Welcome to Grace Lutheran Church
The Weekly Word for July 14-19
Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.9Let anyone with ears listen!” 18“Hear then the parable of the sower.19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Sermon: “Be The Seed”
Before I share with you my thoughts on today’s Gospel, let me say a few things about “parables.”
The illustration I use to define a parable should sound familiar because I’ve used it before.
One of my favorite all time movies is the comedy “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” with Steve Martin and the late John Candy.
Steve Martin is Neil Page, a business man trying desperately to get home in time for the holidays, and he is stuck with John Candy’s Dell Griffith, the best shower curtain ring salesman in the business.
Dell is sweet, affable, but VERY talkative.
And there comes a point where Neil has had enough.
And he lets Dell have it.
“When you are telling these little stories, here’s a good idea, have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”
Parables are stories that have a point.
Today, our gospel contains a parable, which is the first parable in the Gospel of Matthew.
I like to call this chapter of Matthew the Parable Chapter because there are 7 parables found in chapter 13.
Today, we get the first of those seven.
This is one of those parables that Jesus actually explains to the disciples.
That should be a sign that this parable is very important to Jesus and that he wants to make sure the disciples get it right.
And that WE get it right as well.
The word “parable” derives from a Greek word meaning “to throw alongside” and “to place one thing by the side of another” and “a comparison of one thing with another.”
Today Jesus is comparing the Kingdom of Heaven with the work of a sower.
To tell a story you have to know your audience, and that is why Jesus uses the image of a sower.
The audience was in a rural area, so it was an agriculturally-based society.
In today’s modern world, only a minority are involved in agriculture and the production of food.
But in the ancient world, such as first century Israel, almost everyone had a part in it.
The people back then did not have a Food Lion, Aldi’s, Ingles, or Wal-Mart to get their food.
They had to grow it themselves, or rely on a friend or family member to provide from their fields.
So it was important to take good care of the field and the seed.
Thus, the reason the sower would resonate with the audience.
Jesus tells what happens to the seeds that are sown.
In 3 of the 4 scenarios the seeds do not survive.
The only seeds that survive are the ones that fell on good soil.
And I believe the message, the point, of Jesus’ story is making sure our faith is in good soil.
Jesus wants to make sure that the disciples understand what they are to become.
And today, I want to make sure you understand what YOU and I are to become.
It is one thing to say “I am a Christian.”
It is another to actually BE a Christian.
Jesus is calling us to be good soil.
Jesus is calling us to bring forth good grain.
How do we do that?
Back in Jesus’ time, grain was essential to living.
Both wheat and barley were grown for bread, which was the staple food.
Wheat needed good soil and water in order to grow.
In order for us to be the good seeds, we need to have good soil and water.
We need to have a solid foundation in order to grow.
For us that means strengthening our relationship with God through prayer, service, and response.
Our time with God should not be only on Sunday mornings.
While what we do here on Sunday mornings is very important, I am more interested in making sure what happens at church DOESN’T stay at church!
The worship we do here can be done at home.
Prayers, reading of the bible, sharing stories with our children, sharing meals, and spending time with our loved ones (another way to “Pass The Peace”), all these things can be done every day.
And should be done.
But God is calling us to be good soil not only for our benefit but for the benefit of our neighbor.
Jesus is calling us, inviting us, to provide and care and proclaim.
Provide for those who are in need such someone looking for a meal, someone looking for support as they go through an illness, or someone looking for a place that will accept them for who he or she is.
Care for those who cannot care for themselves.
And Proclaim to those who need to hear the Good News and those who need to EXPERIENCE the Gospel in their lives.
In “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” when Neil finally lets Del have it.
Del has a response.
And I think the response is something we need to hear this morning.
Del says, “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead. If it makes you feel any better.
I’m an easy target.
Yeah you’re right.
I talk too much.
I also listen too much.
I could be a cold hearted cynic like you.
But I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings.
You think what you want about me.
I’m not changing.
I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me.
Because I’m the real article.
What you see is what you get.”
Jesus is calling us to be the Real Articles.
To tell the stories of Jesus.
To hear the stories of others.
To BE the good news to the world.
Let anyone with ears, listen.
Let anyone with mouths, speak.
Let anyone with eyes, see.
Let anyone with hands, touch.
Let anyone with hearts, love.
Let anyone with faith, do.
Dear God, in baptism you marked us with the sign of the cross forever. Wherever we go, remind us that Christ is with us always, to the end of the age.
The Weekly Word for July 7-July 12 2014
The Weekly Word
O God, you are great and are to be greatly praised. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
Matthew 11: 25-30
25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Sermon: “A Secure Height”
On May 31st 2013, the world changed forever for me and Kristen.
That was the day when Kristen told me she was pregnant.
Nine months later, we welcomed Paul into the world and into our hearts.
When Kristen was pregnant we had many people share with us their pregnancy stories: how they managed, what they did to prepare, and the ups & downs.
But no matter what we heard, none of it could totally prepare us for Paul’s arrival.
And what I mean by that is that we were overcome with anticipation.
We wanted February 8th to come as quickly as possible.
But in order to get to February 8th, there were nine months that we would have to navigate.
At times, those nine months felt like nine years.
Some days it felt like February 8th 2014 was never going to come.
And patience is not one of my strongest attributes.
