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Sermon for Ordinary 25 - Proper 20 - Year A
Jonah 3:10-4:11; Matthew 20:1-16
"The Sun To Shine and The Rain To Fall"


READING:  Jonah 3:10-4:11; Matthew 20:1-16
SERMON :  "The Sun to Rise and The Rain To Fall"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-or25sn 689000
                  
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   
   Sources: "Worship That Works: Selected Sermons: Seventeen Sunday 
   After Pentecost";  Sermon notes for Pentecost 17 by the Rev. Wayne 
   Ray; Beth Johnston,  "Stop Looking For a Fair God, and Be Thankful 
   For the One You Got", Sermon for September 22 1996 as found in 
   "Sermons4U".   


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                  (* = please stand)


* ENTRANCE & CANDLE LIGHTING


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Seek the Lord while he may be found.
P  Call upon God while he is near.
L  Let the wicked forsake their ways 
   and the unrighteous their thoughts.  
P  Let them return to the Lord, 
   that he may have mercy on them, 
   and to our God, 
   for he will abundantly pardon.


* INTROIT:  "What Does The Lord Require of You" (VU-701)


* PRAYER OF INVOCATION:
Loving and merciful God --we gather today in the name of Jesus to
praise you and pray to you and tell one another what you have
done - because we do remember your miracles and your wonders and
because not only do we remember them - we continue to see them in
our lives and in the lives of others.  Grant, O Lord, that in
this time together our awareness of your goodness and your grace
may increase.  Pour out your Spirit upon our assembly so that our
prayer and our praise, our hearing and our saying, may be worthy 
in your eyes and so that it may be a testimonial to your
transforming power.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"            - VU 264


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
-- Announcements
-- Gathering in of Prayer Joys and Concerns


INTROIT For The Word of God (please stay seated):
  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!  (VU 371 v.2 & refrain)


A READING FROM JONAH 3:10 - 4:11
   (NRSV)  When God saw what they 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.
   {2} 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. {3} And
   now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better
   for me to die than to live." {4} And the LORD said, "Is it
   right for you to be angry?" {5} 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. {6} 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. {7} But when dawn came up the next day,
   God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it
   withered. {8} 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." {9} But God said to Jonah, "Is
   it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said,
   "Yes, angry enough to die." {10} Then the LORD said, "You are
   concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and
   which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and
   perished in a night. {11} 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?"

L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Why Jonah Was Unhappy"
Object:	None	
Theme:	God Loves All and Wants Them To Be Part of the Family
Source:	Self

In the story we just heard Jonah - the man who once was swallowed up by 
a large fish - and lived to tell about it - this Jonah - was very 
unhappy.  Have you ever been unhappy?

What are some of the things that may you unhappy (yelling, hitting, 
fighting, not getting treats, bored, etc).

All these things make most folk unhappy.  It is sad to see and hear 
and feel hate and anger and greed and all those things you said.   It 
is good to see other people happy, to be in love and to love - to have
a nice meal and share it with friends - to sit down together and to play.  

But I started out to say Jonah was unhappy.  Do you know what he was 
unhappy about?  No?

Jonah was unhappy because a really awful city full of awful people 
decided to change their ways - and  to do the things God likes - and to 
love God and one another.  He was unhappy that God took them into his 
family - and made them Jonah's brothers and sisters.  Does that seem 
weird to you???

And so it is weird – because it is really wonderful when we get invited 
into God's family - there is so much food for the body and the soul  - 
and so many saints to love us - that it is really sad when we don't 
other people to enjoy it with us – and Jonah didn't - and that is why he 
got swallowed by a whale in the first place – and that is why he ends up 
so sad sitting on the side of the hill outside the city of Ninevah.  

Poor Jonah didn't want God to love his enemies - and was sad when God 
loved them as much as God  love him.   I think it is sad about Jonah – 
and I hope you think so to.  


