20th September Pew Sheet - Wyre Forest West Group of Parishes


20th September Pew Sheet


Bible Readings for today – 15th Sunday after Trinity


Exodus 16.2-15, Psalm 105.1-6,37-45, Philippians 1.21-30, Matthew 20.1-16


Collect for this week


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.


Requests for Prayer


Please continue to pray for all those who are ill, especially Annie Round, Paul Mills, Sylvia Jenkins, Susan Godwin, Edna Mills, Mary McGrath, Pearl Green, Margaret Wright, Polly, Maureen Boswell, Sylvia Perkins, Peter Cotterill and Gladys Bradley. We pray for all those suffering with, and affected by, Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We give thanks for the improvement in health for Lucy Fischer.


Pray for the family and friends of Freddie Kemp, for all those who have recently died, and for all those who mourn.

 


Dear Friends,


Although further restrictions have been introduced so that people may meet socially in groups larger than six, you will be pleased to hear that this doesn’t apply to worship in our churches where the rules remained the same.


We are classed as having coronavirus protocols in place which means that we stay socially distanced from each other, you are required to sanitize your hands as you enter and leave our services, you need (unless you have an exemption) to wear a face covering whilst inside our churches, and we request that you leave the building as soon as the service finishes.


I know that this is all very difficult to maintain, and seems very unfriendly, but we are trying to keep the most vulnerable in our communities safe. Hopefully if we can all stick to these rules for at least the next few weeks, our church buildings can remain open and we can look forward to more services around Christmas time in particular.


If you, or anyone you know, is finding things difficult at this time then do please let me know. We are here to help practically and spiritually whenever we can.


With All my Blessings Rev Sallie

 

 

Intercessions


As those called by God our Father to work for his kingdom, we come to pray for the Church and the world, saying:


Master, receive our prayers; strengthen us to work for you.


We pray for the work of your Church throughout the world, where there is poverty and hardship, where there is despair and fear. May all Christians, all who believe in you, strive together for the good of the whole world, and bring closer your reign of justice and peace.


Master, receive our prayers; strengthen us to work for you.


We pray for the work of reconciliation and relief of suffering which continues in the face of evil and destruction. May all aid workers and carers be strengthened by your Spirit as they counter hostility and suspicion with your love.


Master, receive our prayers; strengthen us to work for you.


We pray for the work of governments and leaders here and throughout the world as they strive to keep everyone safe from this virus, caring for all those in need, and seeking a better life for all. May all politicians and community leaders acknowledge your ultimate authority and act justly in the interests of all.


Master, receive our prayers; strengthen us to work for you.


We pray for those who matter most to us, our families and friends, and those whose concerns touch our hearts. We remember those are ill or infirm, anxious or grieving. May they feel your healing touch and the peace of your abiding presence.


Master, receive our prayers; strengthen us to work for you.


We pray for ourselves, at work and rest, in thinking and speaking, and ask that your Holy Spirit will guide us into your ways and truth. May your love and joy be seen in all we do.


Master, receive our prayers; strengthen us to work for you, seeking no reward apart from knowing we do your will, for the sake of Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 And now some thoughts on today’s gospel reading from St Matthew: -


You may have seen in the news over the last couple of days but one of the founders of Admiral car insurance is about to retire and has decided to give a retirement gift to each of their employees. 10,500 employees, in Wales and the rest of the world will share around £10 million. Each full-time employee will receive £1,000 and any part time employees will receive £500. There is no mention of it depending on how long you’ve worked for the company or whether you’ve achieved your annual targets, just a straight £ 1,000 or £500. I wonder if there are any of those employees who will respond as the labourers in the parable which we have heard Jesus tell, in this morning’s gospel reading. You can imagine what might be said ‘Well I’ve worked for them much longer than you. Why should you get the same as me?’ ‘I’ve worked harder than you and well exceeded my targets every year whilst you’ve only just reached yours.’ Instead of enjoying the generosity of their boss I’m sure that some will be grumpy about the unfairness of the gift.


