Call to Worship
Give thanks to God and call on God’s holy name.
We will tell of God’s wonderful works!
Let the hearts of those who seek God rejoice.
We will sing God’s praises!
Give glory to God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
We will remember God’s mercy in all our words and actions.
Hymn 147 – All creatures of our God and King
Prayers of Approach and Confession
God of the past, present and future,
we marvel at the wonder of your creation.
We praise you for gardens growing, birds singing, stars twinkling, for shouts of playful joy and restful evening sunsets. Such delights around us remind us of your goodness.
God with us, day by day, you surprise us with moments we will treasure for ever,
and with confidence that turns small beginnings
into projects that make a huge difference.
You promise us a life beyond anything we can imagine, a kingdom marked by grace, love and justice for all. We will live to serve you,
and offer you our love and loyalty now and always.
We confess we are not always merciful people.
We turn away in anger rather than seek solutions.
We criticize those who differ from us in culture or conviction,
rather than seek understanding.
We can hold grudges for a lifetime.
Forgive us our failures to live out the mercy
we claim from you week by week.
Open our hearts with your great love.
Readings – Genesis 29: 15-28(Pg 31)
Matthew 13:44-53 (Pg 980)
Hymn 550- As a deer pants for the water
Prayer of Illumination
God of truth, by the light and transforming power of your Holy Spirit, open our ears to hear, our minds to understand and our hearts to embrace your Word for us today through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
What is your favourite toy? Book? Pet?
We all have things we treasure. They might not be the newest or most expensive – sometimes they can be old and worthless, but they mean a lot to us.
I have moved around and lost a lot of things over the years, but I have this little box and inside there are some treasures:
Piece of mosaic from Palestine (Elgin Marbles)
Badge from 1936 Olympics in Berlin – father was army chaplain, stationed in Berlin in aftermath of war.
Scarab beetle – worthless. Don’t know why I have it.
Pink Tourmalin – Amon was a young church member in Zambia and a jeweller, and he demonstrated to me how he polished gemstones. Piece of stone, but by polishing the facets it became a thing of beauty.
None are worth anything, but each has its memories or associations.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus tells some parables to the disciples. In fact, they were very short stories about what the Kingdom of God was like. Jesus likened the kingdom to someone finding treasure in a field and being so excited that they sold everything they had in order to buy the field and possess the treasure. Now, if someone with a metal detector found treasure and kept quiet and hid it, so he could buy the field, we would see it as dodgy in the very least. But what Jesus wants to capture is the joy of finding something wonderful and being ready to give everything to possess it. I think of Howard Carter, the archaeologist in Egypt working away, always hoping for a find and then stumbling across the tomb of Tutankhamun with its wonderful treasure – imagine the joy. Most archaeologists are not like Indiana Jones and work away doing the boring stuff but dreaming of a find. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of heaven is such a find.
Jesus also talks about a merchant who deals in pearls, but one day he comes across a pearl of astounding beauty, and suddenly none of the other pearls in his collection could ever satisfy him again. Pearls form in oysters or, here in Scotland, in mussels and are very much to be prized. Sometimes the mussel beds are kept secret in case people try to steal them. Maybe he was a connoisseur who wanted the best, but in comparison with this pearl, all the others were like imitations. Some football clubs in Saudi Arabia think that paying two and a half million pounds nothing for a football striker, a crazy sum, but they want the best. This merchant wanted the best, and Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to that, something worthy of sacrifice. The disciples certainly agreed, for they gave up their fishing businesses to follow Jesus; Matthew gave up his secure job in taxes to take the risk because Jesus offered something more, something life-enhancing.
David could have stayed a shepherd, but he would have missed out being king. Isaiah could have been a functionary at court but miss out on his mystical vision in the temple. Zacchaeus could have stayed up the tree and failed to entertain Jesus in his house and miss out on having his life transformed. But all aimed for the pearl of great price. Do we aim for what satisfies our soul, do we aspire to the best?