So in a way, our motto became “Is it February 8th yet?”
That became our rallying cry.
Today the people in our first lesson have their own motto:
“Is it tomorrow yet?”
Now where did that motto come from?
When the kingdom of Israel fell to the Babylonians in 597 BCE, the Jews were exiled from their homeland for almost 60 years.
By the time Zechariah begins his mission work, the Jews have just returned from exile.
Now comes the hard part.
The clean up.
You see, the Jews come home but there really isn’t a home for them anymore.
All of Judah, in particular Jerusalem, has been destroyed.
And the destruction is still there.
So now comes the long renewal process.
And for many Jews, the process was going to be tough.
It was going to be time-consuming.
It was going to take a lot of work.
Not all the people have come home.
Some stayed away and never came back.
The people of God became scattered.
Every day became a struggle.
Every day became a challenge.
And when one faces struggles and challenges day after day, one can start to feel hopeless.
How many of us have started a long journey, maybe it was a pregnancy, or maybe a weight loss program, or a detox program, or some kind of project that we knew we had to do, but it was going to take a lot of work, patience, and hope.
And some days, that hope looks so far away.
This is where Zechariah comes in.
The prophet Zechariah was a leader in the Jewish community after the exile.
Together with the prophet Haggai, he gave hope for the restoration of Jerusalem.
Zechariah has more visions (oracles) than any other prophetic book.
Each is followed by an interpretation looking toward the future.
Chapter 9 begins with an oracle where Zechariah passes judgment on 11 of Israel’s enemies.
Once that is out of the way, Zechariah turns to the people of Israel.
He tells the people to rejoice, because their king will arrive, and God will lead his people to victory.
The Lord will redeem them, and though they have been scattered, God will gather them up and bring them home.
Hope was coming.
Hope was near.
And that hope was something they could hold on to.
That hope was something that would be the foundation as they rebuilt their cities.
That hope was something that would be the foundation as they rebuilt their FAITH!
And that hope came from God.
God, the stronghold.
I love that word.
The Hebrew word for “stronghold” is MISGAB.
And it means “a secure height; a refuge; a retreat”
And it’s that “secure height” that captures my attention, and I hope yours.
When the Israelites were struggling to survive, at times it felt like they were drowning.
It felt like they had nothing to grab or hold on to.
For any of you who have struggled to survive an illness, a disease, a humiliation, or a tragedy, it can feel like you are drowning.
But God does not let us drown.
God lifts us up to a new height, a new level, that brings security and safety.
Another way to think of this is:
When we come together for the Holy Meal, and you are struggling, stop and hear these words:
“this is my body given for you”
“this is my blood, shed for you.”
Let God’s offering of grace and love and mercy be the STRONGHOLD that pulls you up from your pain.
Grab on to God and hold on for dear life!
And hear the words of Jesus:
“All you that are weary.
All you that carry heavy burdens.
I WILL GIVE YOU REST.
YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”
February 8th 2014 finally did come.
But Paul didn’t.
Paul would eventually join us ten days later.
But looking back, I can tell you that Kristen and I found strength in knowing we did not go through our journey alone.
Those people who offered advice and stories? That was their way of showing support and love.
Our parents offered us food, shelter, hugs, and babysitters.
Our sisters provided clothes, LOTS of clothes.
This church provided an outpouring of love I have never seen.
All these things were signs of God’s presence.
Signs of God’s hope.
God was not waiting until the end of our journey to show us He loved us.
God was WITH us.
God is with us now.
All of us.
And with God is hope.
Dear God, in baptism you marked us with the sign of the cross forever. Wherever we go, remind us that Christ is with us always, to the end of the age.
Blast Off for VBS August 9th!
If you would like to know more about the program and register your child or volunteer, please contact the church office at 336-476-4114.
If you would like to offer supplies for VBS here is what we will need:
- pop-up canopy
- glo sticks
- 2 spray water bottles
- orange oil (for scenting the water)
- flashlights (large and small)
- pool noodles
- bright colored paper plates
- 10-15 tennis balls
- 10-15 men’s tube socks
- 2 space/emergency blankets (the silver ones)
- 2-3 beach balls
- glow in the dark stars, moons, etc.
The Weekly Word for June 30 – July 5
Here is a NEW weekly devotional for your weekly Spiritual needs. Please read and enjoy.
PJ has been freed!
On behalf of the Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Group, I thank you for “posting my bail” during our recent fundraiser. The money raised will go toward the Annual EBOACSG Cancer Retreat which will be on Saturday, October 11th, at Grace Lutheran.- Pr. Jonathan
Ella Bunting Open Arms June 2014 Newsletter
The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Newsletter for JUNE 2014 is available now.
Just click on this link: Open Arms June 2014
Grace July/August 2014 Newsletter Now Available!
Check out our latest newsletter to read about all the things going on at Grace this summer! GraceNewsletterJulyAugust2014
NOW AVAILABLE “Recipes for Hope:Cooking with Miss Ellie and Friends”
The Ella Bunting Open Arms Cancer Support Group Cookbooks “Recipes for Hope: Cooking with Miss Ellie and Friends” are now available at the church! The cookbooks cost $15 each. We would love to hold a copy for you. Just contact the church office at email@example.com or 336-476-4114 and we will put one on hold WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.