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Related Bible reading(s): Matthew 13.31-33,44-52

Explore and respond

A sequence of active worship ideas; individual items can stand alone.

Ideas for a sermon or interactive talk

See also Thought for the week to read out in place of a sermon; and 'The week in focus', linking the readings to the news.

  • The summer of 2022 will be remembered for its heatwaves. Was it a sign of things to come? Many are anxious about changing climate patterns, and the possible impact on the life of this planet. It’s easy to look ahead with fear. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus recognises this, telling his hearers not to worry (6:25). Easier said than done, we might think! This week’s parables suggest reasons why Jesus says this. The context of our life is the kingdom of heaven, inaugurated by Jesus, to be fulfilled in God’s good time. Look for signs of the kingdom in the detail of our life – planting seeds, baking bread – and trust that God is working for good, as surely as seeds grow and yeast makes bread rise.

  • Isaac Newton forbade the South Sea Bubble to be mentioned in his presence. The eminent scientist invested his fortune in this enterprise and lost the lot. More recently, some cryptocurrency investors have faced similar challenges. Would it be better to keep our wealth under the mattress? We know that life involves taking risks, and it’s likely that we can all remember costly mistakes we’ve made. Jesus invites us to take the risk of putting our trust in him and his promise of the kingdom of heaven, present and yet to come.

  • The 2001 film Amélie is about a shy waitress in Paris who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better while dealing with her own loneliness. It begins when, startled by the news of the death of Princess Diana, Amélie drops a plastic perfume-stopper. It accidentally dislodges a wall tile and reveals an old metal box of childhood memorabilia and treasures, hidden by a boy who lived in her apartment decades earlier. Amélie resolves to track down the boy and return the box to him. She promises herself that if it makes him happy, she will devote her life to bringing happiness to others. The film is about all the discoveries she makes in the adventure of loving others and letting them love her. In her adventure she uncovers what those around her treasure. The film is perhaps a contemporary parable of the contagious love of the reign of God.

  • Read RS Thomas’ poem, ‘The Bright Field’. If you can, you might also like to project a photograph of light falling on a field. This poem is a reflection on what it might mean to slow down enough to: see God’s reign breaking through today; live fully in the abundance of the present moment; to let go of time travelling to the past or future.





Thought for the week

Read out in place of a sermon if you wish

At the time of Jesus, Pliny the Elder wrote that mustard seeds, with their pungent, fiery taste, were valued for being good for the health – and that they spread like a weed. Once sown, it was difficult to stop them, because the seeds germinated almost at once. What a wonderful image of Jesus planting the tiny seeds of the reign of God, tipping them into the world like a contagious weed.

We might ponder what sort of contagious seeds Jesus was planting. Each story Jesus told, and each story told about Jesus, gives us an image of one of these seeds germinating in the soil and spreading God’s reign. Take the story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus. This blind man very persistently wanted to be healed. He trusted Jesus. Jesus stopped to make space to talk to him and healed him. Imagine, in time, all the other seeds that would gradually have been germinated out of this fresh start for Bartimaeus.

RS Thomas, in his poem The Bright Field, gives us a meditation on what it means to be slowed down enough, attentive enough to recognise the pearl of great price right beside us, the treasure in the field right here – to know what is most important and precious in our lives.

Read the poem.

His insight into the reign of God is that we are often too busy in our minds hankering after an imagined past or worrying about a receding future. Instead, if we can trustfully arrive in this present moment, in not too much of a hurry, with not too much on our to do list, we can recognise the precious treasure of God’s reign already offering itself to us.

The insight from the merchant that sold everything to possess the pearl of great price is that we have to let go of a lot of unnecessary baggage, outworn attitudes, lesser priorities to recognise and enjoy the immense value of God’s kingdom, already here in front of our noses. The reign of God becomes visible when people find what is most precious and important and live out of that truth. Such joy and love are contagious and healing.


All age act of worship Session

Active worship

Sow it begins

Meditate on the parable of the mustard weed

You will need: a large mustard plant painted onto a sheet of paper (e.g. a piece of wallpaper), or a prayer tree made from branches in a large pot of sand.

  • Display the image or draw attention to the prayer tree. Read Matthew 21:31-32. Invite people to close their eyes and imagine the tiniest of mustard seeds sitting in the palm of their hand. This seed is blown by the wind, landing in earth. There is warmth. There is rain. The seed starts to breaks open. It grows…and grows…until it is huge…and flowering…and shedding thousands more seeds into the wind. It is relentless and unstoppable.
  • After a few moments to let people follow their imaginations, explain that Jesus gave this as an image of God’s reign of love. Tiny seeds of love germinating all over the place, relentless and unstoppable. What we must do is wait and trust. Open your eyes to see. Keep one eye on the mustard plant (image or prayer tree) as we explore God’s unstoppable kingdom today; we will come back to it shortly.
    W E S


Crafting creatures

Make leaves for the mustard tree or prayer tree (see Sow it begins above)

You will need: leaf shapes, crayons and/or other craft materials, glue sticks or sticky tape.

  • Invite people to go outside for about 10 minutes, and to look around carefully, noticing different birds or insects, trees and plants, people, buildings or spaces – whatever is there to be seen. And, as they do so, to be aware also of themselves looking.
  • After people return to their places, remind them that everything they saw, including themself, has its place as a treasure in God’s kingdom. Invite them to create an image on a leaf shape to represent something they saw outside. Fix this to the tree image or prayer tree as a sign of thanking God for what is represented on the leaf.
    W E S A


A poem, a picture and a parable

A reflection on hidden treasure and priceless pearls.

You will need: copies of the poem, ‘The Bright Field’ by RS Thomas.

  • Display the image of a figure contemplating a pearl (see Share the Word). Ask someone to read the poem. Ask someone else to read Matthew 21:44-45.
  • Give people time to let the poem, the image and the parables speak to them of God’s kingdom or reign.

These questions may help: How does waiting and trust come into this? What for you is the hidden treasure in the field or the pearl of great price? What price do you need, or would be willing, to pay?

  • Invite everyone to share their thoughts with another person, and to make another leaf for the tree (see Crafting creatures).
    W E S A


Leaven the lump

Make bread as you reflect on Jesus’ parable.

You will need: mixing bowl(s), jug(s), spoon(s), baking tray(s), plus bread-making ingredients (at its simplest, bread mix and water).

  • You could organise this as a demonstration from the front, with perhaps several young people to assist; or you could set up several stations where appropriately sized groups can work together.
  • Ask someone to read Matthew 21:32. Then mix the ingredients and make bread as per the instructions you are using. Let them rise for the rest of the time you are together. Invite people to reflect on this process and, given Jesus’ use of it as an example of God’s kingdom, what it tells you about how God works in your community.
  • At the end, take the dough home and freeze it; then bake it just in time to bring it back next week. Again, this might be done by one person, or, if in groups, each could be responsible for its own loaf. Or, if you have the facilities, it could all be brought back next week for baking.
    W E S A



Activity sheet


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