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  • Rev. Sandra Larson

July 12 At-Home Worship & Activities

Updated: Aug 10, 2020


Union Church, Newburgh NY

July 12, 2020


We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. and Wed. July 20 and 22 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: NEXT Sunday from 11:30-Noon. Use mobile phone or computer video. Access instructions will be emailed. Questions? Contact James.

THOUGHT FOR REFLECTION Let us not grow weary in doing what is right. We will reap at the harvest time, if we do not give up. —Galatians 6.9


CALL TO WORSHIP May we peel away distraction, anxiety, self-doubt, and same old ways—to live in harmony with the Source that nourishes and sustains the world. May our worship and life focus on relationship with God. We seek to rediscover what that looks like and to re-commit to God’s way.

PRAYER of Confession Merciful God—we confess our sinfulness (disconnection from You and from other people): We have hungered after that which does not satisfy; we have compromised with evil; and we have doubted Your power to protect us. Restore in us such trust and love that we may walk in your ways and delight in doing your will. Lord, move us closer to You as we love others in way that go beyond a surface level.

HYMN I Believe

I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows I believe for everyone who goes astray someone will come to show the way I believe, I believe. I believe above a storm the smallest prayer will still be heard I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word Everytime I hear a new born baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky Then I know why, I believe... Everytime I hear a new born baby cry, or touch a leaf or see the sky Then I know why, I believe... I believe… (... and I do believe.)

MESSAGE FOR ALL AGES What does it take for a plant to grow healthy and strong? Can a seed grow if it stays in the seed pack and is not planted?

APOSTLES’ CREED I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence he will come to judge the quick [=alive] and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic [=universal] church, the communion [=unity] of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

HYMN Gloria Patri (Latin for Glory to the Father)

Click here for traditional melody

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.


Lord guide us in ways to build up rather than tearing down. We prayer for the up-building of the world, those whose lives are being ravaged by the pandemic, cancer, or other challenges. We pray for Judith and John Smith and all who are facing health challenges. Lord, show your love to the world in ways that even skeptics can see…Silent prayer…

ANTHEM Love Unmeasured, Love of God Union Chancel Choir

SCRIPTURE LESSON Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23 NRSV

See your Bible or click here: for other translations The Parable of the Sower

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!”

Matthew 13:18-23 The Parable of the Sower Explained

“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 [or stumbles]. 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.”

SERMON All-in-One-Sowers Rev. Sandy Larson


OFFERING Plant seeds of faith, nurture growth in faith and share the JOY of true abundance. Click here OR send check to Union Church, 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

HYMN God of the Sparrow CLICK HERE for audio and lyrics

BENEDICTION 2 Peter 3.18

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

CHORAL RESPONSE The Lord Bless You and Keep You Union Chancel Choir


For Reflection: Pray for courage to dig yourself deeper into good soil, so that God’s vision may take root in us and bring forth fruit that nourishes those who hunger for...all that deep-rooted faith offers.

Fun Activity: Pantomime the Parable of the Sower (OK inhibited adults can imagine how you’d pantomime it—e.g. seeds make chocking gestures among the thorns). Use creative props if you want. Be clear: Christians (us) are the sower and God’s message and vision are the seeds! Notice the emotions of the seeds. How do the seeds that thrive feel?

Humor: If you eat all the seeds, there will be no fruit to harvest


Sandy, Interim Pastor

SERMON All-in-One-Sowers Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23 Sandy Larson

We live in a world where truth telling is not as important as promoting our own personal agendas. We are exposed to systematic and skilled propaganda from social media, advertisements and fake news and detractors of truth. Many social manipulators pay high profile people to promote their agendas. We unknowingly hear manipulative manufactured lies. And politicians and business leaders?—What if we passed a law that automatically ousted government and business workers on all levels whenever they told any verifiable lie? There would be few politicians or businesspeople left in our society. Perhaps worst of all, many Christian preachers and leaders are intentional or unknowing promoters of dangerous untruths. So how do we find truth? A critical remedy is to think for ourselves and check facts. Christians also need to scrutinize ideas and agendas in light of biblical wisdom. That’s why Presbyterians are so committed to studying the Bible in its cultural context and in the setting of the broad biblical messages—otherwise, skilled manipulators can distort or abuse the Bible.

