September 24, 2023 - Home Worship

For the week of September 24-30 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer God of miracles and of mercy, all creation sings Your praise. Like the vineyard owner, Your grace is extravagant and unexpected. Lead us to repentance and the acceptance of Your grace, that we may witness to Your love, which embraces both those we call friend and those we call stranger. Amen. (Lectionary Prayers)

Hymn: #419 I Am Thine, O Lord

  1. I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me;
    but I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.

Refrain: Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to Thy precious, bleeding side.

  1. Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine;
    let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, and my will be lost in Thine. (Refrain)
  2. O the pure delight of a single hour that before Thy throne I spend,
    when I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend! (Refrain)
  3. There are depths of love that I cannot know till I cross the narrow sea;
    there are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with Thee. (Refrain)

Psalm 145:1-8

145:1 I will extol You, my God and King, and bless Your name forever and ever.

145:2 Every day I will bless You, and praise Your name forever and ever.

145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; His greatness is unsearchable.

145:4 One generation shall laud Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.

145:5 On the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works, I will meditate.

145:6 The might of Your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare Your greatness.

145:7 They shall celebrate the fame of Your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Children’s Time Jonah 3:10 – 4:11

When God saw what they (the Ninevites) did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed His mind about the calamity that He had said He would bring upon them; and He did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Children’s Message Jonah was a prophet of God. God sent him to Nineveh, but as you recall, Jonah didn’t want to go and had an encounter with the big fish. Fast forward to getting to Nineveh, Jonah delivers the message from God. The king and the people repent and God decides to spare their lives.

You would think this would make Jonah happy, but it doesn’t. Jonah gets mad at God for sending him in the first place. Jonah claims he always knew God would forgive the people of Nineveh, so the entire trip was a waste. Jonah even went so far as to build a hut outside of town to watch the disaster unfold, but he was disappointed. There was no destruction that day. The people of Nineveh began worshiping God and leading new lives.

We can be like Jonah sometimes. Instead of being happy for the people of Nineveh in their new lives and encouraging them, Jonah watched to wait for their destruction, waiting for them to make a mistake, so he could point and say they had not been truly sorry for their past mistake.

When people repent, that is turn away from what they are doing wrong, we need to be watching for their progress and helping them to stay on the right path. We have to celebrate with them and continue to support them. We wouldn’t want someone watching everything we do only to point out all the times we messed up. We would want someone cheering us on, so this week, let’s start cheering people on for all the right and good things they do.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight: Enjoy your time at the Fair.  The local workers and those who are in the area just for the Fair will put in a lot of long hours with week.  Be the words and actions of Christ to all you meet this week.  Christ living in you might be the only Christ they meet. 

Offering prayer: God of endless patience, we know that the sound of our complaining is not the music that pleases Your ears. We complain about the food that is under or overcooked, and You hear the stomachs that have no food. We whine about the bed being too soft, and You see instead those whose bed is the sidewalk or the floor of a cell. May the offering we bring today be an act of praise that drowns out the noise of our complaining. May it find its way to bring comfort to Your children who have little or nothing; and when that happens, may it be joy for Your eyes and ears. In Christ, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #504 The Old Rugged Cross

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame;
    and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain: So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.

  1. O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me;
    for the dear Lamb of God left His glory above to bear it to dark Calvary. (Refrain)
  2. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see,
    for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, to pardon and sanctify me. (Refrain)
  3. To that old rugged cross I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    then He'll call me some day to my home far away, where His glory forever I'll share.

Scripture:  Matthew 20:1-16              

“For 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.”

Message:                       Pastor Becky

*I have to give credit to Father Michael K Marsh for Uvalde, Texas for his building blocks for today’s message. I follow his blog and the ways he expressed God’s grace is far better than I could do myself and it is always important to lean on those who can do what you are trying to do.


We can relate to this parable. We can in one way or another recall an experience in our own lives that mirrors this parable. We know people who, in our judgment, neither earned nor deserved what they got; a job, a promotion, a raise, recognition, happiness, success. Maybe when we worked longer and tried harder it seemed to make no difference. More often than not we view the world, ourselves, and others through the lens of fairness rather than grace, the exact opposite of how God views the world and our lives.

We’ve been taught from childhood fairness matters. Watch a bunch of children play and it won’t be long before you hear someone say, “That’s not fair!” I never got rewarded for the fact I could keep track of my pencil and would use it all up, but my classmates could lose them over and over again and get brand new pencils all the time. See, fairness runs deep – I’m still a little steamed about it some 40 years later, plus they got the cool green sparkly ones, I had the plain yellow number 2s.

