Worship Service for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship this day, for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, landing on June 16, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You can use it to follow along with the service, as it includes the order and words of worship along with the full sermon. Alternatively, the words that you need to know will appear on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page beneath the worship video.

For a fuller online worship experience, you can have a lit candle in your space that can be extinguished near the end of the service after the sending hymn. And if you are willing and comfortable, you may join in communion by having something small to eat and drink nearby ready to be consumed at the appropriate time. Further instruction will be given then.

May God’s welcoming and inclusive love give you hope and peace, today and always!

Holy God, give us the faith to hear your voice, that we might be able to find our way as we are guided by your love and grace, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

So every 5 or 6 years the stars align for me on this day.  Not only is today, the 3rd Sunday of June, always Father’s Day here in Canada, but today is also happens to be June 16th, which is our wedding anniversary.  So there are two things going on for me today.  Oh and it’s also the late iconic hip hop artist 2pac Shakur’s birthday, so I guess there’s actually three things. 

Either case, it would seem like today would be doubly special for me, or triply if you include 2pac’s birthday.  Because whenever the 16th lands on the 3rd Sunday of June like it does today, I get to celebrate both being a father and a husband.  And while I’ve learned to keep my expectations around these days to a minimum, I have to admit that I’m often disappointed with this day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being some spoiled kid who thinks they should get everything on their special day. Nor am I sore about these two occasions landing on the same day, as though one diminishes the other, sort of like when people have their birthday on Christmas and they get the dreaded “combo gift”.  No, those aren’t the reasons why I feel disappointed on this day.

The real reason is… well… I’m actually disappointed in myself. 

Again, don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate my family and all that they do and are, but it’s just that I look at where I am, what I’ve done, and who I am as a father and husband… and it’s just that… well I’m not exactly where I thought I would be at this point in life.  Like if I’m honest, I’m not as lovable to my loved ones as I thought I would be.  I’m not that “fun dad” for my kids that I dreamed of when I was a kid myself.  I’m not as present and supportive for my wife in spite of my best efforts. 

And today, that happens every 5 or 6 years, depending on where leap year lands, while it is doubly special, it is also doubly disappointing when I’m reminded of my failures, my shortcomings, my inadequacies in what I try to do.

Well, that’s some self-loathing if I’ve ever seen self-loathing before.

I should say that I’m not telling you these things to garner any kind of pity or sympathy or anything like that, I’m just telling you what I’m feeling, how I see myself, and the disappointment I often have in the different apects of my life.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about.  Maybe you’ve been disappointed in yourself as well, where you are in life, what you’ve accomplished, or just how you’ve treated people in the past or even currently.  Maybe you wish you could start over, or change the past somehow, or at least undo some of the things that have been done.  Maybe you know this feeling of disappointment, of not living up to the dream you had for yourself, of just being not…. enough.

These are some real feelings that many, if not all of us have probably felt at some point in our lives.  This sort of self-reflection can be helpful in getting us to improve and be better, but also can be debilitating when it all hits just a bit too hard.  This kind of self-loathing, while perhaps not to the degree that I may have shared with you, really isn’t good for anyone.  But in those emotions we can know that we aren’t alone in feeling this way, we aren’t the first and we most certainly won’t be the last, we aren’t the only ones in history that have felt like we aren’t enough.

You know who else might have felt this way like 2000 some odd years ago?  Who might have been disappointed in their performance, their value to their community, their place in the world?  Who might have felt these same feelings of inadequacy and not being enough? 

You might think the Israelites, because we know what kind of wild ride they’ve been on from being slaves to not being slaves, to having land to not having land, to knowing what their saviour looks like to not knowing what their saviour looks like.  Or you might think the disciples, with how they couldn’t understand Jesus’ teachings no matter how much he taught them in spite of all the time they spent together.  You might even think Jesus because you ran out of guesses and if Sunday School taught us anything, it’s that 99% of the answers will be Jesus.

But I’m not thinking about any of those.  Who I’m thinking about, who I’m guessing might share in these feelings, who might have thought that they’re just not enough, is that poor mustard seed.  The small, insignificant mustard seed that pops up in a couple of parables and analogies of Jesus.  I mean, talk about big dreams, am I right?  Imagine being that tiny little mustard seed and someone… well, not just any someone, but Jesus himself, sees you, calls you the greatest of shrubs, and compares you to the kingdom of heaven.  That would be enough to inflate anyone’s ego really, I mean sentient being or inanimate object or not.

But then along come the commentators and scholars trying to decipher Jesus’ words here.  Along come the pastors and preachers who rip these words apart to try to figure out what’s really what.  Along come all the people who hear Jesus’ words of praise and affirmation over this mustard seed turning into the greatest of shrubs and be like, “what, that thing?  That thing isn’t great at all, it’s just an annoying weed that no one wants.”

And plop.  Back in it’s place the mustard seed goes.  Again reminded of what it is.  Insignificant.  Unworthy.  Simply not enough.

I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of putting this mustard seed down as well.  I’ve explained away Jesus’ claims of its greatness as a figure of speech, exaggeration, and even misunderstanding.  Because there ain’t no birds that want to nest in this plant.  Ain’t no people small enough to catch shade from its branches.  Ain’t no use or value to be had in this unwanted, invasive, mistake of a thing.

But while this mustard seed might seem insignificant, it didn’t go unnoticed.  While it might be seen as unworthy, Jesus revered it enough to include it in his teachings more than once as an example.  While we might think that this little seed wouldn’t be enough, according to the gospel and grace of Christ, this seed was exactly what God created and how God created it.

Do you see what I’m saying here?

In spite of all the labels that could be put on this seed, it is still significant in the grand scheme of creation.  Even with how annoying and disliked the plant this seed becomes can be, it is called great by the Greatest there is.  Even if this tiny seed thinks of itself as never being enough, God says actually, you are so very much enough.

So it is with us.  In our feelings of self loathing, of insignificance, in not being enough, we know that God says otherwise.  Even in my own regret and shame of not being all that I can be as a husband, father, and even a pastor and a person, I can know that I’m still loved by my wife, my kids, and hopefully even some of you.  And in all of our own collective thoughts and feelings about ourselves, our communities, and even our church and country, we can trust and believe and have faith that God doesn’t assign our value and worth in the same way that we do through actions and numbers, but instead with grace, mercy, and love.

This isn’t to say that we should just aim for mediocrity and just be “good enough” in all that we do, but I’m saying that in those times of self loathing, whenever others unnecessarily put us down, if we ever feel like we’re not enough, we can remember this parable of the mustard seed and how Jesus sees and attributes greatness even to the insignificant, worthiness even to the mundane, and appreciation for all that we are created to be, flaws and all.

See even in our mistakes, God brings healing.  Even in our fallenness God lifts us up.  Even in our sin, God forgives us, saves us, and brings us to life.  And like the farmer in the first part of today’s parables, we don’t know how all of this works.  We don’t know why this works.  We might not even know who it’s working for.  But we can know that God has promised us that we have been, are, and always will be dearly beloved people of God, welcomed into the community of God’s kingdom, and called and anointed to be the body of Christ in the world, totally, utterly, and completely made to be enough.

Enough to be known.  Enough to be saved.  Enough to loved beyond all comprehension.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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