— Transcript of Service —
Welcome to morning worship for this fifteenth Sunday after trinity. This morning we are using a Celtic Liturgy from the IONA community published by Wild Goose Publications. The theme of the service is the unexpected nature of God’s love. I have chosen music from an amazing variety of musicians to reflect this theme and the nature of the service. You can follow the liturgy in the text on the blog. Thank you to June Dodkin from Tinwell and Sara Mann for taking part in this service.
Thanks be to you, O God, that we have risen this day
to the rising of this life itself.
The purpose of God be between us and each purpose,
All the hand of God between us and each hand;
the pain of Christ between us and each pain,
the love of Christ between us and each love.
O God, you brought us to the light of this new day;
bring us to the guiding light of eternity.
Hymn: Of the Father’s love begotten
God’s love in sending his son.
Played and sung by The ChurchFolk Project based in Illinois
Call to prayer
We gather in God’s name;
we claim Christ’s promised presence.
My sisters and brothers,
not out of dread and fear,
but believing in the understanding and forgiveness of God,
let us rid ourselves of what we need to carry no longer.
Prayer of confession and restoration
Eternal Maker of the endless heavens,
lowly Christ, befriender of the changing earth,
Holy Spirit, wind over the flowing waters,
in earth, sea and sky
you are ever present.
O hidden mystery,
sun behind all suns,
soul within all souls,
in everything we touch,
in everyone we meet
you are there,
and we give you thanks.
But where we have not touched but trampled you in creation,
where we have not honoured but avoided you in one another,
where we have not received but rejected your goodness, forgive us,
and hear our plea for your pardon.
This plea is expressed in this video
Kyrie Eleison (Look around you can you see)
by Jodi Page-Clark. Sung by Richard Dormandy
Kyrie Eleison by Jodi Page-Clark. Sung by Richard Dormandy
Know that God is good,
and that to those who are truly sorry
God forgives what is past
and enables us to begin again.
Once we were no people,
now we are God’s people.
Once we were beyond God’s mercy;
now that mercy has been given to us.
So let us live
as those who treasure God’s costly generosity,
by safeguarding God’s earth,
delighting in its people,
and loving our Maker
to whom be glory for ever.
Thanks be to God.
Listen for God’s word coming to us in Holy Scripture
(read by June Dodkin)
Reading: Philippians 1:21-end
21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 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, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27 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, 28 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. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
God be in our listening, God in our understanding.
ANTHEM. If ye love me – Thomas Tallis
Our response to God’s love
Sung by The King Singers
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; 4 and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 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?” 7 They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” 8 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.” 9 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.’
This is the Gospel of Christ.
Amen. Thanks be to God.
Matthew 20:1-16 God’s way is love
“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)
She’s got more sweets than I have- it’s not fair! He gets more pocket money than me- it’s not fair! She’s got a better bike- it’s not fair! He’s got his own phone! It’s not fair!
It’s not fair – every mum and dad, every gran and grandad has heard that, usually several times a day. We’re not long in this world before we decide how it should be organised, it should be fair, and of course, being fair means being fair to me – number one.
But it doesn’t stop with being a child. At the moment, in the media, there is a lot of talk about the Covid regulations. They’re not fair, because they’re different in the different countries of the UK. They’re not fair because they impinge on the freedom of the individual or they’re not fair because the young are expected to keep those rules for the sake of the old.
Then we get to politics where it seems like nothing is fair. It’s not fair if restaurants are supported and theatres aren’t. It’s not fair if tenants are supported and landlords aren’t – or the other way around. It’s not fair if Amazon pays minimal amount of tax compared to its volume of business. It’s certainly not fair if an algorithm dictates your exam results based on where you live and which school you went to. That’s one injustice that got rectified but ‘it’s not fair’ is the cry of the politician, the activist, the media.
As well as the labourers in the vineyard in the gospel story. Some work all day, some work half a day, some work for only an hour at the end of the day. But they all get paid the same. ‘It’s not fair’ protest the hard workers who have toiled all day long under the burning sun, and they’re right. It’s not fair. A good union would have a field day sticking up for their rights. Equal pay for equal labour, that’s what they’d demand from the vineyard owner who employed them. Being fair is about getting what you deserve, being fair is about being rewarded on hard work and merit.
But God doesn’t do fair, God does love. That is the point of the parable. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s kingdom is not like the United Kingdom, God’s kingdom is founded on grace. Grace is God’s goodness towards us. You don’t earn grace, you receive it. Grace is unmerited favour. It is the knowledge that you are loved and accepted by God and that your sins are forgiven in Christ.
