Four Prayers Based on the Parable of the Soil-Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8)

overflowing

Overflowing by Feboarah Koff-Chapin

Today I realized how often Jesus’ parable of the soil/sower makes its way into my devotional life. The story is simple, yet rich with wisdom and truth. I’ve learned so much and yet there is so much more to discover. Leave a comment with what you’ve discovered. I’d love to hear from you. – Lisa <><

The Parable of the Soil/Sower is found in three of the four Gospels, Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15.

I. We Cry, “Glory!”
Lord of Life
You sow extravagantly
Generously

Some would cry, “Foolish”
We cry, “Glory!”

You sow your Word
Your Promises
Your Salvation
Your Self
“Glory!” to your grace and mercy

You save us from the stealing
The shallow
The choking thorns
“Glory!” to your deliverance and power

You make our lives good rich soil
Ready for your seed
In you we grow up and increase and yield
“Glory!” to your goodness and faithfulness

We rejoice in you and in being your harvest
Help us to ever bear your good and lasting fruit
for the honor and glory of your name. Amen

II. Good, Good Soil
Jesus, you sow yourself
The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously

Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away

Fortify us for hard times and costly discipleship
That we may endure

Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises

Till us
Turn us
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may be good, good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen

III. Save My Soul, Good Gardener
Save my soul, Good Gardener
Evil flies in wanting to steal my hope
Work piles up, insecure boulders ready to crash, leaving no room to root
My faith begins to wither as does our relationship
Distractions grow, choking my gratitude
my perspective
my spirit

Guard me
Guide me
Deliver me
Clear the land
Weed then seed
Nourish the soil of my soul
I long to blossom and bring forth your fruit, a hundredfold

IV. Prayer of Confession: Break Through
This prayer of confession was commissioned for the opening worship service of the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church.

ONE:
As we gather on your good earth,
before the bounty of your Word and Table,
and the majesty of your holy presence,
We remember and repent

ALL:
Forgive us, Abiding One,
We keep you at a distance
We defy your bidding
We make it harder for people to know you

Forgive us, Saving One,
We deny our weakness
We wallow in our weakness
We take advantage of the weakness of others

Forgive us, Holy One,
We refuse your counsel
We waste your gifts
We withhold your compassion from others

Break through
Break through our hardened views,
lest the evil one win the day
Break through our gravelly hearts
lest we have no root and wither to nothing
Break through our thorny ways
lest our agendas and fears
choke the promise of your word
and smother a harvest worthy of your Name

Silent Confession

ONE: Psalm 103:8-14 CEB
Hear the good news-
The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.
As far as east is from west—
that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.
Like a parent feels compassion for their children—
that’s how the LORD feels compassion for those who honor him.
Because God knows how we’re made,
God remembers we’re just dust.

ALL:
We remember and rejoice.
Glory to God! Amen!

Click Here for a reader’s theatre version of the parable of the soils/sower

**********
We Cry, “Glory!” © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Good, Good Soil © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Save My Soul, Good Gardener @ 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Prayer of Confession: Break Through © 2016 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use these prayers and resources in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment to contact me directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Parable of the Talents: Fearless or Fearful? (Matthew 25.14-30)

Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30

John of the Cross wrote that “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” The two servants, probably more experienced in loving, fearlessly invest their portions of love. Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master’s wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32) the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground. John Wesley comments, “So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation.”
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless. –Tertullian

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go.
– T.S. Eliot

Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you into believing your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Moving ahead requires us to face the present with its hardships and afflictions, knowing that these, too, are part of the way. To do this requires a measure of courage, that word formed from the Latin cor, or heart. In such circumstances, the challenge before us is not simply to avoid losing our heart. Rather, it is that of finding our heart, of living “heartfully.” – Mark S. Burrows and John H. Ohlson, Love is a Direction from Weavings, Aug/Sept/Oct 2012

Click here and here and here for three thoughtful reflections on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Zephaniah 1:12
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
… and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
– Henri Nouwen

******************
For more information on the use of the scripture translation, art and this resource in other settings, please leave a message in the comments.

Prayer based on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8)

seed-sower-jeremy-sams

Prayer based on Jesus’ parable of the sower
Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15

Jesus, you sow yourself
The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously

Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away

Fortify us for hard times and costly discipleship
That we may endure

Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises

Till us
Turn us
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may be good, good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen

*************
Click Here for a reader’s theater version of the parable of the sower

Click Here for a prayer of confession based on the parable of the sower

Prayer based on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Parable of the Talents: Fearless or Fearful?

Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30

John of the Cross wrote that “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” The two servants, probably more experienced in loving, fearlessly invest their portions of love. Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master’s wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32) the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground. John Wesley comments, “So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation.”
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless. –Tertullian

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go.
– T.S. Eliot

Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you into believing your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Moving ahead requires us to face the present with its hardships and afflictions, knowing that these, too, are part of the way. To do this requires a measure of courage, that word formed from the Latin cor, or heart. In such circumstances, the challenge before us is not simply to avoid losing our heart. Rather, it is that of finding our heart, of living “heartfully.” – Mark S. Burrows and John H. Ohlson, Love is a Direction from Weavings, Aug/Sept/Oct 2012

Click here for a thoughtful reflection on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Zephaniah 1:12
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
… and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
– Henri Nouwen

******************
For more information on the use of the scripture translation, art and this resource in other settings, please leave a message in the comments.

Welcoming Branches

Wing Song, a fabric by Michael Miller

Mark 4:30-34 (NRSV)
Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 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.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Ezekiel 17:22-24 (NRSV)
Thus 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. On 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. All 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.