We see glimpses of the kingdom around us. For what are the things we treasure? In Rhodes and the other Greek islands we have seen terrible scenes of wild fires. The news has concentrated on tourists, who are understandably concerned, but how much more for the local Greeks who see their whole livelihood go up in smoke, as the fires destroy homes and possessions, dreams and businesses, landscape that they know so well. They have learned what to treasure.
Today we will witness the baptism of Bella Rose as she is brought into the family of the church, and Rob and Christina will make vows to bring her up in a stable family environment where Christian values flourish. That is so important. There was an article this week about David Tennant, the actor, who has a new programme coming out, and in the article he reflects on growing up in a manse as the son of a minister. ‘I’m very thankful for having a truly Christian upbringing’, he says. ‘The Christianity I was taught was about acceptance and tolerance, kindness and compassion, love and community – all these things you can find in the Bible and I found in the example set by my parents’. Family nurture is so important.
In Genesis we read more of the story of Jacob. He had tricked his brother out of his inheritance, so his mother quickly sent him away to his uncle Laban to escape the wrath of Esau, but you reap what you sow, and Jacob found his match for trickery in his uncle who dupes Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, so he has to work another 7 years to marry Rachel. It is all complicated, but is a story of sibling rivalry, deceit, jealousy, heartache, yet God works through this dysfunctional family to bring blessings to the nations. God is active in all the messes of our lives, seeking to bring grace.
God encourages us to open our eyes to see the kingdom around us – in a child befriending someone from a different background or someone getting over addiction or fighting prejudice, someone standing alongside the marginalised or being resilient in the face of illness and fear. The Kingdom is all around us; these parables give us the chance to make that kingdom life a reality.
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
God of all true treasure, we offer our gifts with thankful hearts, knowing you keep providing what makes life truly rich. Bless these gifts so that your goodness is multiplied to touch the lives of those in need, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Loving God, whose Son Jesus talked about a farmer who sowed seed. Today we seem to be in the midst of climate chaos so we pray for all who sow seeds. We pray for those who are finding it hard to know what the weather will bring and who need to grow crops to survive. We pray for those farmers who are suffering from drought while other are seeing their fields flooded by heavy rain. We pray for everywhere suffering from the climate chaos. We pray for the countries struggling to deal with fires We pray for all our leaders that they will work together to reduce the damage humankind in doing to your world.
Almighty God we pay for Christian Aid and all other similar charities who are working hard to help those who plant but nothing grows
Loving God, Jesus talked about a man who found a treasure buried in a field. We pray for the situation in Ukraine where cluster bombs are leaving unexploded bomblets in fields which can kill or maim. We pray for Sudan and Yemen and all other countries where war brings misery and pray for the leaders of the world will be able to find a way to end wars and stop the killing. We pray for the situation in Israel that peace, justice and democracy may prevail.
Loving God, we pray for our leaders in Parliament and in local councils. We pray that they will be guided by you. Many people are struggling with rising prices and they have nothing left in their larder. We pray that you will guide all our political leaders so inflation will be brought under control, so people will have enough to buy food and pay for somewhere to live. We pray that food banks will have enough food to provide for those who are in need. Loving God we thank you for sending Jesus to be our Lord and saviour and we bring these prayers in His name. Amen
Hymn 632 –Our children, Lord, in faith and prayer (Yetholm)
Hymn 691 – Be still my soul (Morebattle)
Sacrament of Baptism
Hymn 448 – Lord the light of your love is shining
Call to Worship
Come as you are, to discover what might be
In the presence of the One who is always by our side.
Come, knowing there is a place here
Kept especially for you
Where you can find
Acceptance, Refreshment And love.
Just come. And be still. And know God is God
And loves you.
Hymn 160 – Praise my soul
Prayers of Approach and Confession
God of wisdom,
You are the light of the minds that know you,
the strength of those who serve you,
and rest for those who seek you.
