I mentioned earlier that, for the next 2 Sundays, our zoom services will be in the evening at 6pm, and then on 9th August we meet again online in the morning.
But some of you will be going back to your own churches, as they reopen for worship; some who have been regular participants in this service have already gone. So we may not all be together again like this. Because of that, the service this morning will be in two parts: first a reflection on the gospel reading for today, and then a time of honouring the journey we’ve made together and blessing each other for the next phase, whatever form that takes for each of us.
Bible reading: Matthew 13:24-30
My brother-in-law is an organic farmer. I once spent a day, years ago, helping to pull ragwort out of his barley crop. It was back-breaking work because, like most farmers, he wanted to get the weeds as soon as they were small enough to get hold of. This story of a man who lets the weeds grow until harvest time is ridiculous – nobody would do that.
Jesus tells us at least two things. He answers the question, ‘why do bad people get away with it?’. And he reminds us that it’s not for us to judge who are the wheat and who the weeds. It’s not for Christians to decide who is saved and who isn’t.
And what’s a weed anyway, but a wild flower growing in the wrong place? I’d like to read to you this reflection by Jan Sutch Pickard, from the Iona Community. It’s called, ‘The cheerful, unrepentant weeds’.
Reading: The Cheerful, Unrepentant Weeds. From ‘Dandelions and Thistles’, biblical meditations from the Iona Community, ed Jan Sutch Pickard.
God of all creation,
Thank you for the wisdom and cheerfulness of nature.
Help us to trust in you,
As the seed carried on the wind,
And to flourish to your glory.
Trusting in God to carry us along brings us to the second part of our service, and marking the end of this phase of our journey together. Let’s hear our second bible reading.
Bible reading: Deut 6:4-9
It’s now 4 months since we closed our church buildings, and a little less than that since we started meeting in these online services. Really, I just want to say thank you, to all those who have joined in at any point. Thank you for braving the technology – at the start of lockdown, I’d never heard of Zoom. Now it’s second nature, and I wonder how we ever managed without it. It’s been more than just a substitute – we’ve been able to do things online we could never have done in person, like bringing different churches together, like including people who live far away, people we haven’t seen for a while. It has been a blessing to me, and I hope to you, and again, thank you all for taking part.
And now, for the next 2 weeks, we will not meet like this in the mornings. Some of us will go back to our respective church buildings; some will be at home. Some, dare I say, might have other plans too… We will be able to meet again in the Zoom evening services at 6pm on those days. So we are moving into a new phase – which I see as a sort of transition phase between lockdown and the eventual new normal in October. I chose this reading from Deuteronomy because this is Moses leading the transition phase for the people of Israel, between slavery in Egypt and the new normal in the Promised Land. God has been with them in their suffering and in their escape, and now these words are their guide for moving forward: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength and never forget this love.
So let us pray.
Loving, constant and faithful God,
Thank you for walking with us through these troubled times;
Thank you for going with us as we move forward.
Thank you for holding us when we were afraid,
For picking us up when we were losing hope,
For urging us on when we found it hard to move.
Thank you for the unexpected gifts and graces of this time:
Watching early spring unfold into full summer,
Hearing birdsong, breathing clean air,
Reconnecting with friends and neighbours.
Thank you for the fellowship of these online services and the technology that has made them possible.
And now, thank you for the possibilities of opening our church buildings again.
We pray for those who will be attending church;
For those responsible for making the buildings safe;
And we pray for those not able to attend,
Or who will be attending in different places.
May we all know that we are held together in your loving care,
And may we continue to uphold one another in prayer and mutual concern.
Lead us forward as your people, wherever we are,
In the name of Jesus,