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Celebrant: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
People: And also with you.
Celebrant: Almighty God,
People: to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Glory to God
Celebrant: Glory to God in the highest,
People: and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Celebrant: Lord, have mercy.
People: Christ, have mercy.
Celebrant: Lord, have mercy
Collect for the Day
Celebrant: Let us pray.
People: Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth, and ourselves in your image. Teach us to discern your hand in all your works and to serve you with reverence and thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: O Worship the King (vs. 1, 2 & 4) #380
(for personal viewing: Rob Charles, All Saints Church, Oystermouth, Swansea)
O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendour and girded with praise.
O tell of his might, O sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space;
his chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Philippians (Chapter 1: 21-30)
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well – since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Reader: The Word of the Lord
People: Thanks be to God.
Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him, and speak of all his marvellous works.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face.
Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
O offspring of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.
He led out his people with silver and gold; in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.
Egypt was glad of their going, because they were afraid of them.
He spread out a cloud for a covering and a fire to give light in the night season.
They asked, and quails appeared, and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.
He opened the rock, and water flowed, so the river ran in the dry places.
For God remembered his holy word and Abraham his servant.
So he led forth his people with gladness, his chosen with shouts of joy.
He gave his people the lands of the nations, and they took the fruit of others’ toil,
That they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Hallelujah!
Hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken (vs. 1, 2 & 4) #388
(for personal viewing: Fountainview Academy)
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou mayest smile at all thy foes.
See! The streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint, when such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.
Savior, if of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name.
Fading is the world’s best pleasure,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasure
none but Zion’s members know.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ
Reader: The Lord be with you
People: And also with you.
Reader: The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
People: Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ
Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers 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 labourers 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. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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.’ 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? 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? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)
Reader: The Gospel of Christ
People: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your continued faithfulness in stewardship. Continue to drop off or mail your offertory envelopes to the church. If you haven’t yet, please consider becoming a pre-authorized giver or making a habit of donating online at the end of each Sunday service.
Lord, we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on these things, open our hearts and our minds to hear you. Amen.
I find when reading the Bible, and perhaps you do as well, that I often use a “lens” used to interpret a particular Scripture passage. This lens is not found in the prescription glasses I wear when reading, although that surely helps, but rather a lens that is a product of my experience and knowledge that shapes an interpretation for example of an Old Testament prophetic account, a Psalm’s melodic narrative, a Gospel parable or a complex letter by Paul to one of his early Christian outposts in the eastern Mediterranean landscape.
Some of you know that I retired in 2016 after a fifteen-year stint as a faculty member in the School of Business, IT & Management’s Human Resources Management Program at Durham College. Prior to this marvelous opportunity to help develop future corporate leaders, I worked for eighteen years as a HR executive in both community-based and institutional health care settings. Therefore, it is sometimes the case that the initial lens I find myself using, particularly in reading the Bible, is through the optics of HR dynamics that I have witnessed over the past thirty-three years.
I have learned that at the root of much of the conflict, anguish and argument seen in a workplace has to do with the issue of fairness. A worker or a group of employees determine that something unfair has happened to them. This incident failed to meet their sense of what they believed they were entitled to – such as a much-longed for promotion or perhaps an hourly premium for covering a last-minute call-in for the night shift. Such a perceived breach of “fairness” usually generates a reaction somewhere along a “disappointment continuum” ranging at one end from a heavy sigh accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders to a complex, protracted and expensive union arbitration process.
This morning, in Matthew’s gospel account entitled the “Laborers in the Vineyard” I must admit that my first unintentional interpretation of this passage was seen through an HR lens so familiar to me over last three decades. I briefly thought to myself “Boy, this is the kind of situation that prompts a call to a union organizer by one or more disappointed labourers due to their perceived unfair treatment by this landowner.” Of course, I then realized that labour unions, as we now understand them, were not formally conceived for another 1,700 years. Another clue for me to reach for another interpretive lens here is in the opening verse in Matthew’s twentieth chapter. It reads, “For the Kingdom of heaven is like ……” All right, so here we see Jesus the master teacher at work. He uses a narrative context familiar to his listeners – that of a landowner who hires several sets of workers with varying “start times” to toil in his vineyard for what is described as “the usual daily wage” and “payment for whatever is right.” So far, all is well and good in Matthew’s narrative, but a figurative storm cloud is about to burst when the manager, employed by the landowner, is instructed to give each group hired at different times that day, payment starting first with the last batch of labourers hired at 5 PM.
In contemporary work settings, pay secrecy is a noble policy that is often compromised by a number of circumstances – union posted wage rates, government regulated, public sector salary disclosures, rumours and personal bragging. In today’s gospel story, the different groups of labourers are gathered at the same time by the vineyard manager – likely in close proximity to one another to receive their daily pay. Those who started their day’s work first, indeed the earliest of all these working groups, witnessed those who started late that afternoon receiving the same daily wage. The “fairness” continuum began to wobble in this story, leading the group of early workers to grumble against the landowner saying “These last worked for only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” This grumbling results in a reply from the landowner “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last that same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So, the last will be first and the first will be last.”
