(Continuing to present both Tracks of the Lectionary)
The readings this week: Exodus—Israelite nation is complaining to Moses because he and God rescued them from the really bad Egyptians but have condemned them to die of thirst or starvation; Psalm 105—a reminder of exactly what it is that God has done; Jonah—God saves Nineveh but displeases Jonah; Psalm 145—God is great; Philippians—stand firm in faith; and Matthew—landowner and vineyard laborers.
Perhaps the editor’s interpretation reveals a lot about the editor but it sure seems to me that there are a bunch of people pouting in these lessons. The Israelites because they are not caring for themselves; Jonah because God won’t punish Nineveh as Jonah suggested; and the vineyard laborers because their wages are the same. Does it boil down to God not meeting our (human) expectations? Doesn’t God know more and thus can deal better with each situation than we could ever “expect”? How do you “expect” God to behave toward you? Post your thoughts on our website.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers 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 marketplace; 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 laborers 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.”
From sermon4kids.com: “We might not think it’s fair, but if we got what was fair, none of us would go to heaven. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that God doesn’t give me what is fair, but gives me his love and grace, in spite of what I deserve!”
Scripture: September 20, 2020—Jonah 3:10-4:11 (image); Psalm 145:1-8 (image); Philippians 1:21-30 (image); and Matthew 20:1-16 (image). Illuminating the scripture, an image and audio journey. Track 1 lesson and psalm are Exodus 16:2-15 (image) and Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (image). From the editor: Click on “image” following each appointed scripture for an illumination of that passage.
Collect: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Reflection: In the stories in Jonah 3:10–4:11 and Matthew 20:1–16, we find others resentful of God’s generosity toward the “undeserving.” Both stories end with a question worth pondering. God asks Jonah: “Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city?” and the landowner asks the grumbling all-day workers: “Are you envious because I am generous?” How do these stories of God’s generosity invite us to think about our own lives? [from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion]
Saint Focus: Thecia of Iconium might well be the first feminist. She heard Paul preach and began to follow him and his teachings. This was in opposition to her family and later to Rome. She suffered for holding to her beliefs. The link below gives a little more detail and this link provides some reasoning behind the problems she encountered.
This week, the saints under consideration were:
- 17; Hildegard of Bingen, 1170
- 18; Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest, 1882; AND Dag Hammarskjold, Diplomat, 1961
- 19; Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690
- 20; John Coleridge Patteson, Bishop of Melanesia, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1871
- 21; Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
- 22; Philander Chase, Bishop, 1852
- 23; [Thecla of Iconium], Proto-Martyr among Women, c.70
Contemporary Parables: “Les Miserables” (2012)—a new way to look at this parable; “Traffic” (2000), hard-hitting about pervasive nature of drugs; “Where the heart is” (2000), practical dimension of everyday spirituality
: It would be easy to dismiss this parable as one of the quirks of God’s behavior (I know you’ve been thinking that). But dig deeper. When we pout because things don’t seem “fair”, what are we considering? Do we know all the things that went into this decision? If we don’t know everything, then how can we judge (and pout)? The point is, we can’t. Isn’t God asking each of us to consider a personal relationship with him that is different from each other of us? I think so.
If you wish, share your thoughts on our website.
The theme of today’s liturgy is set by the Gospel reading. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is one of Jesus’ most important statements concerning God’s call to all people. That call is always open regardless of our past level of commitment. Those who accept it late are rewarded equally with those of long standing in the Kingdom. It is also a warning to those who have been committed to God for many years, lest they think themselves superior to those newly responding to the call of God.
Track 1. We continue the story of the Exodus. The Israelites are free, but now the people complain of hunger and wish to be back in Egypt. But God acts and provides them with food in the desert as a sign of his love, even when they are ungrateful.
Track 2. Jonah did not want to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh (one of the Jews’ greatest enemies) lest its people repent and God forgive them. However, after an amazing experience with a fish, Jonah complied. That God would forgive even Nineveh is one of the most striking messages in the Old Testament, expressing the universality of God’s love and forgiveness.
Today we begin reading Paul’s letter to Philippi. Written to encourage that church, the letter comes from a period when Paul was imprisoned and his own life was in danger.
God’s promise to us is not a reward for doing things right. It is our heritage as children and heirs of God’s promise. When we gather to sing and tell the story of God’s salvation, we discover anew our identity and the identity of all people. Not content to have us merely as creatures, God has made us sons and daughters who feast at the table of God’s home, which is our home as well.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.