God of growth,
You sow and you gather,
you tend and you prune,
you judge and you save.
God who tends our lives,
we come to you in worship,
to rest from our responsibilities,
to turn from our distractions,
and to hand over our concerns to you.
Nourish us with your Word,
so that we grow in Christ,
rooted in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
You have planted the seeds of faith in us,
but we confess we have not tended those seeds well.
We fail to keep studying your Word,
satisfied instead with what we think it means.
We consider that we already know enough,
rather than pursue deeper encounters with you.
Forgive us, God, when we think you have nothing more to offer us.
The Word of God in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. Therefore there is now no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus. Your sins are forgiven; be at peace.
Readings – Genesis 25: 19-34(Pg 26)
Matthew 13:1-9 (Pg 978)
Hymn 44- Praise waits for thee in Zion, Lord
Prayer of Illumination
Christ our teacher, you reach into our lives, not through instruction but story. Open our hearts to be attentive: that seeing, we may perceive,
that hearing, we may understand,
and understanding, we may act upon your word,
In your name, Amen
There is a van Gogh painting called The Sower, where someone is taking scoops of seed and scattering them on the ground – broadcasting, it would be called though media has appropriated the term. It is a very rural ideal. But these days sowing barley or oats is a much more high tech affair. Though, that said, it’s still not an exact science. Around us we see the crops growing, but sometimes there can be little bare patches where, for whatever reason, the seed hasn’t taken. Or you see wild flowers growing up. And while all those flowers might be beautiful to look at – and better still those flowers are brilliant news for the bee – but it’s maybe not such good news for the crop yield. But farmer’s these days do a much better job than the sower in our Gospel story today.
I mean, come on, you don’t scatter precious seed on paths and roads or among thorns where there is little chance of them growing. Even I know that. I bought some wild flower seed a month or two back, and knew to prepare a patch and scatter it and rake it over. If I had scattered it on the patio, the birds would soon gobble it up; I have other seeds for the birds! That said, despite my careful planting, not many of the wild flowers have grown!
The crowds had gathered at the lakeshore to hear Jesus and were so great in number that he had to go into a boat to have more space and to use the natural amphitheatre of the lake to speak to the people. He told them a story, as he was wont to do. This time it was about a farmer scattering his precious seed, but not targeting the good soil alone, but rather allowing some to fall on the path, where birds soon ate it, and on the rocky ground, where there was not enough depth to put down roots, and among the thorns and thistles, which soon choked the grain when it tried to grow. But some did fall on the good soil, and it gave a good harvest. But it was all a bit indiscriminate.
As Matthew’s Gospel continues, it becomes evident that we are to understand the “seed” as nothing less than the Word of God, the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. As Jesus tells the story, it’s clear that this seed, this Word of the Lord is being sown generously. God seems to be willing to spread his message lavishly. God is generously sending out his message wherever people need to hear it…which is everywhere. Just look at what Jesus does throughout his ministry - Jesus is like the spendthrift farmer, throwing the seed of God’s word everywhere he can, reaching out to all and sundry. But in the hope that the seed would grow in the most unlikely places.
I am sure we have all seen plants breaking through concrete, determined to survive and even thrive. So the word of God takes root in the strangest of circumstances. But also it can take a while to grow.
We see this in our Genesis reading. Abraham has died, and the narrative moves to his son Isaac and his wife Rebekah, but it is not a happy story.
Rebekah gives birth to twins, but even in her womb there is a struggle between them. Esau comes out first, quickly followed by Jacob. Some twins are identical or similar in personality, so close they can almost read each other’s mind. Esau and Jacob were NOT like that. Rather they are like chalk and cheese. Esau likes the outdoor life, while Jacob prefers to be inside. Isaac prefers Esau, while Rebekah favours Jacob. And in the famous incident of the lentil stew, Jacob cheats his twin brother out of his birthright. The birthright meant that Esau as eldest would get a double share of the inheritance, though with the responsibility of heading the family.
