People of God,
The Lord of Love opens wide his arms to you today.
We are the biggest stumbling block in our relationship with God.
Let us get out of our own way.
Let us see God in the love born this Christmas.
Go with Love birthed in your hearts.
Go with the Christ-Child, Amen.
Listen to your sheep as we baa…
Hear our calls of praise – you are God, you are our Shepherd.
Hear our songs of thanks – you lead us, you save us, you give us all we need
And hear our dirges of woe
-we need you Jesus
-we need your touch on hearts that are crying in greif
-we need your hand to calm our anxious fears and doubts
-we need you, Lord, how we need you!
Good Shepherd, send your Spirit to be your rod and staff upon our lives.
-and help us build the Kingdom you desire
-help us desire the kingdom you are building
All as we pray… our Father…
Wellspring of Hope, Whisperer of Wisdom, ceaseless Winds of Change:
You, Lord, have spoken everything into being in love,
You have weathered the storms and shifting sands of culture,
You have conquered depression and death.
We are so thankful as your people today.
Mighty God, we need your strength today.
Defend us when we are attacked by cancer, illness, and disease.
Reach into the pits of despair and pull us out of our darkness.
Hold us, Lord, as we grieve the loss of loved ones.
There is so much to fear today – yet your Kingdom is not a Kingdom of Fear,
But one of Love.
Send your courageous Spirit into our hearts
Send your resurrected Church into the world
Send us as we pray, Amen.
From Matthew 13:1-9
Mrs. Smith was one helluva teacher sent from Heaven. I know because I had her for English. I know because I watched her put up with Ed. Ed didn’t want to be in school, Ed didn’t want to learn the puns of Shakespeare or the alliteration of Blake, and Ed didn’t want to be told what to do.
Through it all, Mrs. Smith never gave up. She’d offer extra time on tests he had no intention of completing. She’d push him to enter rap lyrics into a poetry contest, but Ed didn’t do extra work. She’d encourage him to redo the homework he turned in before she graded it, but all this was casting pearls before swine. Ed didn’t care. His apathy, a black hole, sucked the energy and impetus around him. Ed didn’t care. But Mrs. Smith cared, and she never gave up on him.
Today’s world has joined what some psychologists call the ‘cult of self.’ At the expense of self-awareness and self-limitations, we boost self-esteem eclipsing reality in exaggerated egocentric effigies of us. We know the education system is failing, yet more students get A’s and Honors than ever before. If a C is the average, how come so few kids get them? Ivy League Students were surveyed and 80% of them claimed to be in the top 5% of their class. And everyone gets a trophy.
But it’s not just kids… Social Media enables us to tell the world about us and to live in a world that revolves around us. We Instagram what we’re eating, tweet the songs we’re singing, and post “Best Vacation Ever” every time we slip away. Narcissism rises as we can literally count how many likes, shares, comments, friends, and followers we have. We create monsters who no longer can be told they are incorrect and will not admit that they made a mistake all in the name of the god called self-esteem.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us a parable about farming. We show up clutching to our report cards, trophies, awards and affirmations; Jesus ruins it. God loves us, but some of us just aren’t going to get it. The parable of the sower casting out his seeds is pretty familiar to all of us. We know about the different types of soils: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and of course the good soil. And each time we hear this parable, we tell ourselves the same things: “I’m so glad I’m the good soil,” or “I used to be like that soil, but now I’m the good soil,” or “here’s a list of things I have to do to make sure I’m the good soil.” We are so focused on ME! ME! ME! we’ve retitled this parable. No longer is it the parable of the sower but the parable of the soil.
Jesus tells us about God. Jesus lets us know God doesn’t give up on us. Jesus is tells us about God’s wasteful generosity. A farmer goes out to plant. How many farmers do you know cast seed out on Highway 58? How many farmers do you know throw seed on rocks or among thorns on purpose? How many farmers do you know who are tighter than spandex on an 800 lbs gorilla? Farmers I know count their fingers after they shake your hand.
God is not your average farmer. Our Lord is so generous every soil gets seed. God loves the road. God loves us when we are hard and mean as asphalt. God loves the rocky soil. God loves us when we are shallow, undisciplined, and unwilling to let his love affect us deeply. God loves the soil with thorns and thistles. God loves us when we let money, worry, friends, and family come before what really matters. God loves the good soil. God loves us when we are ready to receive his Word, take it into our lives, and bear fruit.
