Our worship together is in the name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Service audio

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you:

              and also with you.

Hymn:  As the deer pants for the water 

Let us pray

              Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:  cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


              The gospel calls us to turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.  As we offer ourselves to him in penitence and faith, we renew our confidence and trust in his mercy.

              God of mercy, we acknowledge that we are all sinners.  We turn from the wrong that we have thought and said and done, and are mindful of all that we have failed to do.  For the sake of Jesus who died for us, forgive us for all that is past and help us to live each day in the light of Christ our Lord.  Amen.

              Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you, +pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

Let us pray

            Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Isaiah 55:10-13

Isiah reading

Thus says the LORD: As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

This is the Word of the Lord  Thanks be to God

Romans 8:1-11

Romans reading

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law – indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also

This is the Word of the Lord  Thanks be to God

Hymn:  Rise and hear!  The Lord is speaking  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU3jv4CQ9A8

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew

Glory to you, O Lord.

Matthew 13:1-9. 18-23

Matthew reading

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! 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 that 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.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.   Praise to you, O Christ.


Sermon audio

When is a parable not a parable?  When Matthew gets his hands on it.  The story of the sower is possibly the best known of all of Jesus’s parables, but Matthew renders it lumpy and restricted as soon as he puts a limited interpretation on it.  As it stands, the story is dynamic and challenging, open-ended and rich.  After Matthew has asserted meaning for each individual section of the parable, it becomes thin and uni-directional.  The trouble is that having read Matthew’s gloss on the parable of the sower, we can only think of it in his terms – this equals that, each element forever stuck with a particular meaning.  So this morning we are going to free this parable from its Matthean shackles, and let it wander around our consciousness to challenge and to change us.

I am not the best person to talk about the success or otherwise of sowing seed.  I have very poor results from my efforts, and am not that much better at potting on plug plants.  I need my gardening efforts to involve fairly established plants if I am going to have any hope of success.  This is why I am a parish priest and not a market gardener or the owner of a flower shop.  I therefore have every sympathy with Matthew’s sower, who works so hard to grow his crop on unpromising land, only to receive a ¼ return on his efforts.  However, that ¼ return has degrees of success, which may well outweigh the losses the 75% of the land produces.

It gets complicated at this point, as it can move into maths.  Are 30 fold, 60 fold and 100 fold outcomes greater than the original weight of seed?  Does the sower, from these successful patches of land, come away with food for his family and a profit at market? 

Then we can ask if Jesus is speaking from experience.  Was a 25% return normal for farmers of his day?  Israel is a rocky and dry country.  It is the migratory superhighway for birds travelling north from their winter feeding grounds in Africa, and the timing of their flights coincides with the planting season.  Was this farmer uncousciously providing a useful stop-off for warblers and finches on their journey to their European nesting sites?

And then we could start the blame game.  Why hadn’t the farmer prepared his land better?  Why were there still rocks and stoney sections in his field?  He can’t have been a very efficient farmer, if weeds came up as soon as he planted his seed!  Couldn’t he have roped in the local children as bird scarers?  He deserves everything he gets if he is so lackadaisical in his farming practices.

But what if the outcome of the sowing is actually better than most?  How much interest is being paid to you at the moment on your savings?  Advertisers reckon on a 1% success rate on all flyers put through our letter boxes – they would give their back teeth for a 30 fold return from a quarter of their publicity, let alone 60 or 100 fold.  This is why this parable needs to be kept open, so that it can properly reflect back on us and our world and enable us to scrutinize our plans, our reactions and our efforts.

Matthew wants this parable to be about spreading the Gospel.  He insists that God is the sower, the seed is the God’s word, and the field represents the range of human responses to God’s word.  That is fine, it is a fairly realistic account of the difficulties of speaking to people about God, of the numbers who respond positively to his message and who stick around in the Church.  But what if we change the meaning of the seed to God’s love, or God’s grace, or God’s forgiveness?  What does that say about our God?  It speaks of a reckless generosity, an anticipation of rejection and failure yet also of massive joy in those who do respond.  Would we dare to be as profligate as that?

And what if we change the meaning to prayer?  We become the sower, and our prayers can feel as if they are falling on dry ground, or are snatched away by our daily worries and labours.  Do we concentrate on the 75% failure rate of our intercessions?  Or should we rejoice and find encouragement in the massive return on our successes?

The Church of England has a tag line, “A Christian presence in every community”.  In terms of the parable of the sower, that puts the Church of England in the place of the sower – which means all of us who come together to express that Christian presence in our community.  This raises questions about our effectiveness, our rejection levels, our failures.  How good are we at recognising answers to our corporate prayers?  How can we measure people’s awareness of our presence and appreciation of all that we have to offer?  Should we be counting up our 30 fold, 60 fold and 100 fold returns in individuals or families, or social influence?  We are in this for the long term, even if your Vicar passes through on a breeze and is then gone again.  Some of you were here when we arrived, many of you have joined since 2004, the Barn & St Luke’s are very different places now than then.  There has been much joy and much sorrow and an awful lot of in between stuff – quiet, faithful lives of witness and service in practical ways, skills revealed and used to the full, a discovery of unused talents that have blossomed for the benefit of others.

