and proactive.  The Church has been flung into a new world, where worship and meetings go online, and where face-to-face is risky.  It’s a world of opportunities and losses, of potential renewal and potential decline.  We don’t really know where we will be in six months’ time, let alone a year hence.  So we are tempted to say:  “But let’s start building the Kingdom of God anyway!”

These ‘parables of the Kingdom’ in our Gospel give us a timely reminder that the initiative is God’s, and the action is God’s.  The first two – the mustard seed and the yeast – point to a persistent weed and an irrepressible fungus which simply get on and grow, whether you want them to or not.  Nothing could stop God sending Jesus to live amongst us;  nothing could stop the growth of Christian faith, and nothing will deter God’s action in the future, though it may take forms that are surprising and unexpected to us.

The second two parables – about selling everything for the treasure and the pearl – describe the kind of action God takes.  Jesus prized humanity, however ‘feeble’ our frame (as the hymn puts it), and gave everything he had for us.  The word used in today’s gospel for ‘bought’ means ‘redeemed’;   we were redeemed for the price of Jesus’ life, because he counted us – even us – to be a treasure and a pearl of great price. God’s kingdom comes at a price that love is willing to pay.

In the face of such dedicated, persistent love and purpose, our own home-grown ideas and plans of how to ‘bring about the Kingdom of God on earth’ are misplaced.  Solomon got it right when he did not ask for what he thought would be most useful, but simply for wisdom to know God’s will for his people.  The Kingdom of justice, compassion, and peace will be God’s gift to us, not our own achievement. 

May we commit ourselves to follow God’s lead, wherever it might take us and whatever it might cost.

Prayers:  We pray today using the hymn ‘Thy kingdom come’. The tune can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1JmfuKNkzw

Thy kingdom come — on bended knee the passing ages pray;
And faithful souls have yearned to see on earth that kingdom’s day.
     We give thanks for Christians through the centuries who have
     handed on the gospel and built the Church that nurtures us.
     We pray for Bishop Ian and for all Christians in our neighbourhood.

But the slow watches of the night not less to God belong,
And for the everlasting right the silent stars are strong.
     We pray for all who see no hope and hear no good news:  the sick,
     the unemployed, the lonely and abused; and especially for …

And lo! already on the hills the flags of dawn appear;
Gird up your loins, ye prophet souls, proclaim the day is near.
      We pray for modern-day prophets whose vision inspires new life,
      new ways of living, new solutions to old problems, new ways to
     understand and accept each other.

The day in whose clear-shining light all wrong shall stand revealed,
When justice shall be clothedin might, and every hurt be healed.
     We pray for those who are denied justice, not treated equally,
     demeaned by prejudice, ignored, despised and rejected.

When knowledge, hand in hand with peace,
shall walk the earth abroad —
The day of perfect righteousness, the promised day of God.
      May we have the grace to share in your Kingdom, Lord,
     through the redemption we have in Christ Jesus.  Amen

The Great Thanksgiving
Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God,
for it is right to give him thanks and praise.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!

Worship and praise belong to you, Father, in every place and at all times.  All power is yours. You created the heavens and established the earth; you sustain in being all that is.
In Christ your Son our life and yours are brought together in a wonderful exchange. He made his home among us that we might for ever dwell in you. Through your Holy Spirit you call us to new birth in a creation restored by love.
As children of your redeeming purpose we offer you our praise,
with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven,
singing the hymn of your unending glory:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.      
Hosanna in the highest.
Glory and thanksgiving be to you, most loving Father, for the gift of your Son born in human flesh. He is the Word existing beyond time, both source and final purpose, bringing to wholeness all that is made.
Obedient to your will he died upon the Cross. By your power you raised him from the dead. He broke the bonds of evil and set your people free to be his Body in the world.

On the night when he was given up to death, knowing that his hour had come, having loved his own, he loved them to the end. At supper with his disciples he took bread and offered you thanks. He broke the bread, and gave it to them, saying: “Take, eat. This is my Body: it is broken for you.” After supper, he took the cup, he offered you thanks, and gave it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my Blood of the new covenant; it is poured out for you, and for all, that sins may be forgiven. Do this in remembrance of me.”

We now obey your Son’s command. We recall his blessed passion and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension; and we look for the coming of his Kingdom. Made one with him, we offer you ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice.

Hear us, most merciful Father, and send your Holy Spirit upon us that, overshadowed by his life-giving power, we may be kindled with the fire of your love and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.

Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ’s Body to live and work to your praise and glory; may we grow together in unity and love until at last, in your new creation, we enter into our heritage in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles and prophets, and of all our brothers and sisters living and departed.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be to you, Lord of all ages,
world without end. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:   Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done;  on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.   Amen.

The Communion:   draw close to Christ in spirit and thanksgiving,
and be nourished by his presence with you and within you. 

Closing prayer: 
Merciful God,you gave your only Son to be both a sacrifice for sin and an example of godly life:  help us gladly to receive all that he has done for us and follow in his footsteps, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

May we go in the peace of Christ to love and serve the Lord.  Amen