Didsbury URC – Worshipping Together – 20th September 2020

This week’s service is led by Revd. Dr. Rosalind Selby

(Note: Didsbury URC is beginning to move back to worshipping in the church building. We will be meeting for a short act of worship [using appropriate social distancing and safety measures] on 11th October, and then on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of November and December. Beyond this, another decision will be taken in the light of Government guidelines. Please keep an eye on this website for details.

These services will not be provided specifically for the website after the end of September, but preachers will be asked to allow their material to be made available for the website as soon as possible after Sunday services.

Thank you to everyone who has shared in worshipping together. There will be one more specially-written act of worship next Sunday, 27th September.)

(you could google the hymns if you wanted to join in – if you do this for the first hymn you’ll need to pause after each verse as the prayers continue)

Coming to Worship

God with us

Wherever we are worshipping today.

God with us

In our being together in different ways and in our distancing.

God with us

In our joys and sorrows, anxieties and eagerness, grieving and rejoicing.

God with us

In this time of worship

God, be with us

As we still our hearts and minds and turn to you.

Emmanuel, God is with us.

Prayers and Opening Hymn

God, you fill our places of worship, wherever we worship, our workplace, our homes, our lives

Let us all cry: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Verse 1

God is in his temple

the Almighty Father;

round his footstool let us gather;

serve with adoration

him, the Lord most holy,

who has mercy on the lowly;

let us raise

hymns of praise

for his great salvation:

God is in his temple.

Christ, you are our hope and our salvation, our captain and our guide, our friend and our master who calls us to follow after, and then walks beside us on the way.

Let us all cry: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Verse 2

          Christ comes to his temple:

          we, his word receiving,

          are made happy in believing;

          now from sin delivered,

          he has turned our sadness,

          our deep gloom, to light and gladness;

          let us raise

          hymns of praise,

          for our bonds are severed:

          Christ comes to his temple.

Holy Spirit of the Living God, our inspiration and our empowerer, the givers of all gifts and the bearer of fruit in our lives.

Let us all cry: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Verse 3

          Come and claim your temple,

          gracious Holy Spirit,

          in our hearts your home inherit;

          make in us your dwelling,

          your high work fulfilling,

          into ours your will instilling;

          till we raise

          hymns of praise,

          beyond mortal telling,

          in the eternal temple.

(William T Matson (1833-99) altd)

 We offer to you, our God, who has shown yourself to us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all honour and praise, worship and glory!

And with the prophet (Isaiah 6) we bow before you, knowing ourselves to be unworthy and we confess our failings and the times we have not been the people you asked us to be.

Few moments for quiet reflection

God is merciful and full of loving kindness, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love! If we offer our wrongs to him in sincere sorrow, we can know ourselves to be forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.

 Thanks be to God. Amen.

Let’s share together in the words that Jesus taught us to say as we pray: 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.

 Reading: Matthew 20:1-16

‘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 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.’

Reflection

Years and years and years ago, when I was a lay preacher, I used regularly to visit a little chapel on the edge of the Black Country. It was always the same vestry steward who prayed with me before the service, and they were always the same words: ‘be with your servant, Rosalind, as she leads us to your throne.’ That always felt both an incredibly uplifting prayer, and a very scary one. The reminder that leading worship brings with it the responsibility of enabling a congregation to enter the presence of God and worship at ‘God’s footstool’ … no pressure at all! Just a good job it was also a great prayer and that God answers!

I think that when Jesus begins his parables with his standard phrase, he’s doing something similar. Matthew has “The Kingdom of Heaven is like …”, the other Gospels tend to say, “Kingdom of God”. It’s just that Matthew is respectfully not using the name of ‘God’. In effect, Jesus is saying to his hearers (and us as readers): step into the world of this parable and draw close to God … get to know what things will be like when it’s all about God, and about God’s will for how things should be … then seek to live out that world-to-come in your daily lives.

This is a story about the poorest workers in society. They’re day-labourers, not employed by anyone permanently, and they and their families live from hand to mouth. If they don’t get work today, the family may not eat. The denarius (some translations, here we’re just told it’s the daily wage) was the standard pay for these day workers and it really was subsistence pay. There are too many people around us, today, who live economically precarious existences … this is not a story that only belongs 2,000 years ago. As the realities of how the Covid-19 crisis is hitting businesses pans out, we are likely to have many many more people amongst us whose lives are financially insecure.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to feel for the guys who’ve been labouring all day when they see the late-comers getting the full day’s wage. The ‘spiritual’ (for want of a better word) interpretation of this parable that I’ve heard from my childhood is that God will welcome us into heaven no matter at what age we become Christians.

