Sunday  20th September- 15th Sunday after Trinity 


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

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
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.

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First Reading

Jonah 3.10-4.11

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord!  Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.  Please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there.  He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.  The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.

But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.   When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die.  He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’  And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’  Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

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 Gospel

Matthew 20.1-16

Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘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 market-place; 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.’

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 Post Communion Prayer

Keep, O Lord, your Church, with your perpetual mercy;
and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall,
keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful,
and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Reflection – Trinity 15

As so often, the main actor in today’s parable does not behave true to life. No normal householder would pay the same wages to those who worked twelve hours and to those who worked one. If trades unions functioned in his society, he wouldn’t get away with it.

In Palestine at the time of Jesus, casual labourers were in an insecure position.  There was lots of unemployment and no unemployment benefit.  One denarius was the going rate for a day’s basic work and it would just about support a man and his family for a day. The usual agreement was that they be paid each evening. To be unable to earn it was to risk real hunger for you and your family that day or the next.

What we see at the beginning of the parable is a landowner acting conventionally and also justly. Those workers expect and get one denarius so why do they complain? They end up unhappy, losing much of the satisfaction that could have been derived from an honest day’s work justly rewarded.

The reason is linked to the landowner employing other people for less time, and given them the same sum.  The first ones think they should be paid more. But it is not the mere fact of the landowner doing this that was the problem. It was the perspective and attitude they form in regard to it.  They chose to compare themselves with those who have done less, are envious of them and think they deserve more, resent it and go away with less joy than those who worked less.  They could – and should – have seen the landowner’s initiative as a generous strategy to ensure that more people got what they needed to live on. At the heart of justice is giving each person their due. Seen properly, there is no real question of the landowner being unjust to those employed all day. Rather he has been just to the others, indeed more than just: he has been generous or merciful. They could have rejoiced in that, and been happier during the evening.

The parable has implications for how we view employment policies, salaries and for what sort of culture of work really promotes human dignity in our societies. However, Jesus is also addressing the fundamental issue of justice and mercy in our relationship with God, and that of others with God, and joy we find in it.  The parable is about receiving, co-operating with, and rejoicing in the graces necessary for our eternal salvation.

To believe in Jesus and to love him by keeping his commands and by generous service of God and neighbour is to work for the Lord. There is – like secular work – great dignity and consolations in it here and now, and in the future it is rewarded. Its eternal reward at the end of life is the vision and life of God. God wants as many people to receive this gift, and so in this world, like the landowner who frequently goes to the market to find labourers, he ceaselessly, generously and mercifully calls us back to him.

Today’s parable invites us to recognise that what we have received from God, especially grace, is a gift. God does not need us, but is both just and generous to us. We are challenged not to commit the sin of envy of what others’ have, be it talents, money or leisure, and, added to that, resent God himself for his distribution of mercy and gifts, so poisoning our own relationship with God and reducing our love for God and neighbour. We are called to rejoice in the awesome scale of God’s goodness when we see God extend his gifts and mercy to others. To do so is to love. Not to do is to let our love grow cold. So let us rejoice now in the goodness and mercy of God to us, trust in it, and also long, and even work, to see it extended to others.

Amen