Inheritance can be an issue. Anthea Franklin, the great Gospel singer, died, but her family are arguing over her will, and a court has had to rule over what notes written in her handwriting are valid or not. But you don’t have to be famous; many families are sadly split over inheritance issues.
The seed that was Jacob and Esau was sown, and it is as of they are among the rocks; it is only later that there is some kind of reconciliation. The seeds have grown, not into magnificent flowers by any means, but at least.
Let’s get back to the seeds, and Jesus scattering the Word so extravagantly. Some people are going to hear what’s said to them and let it go in one ear and out the other. Others might get enthusiastic about it for a while, but then something else will catch their attention and off they’ll go. There will be some too who will welcome the hope that’s offered, but then choose to let other priorities crowd that hope out. BUT there will be those seeds that will take root and grow and blossom. The harvest they produce will vary – but they will be fruitful!” This could well be a story for the Church of Scotland right now, couldn’t it. It’s a call to keep going because there will be a harvest. But maybe the challenge for us is to take a risk, yes, tending the harvest in the good soil, but also going out to the rocky or thorny ground, where there is a chance of growth. Maybe we will fail, but keep sowing, for there will be a harvest. Ye who have ears, let them hear.
Hymn 532- Lord, you have come to the seashore
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
God of growing seeds and souls, we offer our gifts in thanksgiving for your kindness to us. Bless and multiply them to add to the abundance of your love at work in the world. Make them seeds of new life to inspire faith in souls they touch in Jesus’ name.
Creator God, Sower of the good seed, we give thanks for the seeds you sow in this your created world, and the way they speak to us of the seeds you have sown in our lives and in the life of the world. Seeds can be so small, and yet can have such a large impact. Help us keep our eyes open to see your seeds and let them bear fruit, within us and around us. Let us take a moment in silence to reflect on the seeds that we see, give thanks, and pray for them to keep on growing.
As we give thanks, we pray that we may share in your care for creation, from the furthest corners of the earth to our gardens and the plants in the places where we live. We pray for our government and the governments of the world as they look at how they may implement positive policies in response to climate change. We pray that our government may not row back on the legally binding climate targets that it has made.
As we give thanks for the seeds of new life that God offers in the birth of children, so we pray for children and young people in schools and universities and the challenges they face, remembering the lack of provision of care homes and the issues about university student assessment. We remember those young people who face a growing number of mental health issues and pray for your blessing on those we name before you.
In the face of war and conflict and hatred, we pray for your seeds of new life and peace, especially between Russia and Ukraine In Sudan and other countries where there is conflict. Help us day by day to scatter your seeds of love and peace in a troubled world and amongst troubled people.
We pray for the Church, the particular congregation of which we are part, the Church of Scotland as a whole. May the root of your Word deepen within us. May we learn to sow your seeds of faith and hope in the communities in which we find ourselves.
We pray for the people we know and love, naming before God in a moment’s silence the ones in particular need whom we carry on our hearts and minds today.
As we go out to serve you in your world, give us courage and conviction to live whole-heartedly in your way. We offer our prayers in the name of God the Creator and Jesus, the Sower of the seed of fruitfulness and life. Amen
Hymn 360 – Jesus Christ is waiting
Christ is beside us. He goes before and behind us.
He watches over us and is there to catch us when we fall. The blessing of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all and all whom we love.
This day and always. Amen
Call to Worship
In every age, in every place
You call Your people to worship
In every hour of every day
You invite us to rest in You
In this time and place, O God
We worship and rest in You.
Hymn 93- Let us with a gladsome mind
Prayers of Approach and Confession
You, O God, are overflowing with love,
infinite in kindness, and incomparable in glory.
