‘A generous God’ – 20th September 2020 – The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Order of Service

Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in PDF format:

Here is a link to the YouTube channel where the service will live streamed:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv0KDKmAwGyIsE1i07xmiiw


Here you will fine an order of service for this mornings Eucharist in Word format:

20 09 20 Order of Service

The Readings

Exodus 16.2-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’

Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.


Matthew 20.1-16

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 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.’


Scripture Quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

The Sermon
By the Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes, Vicar of St John's Ranmoor.

Every other Wednesday morning, at St John’s, we have a collection for a local foodbank. I really enjoy it because it means I get to meet some of my parishoners in the flesh and can have a socially distanced chat outside the church. I think it also serves a need in many people at St John’s. A need to do something. Many people in my congregation are on good pensions and they know that many in our city are struggling and they want to do something to help. Hopefully, the tins and nappies and packets of loo roll do make a difference. But when I take our contributions to the foodbank in the afternoon, I often reflect that this is a terrible way to address inequality. People from St John’s buy things at the supermarket. They bring them to church. I then take them to the foodbank and the foodbank distributes them to people who apply to them for help. It’s very inefficient. It’s demeaning to those who rely on the Foodbank. And it only meets the needs of those who ask for help. As furlough ends there will be more people needing help in the coming months. And some people have been asking whether we need a universal living wage. A basic income which anyone is entitled to. This might help to protect all those who work in the gig economy and might simplify our benefits system.

It’s an interesting idea. One of the arguments against it is that if you pay everyone the same, regardless of whether they work or not, you remove some of the incentive for people to look for a job. Some might even say it smacks of communism. But it doesn’t seem a very long way from what’s happening in our Gospel reading today. The landowner employs different groups of people at different times of the day and pays them all the usual daily wage. It doesn’t seem very fair but it does mean that more people get enough to live on. These workers don’t have any job security or employment rights and many in the world are in a similar situation.

Jesus often uses money in his parables because people care about money. They listen when money is mentioned. But money tends to be used as a metaphor for something else. So what is this parable really about? Well, one interpretation is that it is about the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews, as we know, have been God’s people since the time of Abraham. They and God have had their ups and downs but they are still his people. Heirs of the covenant. Perhaps they are like the workers who started early in the morning. But then, centuries later, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all sorts of other people start calling themselves his children. These Jonny come latelys were now part of God’s family too. That might have been hard in a religion and culture that placed so much emphasis on family and descent. Matthew, we know, was writing for a Jewish Christian audience, and perhaps there were tensions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And perhaps this parable tried to address them.

Another commentator reminds us that this parable was addressed to the disciples rather than preached to the multitude. They suggest that there were tensions between the disciples themselves. They were not all called at the same time. Matthew, who we celebrate tomorrow, was called after Peter, Andrew, James and John. And maybe there were tensions between the disciples. Perhaps a pecking order was starting to develop. Just before this week’s passage, Peter reminds Jesus how much they have sacrificed to follow him. Jesus says that many who are first will be last and the last will be first. Our place in the kingdom of God is not determined by how long we have been a disciple. And we know that intellectually but how often in churches do we develop pecking orders. You can’t sit there because Mrs so and so has always sat there. Or you can’t have that hymn because Mr so and so doesn’t like it.

Even if this parable is particularly addressed to the disciples, it still has meaning for us. It’s so easy for us as human beings to establish pecking orders but the Gospel constantly subverts them. Putting down the mighty and exalting the humble and meek, filling the hungry and sending the rich empty away. But this parable is not just about pecking orders it’s about grace. It’s about everyone having the same access to God’s grace, regardless of their status, how long they have been a Christian or how hard they work for the kingdom. We are loved and accepted and forgiven by God because that is what God does. It is his free gift.

Our first reading from the Book of Exodus is a good illustration of this. The Israelites have crossed over the Red Sea and are in the wilderness. And they are getting a bit nostalgic about their old life. They sound a bit like the Four Yorkshiremen in the Monty Python sketch. I won’t attempt the accent but it goes something like this:

Who'd have thought thirty year ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?
In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o' tea
A cup o' cold tea
Without milk or sugar
Or tea
In a cracked cup, an' all
Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper:
The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth
But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

The Israelites seem to have forgotten that they were abused and exploited by the Egyptians. At least there was bread to eat, they said. And now this idiot Moses had brought them to the middle of nowhere and they were probably going to die of starvation. Like children on a long car journey, they kept saying they were hungry and asking, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

Moses is exasperated and complains to God. And God sends manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat. And the important thing about the manna is that there is enough for everyone. Not too much and not too little. The Israelites are not to hoard it because if they do the manna will become infested with worms and rot. And grace is like that too. It is a gift from heaven. It comes freely and unearned. And there is enough for everyone. Not too much and not too little. Like the daily wage paid to the workers in the vineyard, everyone gets enough.

We may struggle to grasp that sometimes as human beings. But this is God’s work. He does what he chooses with what belongs to him. He chooses to be generous. And we need to learn to accept that free gift of grace and to be generous with others. So that all may have enough. Amen.


The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica.

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

Lord God, we give you thanks and praise that we are again able to meet together here at St Mary’s Walkley to worship you, joined via Zoom by those unable to attend in person. Strengthen our faith in these difficult times and make us always ready to reach out to those in need as taught by our Lord Jesus.
Lord in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

We bring before you the needs of the world, where so many are suffering, not just from the effects of the Covid pandemic, but also from acute poverty, hunger, lack of medical care, oppression and war. We pray for all countries in need of wise leadership and those in a position to provide it. Bless the work of the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the European Union, and all the voluntary organisations working to bring emergency aid. Inspire all nations and their leaders to look beyond their own boundaries to work with others for the good of all.
Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church worldwide, that all denominations and traditions may work to show your love and care to a suffering world. We pray for our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, our diocesan bishops Pete and Sophie, and all clergy and laypeople working to maintain our mission and worship in these difficult times. We give thanks for our partner churches for their support.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our city and our Walkley Community, especially our schools as teachers and pupils meet again after so many months, with many new conditions to deal with, often, as in St Mary’s School, in buildings where distancing is difficult. We pray also for all the students about to start the new academic year. May they feel welcome and show responsibility in dealing with a very different learning environment from what they could have expected a year ago.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are ill at this time in mind or body, whether from corona virus or other ailments for which treatment is being delayed. We give you thanks for our NHS and care workers, for all their efforts over the last 7 months, often risking their own health or lives. In a moment of quiet we think of those known to us who are in particular need of your healing grace at this time………
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We remember before you all those known to us who have died recently, and all who mourn them, often without the comfort of families and friends around them. We entrust them all to you as we hold their memory in a moment of silence………
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

With Mary and all your saints we commend ourselves and all your creation to your unfailing love, in which we put our trust.
Merciful Father:
Accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.