Service at Home on 20th September 2020
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 20-09-2020
As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you can still use these sheets if you prefer, especially if you want to read the prayers.
Welcome and Introduction
Watch: Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. This week we look at the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard to see what it tells us about complaining that things aren’t fair and how we can be a good witness to God’s mercy. We’ll also see how it shows us our faith can be very strong, by being certain that God loves us and forgives every single one of us.
Watch: And can it be
Watch: Way Maker Miracle Worker (that is who You are) (5 mins)
Watch: Opening prayers
Lord God, we thank you that you are present with us now as we meet to worship you. Help us to be still in your presence and open our hearts and minds to know more about you.
Lord, you made the universe and everything in it. Your greatness and power are beyond our understanding. Yet you are also more gentle and loving than we can ever comprehend. Your Son Jesus said that you care about each one of us so much that even the hairs on our head are counted. We praise you Lord for your wonderful love and care. We thank you that you are always with us, to guide us, help us and protect us. Help us to worship you in our words, in our thoughts and in our lives.
Now a prayer of confession
Lord God, we are sorry that our love for you is such a pale shadow of your love for us. Our love often falters and sometimes grows cold. Forgive us Lord. In a time of quiet now we remember all the things we have done wrong, knowing that if we are truly sorry you are always ready to forgive us. -------
God is love and forgives our sins through Jesus. Amen.
And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:
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 that 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.
Prayers of intercession by Richard
Watch: Prayers of intercession
Dear Lord, our Father in Heaven. We bring before you our concerns for the world, our neighbourhoods, our church, our friends and family and ourselves.
As we remember the pandemic still sweeping the world, we pray that effective, safe vaccines will be found soon and made available to everyone in the world. We also remember the hardships and impacts on local health services caused by the virus and pray that countries recover quickly and get the aid that they need from more affluent countries. We pray that the world’s governments will pull together as a single community and make wise decisions. Lord, we continue to remember the suffering in the world that has been overshadowed by the pandemic – the violence, the refugees, the hunger and the injustice. We pray against all the things that cause these. Lord, we know that you have transformed countries before when people have prayed and so we pray that you’ll do it again. We pray that wherever there’s hatred and injustice, you replace it with love and tolerance. In a moment of quiet, we bring to mind situations and places in the world that especially need our prayers and we offer our concerns to you now, Lord, in the silence……
Lord, we remember the financial and emotional hardship in our local area. We pray for those who are being kept apart from friends and family, and for those who have lost jobs and businesses. We pray for those who have lost loved ones or are suffering from long term effects of the virus. We pray that the numbers of cases will drop again and that Lockdown measures can be eased soon. We pray that our communities will not be divided by prejudice against different age groups and ethnic backgrounds. We pray for peace and tolerance in our neighbourhoods. Lord, in a moment of quiet, we picture nearby streets and town centres and pray that you fill them with your love and peace……
Lord, we pray that you will make your churches strong and use us to shine your light into the darkness, to reflect your compassion and to spread your peace and joy. We pray that you’ll use us to lead others to you, so that they too may know the truth and receive eternal life. Go before us Lord, through your Spirit. Give us opportunities to serve you.
Lord, we pray for our friends and members of our family who are going through a time of trouble at the moment. Perhaps ill health, broken relationships, loneliness or money problems. Lord, we lift them before you now, saying their name or picturing them in our mind…..
Lord, heal them, protect them, guide them and give them peace through the power of your Spirit.
Lord, we now remember our own problems and worries. We bring them before you now and place them into your hands…..
Send your Spirit to us now Lord, to heal us and to fill us with joy and peace, as we feel your loving power flowing through us………….
Watch: We Have a Lamb
Readings and Sermon
Watch: Readings and Sermon
Matthew 20: 1 – 16
“It’s not fair!” How often have you heard that? I’m sure if you have teenaged children or have children who have now emerged the other side, you’ll have heard it a lot: usually in response to some incredibly unreasonable request that we’ve made, such as tidying their room or taking their dirty plates out to the kitchen. Or telling them what time they need to be home in the evening.