There is no other like you in all our imagining. Your presence breaks into our lives in the beauty of summer and refreshes us like a gentle breeze breath on a still day. You renew us to meet life’s changes and challenges. In this time of worship, we offer thanks in our prayers, praise from our hearts, and honour with our lives,to you, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, this day and every day, now and always.
Wise and patient God, You offer us peace, yet we confess life often feels frustrating and unsettled.
You offer us courage, yet we are resentful when life is challenging. You offer us a mission with meaning and purpose, but we are preoccupied with our own plans and desires. Forgive us, O God,
and draw our attention back to you.
Jesus said, Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Trust that peace and forgiveness are God’s gifts to you this day. Be renewed by the power of the Spirit that moves with you into each new day.
Readings – Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (Pg 24)
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25- 30 (Pg 976)
Hymn 540- I heard the voice of Jesus say
O God, you took upon yourself the yoke of humanity and the burden of love and did not find it easy: let us learn from you to share the weight of all this aching world, that our souls may be light and our hearts rested, as together we are carried by you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Who is going to win the men’s title at Wimbledon? Djokovic or the new boy Alcaraz - or even Andy Murray? But some would argue that they are nothing compared to Borg or McEnroe or Nastase.
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another…” Jesus’ words as he addresses a crowd ring of frustration. ‘What is this generation like?’ It is as if he is throwing up his hands in puzzlement? We’re not really accustomed to hearing Jesus sound like this; that is, wandering into the risky waters of cross-generational criticism. In fact, he sounds here more like us. “But to what will I compare this generation? They spend too much time buried in their Smartphone!” Or, “OK, you are so out-of-touch and old-fashioned! The world is changing! You better catch up!”
“But to what will I compare this generation?” Have you seen the clothes they wear! It’s sloppy and ugly and too revealing! Or Why can’t you old people understand self-expression? My clothes help me be my true self in this world!
“But to what will I compare this generation? These choruses they listen to is so monotonous and repetitive and lacking depth!” Or, “Those old hymns are boring, hard to sing, and old-fashioned!” Choose your topic these days—sacred or secular—and it seems like so many opinions of what’s right and what’s good fall right along generational lines. Heads are shaken in exasperation and—if you’re like me, puzzling over an upgrade on my mobile phone or computer that will drag me kicking and screaming into a new generation—beads of anxious sweat form along the ridge of the brow. We know that new is not necessarily improved…and traditional may not always mean wiser. But the debates rage on, and from this morning’s gospel lesson we see that Jesus is no stranger, either, to the friction that occurs when generations of human beings set their habits and expectations up against one another.
In his case, Jesus is frustrated that the people of his day and age are so unreceptive to the message he and his disciples are preaching, which is at odds with the message they’ve heard for so long from the Pharisees’ sermons and the scribes’ teachings. And it’s not just his message they’ve questioned and rejected. It’s his cousin John’s too. The crowds can’t seem to get their heads around the God who is presented in each of their respective messages. They can’t fathom the kingdom of heaven as it is proclaimed from the lips of these two newcomers. And who can blame them. Neither has a formal synagogue training that we know of. One lives in the desert, eating wild honey and locusts, coming close to civilization from time to time just long enough to dunk people in the Jordan River and publicly criticize the rulers’ morals. The other one hangs out with a bunch of tax collectors and other low-lifes, frequenting banquets and parties. Both seem to go against the status quo, though John is a bit extreme, and Jesus… well, Jesus is radical, wanting to turn things on their head. But he also seems to engage with all those burdened by life.
There were many burdened. So many were ill, physically, mentally. They were oppressed by their Roman rulers. They were deemed unclean by the religious authorities. They were weighed down by the worries of life. The religious leaders, the Pharisees, the scribes, had 600+ rules, which you had to obey. That was their solution. And if you didn’t, God would be angry. So religion became an added burden. But Jesus’ answer was to utter some of the most consoling words in Scripture – ‘Come to me, all you who not just tired, but weary; all who are burdened with the cares of life, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls’.
