SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 24TH SEPTEMBER 2023

OPENING SENTENCE-

The Lord is near to all who call on him.

HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God

to whom all hearts be open

all desires known

and from whom no secrets are hidden;

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you

and worthily magnify your holy name

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.   Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.

There is no room for fear in love.

We love because God loved us first.

Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you

and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ

that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,

and in what we have failed to do.

We are truly sorry.

Forgive us our sins,

and deliver us from the power of evil,

for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

May the God of love and power

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

GLORIA sung by Sue St Joseph

COLLECT

O Lord,

let your constant compassion

cleanse and strengthen your Church:

and since, without you,

we cannot continue in safety,

may we ever be governed by your grace:

through Jesus Christ, our Lord

who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, world without end.  Amen

FIRST READING EXODUS 16: 2-15 read by Margaret Morton

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 pots of meat 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 toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses, “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.”

SECOND READING Philippians 1:21-30 read by Kay Solaja

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me, yet I cannot say which I will choose. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 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, so that, by my presence again with you, your boast might abound in Christ Jesus because of me.

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 and in no way frightened by those opposing you. For them, this is evidence of their destruction but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ but of suffering for him as well, since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING MATTHEW 20:1-16 read by Reverend Ann Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew chapter 20 beginning at verse 1

Glory to Christ our Saviour.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? “So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord.

SERMON

Redundancies have made the news a lot this year already, with many big companies laying off staff to mitigate higher costs including Amazon, Wilko, Meta and Twitter, with further redundancies possible in Boots and other retail stores

Due to Brexit and the pandemic, there has been a labour shortage, which made finding the right staff difficult for small businesses. Recruitment was seen as one of the biggest issues last year.  But this year with inflation still high and increasing business costs, 2023 appears to become the year of redundancies. Economics is at the heart of this decision- making. Today our Gospel Reading focuses too on economics; a different kind of economics-heavenly economics!

The Gospel story opens with earthly economics. It points out that many are out of work and seeking employment. Not only are they seeking employment, but they are desperate for work. They are like many in Dumfries today worrying about how they will pay the bills and make ends meet. They are anxious about where they will find the where-with-all to feed the family; how will they keep a roof over their heads and how will they stay out of debt.

Jesus’ surprise dealings with the unemployed farmers in Scripture reveals heavenly economics, which is quite different from our earthly economics. Heavenly economics is based solely on generosity and grace.

It was the harvest time of the year. At 7 .00am a wealthy landowner went to the Town Square to hire labourers. Imagine first the scene with the workers- it’s at a crossroads on the edge of a town. Men are gathered at the side of the road. Some of them are lying down under the trees to escape the blazing sun. But most are standing in the open. What are they doing there?  They are waiting; waiting for some landowner to come along and hire them for the day. Some have been there since sunrise. Some had even been there overnight. They desperately wanted to work.

They are totally exposed. They are on display. Many eyes scan them-indifferent eyes, curious eyes, and hostile eyes! Their value depends on what people want from them. They have no value in themselves. They will settle for the minimum wage. It is already eleven o’ clock in the morning and a look of dejection is beginning to settle on their furrowed faces. The day is wearing on and hope is fading fast. Then, about noon, the wealthy landowner came back into town and hired more workers. Still, some were left-they wanted to work but nobody had hired them- they felt rejected, useless, hopeless, and they knew that would probably go home empty-handed. They would disappoint their family-there would be little food for folks, if any, that night!

Despair sets in. The idea that the wealthy landowner would take these men on at the eleventh hour was unthinkable. Yet this is exactly what the owner of the vineyard did. Toward the end of the day, he still needed more men. Perhaps this was a harvest of grapes that had to be brought in before the rains began. So, at 5.00pm the landowner went back into town and hired more labourers.

The trouble began at quitting time. The workers who were hired at five o’clock and worked for only one hour in the cool of the evening were paid one silver coin. The workers who had worked all day in the hot sun looked on in amazement. They began to think that if these workers, who had worked only one hour got that much then certainly they would receive more, after all they worked all day. They were in for a disappointment. In fact, they were outraged for they received the same amount as those who worked only one hour, one silver coin. How dare the landowner pay them the same amount as those who had worked fewer hours! They felt cheated. It wasn’t fair!

It wasn’t fair! But heavenly economics are different- they are not necessarily about what is fair but about what is right and helpful. Jesus did what was right and helpful. The workers in the vineyard expressed their outrage to the owner of the vineyard. “These last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” They really laid it on thick.

Their reaction took the landowner somewhat by surprise. In his mind he had done nothing wrong. He promised them one day’s wages for one day’s work. He paid them what he had promised. “Friend,” the landowner replied to one of the disgruntled workers, “I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” It was true, of course. They got paid what was promised. The landowner did not cheat them in any way. He did no wrong. Then he asks them an interesting question, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” Can I not be generous? Jesus knew how much money was needed to feed a family and so he gave generously. With this story Jesus turns our whole economic and value systems upside down. This story highlights God’s generosity and grace.