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Dear Lord God - Have pity on Jonah - and on everyone who hates 
   their enemies.  - Help us to be generous and loving - like you
   are.  - We ask it in Jesus' name. -  Amen
	
And in the word's Jesus taught us, let us pray:

   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 who 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

   
* HYMN: "Come In, Come In And Sit Down"                  - VU 395


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 145 (VU 866) and sung Refrain


CHOIR ANTHEM:


A READING FROM MATTHEW 20:1-16
  (NRSV)  "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who
   went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his
   vineyard. {2} After agreeing with the labourers for the usual
   daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. {3} When he went
   out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the
   marketplace; {4} and he said to them, 'You also go into the
   vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they
   went. {5} When he went out again about noon and about three
   o'clock, he did the same. {6} 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?' {7} They said to
   him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You
   also go into the vineyard.' {8} When evening came, the owner
   of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the labourers and
   give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going
   to the first.' {9} When those hired about five o'clock came,
   each of them received the usual daily wage. {10} Now when the
   first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of
   them also received the usual daily wage. {11} And when they
   received it, they grumbled against the landowner, {12}
   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.' {13} 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? {14} Take what belongs to you and go; I
   choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. {15}
   Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?
   Or are you envious because I am generous?' {16} So the last
   will be first, and the first will be last."

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN: "In Christ There is No East or West"             - VU 606


SERMON:                   "The Sun To Shine and The Rain To Fall"

   Let us Pray:  Father  - bless us now in our hearing and me
   in my speaking that so that you may be lifted up in our
   hearts and our minds and your light give us light at this
   hour and in the hours to come.  We ask it in Jesus' name. 
   Amen

Lately I've been getting people involved in my sermons by having
them put up their up hands or even say AMEN or PRAISE GOD in
response to some question I may ask or statement I may make.

Can you say AMEN???....  Say it again -- AMEN.
Now - can you raise your hand....  Raise them up.....

That's a warm up.  
A warm up to the question I want to ask you now.

Who has heard the words "That's not fair" uttered within the last
week or two by someone you know???   Everyone who has heard those
words raise a hand....

   "It's not fair" --- That is what my children used to say -
   and sometimes still do - along with almost every child in
   the world.  There's even a television program called Kids
   Court where children can bring complaints against
   siblings, friends, even parents.  They can complain, "it's
   not fair" to whatever troubles them"

It's not fair.

When my children say this I often counter by saying that life is
not fair, not fair at all.  Some have more toys and some less,
some more friends and or not as many, some with less talent and
some with  more, and so on and on.  .

And the real kicker - the one I delight in telling them when they
are complaining about something I have told them they can or
cannot do is this ---

   "It's just not fair, not fair at all that you are the kid
   and  I am the parent - that you have to follow the rules
   and that I get to make them -- but that is the way it is."

But seriously though - life isn't fair is it?
   We see good things happen to bad people
       and bad things happen to good people.
   We see some people labour for hours for a morsel of bread,
       and others make hundreds of thousands of dollars with a
       simple phone call.
   We see some who are physically fit and look after themselves
       die suddenly
   and others who abuse themselves live to a ripe old age.

And so on and so on.

So many things aren't fair.

That's why I thank God that we have a God who is fair,
A God who can be trusted to do the right thing.
A God who promises to right the wrongs, and even up all the
scales - if not now - then a bit later,
A God who makes true the old saying: "What you sow, so shall you
harvest",
who makes true the expression "What goes around comes around"!
SAY AMEN.

WE have a God who is fair....  

Or do we?

If we have a God that is fair - then why the complaints - why the
story that Jesus tells his disciples - the story about what the
Kingdom of God is like?

      - why the story about how a man goes to town early in the
   morning to hire workers at the usual rate of pay, and -
   because of the need for more workers - continues to make
   trips to town throughout the day to hire more workers -
   telling them only that he would pay them what was fair???

      - why the story about how at the end of the long hot day
   in the vineyard the owner pays those hired last - first -
   and gives them a whole day's wage??

      - why the grumbling of those hired first "the ones who
   were hired last worked for only one hour.  But you paid
   them the same that you did us.  And we worked in the hot
   sun all day long?"

      - and most of all why the words that Jesus ends his story
   with "Everyone who is now first, will be last, and
   everyone who is last will be first?"

Is this fair?  
Is it right?

I think not.