Let’s search for another interpretive lens to help understand what Jesus is getting at in this story. Remember to think back to the opening line in Matthew’s account “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who …” How can we look at this tale as representing God’s kingdom? One way to start is to consider that the landowner portrays God and the various labourers serve as representatives of humankind – including you and me.
After much thought and reading several commentaries on this passage, I concluded that the appropriate lens to use in grappling with this parable, is the attribute of generosity, as suggested by Rev. Wilfrid Harrington, a professor of Scripture at the Dominican House of Studies in Dublin, Ireland. He writes that in this parable, at first sight, it does seem unfair that all the workers were to receive the same wage. But when we understand the motive of the landowner (a.k.a. God) we judge his conduct very differently. Those hired early have a clear contract. They are to be paid in Roman coinage, one denarius, the usual wage for a day’s work (v. 2). For those hired at nine o’clock, noon and three o’clock, the landowner promised only to pay what is right (v. 4). For those hired at five o’clock, there is no mention of money (v. 7). A lesser payment, especially for only a single hour of work, would be inadequate to meet the day-to-day needs of the labourer and his dependents. There is nothing arbitrary in the landowner’s conduct – it is an action of one who is full of compassion. So, too, does God act, for God is all goodness and mercy.
Rev. Richard N. Donovan, a retired American clergyman who served 26 years as a U.S. army chaplain, provides us with further insight into this tale of divine generosity. He writes that when the time comes to pay the labourers at the end of the day the earliest “first-on-the-job” group of labourers arriving workers realize they have received the same payment, without any bonus, as did those who started work after them. They complain, not that they should receive more money than the others, but as Matthew records in v. 11-12, “These last have spent one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” These early risers competed hard in their ancient competitive world, and expected to end up ahead of those who didn’t. They got in line early and worked through the heat of the day, and were upset to find themselves lumped in with the five o’clock late-comers. We can understand their perceived sense of unfairness.
Our reward for faithful discipleship, in Rev. Donovan’s words, is eternal life where there is no scarcity – no need to match our situation against someone else in terms of what we regard as “fair”. There is no need for spiritual competition, because our reward – that of eternal life in God’s Kingdom – will be as good as it could possibly be. That is a hard lesson for many people to grasp in our secular society, but one that should keep us, as Christ’s disciples, striving to be “kingdom thinkers” and avoid being envious of God’s generosity to others. Amen.
The Nicene Creed
Celebrant: Let us confess our faith, as we say,
All: We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Prayers of the People
Leader: Loving Creator God;
Response: Hear and have mercy.
Confession and Absolution
Celebrant: Dear friends in Christ, God is steadfast in love and infinite in mercy; he welcomes sinners and invites them to his table. Let us confess our sins, confident in God’s forgiveness.
Silence is kept.
Celebrant: Most merciful God,
All: we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.
Celebrant: Almighty God have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People: And also with you.
Eucharistic Prayer #3
Celebrant: The Lord be with you
All: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift them to the Lord
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Celebrant: Blessed are you, gracious God, creator of heaven and earth; we give you thanks and praise through Jesus Christ our Lord, who for our sins was lifted high upon the cross, that he might draw the whole world to himself. By his suffering and death, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who put their trust in him. Therefore with all the host of heaven who gather around your throne and the Lamb, we raise our voices to proclaim the glory of your name.
All: Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of
the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Celebrant: We give thanks to you, Lord our God, for the goodness and love you have made known to us in creation; in calling Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Saviour and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, a death he freely accepted, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “ Take, eat: this is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.” Therefore, Father, according to his command,
All: we remember his death, we proclaim his resurrection, we await his coming in glory;
Celebrant: and we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, Lord of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine. We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts, that they may be the sacrament of the body of Christ and his blood of the new covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we, made acceptable in him, may be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In the fullness of time, reconcile all things in Christ, and make them new, and bring us to that city of light where you dwell with all your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation; by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory are yours, almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen
The Lord’s Prayer
Celebrant: And now, as our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,
All: Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Breaking of the Bread
Celebrant: We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.
All: We, being many, are one body, for we all share in the one bread.
Celebrant: The gifts of God for the People of God.
All: Thanks be to God.
All: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. (2x)
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
Prayer after Communion
Ruler of the universe, all creation yearns for its fulfilment in your Son. May we who have shared in holy things grow into maturity in him. This we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Celebrant: Glory to God,
All: whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.
Hymn: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah #565
(for personal viewing: threelegsoman)
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more,
feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
be thou still my strength and shield,
be thou still my strength and shield.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side:
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee.
Leader: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.
Those Assisting with Today’s Worship
Celebrant: The Rev. Geoff Lloyd
Preacher: Gary Gannon
Organist: Adriaan Bakker
Cantors: Pauline Reid (live); Amanda Marsh (recorded)
Prayers of the People: Jacky Bramma
Reader & Psalmist: Joanne Warman
Bell Ringer: Julia Goss
Chancel Guild: Chancel Guild Members
In-Church Videographer: Jeff Schrader
Digital Vergers: Tim Ralph; Arleane Ralph