Tag Archives: Sunday school

Seed Packets Redux: Part 2

As I was driving up to Montreal last week I drove past countless fields at various stages of planting.  Some fields were bare, with the earth prepared and awaiting seed, some were newly planted with a bright fresh crop of green or yellow covering them, some were burned over and likely to be left fallow for the summer, and between them all there were wild areas with an abundance of plant life most would call weeds.  What do we see when we look at ourselves, our congregations, families,colleagues etc.?  Do we  see fertile ground awaiting seed, rows of plants growing to bear seed, or a tangled mess of weeds?

Living Faith 4.2.1 says, “The Spirit enables people to receive the good news of Christ, to repent of their sins, and to be adopted as children of God…the Spirit enabled us to believe.”  Living Faith 6.1.2 “God brings us to faith in many ways. We may have trusted in God from childhood; or our faith may have come later in life.  Faith may come suddenly or only after a struggle to believe.” 
Given these statements, it is clear that it is not really you and I who are bringing people to faith.  The job of sowing faith is the work of the Spirit through the Word.  It is with this understanding that we come to the parable of the Sower and the Seed this morning ( Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23).

Have you ever prepared a garden bed?  There are many things that need to be removed; sod, old patio stones, weeds, and rocks in the ground.  Whether in our own hearts or those of others we’ll need to remove preconceptions and prejudices against Christianity and or the church as an institution, negative prior experiences, hurts, and fears.  Some of us have built up walls around our hearts which may take considerable care to break down.  Sledge hammers are never called for, and it is important to save all we can of the soil.  Our primary tools for this work are our open minds, our love, compassion and our listening skills. Once cleared, we add fertilizer of some kind in order to aid in the growth of the plants.  Here we apply such offerings as Sunday School, Bible studies, service groups, book clubs, VBS, and of course heartfelt weekly worship.  Even if all hearts are already prepared to receive the Word, care needs to be taken over time to watch out for and remove any weeds which may come up and attempt to take over, and the weeds are many and insidious.

I can easily justify my lack of follow-through in my garden at home.  After all, if I don’t support the local farmers by buying their produce I am contributing to the economic decline, right?  The problem is, at the end of the day I will still have the hearty crop of weeds there reminding me daily of my failure.  There will, however be another spring and another chance to get the job done properly.  Those of us in the church would do well to
remember that only ¼ of the seed in the parable turned out to be productive.  Numbers are not everything!  The number of people in the pews on Sunday, the number of children in Sunday school each week, the total number of families and members, don’t need to cause stress.  When they are high we may be on the top of the world and feel that we are truly doing the work of the Kingdom, and when they are low we may fear for the survival of our congregation.  Even if our programs or events seem less successful than we would like, so long as one plot of soil was readied, or one seed planted we have done well.

Whatever Kingdom gardening we may be doing, we need to remember to take time out to praise and worship the Father who has sown the word in our lives, the Son who is that word, and the Spirit who inspires us to listen.

Living Faith is the Statement of Christian Belief of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and can be downloaded at http://www.presbyterian.ca/resources/online/2447

Money In The Collection Plate


Several years ago the decision was made at our church to have the Sunday school kids carry their offering up to the front of the church along with the adults.  Now, each Sunday the hall monitor goes to the classrooms when the offering is taken in church and gets one of the kids from each classroom to bring in baskets with the offering for the class.  These adorable developing Christians come forward ahead of the adults, some shyly, some proudly, and some practically skipping.  It is one of my favourite parts of the service.  The decision was made so that the kids would be able to connect the collection in the classroom with the congregation’s offering to God and see that their little bit is a part of a bigger whole. 


Why do we give money for the offering on Sundays?  We know from the story of “the widow’s mite” that a collection was taken in the Synagogue during Christ’s time.  Along with the meat, grain, and oil from people’s sacrifices these offerings went towards the maintenance of the synagogue and for the livelihood of the priests.  Little has changed.  Our congregational offering is handled by boards of members who oversee the maintenance of the physical plant, the stipend for the minister, the materials for worship, the power bill etc.  This is what we do with the offering, but is it why we give?


It is tax season.  People keep track of their charitable donations over the course of the year and claim them against their income as an aid to getting a break on what they owe, or even a possible refund.  We give our members envelopes which allows anonymity with the offering counters as well as a way for the treasurer to credit our giving.  Is this the reason we give?


Many of us are familiar with Paul’s words in  2 Corinthians 9, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”   This is used frequently in sermons and talks on stewardship and it sounds great.  If you read the rest of the section it is a part of a letter arranging to send some workers along to help prepare for the collection of a large offering from the congregation.


Jesus talks about tithes while pointing out that the Pharisees do a great job of giving the tithe in the things like spices but not in the things that matter like mercy, judgement and faith.  When a rich young man asks how to get into heaven he is told to sell all that he has and give it to the poor.  He talks about giving what we have, and for some of us this does not necessarily include money alone.  


There are many possible motivations for putting out pennies in the offering plate.  While the amount we give may in some way be related to the taxes etc. I believe that we give because we love and believe in God and are grateful for his abundant gifts to us.  We give as a way to give praise, show gratitude, and help to further the work of God’s kingdom.  Hopefully as we place our envelopes, coins or bills in the plate we may feel like one of our children skipping down the aisle with baskets in our hands!