Worship for Sunday 16th June 2024, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Invitation to Worship

For your love that never changes, we praise you, O God.
For the miracle of growth, we praise you, O God.
For stories that tell of your love, we praise you, O God.

Hymn: StF 139  Today I awake, and God is before me

  1. Today I awake and God is before me,
    at night, as I dreamt, he summoned the day
    for God never sleeps, but patterns the morning
    with slithers of gold or glory in grey.
  2. Today I arise and Christ is beside me.
    He walked through the dark to scatter new light.
    Yes, Christ is alive, and beckons his people
    to hope and to heal, resist and invite.
  3. Today I affirm the Spirit within me
    at worship and work, in struggle and rest.
    The Spirit inspires all life which is changing
    from fearing to faith, from broken to blessed.
  4. Today I enjoy the Trinity round me,
    above and beneath, before and behind;
    the Maker, the Son, the Spirit together –
    they called me to life and call me their friend.

John L.Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958), © 1989 Iona Community, reproduced under CCLI licence no.263530


God, who made our wonderful world,
with all its colour and growth, its fruits and flourishing:
we give thanks for your steadfast love,
and sing praises to your name.

God, who shares with us
the secrets of the kingdom,
in story and picture and parable:
we give thanks for your steadfast love,
and sing praises to your name.

God, who surprises us
with tiny things that make a difference
and by the hidden process of growth:
we give thanks for your steadfast love,
and sing praises to your name.

God, who renews your creation,
giving us a new vision of your world,
and the confidence of faith:
we give thanks for your steadfast love,
and sing praises to your name.

God, whose ways are often mysterious and hidden,
forgive us when we fail to see you at work.
When we feel discouraged,
as if nothing we do makes any difference:
give us patience to wait and hope to trust in you.
When we fail to listen to you,
uncertain of what you are saying to us:
give us patience to wait and hope to trust in you.
When we are discontented and restless,
weighed down and anxious:
give us patience to wait and hope to trust in you.
When your ways are mysterious,
and signs of growth are hidden:
give us patience to wait and hope to trust in you.

Reading: Mark 4:26 – 34

26 Jesus also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Hymn: StF 161  Speak, O Lord, as we come to you

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of your holy word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
All Your purposes, for Your glory.

Teach us Lord full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise
Cause our eyes to see,
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time,
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises;
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, ’til your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music


‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God?’ That’s how Jesus began many of his stories, and his disciples must have learnt that what came next was completely unpredictable. This story is no exception: a mustard seed? Why is the kingdom of God like a dry, shrivelled seed, so tiny you could hold a hundred in your hand and not feel the weight of them?

So Jesus goes on to explain. A mustard seed has small beginnings. There’s a contrast with Old Testament pictures of huge trees, cypress or oak or cedar. Those trees would be unmissable in their splendour and glory; not so much the mustard seed. That’s what the kingdom of God is like, says Jesus. Look for the ordinary and everyday, the small and insignificant – and pay attention to what you see. For the mustard seed doesn’t stay tiny and shrivelled. Its hard shell cracks and the root comes out, then a shoot, and with sunshine and rain, the plant grows tall and luxuriant. Look for signs of unexpected growth, shoots emerging where you least expect them – there is the kingdom of God.

And look out for the birds. The kingdom of God is found in hospitable places, places of welcome and safety, where there is room to gather and find shelter, where nests can be built and fledglings raised. The kingdom is a place where all are welcome to come out of the storms of life to find peace. I’m thinking of LifeShare, where homeless folk gather at Central Hall Manchester on weekend mornings to have breakfast served to them in a warm, welcoming space; or the various knit and natter groups around the circuit, where older folk come to chat and find themselves listened to and valued. Like the birds of the air flocking to the mustard tree, these people come to places where they are safe and welcome – and the kingdom of heaven is like this.

Mustard: some love it, some hate it – but you can’t deny it adds a tang to life. Maybe this is why Jesus talked about mustard seeds and trees rather than, say, grapes or wheat. Eat mustard, and you know about it – the sharp taste is unmistakeable. So it is with the kingdom of heaven. The savour of holy, Godly living is immediately noticeable, cutting across other, blander ways of living. The seeds of the mustard tree image the kingdom of heaven, unmistakeable, as impossible to ignore as the challenge which genuine goodness brings to the life of the world.

Jesus’ talent for the unexpected must have left his disciples scratching their heads many a time. The concluding verses of this reading help us see that it is always worth wrestling with a parable to see what images it yields, how it helps us understand a little bit more about the kingdom of heaven – where even the smallest of all seeds can help us realise the truth that there are images of the kingdom wherever we choose to look, pay attention and recognise the presence of God in our midst.

Prayers of Intercession
Faithful God, we give thanks that your kingdom is growing in the hearts of your people. We pray for your church, and ask that we may have faith to see you at work; in our lives and in the lives of others. We pray for all Christian people; that we may work with you and with one another as labourers in your kingdom. We pray for those who help to sow the seeds of your kingdom, those who nurture and care for tender shoots. Let your kingdom grow here and in the years to come.

Almighty God, we rejoice that yours is a kingdom of justice, righteousness and peace. We pray for kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, judges, politicians, generals, business leaders and opinion-formers in the media. May they the power and influence they exercise over the lives of your people be for the common good, and may they understand that in things they and we are accountable to you. As the election draws near, may they remember that they are seeking to serve, not to be served.

God of compassion and mercy, in the branches of your Kingdom your little-ones can rest in your shade. We pray for all in need of your help this dayMake known your glory in our weakness, and strengthen those in need so that they may praise you for your kindness. Comfort the comfortless, bring healing to those who suffer pain, raise up those who have fallen or are brought low, give hope to the dying.

Eternal and unchanging God, your kingdom stands though earthly kingdoms rise and fall. Rejoicing in your faithfulness and constant love, we bring to you our own concerns; we pray for our own families and friends; especially those in particular need of your grace.  We give thanks for those who planted or nurtured the seed of faith in our hearts – and we remember with thanksgiving all who have, praying that with all your faithful people, we may come to praise you in the fullness of your eternal kingdom.

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

For ever and ever


Hymn: StF 545  Be thou my vision

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1 Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

2 Be Thou my Wisdom, be Thou my true Word;
be Thou ever with me and I with Thee, Lord;
be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son,
be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

3 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
be Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart,
O High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

4 High King of heaven, Thou heaven’s bright Sun,
O grant me its joys, after vict’ry is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be Thou my Vision, O Ruler of all.


Mighty God,

to you belong the mysteries of the universe.

You transform shepherds into kings,

the smallest seeds into magnificent trees,

and hardened hearts into loving ones.

Bless us with your life-giving Spirit,

re-create us in your image,

and shape us to your purposes,

through Jesus Christ. Amen.


Resources taken from rootsontheweb; Church of Scotland, re:worship