St. Augustine, a man of supreme intelligence who did not convert to Christian faith until much later in life, once said, “I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful, but I have never read in either of them, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’”
In the first chapters of Genesis we are told that God rested on the seventh day, and his people were also, radically, to have a day of rest, a sabbath rest. Elijah the prophet was burnt out, exhausted, but on the mountain gained a fresh insight into God’s love and by rest was renewed to carry on God’s work. Rest is important to us all – so we are refreshed to live out the Kingdom values in the world.
Imagine hearing these words. Jesus is saying that holiness is not that difficult, the laws not that complex, that serving God is liberating, not another burden on your back. Yes, people had their problems, just as they have their problems today. A 57 year old suddenly finds they have cancer, a wife or husband of so many years dies. There is rioting in France, there are wars around the globe, so many are struggling to cope with rising bills. Jesus says, come to me… I will give you rest. Now, Christianity is not a religion that promises to take away every struggle or magically fix every difficulty for us; but we have a God who walks beside us in every struggle, a Saviour who takes the weight of our yoke upon himself, who gives us rest. None of the burdens will magically disappear, but God is with us. None of them will be handled, if we try in our own strength; But if we do it together with Christ. His yoke is easy, because he wears it with us. His burden light, because he carries it with us.
Hymn 485- Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
We see God’s abundance in growing gardens and fresh produce on our tables. We witness need in God’s world when disaster disrupts communities or drought threatens lives. So we give out of gratitude for what we enjoy and compassion for those who are in need deeper than our own.
Eternal God, all good things come from you
and, in our giving, we allow more good to come.
Bless these gifts, and enable us to be blessed as we give, that Your Kingdom will come. Amen.
Eternal One, we praise and magnify Your most holy name as we bring You our prayers knowing You are good to all and that Your compassion is over all creation. We pray today for the riots in France, for those pushed to the edge of French society with little hope, and those who seek to keep disorder in check, that Your promise of peace and flourishing may inspire justice.
We pray today for the people of Palestine and the people of Israel, seemingly locked in patterns of violence, conflict, and hatred. We pray for those who feel unsafe due to conflict and war, for those who yearn for land, statehood, and dignity, for mothers who mourn and orphaned children. We pray that all the people of Your book will learn to love life and each other, and turn away from war and division. Change our politics and policies Most High, that we may proclaim Your coming kingdom.
Lord Jesus, You tell us to come to you in our weariness and find rest. You call us to take Your yoke learn from You our gentle and wise shepherd. We give thanks for the National Health Service, this week celebrating its 75th anniversary in an era of funding cuts and crisis and demoralised staff, with medical staff burnt out as private companies encircle like vultures, seeking to make profit from illness. Raise up, Lord Jesus, leaders who will be honest, policies which will be holistic, that we may not perish from lack of vision, but seek to be whole.
In these long days of summer flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voices of the birds are heard in our land. The trees are in leaf and creation sings to Your glory. And yet these days are too warm, the Earth heats as we fail to revere Her. The seas are poisoned, we rely on fossil fuels, and renege on our commitments to change; there is no health in us. Remind us, dear Lord, that we have but one home, one creation which we have to live in harmony with or face the dreadful consequences of our sin. Change our politics and policies Lord Jesus, that we may proclaim Your coming kingdom.
God of all compassion:
Where people are lonely or isolated, longing for love,
where people are trapped in unhealthy relationships,
where people are grieving the loss of someone beloved: Bring courage and hope, we pray,
God of tender strength:
Where people feel pain in their bodies, in minds or spirits, where illness has eroded hope and where desperation for help fills each day:
Bring healing and hope, we pray.
God in whom we live and move and have our being:
Hear us as in silence we bring the prayers of our hearts.
We give thanks for those who have died in the faith, especially those whose lives shine bright before us in example and encouragement. Grant that we may follow them and come to share the glory of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ. Amen
Hymn 547- What a friend we have in Jesus