Worship for Sunday 16th July 2023, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Invitation to Worship

Our God is at work in the world,
spreading love, joy, peace and hope.
Let us learn to see where God is at work
and tend the seeds that God has sown.

Hymn: StF 102 For the beauty of the earth

1.For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love from which our birth
Over and around us lies,
Father, unto to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.

2.For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Father, unto to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.

3.For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Father, unto to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.

4.For each perfect gift of Thine
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven,
Father, unto to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.

Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835 – 1917)


God, you are the mighty sower, the good gardener,
life-giving, constant in creation.
Christ, you are the face of the Father,
casting wisdom across the ages,
your arm outstretched to sow.
Holy Spirit, you are the wind that carries the seed
and causes the fruit to flourish.
Trinity of creation and salvation,
we worship and adore you.

As we come before you, Lord God,
we prepare ourselves to receive your Word.
May we be fertile soil for you, the mighty sower,
ever casting your seed where it might take root.
We seek to rid our souls of stones and thorns
and all that hinders or chokes growth;
may we dig deep, and be open and nurturing
to receive your message to us today.

Lord, we confess we are slow to tend the soil of our souls.
Help us to prepare ourselves as we would prepare our gardens for planting.
Let us contemplate the rocks that hinder growth.
We gather them and cast them out, digging deep for fertile soil.
Let us consider the thorns that choke new growth.
We root out all the things that smother God’s Word in us.
Like soil turned over and ready to receive,
we have confessed our shortcomings and await the sowing of your seed.
We turn to you in penitence and expectation.

We thank you, God, that we can turn ourselves around at any time;
 like bad soil made good by turning it over and tending,
we can be ready to receive you.
 You forgive us and return tous in your constant striding of creation,
 ever casting widely, sowing your seed
. We wait to see what will happen when we have tasted your forgiveness
 and the grace of your wild wisdom, a super bloom of surprise.

Reading: Matthew 13:1 – 9, 18 – 23

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 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!’

18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 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. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.’

Song: Lord, let my heart be good soil

Lord, let my heart be good soil,
open to the seed of your Word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
where love can grow and peace is understood.

When my heart is hard,
break the stone away.
When my heart is cold,
warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost,
lead me on your way.

Lord, let my heart,
Lord, let my heart,
Lord, let my heart be good soil.                                                      Handt Hanson (b.1950)


Among the junk mail that plops regularly through the letterbox are catalogues from plant firms trying to sell me fruit and vegetable seedlings. If you keep going through the pictures of luscious strawberries and improbable dahlias, you come to the pages dedicated to keeping plants healthy: slug pellets, blackfly sprays and more.

Jesus’ parable of the sower focuses more on the risks to the seedlings than any plant catalogue ever would. If all your efforts go only to feeding the local pests, why bother buying the plants in the first place? Indeed, why does the sower go to the trouble of spending a day on the tedious task of walking up and down the furrows broadcasting the seed?

It’s not all doom and gloom! There are many ways of protecting plants. Is Jesus inviting us to reflect on opportunities for caring for the little growing shoots as they face all the challenges that nature throws at them? We know that real plants need water, light, good soil – how do we make sense of Jesus’ pictures as we think about nurturing the growing shoots of God’s word as they take root in someone’s life?

The first factor Jesus identifies is understanding – maybe this is like the water, which is all many plants need to start growing. It can be difficult to make sense of God’s promises – how can the promise of healing from sickness or life renewed with God be true? Many folk find this incredible, and yet many others will tell stories of healing that enables them to flourish and find their lives renewed in unexpected ways. We need to support one another in using our experience to understand the stories Jesus tells.

Then Jesus speaks of protection against the power of the ‘evil one’. Our resource to chase away the pests and plagues is prayer. We need to pray for one another, especially in difficult times when it can be hard to hold on to the faith. We need also to pray for those who are new to the faith and the children among us as they grow in their faith.

And then Jesus moves on to the word ‘sown among thorns’. We might wonder why a sower would waste the seed where other plants were in competition, but when we think of God’s word, we recall that Jesus himself built good relationships with people whose lives were far from conventional or religious. One focus of the Methodist church too has always been on a welcome for people whose lives break the mould of tradition. When people are more at risk, they need more support; and so it is right that the church takes particular care of folk who are homeless, that we pay attention to safeguarding vulnerable people and that we work with passion for justice, dignity and inclusion.

