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The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity 2020 (Proper 20)(20 September 2020)
As we come together in worship, we are reminded today that God cares for all people with grace and with love and without favour. Irrespective of our colour race or creed, our health or sickness, our possessions or status, we are all equal in his sight. We are all children of God, He knows all our failures and imperfections and our aspirations for his love. May we know the true meaning of equality in His eyes and recognise ourselves, alongside Christ in others, as we strive to do His bidding.
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
(CWCL) Jonah 3: 10 to 4: 11
Philippians 1: 21-30
Matthew 20: 1-16
Or [1984 Prayer Book page 190]
Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Proper 20A)
It seems to be common practice, at the moment, whenever organizations meet, to talk about what has been learnt during the pandemic restrictions. The Church is no exception to this and I have spent many hours listening to clergy telling us that they have learned to slow down, they have taken more time over their prayers, they have taken a new perspective on life and ministry. All these things I can appreciate, and I am sure that there are many important reflections which everyone could contribute to this debate. For my part, I could add that I have acquired a greater love for the works of Charles Dickens, not least because I have had time to read one or two of his novels. Until now, I had found Dickens’ style difficult, but I have learnt what a consummate story teller he is, how his descriptions of life in London in particular in the 19th century capture the atmosphere so well, and how he can develop his characterization so beautifully over what are extremely long novels. I am just coming to the end of “Dombey and Son”.
All of us need good stories and we shall all have a story of our own to tell after this pandemic has left us. It is true, however, that we all have a story to tell in any event, the story of our lives which is one that we want only Our Lord to hear. Jesus himself was an especially able storyteller. He used stories in his teaching: for his disciples, for the people he met during his ministry, and for us, through the evangelists who recorded so much of what he said. Today, in the Gospel we hear a story which Jesus told about labourers hired by a local landowner to work on his land; it has a message to us, a difficult one to learn, but a message, nevertheless. And we also have a story in the Old Testament Reading, at least part of a story, that of Jonah and the whale. Now that is the sort of story that we all remember from our childhood. I would recommend that you read the whole book of Jonah – it’s not long and it will be rewarding, and it is a story which Jesus told us to read, in Matthew 12.39 and the following verses, when the disciples asked him for a sign: “no sign will be given … except the sign of the prophet Jonah”; through the dying and rising of Jonah we see the death and resurrection of the Lord.
As John Pridmore, in a book I was reading this week, observed, the story of Jonah is one of those stories which should begin “Once upon a time” and should end “and they all lived happily ever after!” Clearly it is not a story which is literally true for even Jonah could not live inside a whale for three days and survive; it is a parable, like so many of Jesus’ own stories: it teaches us an important message, but we must always remember that in the Christian tradition ,the story comes first, the message we gain from it comes later. Behind any Biblical story there will be a whole host of explanations: Church teaching and doctrines, creeds and catechisms, and, more than likely, there will be a whole library of books written on the subject, books which poor theology students will have had to read.
What will happen, I think, when we read of Jonah is that we shall see something of ourselves in what we read. Jonah nearly drowns twice. The first time is when he is thrown into the stormy sea, at his own request, as an offering to appease God; when Jonah is cast into the turbulent waters, the storm ceases and Jonah is devoured by a large fish. God who brought order out of the chaos of the storm, restores order once again, as he will do at the crucifixion: as Jesus hangs dying, the sky turns black and there is an earthquake, which tears the curtain of the Temple in two. Jonah is taken into the heart of the whale just as Jesus will descend into the heart of the earth. Surely, that must be a parable for how so many have felt at various times in our lives when we are shaken by event, especially, perhaps, during the lockdown which has now hit our own county a second time. But Jonah nearly drowns a second time; in his fathomless self-pity: he sinks into an enormous sulk, a pit of depression, which so many of us may recognize as part of the human condition.
Many Christian writers have spoken about the way in which God has pursued them over the years, until they have accepted both faith and the service of the Lord. That is the experience of so many, especially those who find themselves called to full time ministry in the life of the Church. That was clearly the experience of Jonah; he is not really escaping from Nineveh, the violent, corrupt, and debauched city, he is escaping from the Lord, the hound of God, who will find him and us wherever we hide. Why do we want to escape from God? because we want to escape from ourselves. Here again, Jonah presents us with a mirror. God sees us as we really are, and that frightens us; we are frightened because our faith is weak, and we find it difficult to accept that God does not mind us as we are, in fact, he loves us for it. Jonah complains to God, “I knew all along that you were a gracious God…” Jonah cannot bear that God is merciful to the wicked city of Nineveh, that God forgives them; and Jonah does not want to face up to the fact that he wanted revenge, that he would have relished witnessing the destruction of Nineveh. How many of us, I wonder, would be prepared to put our hands on our hearts and say that we have never wanted to see someone else punished for what they have done?