Adults don’t use these exact words so often, but they very often complain about things not being fair. And often with good reason. We encounter lots of things in life that aren’t fair. It’s not fair that some people experience poor health even at a young age. It’s not fair when a loved one dies before their time. It’s not fair when someone loses their job, and risks losing their home or even struggles to buy food for their family. And it doesn’t seem fair that our lives are being so badly impacted by the pandemic, not being able to see friends and family and meet in our church building as we’d wish, especially when we see others – even government advisers - breaking the rules and getting away with it.
In the parable that Jesus told, some of the workers were complaining that it’s not fair. The workers who’d worked all day but only got paid the same as those who’d only worked for a couple of hours complained that it wasn’t fair, even though they’d got paid the normal amount.
So today we’re going to look at three things that we can learn from this parable today.
- What it tells us about the way we should live and be a Christian witness.
- What it tells us about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
- What it tells us about having a strong faith.
So, the first point: what does that parable tell us about how we should live? As we said just now, it’s common for people to moan that things aren’t fair and that they’re hard done by. And it’s just as true today as when Jesus told that parable. But when someone complains that “it’s not fair”, they’re saying, I want something as good or better than someone else’s got. Or they’re saying that they’d rather something bad had happened to someone else instead of them. And to say or even think this sort of thing is selfish, because you’re putting yourself before someone else. What does Jesus command his disciples to do? To love our neighbour as ourselves. We clearly disobey this command when we’re selfish, and therefore, to be good disciples, we mustn’t go around saying or even thinking “it’s not fair”.
What’s the opposite to saying “it’s not fair”? It’s to say “I can’t complain”. I actually hear this quite a lot from Christians who are having a dreadful time of one sort or another, and it’s really quite humbling. Most people in our society would be complaining bitterly and saying “it’s not fair” that it’s happening to them, but the good faithful Christians just say “I can’t complain”. And what a difference this makes. The people who say “I can’t complain” stay positive and at peace with the situation, while those who say “it’s not fair” become bitter and wound up, often making things worse. The former remain loving and forgiving, while the latter become full of resentment and jealousy and even hate.
There’s another very good reason for us to not complain. You only have to look at the news to see that most people are in the “it’s not fair” camp, so the relatively few who don’t complain stand out as being different. And when people stand out as being different in this sort of way, people want to know why. They want to know how they can achieve that sort of peace in their lives. And so when they find out that the person is a Christian, it becomes a very powerful witness to the Gospel, which helps us to lead them to Jesus.
Before moving on to the second point, I just want to clarify something about saying “it’s not fair”. I’ve only been talking about us saying “it’s not fair” from the point of view of our own selfish desires. It is of course perfectly OK to say “it’s not fair” on behalf of other groups of people. In fact, it’s something that Christians should absolutely be doing, so that we obey the command to love our neighbour. We should most certainly be challenging injustice in our society at every level. For example, it’s not fair that Christians in many countries face dreadful persecution and then don’t get granted asylum by our government when they manage to escape: and we should say so. It’s not fair when people are let down by social services: and we should say so. And it’s not fair that there’s millions of people in the world who are hungry when those in more affluent countries struggle with obesity: and we should say so.
We’ll now move on to our second point. If there’s one person who could have legitimately said “it’s not fair”, it was Jesus when he was hanging on the cross. Jesus is the only person who has never done anything wrong, and yet there he was suffering a dreadful execution reserved for the very worst of criminals. But instead of saying it wasn’t fair, what did he say instead? He said “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” and “It is finished”. Jesus didn’t complain about dying on a cross because he knew it had to be done. He knew that it was an integral part of his Father’s audacious rescue mission for the world. Jesus wasn’t happy about the prospect of dying in agony, as the pain would have been exactly the same for him as it would be for you or me, and in Gethsemane he begged his Father for there to be a different way. But there was no other way and so he went to the cross, even though it wasn’t in the slightest bit fair.