Both the Old Testament reading for today and the Gospel reading give us some useful teaching on being grumpy and sulking, something most of us do from time to time. What is it that makes us sulk usually? I’m sure that we’ve all got something that usually sets us off but it’s usually when we feel hard done by, as if we have been unfairly treated and been given a raw deal.


Jonah is my favourite grumpy person in the Bible and in the Lion Storyteller Bible he is called Jonah the Groaner, as he groans all the way through his story. First because he didn’t want to do what God wanted and then when he did, and he managed to persuade the inhabitants of Nineveh to change their evil ways, God let them off the destruction that he had promised. What did Jonah do? – he moaned about God forgiving his enemies. He still wanted God to destroy them for what they had done previously. So, what did he do – he sulked. Just like the workman in the story from Matthew.


This story was told by Jesus in response to a question from Peter. A rich man had come and asked Jesus “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus explained that he must keep the law and sell all that he had and give it to the poor and then follow Him. When the young man walks away sorrowful because he was very wealthy, so presumably didn’t want to lose his wealth, Jesus concludes by saying: It will be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The disciples had watched the discussion with interest because this was exactly what they had done. Peter as usual to the point, asks." What then shall we have?” In other words, what’s in this for us Lord. How do we stand to profit? Where’s our payoff?


In the parable we hear the labourers are all being paid the same by the wealthy, generous landowner regardless of how long they had been working. This enraged the all-day workers. But the landowner replied, "Do you begrudge me my generosity?" Am I not allowed to do what I please with what belongs to me? This story told by Jesus must have fallen like a big thud upon the ears of its listeners. Peter had asked Jesus a serious question and in reply he gets a story that on the surface sounds quite ludicrous. A landowner that pays equal wages for men who do not work equal hours. Why, that’s not fair? Who would work all day if you could simply wait till the last hour and still collect a day’s pay? The fact is that deep within us we have a kind of sympathy for those grumbling labourers. The story that Jesus told turns our whole economic system upside down.


Peter must have been particularly offended by the story because it is obvious who he identifies with. He sees himself as that labourer who was chosen early in the morning and worked all day. He doesn’t comprehend why these Johnny-Come-Latelys should have preferential treatment. Now, don’t get Peter wrong, he is not opposed to favours being given, but he believes that if anyone should receive them it should be those who have worked in the fields all day, people just like himself.


By telling this story Jesus is telling Peter that he will get no more reward from his discipleship than anyone else. The person who comes late is just as important as the one who comes early. There is no such thing as an ecclesiastical hierarchy. The bishops need, and will be given, forgiveness just as much as the newest Christian.


But yet, that just doesn’t seem fair. It goes against the mentality that seems to dominate our lives. We have always been taught that you only get out of something directly in proportion to that which you put in it. Yet, that is not what happened in Jesus’ story. In our way of thinking, the labourers who came to the field late got something for nothing. This parable challenges us to look at the Kingdom of God, or the church, differently from our normal ideas of fair play, but that is difficult for us to do. What do you think would happen if a person joined the church this morning and immediately I suggested to you that they should become Churchwarden. What do you think the reaction would be? Well, I think I know what the reaction would be. You would protest as loudly as Peter is protesting to Jesus.


There were once two boys Jeff and Billy squabbling over the size of the slices of pie that their mom had given them. “They aren’t the same,” Jeff complains. So, mom tries again, evening-up the slices but still Jeff is upset. “They still aren’t the same!” he whines. This time mom uses a ruler and absolutely proves that both slices of pie are the exact same size. “But Mom,” Jeff complains, “I want mine to be just like Billy’s . . . only bigger!”


You see, we live in a world of seniority and levels of hierarchy. It goes against our grain when we hear Jesus say, "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." Certainly, this was foreign to the Jewish mentality, for they were God’s chosen people. They were the labourers who had been in the field and worked hard all day long.


Of course, their real problem, and in turn our problem, is that we really do not comprehend the nature of God’s unmerited grace. We sing songs like “Amazing Grace,” but the truth is that we are usually uncomfortable with the idea of last minute, death bed conversions. We feel that these people have got the best of both worlds. It doesn’t seem fair.