Think about it for a minute - labour leaders, socialists, human
rights activists, and the church itself has laboured for decades
to help bring about "a day's pay for a day work", and "equal pay
for equal work" - and here Jesus tells a story that turns all
that upside down.  It's enough, to make you wonder --- "Have all
these good folks been wrong all this time?"  Should those who
work two hours get the same as those who have worked twelve??  

Do you really hear the gospel my friends?
Do you really hear what our saviour tries to tell us?

   "The kingdom of God is like a man who went out to hire
   some workers for his vineyard... and when the day ended he
   paid those hired last the same as he paid those hired
   first."

Incredible.... if you come at this story just so - (HANDS SIZING
SPACE) - it rubs the wrong way.

In fact one is tempted to say that it sets a bad example - this 
parable - it sets a bad example, like so many of the other things
that Jesus says and does:
   - like eating with tax collectors 
   - and hanging around with prostitutes and known criminals
   - and healing people on the Sabbath day
   - and telling sinners that they are forgiven simply because
   they have faith in him, simply because they repent and trust
   him and believe in him to be good to them.

He sets a poor example this Jesus of ours - 
poor by the standards of this world anyway.

And as for God - his Father - and ours the God we have said AMEN
to today - and so many other days:  isn't he the one who "sends
the rain upon the just and the unjust and makes the sun to shine
upon the righteous and the unrighteous"?

What's fair in that - why should the evil and the proud and the
greedy and the hateful get the same refreshing rain that the good
and the humble and the generous and the loving get?  Why should
those who have NOT laboured long in the sun receive the same as
those who HAVE?????

I do a lot of my biblical studies on computer now-a-days.  I have
a bible on the computer - commentaries on the computer - and I
have a whole group of people on the computer who make comments,
week by week, about the text's that I use each Sunday morning.

One of them - a minister in Nova Scotia said this.  
She said, and I quote:

       "Stop Looking For a Fair God, and Be Thankful For
       the One You Got"

Stop looking for a fair God, and Be Thankful for The One You Got.
Kind of provocative isn't it?

Provocative I think in the very way that Jesus wants to provoke
us when he tells us his story about  the generous vineyard
owner...

All of Jesus stories are meant to provoke a reaction in us you
know. They are supposed to shock us and make us think - make us
feel - make us take sides!  They come, after all, from the one
who said in the Book of Revelation:


   "I know everything that you have done, and you are not
   cold or hot.  I wish you were either one or the other. 
   But since you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I
   will spit you out...

Over the years many people have told me that if a sermon does get
to you - if it doesn't make you feel just a little bit angry - or
a little bit ashamed - or a little bit lifted up - and hopefully
all of the above, then maybe it is missing something

Who are you with??  Who do you feel for??

Are you with the labourers who worked all day and received what
they agreed upon?  Or the ones who were hired late in the day and
received what they could not possibly earn?

Are you with the oldest son who worked hard and didn't squander
his inheritance - or the  wretched sinner who was delivered from
the pig sty and pollution of his own foolishness?

Or are you with  Jonah - who sat on a hill side and pouted
because God had mercy on the Ninevites - or the people of that
wicked city who were surely doomed to die had they  not repented?

Or are you somewhere else - perhaps the one who told us the
parable of the labourers and the parable of the prodigal son?  Or
the one who sent Jonah to Ninevah - even though Jonah didn't want
to go?

A story that maybe some of you - perhaps all of you can relate to.
In Many Things in Parables Frederick Borsch writes:

   "When my wife became pregnant, I found that I had an inordinate
   desire to have a son. I feel apologetic about that now. 
   It seems rather sexist ... But I had two sisters and no
   brothers as I was growing up ... I wanted to have a
   brother ... But when you want something that much, you
   figure it probably will not happen. 

   But it did!  Benjamin was born, and all my parental heart
   went out to him with more love than I knew I had inside me
   ... So much so was this true that, when two years later my
   wife was pregnant again, I discovered  that I had a very
   worrisome problem.  When the second child was born and as
   it grew, how was I going to hide from it the fact that I
   could never love it as much as the first? ... 

   I must have thought that love was like a pie. The more
   people that came to share it, the smaller the slices had 
   to be. 