The book of Jonah is interesting for one more fact. It ends with a question: “Should I not take pity on Nineveh?” God asks. He is explaining his mercy. They are silly people, they do not know their right hand from their left, he says, they cannot help themselves. The question, should those who themselves have shown little pity be spared retribution, reveals the tension between the claims of mercy and those of justice. The Warden of my Theological College was fond of saying, “Never ask for justice; you might get it!” Today’s Gospel, the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, asks an equally uncomfortable question: “Are you envious because I am generous?”
The value of stories. Those of us who were brought up with the English Hymnal, rather than Hymns Ancient and Modern, will recognize this Sankey and Moody hymn:
Tell me the old, old story,
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love;
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child,
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.
Tell me the story slowly,
That I may take it in—
That wonderful redemption,
God’s remedy for sin;
Tell me the story often,
For I forget so soon,
The “early dew” of morning
Has passed away at noon.
Tell me the story softly,
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save;
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me.
Tell me the same old story,
When you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory
Is costing me too dear;
And when the Lord’s bright glory
Is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story:
“Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”
Prayers of Intercessions – 20th September 2020 Year A
For the mercy and justice of the Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord.
Loving Father God, give to all Christian people the grace to be faithful labourers in your service. May we expect no reward but the knowledge of doing your will. Help your ministers both lay and ordained to balance the tensions of safety during this crisis with the desire to serve you more actively and minister to your people. Keep us faithful in prayer wherever we are.
Lord in your mercy……………….
Carpenter God, you understood the value and dignity of work. May there be justice wherever people deal with one another as employers or employed. We pray for all those whose work patterns have changed during this crisis or who fear for the future of their employment. Protect people who’s labour is exploited or who work in dangerous or unrewarding jobs.
Lord in your mercy…………………
Compassionate God, when your Son Jesus walked with us on earth he spread his healing power. We place in your loving care all who are affected by the Covid 19 virus. Keep us strong in faith, hope and love. Bring relief to our sick, console our bereaved, protect those who care for us, especially all workers in our Health Services, care homes and domiciliary care agencies.
Lord in your mercy………………
Eternal God, we pray for those who have come to the end of their lives and work on earth and now rest with you. May we at last be called with them to the life where all are equal in joy and receive their reward in your presence.
Lord in your mercy……………….
Let us pray in silence to God, opening our hearts to receive his voice of calm and his spirit of peace. (pause)
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
As we go out into the world, may we be thankful for the gifts and opportunities that we have been given, by God’s grace, in caring for others. May we use these gifts in the furtherance of God’s kingdom here on earth for the benefit of all people.
And may the blessing of God almighty the Father Son and Holy Spirit rest on you and remain with you always. Amen.
The Readings for the Twenty Fifth Week of the Year (Psalter Week 1)
Monday 21 September Proverbs 3: 13-18
Mathew 2 Corinthians 4: 1-6
Apostle and Evangelist Mathew 9: 9-13
Tuesday Proverbs 21: 1-6 & 10-13
Luke 8: 19-21
Wednesday Proverbs 30: 5-9
Luke 9: 1-6
Thursday Ecclesiastes 1: 2-11
Luke 9: 7-9
Friday Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11
Luke 9: 18-22
Saturday Ecclesiastes 11: 9 to 12:8
Luke 9: 43-45
From the Vicarage, Ystrad Mynach
17 July 2020
At present, the Church is open for private prayer only on Sundays and Wednesdays from 10.30am to 12 noon. Social distancing is required in Church and there is a “one way” system to enter and leave the Church (although arrangements can be made for anyone unable to negotiate the Vestry door steps), and the chancel, the Lady Chapel, the All Saints’ Room and the toilet are not available for use. Everybody is very welcome to spend some time in Church during these times, but we must urge that anyone in a vulnerable category should not try to join us.
If we can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us:
Father Steven Kirk 01443 813246
Father Keith Hemmings 01443 830662
Sarah Steadman 01443 816276
Edward Williams-Price 07715 103273
Fiona Silverthorn 07593 858305