This is the reward and it is not worked for – it is given. It doesn’t matter whether a man or woman turns to God when they are a child of twenty, or thirty or forty or sixty or eighty. It doesn’t make any difference whether a person has believed and served God faithfully all their lives or got into all kinds of trouble with relationships, the law, money, or drugs and then finally turned their heart to God. There is no tally kept, no chart of goodness and faithfulness clocked up. Grace is for all. The faithful and hardworking receive the same as the Johnny-come-lately’s.
It’s not fair. Its love. God’s generous and overwhelming love for each one of us. For who we are, not what we’ve done. The vineyard owner made an agreement with the labourers, a wage. God made a covenant with us when we responded to Jesus’ call and agreed to follow him, the covenant of grace.
Some people will be longstanding Christians and will have given many years of time and commitment and money to God and the church. Like those early morning labourers.
Other people may relate to those mid-day labourers. Something in midlife leads them to reflect, they have encounter with Jesus and begin to serve and worship God, but the grace is just the same.
Then there’s those labourers who were hanging out in the square, the drop out characters, almost unemployable, but they are still hired. We know those people, the ones on the margins, the lonely, the odd, the addicted. This is love – at the end of the day. Without the intervention of the vineyard owner they would have starved. They were rescued and the grace is freely given.
Grace is the truth that you’re loved and valued by God. The reality of that truth is for each one of us to discover. Grace means that we are accepted, and that there is a place where we can flourish. Grace means that you and I belong to God. Grace means that however much we fail God still gives us another chance. Grace is redemptive, wrong is forgiven and there is another chance.
There are many stories in our Christian inheritance of people who have found God when they are in deep trouble and how their lives have been transformed. One that I came across the other day is the testimony of Steph Macleod. I have put a link to the YouTube video on the blog below. I have come across his story and his music through searching YouTube for the music for these services. He now leads a group of Scottish musicians called Celtic Worship and I have included one of his songs at the end of this service.
To make the point again – God doesn’t do fair, God does love. God doesn’t do fair, God does grace. This can look profoundly unfair – remember the brother of the prodigal son in another of Jesus’ stories. The elder brother seriously resented the way his errant younger brother was treated when he finally returned home having wasted his inheritance – how he was welcomed with a hug and a party. Yet the words of the father to the older son are
‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ (Luke 15:31-32)
This is the same protest as the labourers who had worked all day. Yet God’s love is the same for all. There is no distinguishing. If we have served and worshipped God all our lives then God says to us – all that I have is yours. It is up to us to be thankful – who are we to criticise God for his generous love?
Let us pray
Thank you, Lord, for your grace which lifts each one of us, whoever we are, into the knowledge and freedom of your love. Through love and acceptance may we lead others to that place of grace.
Affirmation of faith
We believe in God,
Who conceived all that is created,
God, who fathers and mothers all people.
We believe in Jesus Christ
God’s firstborn and only Lord of the earth.
He came from both heaven
and the womb of the virgin Mary;
he lived in solidarity with humankind,
healing and restoring;
he was denied and betrayed by his friends;
and was done to death by the state.
He descended to the place of oblivion,
rose to life again on the third day,
and ascended to heaven
where he sits at God’s right hand.
This same Jesus will come again in glory
to judge the living and dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
whose dynamic presence can make all things new.
And we believe in the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and the life everlasting.
Intercessions led by Sara and Craig Mann
PSALM The Lord is my shepherd (Howard Goodall)
Sung by The Smith Ensemble
Angels told it to frightened shepherds,
Jesus said it to dismayed disciples.
And now these words which come from heaven
are given to reconcile us to God and to each other.
Peace be with you.
Let us hold one another in the peace of Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
Listen to this young Welsh choir boy singing, in German, this version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Arvo Pärt’s Vater Unser – Cai Thomas (13y) and Julien Brocal
The Collect for the Fifteen Sunday after Trinity
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.
Now go in peace,
do what God wills,
follow where Christ calls,
pray for the gifts of the Spirit;
and may the blessing of God
the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer
rest on and remain with you
now and always.
Steph Macleod who wrote our final song is a man who had a profound experience of the love of God. Love which transformed his life. I have included the link to a video of his story in the blog. He is a singer songwriter and formed the group Celtic Worship.
SONG: Let there be light
Written and sung by Steph Macleod and interpreted in dance by Becky Dawson
Iona Liturgy Used with permission
website address (www.ionabooks.com).