A Home Service for 20th September ’20

Rev. Janet Calderley offers this home service for those who may not be participating in a church service on Sunday 20th September.

Prayers of Approach

God, you have called us to come together;
you have called us to turn from our sin;
you have called us to worship you.
In your name we gather;
to your name we offer our praise.
Amen.

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

We come to you now with love in our hearts,
praise on our lips, intent on worship.
We come to offer our time and our thoughts to you.
We come to receive your comfort and your challenge for us.
Lord, unite our prayers and our worship,
that your name may be glorified.
Amen.

We adore you, O God, our king;
your name shall be always upon our lips.
For your love is great, and greatly to be praised.
Those who went before us praised your works.
Those who follow us will praise your name.

Our words shall resound with the proclamation
of your goodness and righteousness.
For you are gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and great in mercy.
You are good to all,
and you show tender mercies to everyone.
Your kingdom is glorious in power,
your majesty is beyond words,
your kingdom will last for ever,
and your praise shall be sung eternally.

We adore you now, Creator God.
We adore you now, Loving Lord Jesus.
We adore you now, Eternal Spirit.
Amen.

Music: Praise to the Lord, the almighty the king of creation (R&S 74)

Readings:
Jonah 3:10-4:11
Matthew 20:1-16

Introduction: ‘It’s not fair’

How many times have you heard that phrase? Jonah thinks that it is unfair that the people of Nineveh are ‘let off’ for their behaviour, that they deserve to be punished and that God should not just forgive them. The earliest workers in vineyard complain about last hired getting as much as them, reasoning that those who have worked longer should get more. Is the vineyard owner or God being unfair?

Music: O Lord all the world belongs to you (R&S 90)

Sermon/Reflection

The story of Jonah raises strong feelings in us as well as in Jonah himself. He is angry that God doesn’t rain destruction on Nineveh and angry that the bush which has sheltered him is destroyed. The story of the bush however encourages him to look at things from a new perspective. Why should he get so angry over something that has sprung up and withered in a brief moment? God has sorrowed over Nineveh for a long time and sent Jonah to them so that they wouldn’t be destroyed. If Jonah can be so upset over a bush he should understand how much God doesn’t want to see Nineveh destroyed and rejoice that they have turned away from their sins. Does God’s mercy still seem unfair? Do things that stir strong feelings in us sometimes cause us to overlook the circumstances in our righteous anger, to miss things that have changed or are changing, and to fail to temper justice with mercy?

What about the men in the marketplace, why were they hanging around unemployed all day? Had they arrived too late and missed the initial hiring, was it because they were lazy and not really looking for work? It may be that the landowner simply wasn’t sure how many men he would need and could not guarantee enough work early in the day. Whatever the reason they were more than ready to work when he went back later, even though the implication was less pay. Those who worked all day may have grumbled about the owner’s generosity, but the latecomers had spent most of the day in uncertainty, not knowing whether there would be any work, wages or food for them at all. Are we too ready to stigmatise as lazy or undeserving those who struggle to get a foothold in society?

Jesus’ story is not about wages; it is about grace. The first workers feel that their fair and honest wages have been diminished by others receiving the same. But they have lost sight of the fact that their need was just as great as the others’. What was ‘due’ to them was just as much a ‘favour’ as it was to the later workers. Do we ever slip into thinking that God owes us?

The morning workers negotiated a deal with the owner: the usual daily wage. Perhaps they were pleased not to have been hired on the cheap. All day long they could look forward to a guaranteed wage. The last group hired never asked about wages. They simply put in their hour, and waited to receive whatever the owner would give them. The uncertainty of grace is more than we can cope with. In our insecurity do we attempt to coerce God to give us our due, and by so doing do we risk thwarting the generosity of God’s grace?

Music: Now thank we all our God (R&S 72)

Prayers of Intercession

We pray for all those who struggle to find regular work,
and for those who are overworked in ‘sweatshops’.
We pray for those who struggle to ‘make ends meet’,
because they are low paid.
Loving God, we pray for the coming of your kingdom
when all will be rewarded for their labours with generosity.

We pray for those who are looking for jobs,
for those who work in job centres,
and for all who offer careers advice, help and support.
Loving God, we pray for the coming of your kingdom
when all will be valued for who they are
rather than for what they do.

We pray for those in dangerous jobs:
for the emergency services,
for all whose work brings them close to real dangers every day,
and for all who have been injured through their work,
or whose health has been adversely affected.
Loving God, we pray for the coming of your kingdom
when all will be safe and secure
and will be healed and made whole in you.
Hear our prayers, in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Music: The kingdom of God is justice and joy (R&S 200)

A sending out prayer and blessing

May the generosity of God inspire us,
the justice of God encourage us,
and may the loving kindness of God
enable us to see the bigger picture
and respond likewise with our love,
and God’s blessing be with us always.
Amen.

Prayers and other material adapted from ROOTS.
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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