   Then, as though to make matters worse, we had twins!  But
   most will have guessed what then happened.  It was like a
   miracle to me.  Suddenly I loved Matthew and Stuart with
   the same love with which I loved Benjamin, without taking
   any love from him.  This was a strange new arithmetic. The
   pie seemed to have become larger. 

   This is what the loving of a parent is like - to love in
   this reckless and even-handed way.

Stop looking for a fair God, and Be Thankful for The One You Got.
Provocative isn't it?

   The trouble is that we, in the church, often fall into the
   trap of  believing deep down that we deserve God's grace,
   which is, when you think about it, an oxymoron. We deserve
   God's forgiveness?!

   Perhaps that is because when we come to God for
   forgiveness we are really only paying lip-service to our
   sinfulness.  We don't really think we're all that bad.  We
   come to church.  We give to the church.  We give to the
   food bank. We don't steal or lie or cheat.  We're OK after
   all.  We certainly are better than that old so and so who
   lives down the road!   

But we aren't are we???
Or maybe we are!
But does it really matter when it comes to the heart of a parent?
Does it really matter when it comes to the heart of God?

Aren't we all ones whom God has sought out -

Aren't we all ones whom Christ calls to - come to me all you who
are weary and heavy laden - and I will give you rest?

Aren't we all his dearly loved children?
   Even though some who have been around longer and have done
   good things all their days?
       And others are second or third or fifth born - and maybe
       have not done as much?

We are all his children - and God loves us all... 

That's a hard thing to stomach when we have burdened ourselves
with a merit system and want to see some extra reward for our
efforts - rather than seeing things from the point of view of the
God who loves us so much, that he spares not even his own son for
our sake.

We are all his children - and we all need his love - we all need
his forgiveness.  We all need a day's  wage if we are live...

And praise God - that is what we receive when we turn to God -
when we receive Christ into our lives 
and do the work that he has set before us to do 
- the work of the vineyard 
- the work of pointing the way to wholeness - to salvation,
by worship and prayer, by testimony and by example - by love and
care for one another and for God himself.

My friends - we don't earn God's love; we respond to it. 

God loves you.  End of story. 
God loves you.  Beginning of brand new story. 

Let us live that new story.  Let us come to God in gratitude for
what he has done for us, and in thanksgiving for what he does for
everyone who turns to him.  Amen. 


LET US PRAY
Thank you, gracious God, for always giving us much, much more
than we can earn or ever deserve.  Contrasted with our
calculating, tight-fisted way of doing business with one another,
your love towards us seems reckless, extravagant, and
unbelievable gracious.  You have given us our lives, our
families, our homes, and our friends.  You have given us
confidence for this day and hope for tomorrow.  Forgive us when
we consider all of this our right rather than as your gift....
Forgive us too for when we have resented the love you show
towards others who have not served you as long as us - for when
we have been angry because you have brought joy to others....Lord
hear our prayer....

Father, you call us to work in your vineyard - to reach out to
others in your name - and bring your  healing word, your gentle
touch, your embracing love to them.  Help us to be good workers -
ones that seek the lost in the market places and village squares
- ones who are unafraid to see in a stranger  the image of Christ
and in a sinner a brother or sister for whom he died and rose
again.  Empower us as individuals and as a church to be the kind
of ambassadors who know and do your will so well  that in meeting
us - people meet you.   Lord hear our prayer....

We also pray today for the needs of those around us who are in
need - be it in body, mind, soul or spirit....   We pray O God 
for BIDDING PRAYER...  Lord, hear our prayer...
 
We ask all these things and proclaim your praise and your
goodness through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU
541) and Prayer of Dedication

   Bless, O God, these tithes and offerings -- the fruit of
   the work that you have given us to do each day.  As we ask
   you to use it in your service, we ask you to help us
   remember that all we have and all that we are came first
   from you.  Grant us  hearts of praise and thanksgiving and
   trust so that we bring glory to your name by all that we
   think, say and do.  We ask it for Jesus' sake.  Amen.


* HYMN:  "Just As I Am"                                  - VU 508


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now
   go forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people
   of God, the body of Christ.
 

* BENEDICTION AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace - love and care for one another in the name of Christ
and may the blessings of God, 
- the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit be with you , 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREEFOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"   - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1999 - 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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