This is not a story about us. This is a story about God’s wasteful generosity. God is willing to love even when there is little chance the love will be returned. Our part in the story is to love like God loves.
Jesus sat down by the sea and told us a story about God: the most generous, loving, wasteful farmer the world has ever known. Let’s be honest, some folks are just not going to get it, but that doesn’t stop God from loving them. It shouldn’t stop us from loving as well. God gives so much grace in the world that some of the grace is going to waste. Some folks just aren’t going to follow Jesus. Yet, God doesn’t give up on them… and neither should we. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
Lord who holds every place within you:
You are in this place and we did not know it.
We came with hurting hearts and anguish
from the journey in the past.
We came with shaky thoughts and anxiousness
for the journey ahead.
Come, whisper your words of forgiveness
to us and through us.
Come, loosen the stress in our minds and muscles.
Come, give us rest and dreams to inspire.
Listen! A farmer went out to plant his seed!
God’s a farmer? I’m sure he’s cautious about where the seed will go.
He scattered it on the road.
No! Not there, the birds will eat it, what a waste!
He scattered it on the rocks.
No! Not there, the sun will scorch it. What a waste!
He scattered it among the weeds and thorns.
No! You’re wasting seed! It will never grow there!
He scattered it on the earth.
This farmer is far too liberal in his planting!
Had he been more picky with where he cast his seed,
He wouldn’t have wasted so much.
Let those who have ears, hear the Good News.
-©2017 Worship’s Wake, Nathan Decker.
Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28
Needs four readers, one off-stage, three on. One has luggage, one has a hammer, and one has a camera.
Voice off stage: As you Go-
Reader 1: “Yes! We’re going on a trip! I wonder where God is sending us. I can’t wait!”
Reader 2: “I hope it’s exotic! I’ve always wanted to travel overseas!”
Reader 3: “I’ll bring my camera and some dough, you know souvenirs will be so cheap there!”
Voice: <Clears throat until they listen> As you are going, Make-
R2: “YES! It’s a construction trip! I wonder what God will have us build!
R1: “I bet it’s a church or a school or maybe even a hospital!”
R3: “I’ll bring my old shirts from college! We can hand them out to the poor children! We can even get the kids in church to collect happy meal toys to hand out! Those kids will be so blessed by our presence!”
Voice: <Clears throat again> As you are going, make Disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow everything I’ve taught you.
R3: “What’s that mean?”
R2: “Disciples? How do you build those?”
R1: “All nations… including this one? Does that mean we’re not going anywhere?”
Voice: As you go about your life where ever you happen to be, share what you have been given. Invite people to see my love in you. Bring them to me to experience my love in the baptismal waters. Teach them to follow the my path of peace.
R1: “This isn’t going to be easy.”
R2: “Yeah, I mean, folks around here already know me.”
R3: “But they don’t all know Jesus.”
R1: “Do you think we can share Christ here, in our homes and at our jobs?
R2: “Do you think they will see Jesus in me?”
R3: “Do you think I can still get a souvenir?”
Voice: You don’t have to go anywhere to share the Gospel. God has already placed you where you are an expert on the culture, language, and people.
Make disciples, immerse them in Christ’s love, and teach them the way of peace. Amen.
Our Crucified and Risen Savior:
Gather us in to worship today.
Welcome hurting hearts,
Receive our brokenness,
Accept our differences and
Push us to do the same.
Wrap your loving arms around us
so that in our doubts,
in our disabilities,
and in our despair we find you:
Our Crucified and Risen Savior, Amen.
Great Whirlwind, Burning Bush, Still Quiet Voice, LORD;
who hovered over the chaos of creation,
who breathed inspiring spring life into all creation,
who walks among us still in this fragile and tattered garden.
Challenge us to learn from one another,
so that we may recall your Spirit speaks through all creatures,
so that we may experience your presence and light in one another,
so that your voice will be in the tones of our conversation.
Jesus, Emmanuel, Wisdom Come Down in the Flesh, Amen.