To assist you in this worship, you may wish to light a candle, and gather some symbols that might help you to worship, reflect and pray. As well as a green cloth for the current church season, something that inspires your imagination, a cross or an icon, you may also like to include a potted plant, flowers, fruit or vegetables or some seeds to help you reflect on today’s theme.
As this Sunday would normally be communion, I suggest you have before you an empty glass or wine glass and an empty plate on the cloth, for the liturgy of the empty plate and cup.
Opening Prayer (adapted from Spill the Beans Iss.35)
you are the source of all that is,
the life in every living thing:
birds and beasts; fish and fowl; crops and the locusts that devour them;
trees and the diseases that threaten them;
wildflowers, which are beautiful in one place,
and troublesome weeds in another.
You made them all, and you made us: not wholly good or wholly bad,
but full of creative potential, which, like yours,
can be used for good or for harm;
squandered or never allowed to flourish.
Help us to open our eyes and look,
with you, at the ripening harvest of our lives.
What shoots of new growth can we see?
What is there in us that is stronger and healthier than it was before?
Let us give thanks: with God and to God,
for every growth in grace; every lesson learned;
every kindness shown; every struggle overcome.
let us ask for help to nurture and encourage
every seed of life that God has planted.
And now, as we continue looking inwards, what else can we see?
Are there weeds of tiredness or frustration;
thorns of envy or of fear that threaten
to choke the life of the kingdom, growing in us?
Let us acknowledge, before God,
the dangers that we face and the temptations that draw us in.
Let us promise not to feed these weeds with our time
or water them with our attention,
but to trust God, the farmer, to deal with them, when the time is right.
Lord of all life, may the seeds of your kingdom,
grow in us, and be allowed to flourish,
and may we share with all your faithful people
in the joy of the harvest feast. Amen.
Matthew 13:1-23 (NRSV) The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “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?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’”
Reflecting on the Word: “Weeds and wheat”
Matthew may well be trying to explain here how evil got into the world, but it is a rather simplistic viewpoint that just claims “the devil did it” and weeds are bad and wheat is good. Things and people are more complex than this simple black and white view of the world.
Theologians and natural historians alike agree there is no such thing as a weed—only a plant in the wrong place—and we are now acutely aware of the importance of some plants for biological diversity. Like plants, people are not wholly good or wholly evil and we all have the potential for both. Good intentions can result in bad consequences, and vice versa.
Another angle to consider this parable as perhaps talking metaphorically of ourselves. What are the weeds in our life? What is the wheat? How can we cultivate the wheat and cut back on the weedy bits? How might this help us in discerning what God is calling us to do?
Reflecting on the passage: what can we learn from this story?
Do you have a garden? What kind of weeds grow in it? What kinds of seeds do you plant? Take some time in your garden or a nearby green area or park to meditate and reflect on this parable.
As you encounter weeds and plants, think about this parable of Jesus and how it might apply to yourself. What chokes your life? What sucks energy out of your life and what might instead provide you with energy?
We are to be the good seed that God spreads out in the world. What hinders our growth as God’s people and what might we change in our life in order to be more productive in the growth of God’s garden here on earth?
Prayer for ourselves and others (adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.35)
Living God, we give thanks for all the good things,
that we have seen grow in the course of our lives,
sometimes in the most unpromising of soil;
for difficult times which have helped us
to understand the difficulties that other people face;
for painful losses which have helped us
to value people and things that do not last for ever;
for hard questions that have led us more deeply into the mystery of our faith.
We give thanks for farmers and fishing crews;
for all who grow food, and catch it, prepare it, transport it, market and sell it,
so that we can enjoy an abundance, that we too easily take for granted.
We pray for those whose livelihoods are at risk,
and whose children this week may not be fed.
May we emerge from this time of hardship
with a new appreciation of all that we have
and a new determination to make this world a fairer place for all.
We give thanks for those who sow seeds
of faith, of hope and of imagination, when those gifts are in short supply.
May their work bear a rich harvest.
Gladly, we think of those who cheer us by singing in the darkness;
those who draw us gently into their laughter, and help us to smile at ourselves;
those who pray for us, when we have forgotten how to pray for ourselves.
Gracious God, we pray for the church of Jesus Christ,
charged with representing him in the world,
and with tending the fragile seeds of his kingdom.
Help us not to be distracted by the weeds,
but to focus on the fresh, green shoots of new life.
May we not choke that life with the tangled thorns
of our rules and regulations,
of our doctrines and dogmas and clever future plans.
Keep us faithful in our planting, our watering,
and our waiting for the rich harvest that is your glory and your gift.
Liturgy of the empty cup and plate
This Sunday, as a church, we would have normally gathered to celebrate communion. At this time, we are unable to do that, so this liturgy has been written to help you reflect on communion and its place in your worshipping life.
This earth is not our earth.
This is God’s earth.
This time is not my time.
This is God’s time.
This table is not my table.
This is God’s table.
God’s earth, God’s time, God’s table…
It is God who provides this place and this time.
Provision is made for us all to be part of God’s story.
In this time, we rededicate ourselves and our surroundings
for God’s good purposes.
Though we/I cannot come to your table
to receive the bread and wine,
we/I know that you still meet us/me here;
you embrace us in our brokenness,
you pour out your love upon us/me,
name us/me as your disciples, and claim us/me for an eternity.
And we/I can still remember, as you commanded.
We/I lament that we/I will not share
the bread and wine today.
We/I lament that we/I cannot grasp
a hand in fellowship today.
We/I lament the suspending of this sacrament.
We/I can remember that the Lord is with us/me.
We/I can remember to lift up our/my hearts.
We/I can remember to give thanks to the Lord our God.
Blessing and praise still belongs to you,
God of promise and of covenant.
Through your living Word
you created all things,
the majesty of the heavens
and the glory of the earth.
In your wisdom and goodness
you have made all people
in your image and likeness.
We/I remember the story
that on the night of his betrayal
your Son Jesus took the bread
and took the wine, blessed them
and shared them with his closest friends,
saying: “Remember me.”
Come now, Holy Spirit;
bless us/me here today.
Pour out the Holy Spirit on this empty plate and this empty cup,
that they may be for us/me – even in their emptiness
– the body and blood of Christ,
so that we/I may take his life into our lives,
and be taken ourselves to be blessed, broken and given for the world.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Blessing (adapted from Spill the Beans, Iss.35)
The Sower, God,
spreads the seed in the fertile soil of his creation.
We are God’s seed, and we are blessed by God.
May God’s Spirit feed us this week and beyond.
May we grow well:
may we bloom and show God’s glory.
and let all the earth know of his love.
Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine
Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018.
Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister.More from Rev Elizabeth Raine