God’s grace is gift. This parable reminds us that no matter how hard we try, we never deserve God’s grace – it is a free gift. It doesn’t matter how long or hard we work. It doesn’t matter how pious our demeanour. We cannot earn God’s love and acceptance. It is poured out freely on us all.  Many of us wish it were not so. We might as well face it. Many of us who have served Christ for a number of years would like some kind of bonus. It doesn’t seem fair, that people can waltz in at the last minute and claim the same benefits as those who have laboured for decades? It’s not fair!

God is fair! His grace is a gift- a pure unmerited gift! This comes through clearly in the following story-A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.” Okay, ” the man says, “I was married to the same women for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.” That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points.” Three points?” He says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.” Terrific!” say’s St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.” “One point? Well I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.” Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says. “Two points!” The man cries. “At this rate the only way to get into heaven is by the grace of God!” St. Peter smiled. “There’s your 100 points! Come on in!”

Grace and generosity are at the heart of heavenly economics. The key to understanding this parable is contained in the phrase, ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ The story is not about fairness and justice. It’s about generosity, but not ordinary generosity. It’s about a generosity unlike anything we have ever known. It’s about the generosity of God.

The generosity of God is a great comfort to us but also a great challenge because we are called to imitate God. As a Christian, grace and generosity should be at the heart of our economics!

We see this grace and generosity at work in the following story. Earlier this year on the news there was a story about an African-American man whose house had been newly painted. Within days someone had spray-painted graffiti all over it. Who would have done something like this in his neighbourhood, he wondered? He was angry and rightly so. At first he thought it was racially motivated. Someone did not like him living in their neighbourhood. He asked around hoping to find out who had spoiled his house. He found that the graffiti was painted by an eleven-year-old boy. It was nothing more than a childhood prank. What would you do if you discovered your newly-painted house covered with graffiti? Suppose the culprit was an eleven-year-old boy? Would the police be called? Would you at least want to talk to the boy’s parents? Would there be a lawsuit ” after all somebody would have to pay for the damage? What would you do in that situation? The man who was wronged could have made a big issue out of it. Instead, he decided to get to know the boy better. He was unsure of what would happen, but he was willing to try.

Thus, a black man and a young white boy soon became friends. Instead of taking the boy and his parents to court, he decided to teach the boy about computers. The news showed the young boy sitting at the computer in the man’s house he had earlier spray-painted. The reporter asked him about the graffiti. The boy told the reporter that he was sorry for what he had done. He did not know why he had done it. “Mr. Stephens and I are friends now,” he told the reporter. “He has taught me computers.” That is somewhat of a surprise ending, isn’t it? You might have expected to see the young boy scrubbing the graffiti off the man’s house or giving the house a new coat of paint. You might have expected his parents to ground him for a month for his offense. But you would have never expected to see him in the man’s den working on his computer. That is God’s grace and generosity at work.

God’s generosity gives and gives and gives and gives-we are to give and give too. Giving in dozens of ways! We have all valued the generosity of someone’s time, the gift that is involved when someone listens intently, the phone call to check how things are, e-mail, cards, notes of encouragement and support, the loan of books- the television ad gives us the nudge- ‘I saw this and thought of you.’  Being generous in so many varied ways is practising heavenly economics. After all, all we have is gift!

It is a gift given generously to us from God. God is generous and gracious! Our God is the God of heavenly economics – the heavenly economics of grace and generosity-may we follow in his ways and mirror in our lives his grace and generosity! Amen.

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty                                                                                                                  maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one substance with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven;

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father.

With the Father and the Son,

he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism

for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Heavenly Father as you taught us,

through Jesus, we come to you in prayer.

Generous God, protect us from the danger of greed,

of being self- centred and egoistical.

Help us to appreciate more the gifts we have,

and to share willingly and generously with others.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, we pray for all troubled

by their economic state

for farmers anxious about crops,

for traders anxious about market fluctuations

for those who feel shut out from access to wealth

and struggle to make ends meet.

In all things teach us to celebrate the riches of your abundant love.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, we pray for all victims of abuse and tyranny,

for all who suffer long term effects,

of torture, war, disease and mental torment.

We pray for the grace to forgive

and for healing of body, mind and spirit.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, we pray for the victims of disasters

famines, earthquakes and plagues,

for all who are crying

and those who have no tears left.

We pray for comfort and renewed strength

and also for considerate and trusting friends,

who can be an encouragement and support.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, your compassion extends throughout creation

Hear our prayer for all in any kind of need

We name those known to us in the quiet of our hearts

Sustain them in their troubles and restore their hope in you.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, you share with us

the beauty of your creation. 

As climate change is destroying our planet,

grant us the determination and wisdom

to be better stewards of the beauty

that you have entrusted to us.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, you made us in your image

we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Help us to celebrate our uniqueness

and to use our God given gifts for your glory.

God of love,

we put our trust in you.

Generous God, in you we live

and move and have our being,

Thank you for all the gifts

you pour out to us each day of our lives,

Keep us asking, and keep us seeking you.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name, 

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those

who sin against us.

Do not bring us to the time of trial

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

HYMN

BLESSING

The peace of God,

which passes all understanding,

keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,

and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord:

and the blessing of God the Father,

the Son and Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.  Amen

DISMISSAL

Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ. Amen

Welcome

St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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Contemporary Service

The Contemporary Service is at 6pm, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, followed by refreshments in the hall.

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