Morning Service for Trinity 6 2023


We all know about the parable of the sower don’t we, it’s been a favourite with Sunday schools and school assemblies for a couple of thousand years. Even if we no longer live in an agricultural economy, even though we don’t sow our seed by ‘broadcasting’ it indiscriminately anymore, we can all get the analogy. We all get the point that if you are in the business of sowing seed you’re going to get a few failures – we also get the more disturbing point that the success of the seed depends on the nature of the ground onto which it falls – and in turn we might be the one doing the sowing, or the ground that must nurture the seed and bring it to fruitfulness.

Morning Service for Trinity 6 2023

HYMN – O for a heart to praise my God  NEH 74/AMR325 – Stockton

1 O for a heart to praise my God,

A heart from sin set free;

A heart that always feels thy blood

So freely spilt for me:

2 A heart resigned, submissive, meek,

My dear Redeemer’s throne;

Where only Christ is heard to speak,

Where Jesus reigns alone:

3 A humble, lowly, contrite heart,

Believing, true, and clean,

Which neither life nor death can part

From him that dwells within:

4 A heart in every thought renewed,

And full of love divine;

Perfect and right and pure and good,

A copy, Lord, of thine.

5 My heart, thou know’st, can never rest

Till thou create my peace;

Till of mine Eden repossest,

From self, and sin, I cease.

6 Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart,

Come quickly from above;

Write thy new name upon my heart,

Thy new best name of love.

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


We recall our Lord’s command to love and in a moment of silence we confess 

the many ways we fail to keep his command:

Most merciful God, 

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.   Amen

May the God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.


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,  Amen.

FIRST READING – Genesis 25.19-34

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.

And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

HYMN SPREAD, O spread, thou mighty word  NEH 482 – Savannah (NEH 113)

1 SPREAD, O spread, thou mighty word,

Spread the kingdom of the Lord,

Wheresoe’er his breath has given

Life to beings meant for heaven.

2 Tell them how the Father’s will

Made the world, and makes it still,

How he sent his Son to save,

How Christ conquered o’er the grave.

3 Tell of our Redeemer’s love,

Who for ever doth remove

By his holy sacrifice

All the guilt that on us lies.

4 Tell them of the Spirit given

Now to guide us on to heaven,

Strong and holy, just and true,

Working both to will and do.

5 Word of life, most pure and strong,

Lo, for thee the nations long;

Spread, till from its dreary night

All the world awakes to light!

GOSPEL – Matthew 13.1-9,18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 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 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.”


We all know about the parable of the sower don’t we, it’s been a favourite with Sunday schools and school assemblies for a couple of thousand years. Even if we no longer live in an agricultural economy, even though we don’t sow our seed by ‘broadcasting’ it indiscriminately anymore, we can all get the analogy. We all get the point that if you are in the business of sowing seed you’re going to get a few failures – we also get the more disturbing point that the success of the seed depends on the nature of the ground onto which it falls – and in turn we might be the one doing the sowing, or the ground that must nurture the seed and bring it to fruitfulness. If we are in the business of sharing the good news of the kingdom then the parable is a great comfort – but of course, in so far as we are all recipients of that same good news the parable is profoundly disturbing – what are we yielding to the Lord of life who sows but who also looks for the harvest?

But all of that is well known and you don’t need me to preach about it. The story of Jacob and Esau is another matter. Again a well know story, but like so many in the Old Testament, we regard it as obscure and empty of any meaning for us. But it should not be so easily dismissed. The story of this family has been told for millennia, not for mere entertainment, like some ancient soap opera, but because it has something important to say about our human condition – a condition which has changed as little as human beings have changed in the last four thousand years.

So what can we get from this sorry tale of sibling rivalry and parental favouritism? Well, sadly, you need to read the whole story to get full value, and to puzzle it out a bit – the story will be told over the next three Sundays – although hopelessly truncated – read it for yourself in full, Genesis Chapter 28 to the end of Chapter 36. 

But this first little episode says a fair bit. First we have poor Isaac and Rebekah, like his parents unable to conceive without divine intervention- this is a family who have threaded their lives with faith, have waited on God, and waited for God, have heard his promises for a good future but have not been slow to help them along a bit themselves. But now they await the birth of their son to continue the line, provide the descendants who are to become as many as the stars in the sky. But Rebekah feels inside her the legs and arms of two babies not one – and already they struggle with each other, already their struggle begins to tear her apart – ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’

The world is built on competition, life is built on competition, competition between animals, competition between plants; every living thing must compete for its slice of life: and right from the start Esau and Jacob are doomed to compete. In human society we try to regulate such competition to prevent us from tearing each other apart, to prevent inheritance disputes the presumption was instituted that the eldest would inherit – primogeniture. Rebekah is told that that will not be the case here – the younger will be the child of the promise, he will carry the blessing of Abraham, through him the people who will call themselves the people of Yahweh will be born. As it turns out he will win this through trickery, deceit and downright dishonesty. Jacob is an opportunist and he grabs his first opportunity to win, not his birthright but his destiny, with the infamous mess of pottage. Why pottage – lentil soup, bean jar? Because of an elaborate play of words in Hebrew. Pottage translates the Hebrew adôm, which is modified by the adjective red also adôm – the same red that described Esau at his birth and the same root letters in the name of the tribe of Edom that the text will tell us Esau will father, the inhabitants of land roughly where Jordan is today – a tribe that Israel was constantly a war with. Their name actually came from the red stone they used to build their fortified towns.

