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Sunday 20th September 2020 Trinity 15

posted 17 Sep 2020, 07:18 by Church Office   [ updated 18 Sep 2020, 08:24 by CHS Info ]






 Last week’s gospel told us to stop counting and start loving.  These week’s readings also reflect on our human nature to count, to measure what we have and what others have.  Provided we have what we need we don’t need to count.  The gospel passage is the vicar’s favourite parable, the workers in the vineyard.  The parable asks us whether we really truly want God’s mercy, forgiveness, generosity or would we rather have justice?  Wouldn’t we rather have the good rewarded and the wicked punished? The answer is, of course, YES, if we count ourselves with the good—but are we sure?  The passage from Exodus reflects on God’s provision: what we need from day to day not what we want or can store up for times ahead.


Readings

Exodus 16: 2-15 

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 

 

Matthew 20:1-16 

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

Sermon

I don’t know how many of you remember Harry Enfield’s character Kevin the teenager? Kevin would always say “It’s so unfair”. And let’s not be dishonest - there’s a corresponding stereotype in the parent who inevitably responds by saying “well, LIFE’s not fair”. Also in the interests of honesty: there are certain situations in places I’ve worked and in life in general which provoke in me a raw and immediate sense of injustice that I have to admit feels pretty juvenile. Real, and not without justification, but juvenile nonetheless. At least I’m able to keep those feelings to myself, and respond without betraying what’s going on inside. Most of the time. I think.

If I were one of the workers in the vineyard who’d just put in a full day of gruelling work, then been told to wait in line behind those who’d only done an hour, and then seen that they were getting paid the same amount as me, that would certainly have been one of those times. But look at it this way: they would have been the same people I’d been waiting alongside that morning, all of us hoping to get a day’s work, none of us any more deserving than the other. When I was hired and they were not, I’d probably have felt that was perfectly fine - just “the luck of the draw”.

Justice, and the question of judgment that arises from it are persistent concerns in Matthew’s gospel. In today’s reading the master of the vineyard sees what is happening and says so what are you going to do about it? “Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Again, let’s look at it from another perspective: we are talking about subsistence wages here - that’s what it was like for day labourers in first century Palestine. So in fact the owner of the vineyard is saying to those who were hired last: this evening you and your family will be able to eat after all. It is a vision of a society in which everyone has enough. Of a society in which the luck - or otherwise - of the draw is irrelevant.

And those who worked only an hour presumably spent all those preceding hours waiting, powerless to do anything about their situation. Not an interesting or exciting kind of waiting. Which speaks to our own situation, I would say: we wait for what happens next, with Coronavirus, with the threat of a no deal Brexit. We are perhaps not used to being quite so powerless.

It is interesting that the owner of the vineyard “went out”, the text says, five times to look for workers. The verb used (exelthen) is the same used for the self-emptying love revealed in the Incarnation: as St Paul wrote to the Philippians: “ … though he was in the form of God [he] emptied himself … being born in human likeness”. So what matters is not just that the grapes are harvested, but that everyone is included. No-one is judged and found deserving of being ignored, or forgotten, or excluded in any way. It matters so much that the owner of the vineyard “empties himself” into going out and finding them.

Today’s parable starts with the phrase “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard ...” So the kingdom of heaven is like everyone having dignity. It is like everyone being included. Everyone being sought after, worth the effort of going out all those times to be found, and brought inside, to a place of belonging. And the kingdom of heaven is like when people like me, and like all of us, are prepared to experience raw, pure, Kevin-the-teenager outrage not just at relatively trivial workplace politics or other things like that, but at systemic injustice in society - and therefore, take action.

Amen

 

Prayers



God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit 

upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: 

grant that your people may be fervent 

in the fellowship of the gospel 

that, always abiding in you, 

they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; 

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 

who is alive and reigns with you, 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and for ever.

Amen

 

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God, we meet you in prayer, counting not what we and others have, but instead asking to follow your way of mercy, forgiveness, and generosity. We come to you now, joining our hearts in prayer:

God of mercy, we pray today for the church, that we may declare the good news of your mercy more fully. In this time of heightened anxiety and fear, may the church be a voice of peace and love. Here in our own church, we pray for continued success as we take on new technologies to make our services more accessible. Throughout the world, we give thanks and pray for all churches who have found new ways to share your message of unmeasurable forgiveness and love.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of abundance, we pray today for the world, that we may share your abundance more wisely. We pray especially for places where fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters have devastated the land. We pray for safety for the first responders, generous help for those who have lost homes and livelihoods, and wisdom for policy-makers around the globe to address the causes of this climate crisis. Grant us wisdom as we find ways to protect and preserve the abundant gift of your creation.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of generosity, we pray today for our community, that we may reflect your generosity more completely. We pray for those returning to work, school, and university in this changed world, and especially for those whose health has been affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. We pray too for those around us who lack work, food, or shelter. Guide us all as we find ways to support each other more generously.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of strength, we pray today for the sick, that we may all be strengthened by your love. We pray especially for those dear to us: for Jane, Heidi, and Albert Bell; Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte, Jo Harvey, and Joshua Clark. We pray too for those who tirelessly care for the sick; may we all find strength as we care for each other.

Lord in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

God of our beginnings and our ends, we pray today for the grieving, that they may find comfort in your gift of eternal life. We pray for those mourning the recent losses of loved ones, as well as those remembering the anniversaries of their loved ones’ deaths. Today we remember the family of Matthew Elvidge, Sara Jenni’s nephew, on the anniversary of his death. Grant the departed rest, and grant us comfort in their memories.

Lord, in your mercy,    hear our prayer.

We close our prayer together:

Merciful God, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Ċ
Church Office,
17 Sep 2020, 07:18
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Church Office,
17 Sep 2020, 07:23
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