Yet, no one has the definitive understanding of even one small part of the Bible. That’s why the exposition of the Bible is called interpretation. Not to pick on these two group of Christians because of any negative prejudice, but for example: Zealous evangelical Christians and enthusiastic Christian activists have strong incentive to cherry pick passages and use the Bible to reinforce their own messages. We all prefer the Gospel according to Me! Interpreting the parable of the Sower, for example: Evangelicals are prone to use this parable to press listeners to be receptive to the Word. Evangelists may challenge, “Are YOU fertile soil?” However, evangelicals are then likely to go on to tell their own understanding of the Word. Or, Evangelicals may use this parable to promote evangelism—and contrary to Presbyterian reserve about evangelism, people cannot hear the word unless they hear the word. Matthew offers strong justification to interpret this parable as a call to evangelize—since NO ONE will hear God’s word unless someone tells them about it. Yet, as is human nature, evangelistic parable interpreters are then likely to impart their own biases about what constitutes fertile spiritual soil and to expound their own idea of what Jesus thinks is important.

Alternatively, social action oriented Christians see a call to metaphorically till all the soil until all who dwell on earth l have verdant environments to live and to grow in faith.

Jesus explains: If people do not understand, they are vulnerable to evil, They have little physical energy to devote to spiritual understanding if they have survive in a hostile environment. Social activists, like evangelicals, interpret the fertile soil and the Word that is planted according to their own agendas.

Moralist Christians celebrate the metaphors in this parable as foundations for devoting intentional thought to all ideas—rather than letting evil ones snatch truth away. Moralists champion tenacity rather than being shallow soil or giving up in the face of difficulties; and moralists may emphasize that people “sown among thorns” fall victim to fads and social messaging. Moralists lift up Jesus’ point that those who live in “good soil” can thrive and be productive people. Like most of us also, moralist Christians are likely to tell their personal understanding of “good soil” and fruitful life.

Christians who are drawn to mystical spirituality tend to focus on the fertility of our own spirituality—Is our soul receptive soil? Or: How do we cultivate receptivity to the seeds of God’s message?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could glean wisdom from a variety of biases with which Christians interpret the Bible? Early N American Puritan worship included as response to the sermon from an elder in the congregation who would hopefully lift up another perspective.

If we sought out varied perspectives, we could weigh the different social, political and moral viewpoints and sort through them to find what seems most true to the Bible and the best of our Christian heritage. Yet as is oh so human, Christians tend to stick to our own version of Christianity and compatible ciercle of Christian dialog partners. We all too readily discount other perspectives. Yet I have consistently valued interchanges with respectful people who have a different perspectives. People in French culture thrive on convivial but often passionate debate about substantive issues of faith, politics and life. As a seminary student, I was richly blessed to hear a wide variety of points of view of fellow seminary students from across the globe. Engaging with people who have perspectives different from mine has contributed significantly to my spiritual understanding and significantly nurtured my spiritual growth. Every Christian can broaden their circles of spiritual conversation. So, here I am offering my biased interpretation of this parable!

Matthew offers a rare glimpse of Jesus’ own interpretation for this parable of the sower. Jesus explains that he emphasizes hearing the word. So maybe my interpretation is close to the intent of the parable hear the word as presented by a variety of voices. Before we come to any conclusions about a scripture text, it is valuable to consider the context of the text. One of the ways Christians distort the biblical message is to pick snippets of scripture that support their point of view. I have heard such biased Bible selection used to passionately defend AND to ardently condemn homosexuality, women’s rights and abortion. Historically, biased selection of small pieces of scripture were even used to strongly defend or to passionately condemn slavery.

One of the things I appreciate about the Bible is that it is not a simplistic one-size fits all people and all situations book of rules or prescriptions. The Bible offers enough divergent perspectives that it is dangerous to claim, “I have the definitive Word of God.” Throughout life, even our own understandings of biblical messaging changes and deepens. Any adult who still understands the parable of the good shepherd in the same way they understood it as a child is not…listening to life or the Bible. Anyone who refuses to hear another person’s sincere interpretation of a part of the Bible is…like the seed thrown onto the soil of an impenetrable hardened path. Matthew underscores Jesus meaning that hearing is an essential ingredient for spiritual vitality and perhaps life itself. The strong implication of the importance of hearing is someone has to do the telling. Christians are like farmers who cultivate seeds to thrive and become fruitful. Jesus’ call to share the good news of the kingdom of God incentivizes us to be multi-purpose sowers who take spreading seeds of God’s word as our important life task and to work diligently to eradicate or at least reduce infertile soil so people can thrive like seeds in rich soil. I for one, am inspired by this parable to seek to be an all-in-one sower. I want to make a continuing commitment to ready the soil and nurture the seeds that I might be given to sow.

Let’s use the parable of the Sower as a sample for us to do responsible Bible interpretation. What kind of sower are you?

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