Ordinary Time (Proper 10)
MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23
Hear the Word
Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Doctrine and Covenants 164:9d-f
Prayer for Peace
Light the Peace Candle.
Creator God, we live in wondrous times. Through the intelligence you have given us, we have learned much about how your creation works. We try to understand the reason for our existence, but have yet to understand what it means to live. We have built great cities, yet fail to understand the value of community. We know how to wage war, but not how to wage peace.
Compassionate God, we seek your Holy Spirit of compassion and wisdom that we learn how to use the capacities you have instilled in us to understand what peace is, as well as how we might achieve it. May your Spirit of love for all your creation inspire in us the respect for each individual. May we hold each person, regardless of their ability or station in society, as worthy of the dignity due even the most deserving and accomplished of our number. May we see each one as a valued sister or brother in the family of God.
Loving and patient God, we believe you have created us to improve our world, not to exploit it; to bring blessings to others, not burdens; and to instill peace, not conflict. We know you hear our prayers because we have seen the results. We seek to do your will because you are the focus of our highest regards and aspirations. We feel your love and presence in our lives because we become better people when we do. So we seek your blessing on our efforts to bring peace to our communities and your blessings to all who seek you.
In the name and spirit of the greatest example of what it means to be “of God,” your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
—W.B. “Pat” Spillman
For more ideas, the Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA, can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Reader 1: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Reader 2: Give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
Reader 3: Accept my offerings of praise.
Reader 1: Your teachings are my heritage—forever! Reader 2: They bring me joy in my heart!
Reader 3: I bend my heart to you. Teach me your ways.
—Based on Psalm 119:105–112
“All Are Called” CCS 606
OR “Make Me a Servant” CCS 597
OR “Holy Spirit, Teacher, Friend” CCS 181
Opening Prayer Response
Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:3–8
Display pictures of different kinds of seeds—acorns, mustard seeds, milkweed pods, etc. Then display pictures of plants growing in a variety of conditions—cactus in desert, dandelions or weeds in concrete cracks, lush foliage in a rain forest, etc.
Ask the congregation to consider how plants are able to grow under such diverse conditions, many of which do not seem to be conducive to plant life.
Ask people to reflect on these questions, considering the parable of the sower. Print the questions in the bulletin or project them.
- In what type of conditions have I planted my faith?
- What spiritual practices can help me strengthen my faith when I am in difficult circumstances?
- How can my growth experience be a testimony to others?
Draw this time to a close by singing.
Hymn of Confession and Healing
“When We Are Living/Pues si vivimos” CCS 242/243
OR “There Is a Balm in Gilead” CCS 234
OR “God, Renew Us by Your Spirit” CCS 237
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 164:9d-f
Statement: As our faith community sought to live God’s guidance in the early stages of the Restoration movement, it meant responding with their whole lives. As the call to build Zion was expressed, faithful disciples were willing to disrupt their lives to move to new places. They shared all they had to help create Zion, understood as God’s kingdom on Earth.
This call is about using our whole life in a way that helps bring about God’s purposes on Earth. It is not focused on just a portion of our life. It expands the question of how we can be generous to every aspect and every day of our life. Instead of pondering what we will return to God, whole-life stewardship asks how we generously use everything for God’s purposes. It is not just about what we return to God through tithing of our time, talent, treasure, and testimony. It is also how we use what we keep in a way that remains faithfully focused on God’s purposes.
—Choose Generosity, Discovering Whole-Life Stewardship, page 15, Herald House, 2019
During the Disciples’ Generous Response we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart.
As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings. When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Based on Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
Hymn of Commitment
“Christ’s Word to Us” CCS 632
OR “Make Us, O God, a Church That Shares” CCS 657
OR “Clouds of Witnesses Surround Us” CCS 372
Ordinary Time (Proper 10)
MATTHEW 13:1–9, 18–23
Exploring the Scripture
Parables challenge what we already know. When Jesus tells parables it causes us to rethink what it means to be part of God’s kingdom. The kingdom is never what we expect; there is always an element of surprise. The parable of the sower is no exception. This parable also appears in Mark 4:3–9 and Luke 8:5–8. In Matthew’s Gospel—following stories of opposition in chapters 11 and 12—Jesus shares the parable of the sower.
By the end of Matthew, chapter 13, Jesus is rejected in his own hometown. Matthew’s telling of this parable could explain why some people respond to the message of the gospel and others do not. Or, it might answer the question, “What are the right conditions to share the gospel message?”
The sower can be identified as teacher, preacher, Jesus, or God. In fact, the sower becomes anyone who shares the good news. Strangely, the sower does not prepare the soil before sowing seeds. The soil is not plowed or turned over. The sower does not know where rocks or hard clumps of dirt are located. Weeds and thorns grow wild. Soil preparation is not the focus of the sower; instead, he or she is simply called to indiscriminately sow the seed.
The seed in this parable refers to the gospel message. The yield becomes disciples who hear and allow the seed (word of God) to grow in their lives. Soil and the right conditions are required for the “seed” to grow. The parable describes four kinds of soil: hardened, shallow, thorny, and good. The soil differences are a reminder to the church there are ideal conditions suited for growing disciples. Ideal conditions allow disciples to gain proper nourishment, roots, and the ability to persevere through hardship. Matthew’s Gospel also describes the reality of the many obstacles disciples face including persecution, anxiety, and a wish for riches.
