Worship Connection: July 23, 2023

June 5th, 2020

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Call to Worship #1

L: Weeds and seeds, growing together.
P: Each will influence the other.
L: What will we learn from the weeds?
P: Trials and tribulations, choices that have not always worked out. Weeds can teach us about perseverance — consider the tough dandelion plant pushing its way up through the pavement — for some it’s just a weed, but for others there are lessons to be learned.
L: What will be gained from seeds?
P: Inside each one of us is a special person, waiting to be nurtured to wholeness. Each seed is unique; each has its own gifts to offer.
L: In God’s garden, God’s love extends to both – asking both to consider what each has to offer to a hurting world.
P: Lord, help us to be good seeds, bearing fruits of kindness, justice and compassion. Keep us mindful of those for whom life has been difficult and yet they persist in trying to make each day better. Be in our hearts, O Lord, and in our lives. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: We look at this world, focusing on the pain and confusion, the fears and hatred which seem to abound.
P: For what can we hope?
L: We wait breathlessly for the goodness of creation to be made manifest in all the world, for this is the promise of God.
P: God is always with us, guiding, rescuing, healing, restoring us.
L: Get ready, dear friends, the promises of God are true.
P: Lord, quiet our spirits and open our hearts. Bring us hope and peace. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using the United Methodist Hymnal, p.. 393, “Spirit of the Living God”, offer the following call to worship]
L: I stand here, needing your healing presence. Come, O Spirit, Come.
P: Enter my life, take root in my heart.
Soloist: singing “Spirit of the Living God” one time through
L: Give me courage and strength for all the times to come.
P: Bring joy to my heart!
Duet (Soprano/Alto): singing “Spirit of the Living God” one time through
L: As we quiet our hearts this day, make us ready to receive your grace and power
P: Empower us to proclaim your good news everywhere.
All: Singing “Spirit of the Living God” one time through.

Gathering Prayer

God of surprises, we come here from the weariness of the week, from various triumphs, from fears and doubts. Open our hearts to receive your surprising message of hope for all people, for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Opening Prayer

We are such a rag-tag group of people. Some of us are at the “top of our game” and others just struggle to get through each day. Yet you draw us here where we will find friendship, peace, and hope not only for our lives right now but for all the times to come. Stand us up again, O God. Dust us off and put us back on the pathways of service and reconciliation. Warm our hearts with your love; lift our spirits with your power, for we ask these things in the Name of Jesus our Savior. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

It is said that confession is good for the soul, but there are times, O Lord, when we just don’t want to confess, we don’t want to own up to the many ways in which we have failed to be your faithful disciples. We have turned our backs on those in need. We have sought after power and riches, believing that these things bring true happiness. But you know us far too well. You know what is within our hearts and our spirits. You seek the very best for us that we might grow to be fruitful plants in your garden. Be with us. Forgive us when we have failed to love and treat others with respect and compassion. Turn our hearts back toward you, who always reaches out to us offering healing and love. These things we ask in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance

Great news has come to us, dear friends. God, who is faithful and just, who cherishes us as we are, seeks restoration and healing for those broken places in our lives, forgives and loves us unconditionally. Receive that good news!

Morning Prayer

Summer is just about halfway over. Some of us have been able to travel, to spend special time with family and friends; but for others there is a sameness about this season. It brings pressures to work to provide for our families; it reminds us of the many people who are ill and who are unable to enjoy some of the special delights that this season is supposed to bring. This morning we take a few minutes to name our dear ones and situations of pain and loss as we ask for prayers from this congregation. Some people will remain unnamed because of the anguish we feel about their difficulties. But you are with them, every step of the way, even when they don’t feel like you care. You are there with them, offering them peace and hope. Let us turn our hearts to you as we silently offer these special people to your care. [Silent Prayer]. Lord, you have heard the cries of our hearts. You see our tears and feel our pain. Be with us all. Give us healing for our broken spirits and bodies, for we ask these things in the name of Jesus, the Master Healer. AMEN.


Prayer of Dedication

Lord, we present these tokens of the many blessings you have poured into our lives. Make us people who are unafraid to proclaim your healing mercies. Help these gifts to bring hope and comfort to all those in need. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.

Benediction/Sending Forth

Get ready to go into God’s world. Bring messages of hope to all. As we have been blessed, may we bring blessings to all in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Children’s Time

Have some very small pots of dandelions or other native weed ready to be given to each child.

Today our Bible message is about God as the gardener. Jesus told this story to his friends to help them to understand how the love of God workd. He told them that the farmer lavishly scattered seeds in the field. There were weeds already in the field and the good plants and the weeds grew up together. When it came time for the harvest, God separated the weeds from the good plants. At first some people would say that God should have thinned out the plants earlier and gotten all the weeds out, casting them into the fire. But that didn’t happen. Weeds and seeds grew up together. Then came the time of harvest. Each plant was harvested with the others, weeds and good plants alike. God will decide what to do about the weeds.