I’m sorry, but that feels … too easy. Does that make sense? I think there’s something else going on here. I think Jesus’ parables paint the picture of a God of justice. That same God, through his Son Jesus, told us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread” … and here is the answer to that prayer for the poorest and least economically secure amongst us. The wealthy landowner wasn’t being unjust but radically just, and the prayer-answerer. Maybe that’s worth remembering when we’re tempted to feel a rising irritation with people who live on benefits that our taxes have paid for, or about the number of migrants and refugees who make it to this country and need support. Are we the answer to their prayer for daily bread? Remember that the Lord’s prayer does not say ‘give me this day my daily bread.’ We are called upon to pray for everyone: ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ How do we think that prayer is answered if not by that us to whom God gives plenty?

But why couldn’t God have given the all-day-labourers more? I don’t know if I’ve told you this story before – it’s quite true. I used to run a group for the between-agers and young teenagers in my sending church – like a young people’s house group – and one Sunday evening we were looking at this parable. The youngsters were mainly upset for the all-dayers … and then the youngest of the group (just 9 at the time) said the most profound thing I have ever heard said about this parable … God doesn’t give any more because “he’s already given us everything he has.”

I can remember the names both of the vestry steward and the young girl – both of whose words have stayed with me for many years – and I thank God for them, again. May we all be blessed by words of Scripture that stay with us, and by words offered to us by others that give us something profound as part of our ‘daily bread’ as we walk the way of discipleship into the final throne room of God. Amen

 

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

O God, abounding in mercy and steadfast love, we thank you for the privilege of the standard of living we enjoy. Help us never to take this for granted, nor to forget those who, by accident of birth, are not so-privileged.

We thank you for each meal on our table, each drink that’s easily made, each treat we relish – and we pray for the hungriest and for those who, in these times of financial insecurity worry about the future and feeding their families.

We pray wisdom and mercy and courage for governments taking decisions about the proportions of gross national wealth to contribute across the world, and for charities – international, national and local – which are struggling with falling contributions.

We give thanks for the work of foodbanks and other projects aimed at providing food locally, whilst praying that the need for them will come to an end.

We give thanks for schemes to bring the homeless off the streets during the Covid-19 crisis and pray that these weeks and months will be an opportunity for lives to be changed for the future.

We pray for the refugees and migrants who seek the opportunity for more security for themselves and their families, and the opportunity to work – may they find sufficient.

We give thanks for the abundance of the earth, and her providing of plenty. Help us to consider the earth as developed countries have moved to industrialised agriculture. Help us too, to celebrate this plenty by ensuring it is fairly distributed.

We pray for safe and efficient provision of food supplies in places of warfare, in the large refugee camps, in the wake of disasters – particularly remembering Yemen, Beirut, and the Greek island of Lesbos.

 

Let’s take a few moments to pray for those we know we are unwell, grieving, anxious – and to pray for ourselves.

O God, abounding in mercy and steadfast love, hear our prayers, asked in the name of Jesus, who lived to show the way to the Father and to the radical justice of the Father’s kingdom. Amen

That parable was a challenging read wasn’t it? Take a few moments to give thanks for the good and joyful things in your life – which we can all find, even in the hardest times – and give thanks.

Hymn: Give me joy in my heart

Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising,

give me joy in my heart, I pray;

give me joy in my heart, keep me praising,

keep me praising till the break of day.

  Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

  Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna to the King!

 

Give me peace in my heart, keep me loving

give me peace in my heart, I pray

give me peace in my heart, keep me loving

keep me loving till the break of day.                    chorus

 

Give me love in my heart, keep me serving

give me love in my heart, I pray;

give me love in my heart, keep me serving,

keep me serving till the break of day.                  chorus

Traditional

 

Blessing

May the God who created you continue to sustain you.

May the Christ who called you into discipleship walk beside you each day.

And may the Spirit who gifts you, raise you up with encouragement and inspiration and joy.  AMEN