What if we applied the sower principle to other areas – politics, education, social welfare, health, even?  Is the principle of generosity and grace a useful starting point in those domains?  Could you take this into your workplace?  And what about family life?  The role of parents is to give, and to give, and to give to their children out of love and care, and that doesn’t stop when those children are in their 30s and 40s!

At heart this parable raises the question: what are we looking for over the long term: net loss or net gain – or more pertinently, what is God looking for over the long term?  Does the shrivelled plant of neglect or the seed eaten by birds or the weed-choked seedling break his heart of love?  Of course it does, but that doesn’t restrict his generosity.  Do the differing levels of response from redeemed humanity cause him concern?  Not at all, he delights in any movement we make towards him, of gratitude or of service.

The parable of the sower is about the generosity of a God who loves and forgives and accepts us day after day, year after year, for all eternity.  May we live our lives as a generous response to that initial generosity, and so be part of that 30 fold, 60 fold and even 100 fold growth of God in others.  Amen.

Prayers – with thanks to Veronica Willoughby

Intercessions audio

Dear Lord, we have all been in lockdown for 13 weeks and every Sunday on Zoom we have been able to see our friends from Church but some we haven’t and we hope that they are all doing well and have escaped the Covid 19 virus, we pray for everyone in our congregation and look forward to seeing them all on the 19th July 2020.  We pray for all churches in this Diocese of Southwark and that they will open again successfully with no threat of closure as a result of financial losses.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Gracious Lord we pray for Father Peter Hart who is to leave with his wife Beverley and take up a new position in Worcester Diocese.  May they enjoy their life there as much as we have enjoyed having them with us.  God bless them both.

Lord in your Mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for His Holiness the Pope, Justin Welby, our Archbishop of Canterbury, Christopher our Bishop of Southwark.  We pray for Her Majesty the Queen and all the Royal Family. 

Dear Lord, Let us pray for the families of those who have died from Covid 19 and all the NHS carers who cared for them devotedly in hospitals and care homes, their wonderful work will never be forgotten and though we are sad now the future is bright if we need care ourselves in the future.  They have really shown their worth. 

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for those who are to be admitted to communion on 19th July:  Evia Bliss,Theo Corpetti, Annah Kabongo, Louisa Kingston, Effie King, Isabella Mitchell-Fry

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for all those who are sick amongst our congregation and all those who care for them: Julia Holboro, Luci Mitchell-Fry, Joan Pritchard, Johanna Procter, Kevin Willoughby, Max Weston.  Bring them healing and wholeness we pray.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We remember especially Mary Smith, Revd Canon Graham Foulis Brown, Norma Williams, Gulam Abu Saleh, Eric Ewington and Ted Wheadon who now live with you in heaven and we will not see them again.  Gather them in your loving arms dear Lord and give them words of comfort in their final hours.  Amen.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son Our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Hymn:  Father of heaven, whose love profound  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M5WBuBKH38

The Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.  We meet in the name of Christ and share his peace.  The peace of the Lord be always with you.  And also with you.

              Be present, be present, Lord Jesus Christ, Our risen high priest;

Make yourself known in the breaking of bread

Hymn:  God is working his purpose out  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8EcuV1SOFU

              The Lord be with you

              and also with you.

              Lift up your hearts.

              We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

              It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,

holy Father, almighty and eternal God.  From sunrise to sunset this day is holy, for Christ has risen from the tomb and scattered the darkness of death with light that will not fade.  This day the risen Lord walks with your gathered people, unfolds for us your word, and makes himself known in the breaking of the bread.  And though the night will overtake this day you summon us to live in endless light, the never-ceasing Sabbath of the Lord.  And so, with choirs of angels and with all the heavenly host, we proclaim your glory and join their unending song of praise:

              Holy, holy, holy Lord,
              God of power and might,
              heaven and earth are full of your glory.
              Hosanna in the highest.
+Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
              Hosanna in the highest.

              As our Saviour taught us, so we 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,

              the power and the glory,

              for ever and ever.      



In darkness and in light,

in trouble and in joy,

help us, heavenly Father,

to trust your love,

to serve your purpose,

and to praise your name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

and the blessing of God Almighty, +Father, Son & Holy Spirit,

be with you and those you love, today and always.  Amen

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.   In the name of Christ.    Amen.

Hymn:   You shall go out with joy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unWnWSgoSt0

Mozart Introduction and Fugue in C minor for organ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9WHeha80RA