The end of the parable describes God’s miraculous yield, “some a hundredfold, some 60, some 30” (Matthew 13:8). A good harvest in ancient times could be as much as four to 10 times what was sown. Considering the lack of soil preparation and all the obstacles, it is surprising there was any yield at all! And that may be the whole point of the parable: God provides an extravagant, plentiful harvest beyond even our imagination. We can be caught up in a sense of failure or be discouraged by a sensed lack of response but this parable calls us to keep spreading the word no matter how rocky or thorny the circumstance.
Despite the difficulty and opposition we face as disciples today, God calls us to spread seed everywhere and then trust in God’s harvest. We don’t know why the word of God takes root in some people. The scriptures tell us faith is a gift from God. Our calling is to throw seed as widely and as generously as we can and trust in God’s miraculous yield.
- We are called to share the good news as often, as widely, and as boldly as we can. We do not have to worry about how rocky, thorny, or hard the places and circumstances might be; we only need to continue sharing the message of God’s peaceable kingdom.
- Some people will not respond as we would hope. When that happens, we turn to this parable for encouragement to trust in God’s harvest and know God’s work brings miraculous results.
- As disciples it is realistic for us to experience anxiety, hardship, and even opposition. As we continue to study, grow, and make changes in our lives, we can trust the gift of the Holy Spirit to provide understanding, perseverance, and faith.
Questions to Consider
- What are the ideal conditions for sharing God’s good news? What conditions slow the growth of God’s kingdom?
- What prevents you from sharing or “sowing” the good news? What barriers do you need to remove so you can be more generous in how you share?
- When has the good news of God’s peaceable kingdom been generously sown in your life? In your community? In the world? How do you hear and understand the good news?
- How does the sower’s message of perseverance influence our call to engage in Mission Initiatives?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Ordinary Time, Proper 10
Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Ordinary Time runs from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and a faith community.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Our dear heavenly Creator, we praise you and recognize you as the life and light of our spirit. We thank you for your loving presence, and for all the blessings you have given us. We join with many others who are praying for and seeking peace in our world. We know confusion, anxiety, injustice, hate, and violence are causing so much suffering in your lovely creation. We ask a special blessing on all those who work to relieve that suffering. We ask a blessing on the leaders of nations. Grant them wisdom and patience as they decide. Help them to work in harmony as they strive to find ways to deal with the many difficult problems of living together in our complex world. Soften the hearts of those who use violence to settle disputes.
May we keep before us the vision of your kingdom of peace. We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, even your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
—Dora Wahl (adapted)
Read the following to the group:
Our Enduring Principle focus this week is on Unity in Diversity. Not one person on this Earth is exactly like another person. We each are shaped by our culture, genetics, upbringing, family, experiences, beliefs, and more. One thing we all have in common is that we all are divinely made. Unity in Diversity is respecting the differences while honoring the Divine in all voices.
Read the following to the group:
But God has so arranged the body…that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
—1 Corinthians 12:24–26 NRSV
Read the following to the group and invite people to share reflections after each question:
Think back over the past week. Who showed you compassion during a time when you felt sad or were suffering? Who rejoiced with you in the good things that happened for you?
Who endured suffering this week? How were you able to share their burden with them? Who rejoiced this week, and how did you celebrate with them?
Close the practice with a short prayer of blessing and gratitude for Unity in Diversity.
Sharing Around the Table
Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23 NRSV
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
“…Hear then the parable of the sower. When 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. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet 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. As 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. But 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.”
When Jesus tells parables, it causes us to rethink what it means to be part of God’s kingdom. The kingdom is never what we expect; there is always an element of surprise.
By the end of Matthew, chapter 13, Jesus is rejected in his own hometown. Matthew’s telling of this parable could explain why some people respond to the message of the gospel, and others do not. Or, it might answer the question: “What are the right conditions to share the gospel message?”
The sower can be identified as teacher, preacher, Jesus, or God. In fact, the sower is anyone who shares the good news. The seed in this parable refers to the gospel message. The yield becomes disciples who hear and allow the seed (word of God) to grow in their lives. Soil and the right conditions are required for the “seed” to grow. The parable describes four kinds of soil: hardened, shallow, thorny, and good. The soil differences remind the church that there are ideal conditions for growing disciples. Ideal conditions allow disciples to gain proper nourishment, roots, and the ability to persevere through hardship.
Matthew’s Gospel also describes the reality of the many obstacles faced by early Christians. That reality included persecution, anxiety, and a desire for riches.
The end of the parable describes God’s miraculous yield. A good harvest in ancient times could be as much as four to 10 times what was sown. Considering the lack of soil preparation and all the obstacles, it is surprising there was any yield at all! And that may be the whole point of the parable: God provides an extravagant, plentiful harvest beyond even our imagination.
- How has the condition of your life or “soil” been hardened, shallow, thorny, or good?
- How has the message of love, joy, hope, and peace taken root in your life?
- How have you been nurtured and cared for on your faith journey?
Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.
—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
God of our discipleship, As we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In these ways may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.
Invitation to Next Meeting
CCS 242, “When We Are Living”
Note: If you are using Thoughts for Children today, go outside with the children. Help them fill their pots with soil and plant some seeds to take home to remind them to grow in the love of Jesus.