In Ezekiel 17:22-24, God plants a tiny cedar twig on a high mountain of Israel and that twig becomes a large and fruitful tree under whose branches every kind of bird will find shelter. The birds there symbolize the nations that flock to Israel’s God on the glorious day of the Lord. This word-picture in both Ezekiel and Mark envisions the day when God’s sovereign and life-giving power will embrace the whole world—good news indeed! – Commentary on Gospel by Sharon H. Ringe

The kingdom of God is described not in grandiose terms but in terms of ordinary, quiet beauty- as an inviting place to call home. – Commentary on Gospel by Meda Stamper

Sowing the seed, my hand is one with the earth.
Wanting the seed to grow, my mind is one with the light.
Hoeing the crop, my hands are one with the rain.
Having cared for the plants, my mind is one with the air.
Hungry and trusting, my mind is one with the earth.
Eating the fruit, my body is one with the earth.
-Wendell Berry

Prayer to the Welcoming One
by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Welcoming One,
Your mercy knows no limit
Your grace knows no margin

You reach out

Like a tree full of branches
Satisfied with the song of unnumbered birds

Like a hen collecting her newborns
Sheltering them beneath healing wings

Like a surprised fisherman
Taking up a bursting, exotic catch

Like a good shepherd
Extending the flock in every direction

Open us, as you continue to open yourself
So all may come within the reach
Of your saving embrace

———————
Prayer to the Welcoming One © 2012 by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use these works in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish these works in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like… the Hunt for Pearls

Altar Table designed by Kim Evans. Painting by Katie Atkinson and her friend Shelby.

In Matthew 13, Jesus changes his preaching style to again capture the interest of the crowds. He switches from the straightforward teaching style of the Sermon on the Mount to parables, short stories which reveal profound truth about the character and agenda of God.

If you read the Matthew 13 parables one after another, a pattern begins to emerge. In every instance, the person in the parable represents God’s saving work through Jesus Christ.

  • Jesus is the farmer casting the seeds of the God’s welcome and salvation in every direction. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. – Luke 19:10
  • Jesus is the land owner, who waits patiently for the final harvest to see who will choose to be wheat and who will chose to be weeds; who will accept a relationship with God and bear the good fruit of that relationship and who will choose to worship and serve themselves. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”- John 11:25-26
  • In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom will continue to grow in surprising places and in powerful ways. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. – John 14:12
  • Jesus is the woman working the leaven of God’s transforming power throughout flour of life until all is changed into Christ’s likeness. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29
  • Jesus gives up everything to claim the treasure of humanity. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – John 10:11
  • Jesus casts the net of salvation into the sea of humanity to catch every kind of person. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. – John 12:32

Pearls are a perfect metaphor for God’s saving work through Jesus Christ. Pearls were the most valuable item of Biblical times. This is an age before cultured pearls. Natural pearls are both rare and hard to harvest. SCUBA equipment hasn’t been invented. Divers hold their breath and use rocks to weigh themselves down to reach the bottom of the salty, shark-infested waters where pearls are found. Think of the pain and pressure on their bodies as they dive, gather, and scramble to the surface before their lungs burst. Hundreds of oysters would have to be opened to find one pearl, much less a priceless perfect pearl.

Matthew 13:45-46 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

With what we know about Christ, it’s a short step to see Christ as both the pearl merchant and the diver, the pearl hunter. We are the treasure Christ is seeking and sacrificing to claim. We are the pearl and Christ is the Pearl Hunter- searching, intentional, focused. Christ pursues us- like a shepherd searching for a lost sheep, like a woman searching for a lost coin, like a pearl hunter searching for the ultimate prize. Christ gives up everything to win us- no price is too high, no danger is too great, no sacrifice is too costly. Christ leaves the perfection of heaven for a life of hunger, homelessness, poverty, persecution, and pain. He gives his wisdom, healing, compassion, purity, power- his very body, blood, and soul – that we might be his.

Why? Because we are the treasure. We are the pearl of great price. We are rare and valuable to Christ! The world may name us beaten down, abused, unemployed, misunderstood, worthless, addicted, disabled, forgotten, guilty, unlovable, can’t do anything right, dirty… But Christ names us precious, dear, beloved, cherished, treasured. He doesn’t just name us this, but proves it by his words and sacrifice. He makes it a reality for all to see by by his transforming power and love.

Think for a moment about how a pearl is made. A bit of bone or dirt makes its way into the oyster. The oyster slowly covers it with layers of calcium carbonate crystals and protein. The foreign, dirty irritant is transformed into something beautiful and valuable. God does the same to us through faith in Christ. We are just dust, but infinitely valuable because we are made in the image of God. We are just dust, but God makes something beautiful out of us as we follow the words and ways of Christ.

God reminds us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Christ’s life, death and resurrection show us there is no other thing God would rather do.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Reader’s Theater: Parable of the Soils/Sower

The Parable of the Soils, also known as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), is simple yet profound- a farmer casting seed generously without regard to where it will land, the seed responding in various ways. This parable lends itself naturally to mime and is especially delightful when enacted by children. In this reader’s theater version, the Narrator remains an offstage voice. The surprise is the smallest/youngest cast member has the largest part.

Click here: Parable of the Soils/Sower: Reader’s Theater PDF

Click here for a wonderful, honest reflection on Jesus’ Matthew 13 Kingdom of God Parables by Rachel Held Evans entitled Slow.

Click here for a moving reflection by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled Sower.