Esau represents brawn, the skilful hunter, the man who goes out and brings home the bacon – a man’s man. Jacob is the stay at home pastoralist who makes up in guile and cleverness what he lacks in strength. 

All this is interesting enough – well sort of – but what has that got to do with the human condition? Well, we have conflict, we have a rivalry and competitiveness endemic in the very relationship of brother to brother; we have a privileged position, assumed through accident of birth, and we have a God who doesn’t play by the rules. As the story unfolds we will have more trickery and deceit, murderous threats and a run from terror, but we will also have a vision of heaven and extreme patience to win the hand of the beloved, we will have a wrestling match with God and to crown it all, brother will forgive brother and there will be peace. To those who think of themselves as the ‘chosen’ then there are questions a plenty – there is no room for moral superiority, just the extraordinary nature of a world where the accident of birth will leave some in the gutter and others consuming great swathes of the world’s resources. This scandal of particularity – the blessing of one and not another – is present at the heart of Judaism, Islam and Christianity – it must make us uncomfortable.

It is extraordinary that the children of Abraham have always fought, always been jealous of one another and yet here in a text they share a story of sin and redemption, forgiveness sought and forgiveness found. If only they read it, if only its example had not fallen on such stony ground – then maybe the killing in the land called holy would stop.

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

HYMN – Lord the word abideth NEH 407 Ravenshaw

1 Lord, thy word abideth,

And our footsteps guideth;

Who its truth believeth,

Light and joy receiveth.

2 When our foes are near us,

Then thy word doth cheer us,

Word of consolation,

Message of salvation.

3 When the storms are o’er us,

And dark clouds before us,

Then its light directeth,

And our way protecteth.

4 Who can tell the pleasure,

Who recount the treasure

By thy word imparted

To the simple-hearted?

5 Word of mercy, giving

Succour to the living;

Word of life, supplying

Comfort to the dying.

6 O that we discerning

Its most holy learning,

Lord, may love and fear thee,

Evermore be near thee!


Today we have come before you, Lord, to offer our praise and our prayers. You are God the creator, Christ the Saviour of the world, the Spirit of truth and love. Be near to us, today and every day.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for your church throughout the world, for those areas which are thriving and for those which have lost their sense of direction. 

We give thanks for our church and its people and acknowledge all the gifts you have given us. We pray for the team here in our Benefice who work so hard to maintain strong and meaningful links with the congregations of all three churches.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

We continue to pray for peace in our world. Lord Jesus, we know that you are in the hearts and minds of many people who work tirelessly for peace in a world that often seems to use only war and conflict as a means of resolving differences. 

Create in us all a love of peace, not peace that is absent from struggle, nor peace that is blind to injustice but peace that makes whole what now is broken. 

We remember those who struggle against injustice, those who live in violent and oppressive societies, and those whom war, famine, earthquakes and floods have robbed of homes, families and friends. 

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray today for the health and well-being of our nation, for Charles, our King, and for all those who are guiding our nation and working hard to shape our national policies.

We give thanks for those who are prepared to serve their fellow men by bearing the responsibility of leadership. Let your will for our world be accomplished through the decisions they make, guide and support them in their leadership roles and give them all a vision of peace and reconciliation.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, we remember those who are confined to their homes and who are sad, anxious, lonely and isolated. Help us to remain alert to their needs, and to care for them in their vulnerability.

We remember too those who are seriously ill and ask that they may know your comfort and peace, thinking especially, in a moment of silence, of Roger Chapman and all those known us. 

We remember those who have died and those who have lost a loved one recently or whose anniversaries fall at this time.  We pray that you are there at their side, Lord, and that they may feel your loving presence.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, help us to remember that you created all people in your image, without exception. Open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family.

Help us to build bridges, to forgive and be forgiven, and to establish in our communities, peace and equality for all.

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

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face to shine upon and be gracious unto you.

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

The Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

the holy and undivided Trinity,

guard you, save you,

and bring you to that heavenly city,

where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen

HYMN – Now thank we all our God  NEH 413

1 Now thank we all our God,

With heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done,

In whom his world rejoices;

Who from our mother’s arms

Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love,

And still is ours to-day.

2 O may this bounteous God

Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessèd peace to cheer us;

And keep us in his grace,

And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.

3 All praise and thanks to God

The Father now be given,

The Son, and him who reigns

With them in highest heaven,

The One eternal God,

Whom earth and heaven adore;

For thus it was, is now,

And shall be evermore. Amen.

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