The story of the sower invites us to look outwards, to see where we can help and support others. It also invites us to look inwards – we are also the soil in which the word of God takes root and grows. We need to pay attention to the shoots of God’s presence in our own lives and nurture them – for we too are people in which the word of God may bear rich fruit, and it’s vital to find time for faith to grow in our own lives. However busy we are, we can never be too busy for God.

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

God, we give thanks that you are ever on the move
even when we feel unable to take a single step.
Your word is not static, your wisdom not sealed and silent;
like one who walks constantly, casting seed broadly,
your whispers fall around us as seeds on soil.
We praise you for Jesus’ teaching,
which helps us to prepare ourselves to be good soil,
fertile for growing the fruits of goodness and grace.

Hymn: StF 124  For the fruits of all creation

1.For the fruits of all creation,
thanks be to God;
for the gifts to every nation,
thanks be to God;
for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe keeping,
thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labour,
God’s will is done;
in the help we give our neighbour,
God’s will is done;
in our worldwide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God’s will is done.

For the harvests of his Spirit,
thanks be to God;
for the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God;
for the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all, that love has found us,
thanks be to God.

Fred Pratt Green (1903 – 2000)

Prayers of Intercession

Eternal God of yesterday, today and tomorrow, forever constant in the changes and challenges of our lives, we bring our prayers for the world in which we live, the land on which we walk, the fields in which we sow, the people who walk the world with us, near and far.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers.

For our world we pray, that humanity will learn to treat it with care and respect so that it may nourish and flourish not just present generations but future ones too. May we play our part by living sustainably so others may live too. May we treasure creation and not abuse and destroy. May we live for the future and not just the present.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers. 

For justice and integrity, respect and care for all peoples we pray. For those who are sexually exploited, those who are ensnared in modern slavery, those who are trafficked, unjustly and wrongly imprisoned.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers. 

For families who live on the breadline, for those confronting drugs, drink, guns, knives and gang cultures. For those who struggle to manage life’s challenges. May they encounter people who will care for them, who will support, encourage, guide and provide for their needs so that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that there is hope that goodness and stability can grow and flourish.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers. 

For war-torn countries, nations, peoples of the world who live among bombs and landmines and sniper fire and so much more. For those whose lives are senselessly pulled apart, fractured and fragmented. For those whose homes are wiped out, whose homelands are no more, whose journey seems bleak, whose families are shattered.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers. 

For our health services, home carers, social workers. Those who seek to care and heal despite all the pressures that society places on them, that they may be supported themselves, financially and professionally so that, as they seek to heal others’ wounds and support their needs, they are not themselves being wounded or harmed or finding themselves worn to a frazzle. As they seek to ‘grow’ others, may they grow themselves.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers. 

For any we know who have barren lives or lives filled with trauma, pain and anguish, and for ourselves, when we face trouble and grief. May there be seeds of love and care, and help to weed out the thistles and thorns, so that all find the support they need to flourish.

O God, we praise you and bring this to you,
because we believe you answer our prayers. 

For these and all those in need, we offer our prayers.

Hymn: StF 664 Lord, you call us to your service

1.Lord, you call us to your service,

Each in our own way.

Some to caring, loving, healing;

Som to preach, or pray;

Some to work with quiet learning,

Truth discerning,

Day by day.


Life for us is always changing

In the work we share.

Christian love adds new dimensions

To the way we care.

For we know that you could lead us,

As you need us,



Seeing life from your perspective

Makes your challenge plain,

As your heart is grieving overt

Those who live in pain.

Teach us how, by our compassion

You may fashion hope again


Lord, we set our human limits

On the word we do.

Send us your directing Spirit,

Pour your power through.,

That we may be free in living

And in giving

all for you.

Marjorie Dobson (b.1940)


Ever-giving God,
we thank you that you have never stopped
sowing your word among us.
Give us receptive hearts
and make us fruitful for you in the week to come.