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Worship resources for Ordinary 27 Year A

Worship, Prayer and Bible Resources

Ordinary 27 Year A


vineworkers

Introduction

We read in the Gospel passages in Matthew right now about how much Jesus was ruffling the feathers of the Jewish authorities. The Chief Priests and elders, saw in Jesus another threat to their power, just like John the Baptist. They now seem intent on arresting Jesus and making sure that he suffers the same fate. None of this comes as a surprise to Jesus and in the parable today he speaks of the son and heir being killed by those who had been allowed to look after the vineyard for the owner. The message is clear, the vineyard is Israel and God had entrusted this precious thing to unworthy tenants in the religious professionals. They had killed God's servants now they were intent on killing his son.

Opening Verses of Scripture Psalm 67:6

The land has yielded its harvest, God, our God has blessed us


Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face; 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. CW

Gracious God, you call us to fullness of life: deliver us from unbelief and banish our anxieties with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord. CW


First Bible Reading  Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’ NRSV

Second Reading  Philippians 3:4b-14

Though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. NRSV

parable of vineyardGospel Reading  Matthew 21:33-46

‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. NRSV


Post Communion Sentence

God our Father, whose Son, the light unfailing has come from heaven to deliver the world from the darkness of ignorance: let these holy mysteries open the eyes of our understanding that we may know the way of life, and walk in it without stumbling; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 

Commentary

The Old Testament reading is the Exodus version of the Ten Commandments.  I am always struck how it was when the Israelites were lost and wandering in the dessert, at a time of immense need, that God met them and spoke with them in such a profound manner.  They have been fed with the manna and the quail, they have drunk water that has come from a rock and now they are given the precepts on which so much of our modern society depends upon.  Shortly after God gives these commandments to the people of Israel Moses approaches the thunder and lightening and the ‘thick darkness where God was’.   It’s a salutary reminder that even in the darkness God is there, ready to meet with us however dire our apparent circumstances.  Sometimes it can be easy to think about God and to pray when all is right with the world and ourselves.  It’s another thing when times are difficult and we seem to have all the cares and worries of the world on our backs.  Exodus reminds us that God is with us in our darkness and that He will lead us through into the lightness of His freedom and salvation.  We have a hope and a confidence in Christ.  And as strong as this hope and confidence is, Paul reminds us that our challenge can sometime be to put our trust in Christ alone.  By Jewish and Roman standards Paul had every reason to be confident.  He lists His Jewish credentials in the today’s Epistle.  The Jews would see Him as a ‘good boy, from a ‘good family’, from a ‘good tribe’ with a ‘good education’.   He’d make a ‘good catch’ for someone you can imagine the mothers all saying.  He also has good Roman credentials which gives him a status in the society in which he lives.  But he lays aside all these Jewish and worldly credentials to take hold of ‘that which Christ took hold of for Him’, a restored relationship with the Father.  He wants to press on to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and even sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings so that He too can come through the darkness of the world into the light of Christ. 


The gospel reading brings to a head the debate which has been occurring throughout Matthew’s gospel, the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes where the Pharisees and scribes question the authority of Jesus and Jesus is questions their understanding of the Law, and by extension, of God.  Landowner and vineyard would be understood by the listeners, and certainly by the chief priests and Pharisees as God and Israel.  The wall symbolises the Torah, the law given to Moses so that the Jews could be God’s special people and a light to the world.  The present tenants, the current Jewish religious leaders, know that the Messiah will take away their primacy.  They must kill Him in order to retain the inheritance for themselves.  Jesus makes it clear that He, as the stone the builders rejected, is the Messiah and that the Kingdom of God is now being taken out of their hands and given to those who will know what to do with such a privilege and responsibility and produce fruit and share in the harvest.  In Hebrew the word for son is ‘ben’ and the word for stone is ‘eben’.  The stone of Isaiah is linked to the Messianic stone in Daniel (Dan 2 v 31 – 45), the Kingdom that will never be destroyed, and both are linked to the son and stone and the coming of His Kingdom in this gospel story.  For the Jewish listeners it’s a chilling tale.  Paul sees himself as being one of the vineyard tenants and understands the importance of trusting in the Messiah alone.  He realised that along with others he was not the perfect tenant of the vineyard and needed the salvation that the Messiah could bring.  We too may not be the perfect tenants of the vineyard, God’s Kingdom on earth, but we too have a responsibility to hear God’s calling on our lives and respond to Him as Paul did, caring for His Kingdom and trusting in Christ as our saviour alone.  That is the responsibility we have today as Christ’s church.  And whatever state we or the church may be in, our Old Testament and New Testament readings reminds us that our confidence is in the God who meets with His people, sometimes in the darkness, and offers us all eternal life through the resurrection of His Son.  It’s a reminder too that we are to take our responsibilities seriously, whatever they may be.  In the recent news we have heard and read about what may be seen by some as a lack of responsibility in the financial markets which has certainly led to many people being in tough and difficult places at the current time.  As the Jews found in the wilderness, God meets with His people in the dark places of the world.  Indeed, sometimes it seems like we need to be in those dark and desperate place before we are desperate enough to meet with Him.  As Paul’s life would testify, our security in not in the financial markets but in God alone and He meets with us whenever we turn to Him, in the dark places and the light, in good times and in bad, as we put our trust in Him alone as our Lord and Messiah. Sam Cappleman 