God is loves us all very much and wants the best things for us. We have a lot to learn. Life isn’t always just good things; sometimes we encounter difficult times. We can learn about courage, perseverance, hope, and forgiveness in these times. I’m going to ask each one of you to take a special plant home with you. Take good care of it. Give it just the right amount of sunlight so that it will grow. Make sure to water it, but not too much. Take time to get to know your little plant. Think about the ways in which that plant is very special. Talk with your parents about planting your little weed in a place of its own where you can care for it. Thank you for coming up here today. Good luck with your plants.

Art for the Altar/Worship Center

Supplies and Equipment: Green cloth to cover the entire worship center/altar; landscaper’s burlap to be draped from the upper left to the lower right of the altar/worship center, puddling the fabric on the floor. Small pots which contain weeds and others which contain healthy garden vegetable plants; a watering can; a brass cross; 2 white pillar candles about 6” high

Plants may be placed in the folds of the burlap and at the base of the worship center/table. The watering can should be placed on the floor. The brass cross should be at the center back of the worship center/table with the white pillar candles on either side of it.

Scripture into Script

[a response to Romans 6:12-17]

Reader 1: Well, finally some good news.
Reader 2: What do you mean?
Reader 1: I just learned that we are adopted by God as God’s children.
Reader 2: Good, then I want God to give me a bright shiny red convertible car!
Reader 1: Why in the world would you say that?
Reader 2: Well, God wants to do what’s good for God’s kids, right? So I think a bright shiny new red convertible car is just the right thing for me!
Reader 1: Slow down. We’re not talking about God giving us trinkets because we are God’s children. We are talking about the opportunities we have to serve God, to be thankful that God calls us God’s own children. Otherwise we are just being selfish and stubborn.
Reader 2: No car? Really? Rats!
Reader 1: Look at it this way…..you know how difficult things get for some people. They feel as though no one cares about them or hears their cries. As God’s children, we have a joyful chance to bring God’s love to them by helping in whatever ways are appropriate. We are like God’s special workers, grateful for blessings and sharing them.
Reader 2: Hmmmmm……I hadn’t thought of it that way. We know what is like to be lost and have God find us and love us. So I guess you are right! Helping others is the privilege. The rewards are that we know God is happy about our work. So…..no red convertible. Listen, I’ll just get my bike over there and we can pedal over to the Soup kitchen at the church to find out if anyone needs some willing workers.
Reader 1: Sounds great to me! Let’s go.

Message Mover: “Dandelion Whine”

I always thought that weeds were plants who didn’t have a good press agent. Here they are, trying to grow as best they can, and they get labeled weeds. People want to remove them from their fine green lawns. Where I live, the lawns are cared for by a landscaping crew. The sod was carefully laid in the prepared beds. Then those green strips of specially selected grass were watered and watched diligently. Day after day they continued to grow, but so did something else…….dandelions! Ah, those pesky plants! “We’ve got to get rid of them,” some people say, “they are messing up and spoiling my beautiful lawn. Dig ‘em up! Throw them in the pile of other weeds and cast them out of your presence. Then all will be well. The beautifully manicured lawn can return to its glory!” 

This story in our gospel is not about lawns but about a crop that is essential for the survival of the family who owns the field and for those who receive the bread or other goods made from this plant (often referred to as wheat). This is no joke to these people. They need to harvest as much good grain as possible! And those weeds are drinking up valuable water and taking nutrients from the soil. They grow faster than the grain-bearing plants and often will choke out the newly sprouted wheat. So the solution is to get rid of them. Get them out of the way. After all the field was meant for good grain only. No weeds allowed.

I guess that I’m a heretic. I like dandelions. Yes, I know that the flowers turn into little clusters of umbrella born seeds, planting themselves all over the place. After a dark, cold, snow-filled winter, I long for change, for the newness of life which is the promise of spring. Although I enjoy the beauty of my yard, I rejoice over these delightful plants sprouting in my velvety smooth front yard. There in the midst of all that green are bright yellow flowers shining like little rays of sunlight. They remind me of the lavishness of God’s love, cast broadly for everyone.

Then one day, the landscaper came with his trowel and dug up all my dandelions. He did not carefully patch up the holes he created. He stepped on the dirt he replaced in the holes and went on his way, having cast the noxious weeds into his wheelbarrow to be discarded in some out of the way place.
How does God view us! Some would say that God wants only lovely plants – no weeds for God. But I believe that God has a special place in God’s heart for the weeds. I part with the scripture about the destruction of the weeds. God loves all God’s creation and redeems all creation. Nothing held back. It’s okay to have a velvety green lawn and to enjoy it, but remember that those we call weeds just might have lessons about perseverance and risk to teach us. Look around. Everything has worth and purpose, everyone has potential. In the end, God will sort it all out!

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