A Sunday school teacher was trying to explain to a group the meaning of grace but wasn’t getting very far. She tried all sorts of definitions, but she just wasn’t connecting, she wasn’t getting through to them. They didn't have the foggiest idea what she was talking about. So she took a deep breath and tried again: "Look, grace is the break you get when you don't deserve it. That's the simple explanation. But you won't really understand it till you experience it."


God’s grace is not based upon what is fair, but rather what helps. It wasn’t fair that the labourers who only worked for an hour received a full day’s wages but look who they were. All day they had been in the town square and no one had chosen them for employment. They were the rejects. Do you ever remember being rejected? Maybe at school. Do you remember feeling uncomfortable when sides were chosen for teams, because invariably there were a couple of kids who got left out. They were always the last ones to be selected, and you could see the hurt on their faces. The landowner in our story asks them, ‘Why are you standing idle?’ and their response is ‘because no one has hired us.’ They were the rejects, the bottom of the barrel.

If we go back to the beginning of the parable the landowner says to those who he hired at the beginning of the day, ‘I will pay you what is right.’ What he paid to the workers, who were in the fields for only one hour, was not correct based upon the minimum hourly wage scale, but it was right because of the desperateness of their condition – it was what they needed to live. God’s grace isn’t based upon fairness; it is based upon what is right and what helps. If there is any sort of special payoff for being selected early to labour in the Lord’s field, it is simply the inner satisfaction that we receive for working for God, but we are so much like those all-day labourers. Notice how they worded it: we carried the burden in the heat of the day. Isn’t that precisely so often how we look upon service in the church: Not a joy, not a privilege but a burden to carry in the heat of the day?


We still don’t think that the whole thing is fair, and by our standards it certainly isn’t, but there is something else that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that Jesus, a sinless man, went to the cross for your sins and for mine. Yet, that is precisely what happened. We live in a world of reckonings and accounts, of debts owed and debts paid. We live in a world of boundaries and schedules, spreadsheets, and bookkeeping, and of hourly wages. The Kingdom of God is on another dimension that turns our world upside down. When Jesus chose to go to the cross for you and for me he didn’t first ask the questions that we would ask: do we deserve it and can we repay it. Because the answer to both questions is no.


The economics of the Kingdom of God are quite unlike the economics of the world and, like Peter, we bitterly complain about the unfairness of it all. We miss the point that if God had our fairness mentality, and went strictly by what is fair, then salvation would be out of the grasp of us all.


There is an old rabbinic parable about a farmer who had two sons. As soon as they were old enough to walk, he took them to the fields, and taught them everything that he knew about growing crops and raising animals. When he got too old to work, the two boys took over running the farm and when the father died, they found that they enjoyed working together and so decided to keep their partnership. Each brother contributed what he could and during every harvest season, they would divide equally what they had produced together. Across the years the elder brother never married but the younger did marry and had eight wonderful children. Some years later when they were having a wonderful harvest, the older brother thought to himself one night, "My brother has ten mouths to feed. I have only one. He really needs more of this harvest than I do, but I know he is much too fair to renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he is already asleep, I'll take some of what I have put in my barn and I'll slip it over into his barn to help him feed his children.


At the very time he was having these thoughts, the younger brother was thinking to himself, "God has given me these wonderful children but my brother hasn't been so fortunate. He really needs more of this harvest for his old age, but I know him. He's much too fair. He'll never renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he's asleep, I'll take some of what I've put in my barn and slip it over into his barn." And so, one night when the moon was full, as you may have already anticipated, the two brothers came face to face, each on a mission of generosity. The old rabbi said that there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but a gentle rain began to fall. You know what it was? God, weeping for joy because two of his children had gotten the point. Two of his children had come to realize that generosity is the deepest characteristic of the holy, and because we are made in God's image, our being generous is the secret to our joy as well.


Life is not fair, thank God! It's not fair because it's rooted in God’s grace. Amen.