 

Meditation

The Gospel of Matthew shows one of the components of Jesus’ ministry was specifically to the people of Israel, the Jews, to call them back to their original experiences of God’s saving love and their genesis as God’s chosen people. Through Matthew both the people of Israel and the people of Christianity are reminded of just who they are in God’s eyes and how they are to respond.  History has shown how, at one time or another, all of us can be resistant to the call of God and the mission of Jesus.  The Gospel reading, which echoes and quotes a similar story in Isaiah 5, is a stark reminder that we need to be always open to the call of the Lord, open to hear His voice and obedient to His commands.  Neither should we undervalue or waste the gift of the vineyard, which He has given us.  We are holy stewards of His good news and His Kingdom and we are to share generously with all who share His creation with us.  Sam Cappleman

 

For the Jews, feasts were held in celebration of good harvests several times a year. Jesus refers to the grape harvest in today's reading from Matthew.

Jesus uses it to illustrate that the Pharisees had really lost the plot. They were so afraid that the Jews might be exiled to Babylon again, that they thought if they kept every law, both the written laws of Moses and the oral traditional law of their ancestors, that God would keep them safe in Jerusalem. Because it was so difficult to keep all these laws, rather than drawing people to God they had the opposite effect, they began to put barriers in their way. The Pharisees were misusing the gifts and responsibilities which had been entrusted to them and Jesus spoke out against this abuse. 

Rather than preparing the ground and making it fertile and ready for the harvest it was becoming more bleak and barren by the day. Not only had the Pharisees misused the gifts of God, most importantly they did not recognise the greatest gift which God had given the world, His Son. They liked to listen to Jesus, but they thought His ideas were too radical. Jesus told them repeatedly that they kept the letter of the law, but lost the spirit; they made a show of loving God with their public prayers, but they didn't have compassion for people and the harvest was being lost.

God has given us many gifts, some of which we celebrate through the harvest festival. We remember His goodness and provision for us and are challenged to use His gifts wisely. Many people are less fortunate than ourselves and we need to remember God loves them too, and often could use us, and the gifts He has given us (to look after) to demonstrate that love for them, not just at harvest time, but all the year through. Using the gifts He has given us in the service of others is one of the most appropriate ways of demonstrating our gratitude to God for what He has done for us.  Sam Cappleman

Hymns

  1. Christ is made the sure foundation
  2. Fight the good fight
  3. How firm a foundation
  4. I the Lord of sea and sky
  5. My song is love unknown
  6. Safe in the shadow of the Lord
  7. Praise to the holiest
  8. The head that once was crowned with thorns
  9. We have a gospel to proclaim
  10. When I survey the wondrous cross
  11. Jesus the very thought of thee

 

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected,
it will wither and die.

 

God of all who wander in the wilderness, you go before us as beacon and guide. Lead us through all danger, sustain us through all desolation, and bring us home to the land you have prepared for us. Amen.

Holy God, you love justice and hate oppression; you call us to righteousness and not to exploitation. Give us generous and loving hears, and eyes to see the splendor of your reign,
that we may live in truth and honor, and praise you for the transformation of our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Additional Material

 

Hymns

  1. All creatures of our God and King
  2. Jehovah Jireh