This reminds us how we should respond when God calls us to do something that we don’t think is fair. Because God often does call us to do things that we wouldn’t have normally chosen to do, something that doesn’t fit in with our own plans for an easy life. So how should we respond? We must simply think “I can’t complain”. We can’t complain because compared to what Jesus unfairly suffered, I’m sure that we’ll never be called to anything that’s so unfair. If we complain when God calls us, then we’re like a stroppy teenager who has a melt down when asked to tidy their room.
So now the final point, what does this parable tell us about having a strong faith? This is the real point that Jesus was making to his listeners. Jesus used the parable to show that we all receive an equal portion of God’s grace, regardless of who we are. God treats the person who has led a blameless life and has gone to church every Sunday in exactly the same way as the violent drug dealer who came to faith in prison only a couple of days ago. Each is totally forgiven by God and He loves them equally as his own child. Each is equally assured of an eternal life with Jesus in his Kingdom.
It can seem a bit unfair that someone who has tried to be good all their life isn’t treated better than someone who has done some terrible things. But that’s the whole point of the parable isn’t it? It might seem unfair to us but it’s completely up to God who he lavishes His love and mercy upon. God is infinitely wise and loving so we really aren’t in a position to question whether it’s fair of not! Instead we must praise God for his grace and unconditional love, and share in the joy of those who have been saved from the depths of dark despair.
As most of you know, I spent a few years working as a volunteer at The Message Trust. One of the best things was meeting the young men and women who have had their lives radically transformed when they turned to Jesus. Some of these people had been violent drug dealers and gang members, and some had met with Jesus while in prison. It was so great to share their joy and excitement that God loved them and had saved them from the hell that they were living before. These people are like the workers in the parable who only worked a couple of hours, as they knew that they really didn’t deserve what they’d received and were very grateful for it. Incidentally, they were amazing evangelists because they were so full of joy and excitement about Jesus that they would never stop talking about it, and they went into pubs, clubs and prisons and led others to Jesus. I can’t help thinking that if we had more of this joy and excitement about Jesus in our churches, then evangelism really wouldn’t be a problem and we’d be growing exponentially.
Going back to the parable, where the analogy breaks down a bit is that while the workers earned their pay by working in the vineyard, we can never earn God’s mercy. The reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians explains this, particularly verses 8 and 9, which say: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast”. It tells us that we’ve been saved by God’s grace, which is a gift from God and is nothing that we can ever earn or deserve. Not even the most blameless of us deserve God’s love and forgiveness and eternal life.
Those verses also answer the important question of how we are saved by God’s grace. They tell us that we’re saved through faith in Jesus. This tells us that putting our faith in Jesus is the most important thing for us to do. Because having faith in Jesus means receiving God’s mercy, which means being saved and having an eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Therefore, the parable helps your faith to be strong because it tells you that you can be absolutely certain that God offers you his mercy, love forgiveness. It tells you that you can be absolutely certain because God offers his mercy, love and forgiveness to every single person. Don’t worry that you don’t deserve it, because no one deserves it. Don’t worry if you think you’re not good enough, because no one is good enough. You just need to believe that Jesus died for you and put your faith in Jesus and open your heart to receive God’s love and forgiveness.
Dear Lord, I’m sorry for the times that I’ve acted selfishly and complained about something not being fair. Help me to remain loving and at peace in all situations instead of becoming wound up and resentful. Help me to stand out in this way from the crowds so that I’m a witness to your love, so that I can lead others to you.
Lord, when I think about what your son, Jesus Christ, so unfairly endured on the cross, help me to not complain when you call us to serve you and do your work. Help me to joyfully do whatever you want, even when it doesn’t fit in with what I want.
And Lord, help me to always remember that in your infinite mercy you love each one of us unconditionally. I know that no one deserves your love and forgiveness, yet you offer it to each one of us regardless of who we are or what we’ve done. Help me to accept your mercy through faith in what Jesus has done for us, so that I will have eternal life. I say to you now Lord, “yes I believe”……..
In a moment of quiet, I open my heart and mind to your overwhelming love and forgiveness………
Thank you, Lord for your mercy. Thank you, Lord for loving me and for saving me. Thank you, Lord for the eternal life in your Kingdom that you offer each one of us. Amen.
Watch: This is Amazing Grace