Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
The mustard seed becomes a great shrub that shelters the birds, recalling ancient images of the tree of life. We’d expect a cedar or a sequoia, but Jesus finds the power of God better imaged in a tiny, no-account seed. It’s not the way we expect divine activity to look. Yet the tree of life is here, in the cross around which we gather, the tree into which we are grafted through baptism, the true vine that nourishes us with its fruit in the cup we share. It may not appear all that impressive, but while nobody’s looking it grows with a power beyond our understanding.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
the God of manna,
the God of miracles,
the God of mercy.
Drawn to Christ and seeking God’s abundance,
let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God, our provider,
It is hard to believe there is enough to share.
We question your ways when they differ from the ways
of the world in which we live.
We turn to our own understanding
rather than trusting in you.
We take offense at your teachings and your ways.
Turn us again to you.
Where else can we turn?
Share with us the words of eternal life
and feed us for life in the world.
Beloved people of God:
in Jesus, the manna from heaven,
you are fed and nourished.
By Jesus, the worker of miracles,
there is always more than enough.
Through Jesus, ☩ the bread of life,
you are shown God’s mercy:
you are forgiven and loved into abundant life.
Prayer of the Day
O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Tree imagery is used in a messianic prophecy to tell how the Lord will choose someone from Judah’s royal family (the cedar tree) to reign over all creation. This tree will be planted on Mount Zion, the location of the holy temple.
22Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
23On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
24All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.
Psalm: Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
The righteous shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. (Ps. 92:12)
1It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praise to your name, O Most High;
2to herald your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night;
3on the psaltery, and on the lyre,
and to the melody of the harp.
4For you have made me glad by your acts, O Lord;
and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.
12The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.
13Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God;
14they shall still bear fruit in old age;
they shall be green and succulent;
15that they may show how upright the Lord is,
my rock, in whom there is no injustice.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17
Paul encourages believers to live by faith and not by sight. We do not consider Jesus from a human perspective but through the eyes of faith, believing he died for all and was raised. All who are in Christ are now in God’s new creation.
6So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
[11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ] 14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Alleluia. Welcome with meekness the implanted word* that has the power to save your souls. Alleluia.(James 1:21)
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
Jesus frequently uses parables to teach ordinary people as they are able to hear and understand. Images of sowing and growing show the vitality of God’s kingdom.
26[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet 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.”
33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Meditation by David O’Brien
Heavenly Father, Thank You for using me in Your ministry! I on my own, am an empty vessel. Let Your Holy Spirit take full control of me and let Him speak through my writings. You know the needs of the people who’ll be reading this meditation. I submit myself to You so that You can use me in whichever way You want to. I choose to glorify only You Lord. I do not want any glory for myself.
God uses us for His work as He sees fit! That’s what I got out of the Old Testament reading for today. He took the twig from the top of the tree, where it made up part of the crown, removed it from its high, lofty station, and replanted it to form the base of a new tree! This didn’t make the twig any less important, it just gave it a different job. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12, where the author talks about how there is one body with many parts, all of them being right where God intended. They all have different jobs, but they are all necessary for the body as a whole. If one suffers, the whole body suffers. If I have a bad headache, my arms may still work well enough, but they aren’t going to be able to do much because of the pain in my head. Conversely, if I break my arm, I am still able to read but my concentration will probably be off because of it.
It’s like that with groups of people as well. The Chairman of the Board of a car company may seem like the most important person to the corporation, but on the day that the guy working on the line isn’t feeling up to par and doesn’t install the wheel properly he can affect the entire corporation. On the other hand, if the guy on the line is really on his game and catches a problem with the suspension system as the cars are being made, he could save the company millions! Everybody has their value and has something to contribute.
Our congregation is also made up of many parts. We have a pastor who has as one of his gifts, the ability to draw insights from the readings that some of us never would. Because he also has a gift for public speaking, he can take those insights and pass them on to us in the form of his sermons. If, however, Pastor Howard were to fall ill, for whatever reason, we’d probably be able to find a supply pastor to step in for him, but it wouldn’t be the same, so the congregation would suffer because of that loss. Lots of work that gets done at the church goes unseen. Cathy and Gretchen, for example, contribute to the smooth functioning of Grace Church in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. A few years ago, we learned how important it is to have an office staff that is doing its job properly. Our music staff is also an important part of our ministry. They work hard to provide us with a beautiful backdrop to the rest of our worship services. If they were missing from either the traditional service or the contemporary service, our congregation would feel that loss. This was especially true during the early part of the COVID pandemic, when we had started coming back to church services, but had to exclude music from them. It was so good to be back in the church and as safety guidelines allowed, for music to slowly become reintegrated into the services. It helped us to return to a sense of normalcy.
Whatever part you play in the ministry of Grace Lutheran Church, you are important. You may think of your role as being small or insignificant, but I assure you, we would be less without you. We are all like the mustard seed, which is the smallest of seeds. It may be small but when it is planted and does the work that God has assigned it can make a great contribution. One of the teachings of the Lutheran Church which I’ve always liked is the idea that the ministry belongs not just to the bishop or the pastors, but to all of us. Pastor Howard has attempted to illustrate this when he announces reconciliation after our confession when he states, “As a baptized member” as opposed to “As a called and ordained minister’. May we all take our places in the ministry of Grace Lutheran Church and in the Church at large.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us come before the triune God in prayer.
A brief silence.
Holy God, you plant the seeds of faith in every nation. Enliven Elizabeth and Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, and all of your church, so that the good news of your grace may root and grow throughout the world. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Creator, even the trees, shrubs, and flowers delight in your goodness. From the depths of the soil to the highest mountain, bring forth new plants. Restore growth to places suffering drought. Bring healing to places where we, in our arrogance, have caused damage to your creation. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Judge of nations, we pray for our leaders and those in power. Grant them the ability to regard those under their charge and those affected by their decisions, with humility, dedicating their lives in service to others. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Divine comforter, you show compassion to those in need and provide relief to those who call on you. Bless all who suffer, especially those on our prayer list. Bring relief to people trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Sovereign God, this house of worship belongs to you. We give thanks and pray for everyone that contributes to the ministry of Your Church. We dedicate to you all of the praise and worship that comes from this place. Let all that we do and all that we are be dedicated to You so that we may do Your work with our hands. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Eternal God, we give thanks for our ancestors in the faith who are now at home with you (especially). We look forward to that day when we are reunited in your new creation. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
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, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The blessing of God,
who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us,
☩ be upon you now and forever.
Go in peace. You are the body of Christ.
Thanks be to God.