But it isn’t just kids… Adults want fairness too. Too often, however, fairness rather than love, acceptance, mercy, forgiveness, or generosity is the measure by which we act and judge another person or life circumstances.

We like fairness, I think, because it gives us some assurance of order, predictability, control, and hierarchy; even if it is a false assurance. Fairness is based on what you deserve, how hard you work, what you achieve, the way in which you behave. Sometimes it is fair to give a reward, other times a punishment. We live in and promote a wage-based society in which you earn what you get. You deserve the consequences, good or bad, of your actions.

What happens though when divine goodness outdoes human fairness? You get today’s parable. Today’s parable suggests wages and grace stand in opposition to each other. They are two opposing lenses. The degree to which this parable strikes us as unfair is the degree to which our life and lens is wage-based. A wage-based lens allows little room for grace in our own lives or the lives of others.

Grace is dangerous. It reverses business as usual. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” That’s not how a wage-based society works. The world says the last are last and the first are first because they deserve it. It’s what is fair. Our understanding of fairness, however, does not seem to have priority in the kingdom of heaven where grace is the rule not the exception. Grace looks beyond our productivity, our appearance, our dress, our race or ethnicity, our accomplishments, our failures. Grace recognizes there is more to you and who you are than what you have done or left undone.

Grace reveals the goodness of God. Wages reveal human effort. Grace seeks unity and inclusion. Wages make distinctions and separate. Grace just happens. Wages are based on merit. The only precondition of grace is that we show up and open ourselves to receive what God is giving. When we do, we begin to see our lives, the world, and our neighbor differently.

Grace reminds us that we are not nearly as self-sufficient, deserving, or independent as a wage-based society would like us to believe. Neither is our worth determined by our productivity or usefulness to another. Grace does not justify or excuse discrimination, unfairness, or oppression. To the contrary it holds before us the truth that each person is more than their behavior, their looks, their accomplishments, or their failures.

The tragedy of a wage-based life is that it blinds us to the presence of grace, the life of God, in our own life. It can make us resentful of grace, goodness, and beauty in the life of another. It separates and isolates us from others. Eventually we set up standards and expectations not only for ourselves and others but for God. That’s what happened to the first hired in today’s parable. They saw themselves as different from and more deserving than the later hired. They grumbled against the landowner saying, “These last workers only worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us.” The truth is they are not that different from each other. Neither group owned the vineyard. Both groups needed a job and both groups were chosen, invited in, by no effort of their own doing. There is, however, something that distinguishes the first hired and the later hired.

The distinction is not what time they showed up to work. The real distinction between the first hired and all the later hired is the terms under which they entered the vineyard. The first hired entered the vineyard only after agreeing to the usual daily wage. They settled for too little. They shortchanged themselves. That’s often what happens in a wage-based society. Apparently the landowner is willing to pay more than the usual daily wage. A full day’s wage for less than a full day’s work. “That’s not fair,” we might say. No, it’s not. That’s grace.

The first hired got what they bargained for. The later hired workers, those who come at 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., even 5:00 p.m., did not, however, negotiate for the usual daily wage. They entered the vineyard trusting they would be paid “whatever is right.” Whatever is right is not determined by the first hired or by a wage-based society but by the goodness of the landowner. These later hired workers received more than they earned, more than they deserved, more than they had a right to ask or hope for. That’s just what God does. “Whatever is right” isn’t about fairness but about grace.

Why settle for the usual daily wage when God wants to give you “whatever is right” for your life, your needs, your salvation? “Whatever is right” will always be more than fair, more than we could ask or imagine. Yet we sometimes trust a wage based life more than we trust grace. In so doing we deny ourselves and others the life God wants to give. So how might we begin to move from a wage-based life to the vineyard of grace?

Stop comparing yourself and your life to others and you will create room for grace to emerge. Refuse to compete in such a way that someone must lose for you to win. Trust that in God’s world there is enough for everyone. Let go of expectations based on what you think you or others deserve. Give God the freedom to pay whatever is right knowing that God’s ways are not your ways. Make no judgments of yourself or others. That is the way of grace, the way of God.

Imagine if we all let go of those four things; comparison, competition, expectation, and judgment. Your life would be God-filled, you would make space for the life of another to be God-filled, and the world would, the parable tells us, look a lot like the kingdom of heaven.

Hymn #130 God Will Take Care of You

  1. Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you;
    beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

Refrain: God will take care of you, through every day, o'er all the way;
He will take care of you, God will take care of you.

  1. Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you;
    when dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you. (Refrain)
  2. All you may need He will provide, God will take care of you;
    nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you. (Refrain)
  3. No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
    lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.