MOTION TO HAVE CONGREGATIONAL MEETING WITHIN WORSHIP
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Holy God, guide us away from the ways of the world to hear Your call and follow You. Guide us away from the temptations to put ourselves first and see that we are the body of Christ, that we need each other. We all have different abilities and gifts, and all of us are necessary for the building up of your reign on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to see that we need others, that we cannot go this alone, and that You desire for us to reach out in love to all. May our hearts be open to Your desire for all of us, that we may be one, as You and Christ are one. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP
We gather here to worship God;
Guide our minds to focus on You, O Christ.
We gather here to follow Jesus;
Guide our actions, that they might fulfill Your commandments, O Christ.
We gather here to serve God;
Open our hearts, that we might be filled with Your love and compassion, O Christ.
Come, let us worship, let us follow, let us serve our Savior, Christ the Lord. Amen.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
We continue to believe that we must earn our way into God’s heart. But God’s grace is given to each of us, for all of us, freely, unconditionally, always. Let us open our lives to this mercy as we pray saying,
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
It seems we cannot decide, Cloud of Glory. We say we will live to serve others, but end up meeting only our needs. We claim to live in a way that honors Christ, but we do not take him to work, school, home. We believe that the gospel can transform lives, (at least, for those who need it – but surely, not us). Forgive us, Presence of Peace. Instead of grumblers, may we be ambassadors of grace. Instead of continual complaining, may we carry compassion to the hurting. Instead of whiners, may we be workers with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, to reach out and bring the kingdom of God to everyone we meet.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
This is the good news: there is no ranking in God’s kingdom. God graces everyone with the same gifts: mercy, restoration, new life.
God has kept the covenant. We have been forgiven, we have been made new people. Thanks be to God. Amen.
RESPONSE No. 000
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST Ephesians 2:14-22
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Let us call upon our God and Father, beseeching Him, since all fullness of wisdom and light is found in Him, mercifully to enlighten us by His Holy Spirit in the true understanding of His word, and to give us grace to receive it in true fear and humility. May we be taught by His word to place our trust only in Him and to serve and honor Him as we ought, so that we may glorify His holy name in all our living and edify our neighbor by our good example, rendering to God the love and the obedience which faithful servants owe their masters, and children, their parents, since it has pleased Him graciously to receive us among the number of His servants and children. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Matthew 20:1-16
20“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And 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?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When 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.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘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.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Flannery O’Connor was a great America short story writer. In a letter she once described the main theme of her stories, as “grace.” “Part of the difficulty,” she wrote, “is that you write for an audience who doesn’t know what grace is and doesn’t recognize it when they see it. All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it.”
O’Connor was only thirty-nine when she died of Lupus. Toward the end of her life as her suffering increased she wrote a short story entitled Revelation, in which she describes Ruby Turpin, a smug self-righteous southern woman who experiences grace herself, but is a “character who is not very willing to support it.” Near the end of the story Ruby has a vision:
She saw a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives… and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself… had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right… They were marching behind the others with great dignity… yet she could see their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away…
In this vision the smug Ruby Turpin found herself at the end of the line, behind the white trash, behind the freaks, behind the lunatics—not unlike the angry entitled laborers found themselves at the end of the line behind those who had not borne the heat of the day. Maybe, Ruby Turpin didn’t see it as fair, but it was grace that was being offered. It was God’s economy that was being offered not cultural economy.
The story in our Gospel reading is ultimately about grace, but might be difficult for those of us who work in this region of the country, perhaps even the world because we are use to a North American economic model. We work ourselves to the bone…to succeed, to earn more so we will have the benefits of a decent wage, providing our children with all of the possibilities we can think of for them, so THEY can succeed. Plus, it’s expensive to live around here. You have to earn a relatively high income to stay in this state- even as the gas tax and tolls prepare to go up, again.
When others seem to get benefits without having to work hard for them, people can get pretty testy, even downright judgmental. We want it to be fair. You work hard, long enough with enough tenacity, and success can be yours – isn’t that the American Dream? One definition of the American Dream says this: The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, ‘life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.’
To put that into a bit of context, remember what was going on in 1931…That was 2 years before the end of the Great Depression, and near the end of Prohibition; it was also in the middle of the Dust Bowl, when thousands of families left their farms in the Midwest. The Dust Bowl exodus was the largest migration in American history within a short period of time. Between 1930 and 1940, approximately 3.5 million people moved out of the Plains states; of those, it is unknown how many moved to California. (Wikipedia) It wasn’t an easy time by any means, but as people began to recover economically, the American Dream began to take shape…at least for some. Remember, that was long before the Civil Rights movement or the Women’s movement, when the idea of equality and equal opportunity moved forward in strides.
All of that has nothing to do with God, you know. God’s economy is not the economy of the United States or any other country. That’s what’s so challenging for us, isn’t it? At least for me it is. We are inundated culturally with the American Dream ethos that we can and should make it big, and if we don’t, well, we’re losers, failures, haven’t worked hard enough. There’s something wrong with us. We didn’t try hard enough, or we didn’t utilize the opportunities or the gifts we have been given. We are judged by society and perhaps even by those whom we love with a sense of unworthiness.
Thankfully, God’s economy is in another realm. Success in terms of the American Dream has NOTHING to do with spirituality. That’s one of the reasons the Prosperity Gospel (that God wants us to be prosperous and rich…even financially) which is touted by some Christian megachurch pastors is abhorrent to the mainline church.
Spiritually speaking, you and I, your child and mine, are just as equal in the eye of God as the child living in the barrios of Rio, or the drug infested dens of any city. We are all equally as lovable and worthy of God’s incredible generosity of Spirit. That’s a problem sometimes when we believe in the cultural economy versus God’s economy.
Theologian Martin Luther reflects Jesus’ parable in this: we are not engaged by God in a life where those who work the hardest win the right to enter heaven. Nor are we competitively engaged in producing good works, in order to earn the right to be part of the kingdom. God’s incredible and generous love is available for ALL of US!
My experience in having spent some time in the developing world, is that those without much materially, for the most part, GET that God’s love is free and undeserved. It’s WE who have the privilege, of class and opportunity and money and race…who have the hardest time with something which is given freely and not earned.
It takes a lot of humility to see that those who don’t hold the same status in society, are truly equal in the realm of God. Remember the question that is posed by the landowner in the parable? Are you envious because I am generous? Writer Mary Gordon, in her book Reading Jesus, calls this “an impossible question, calling for an impossible honesty.” Because yes, she writes: “I am envious because you are generous. I am envious because my work has not been rewarded. I am envious because someone got away with something. Envy has eaten out my heart.”
Life is NOT fair. We want transactional love. We’ve built our lives on it…if we dance a little faster, work a little harder, figure it all out, we’ll be loved and do well. That’s not what the Gospel says. Nothing you can do or say, will make God love you or me and more or any less. Thank GOD for that.
We need to recognize that no one can work enough to earn salvation from sin, that it is the grace of God that saves us, not the amount of work we do or the good deeds we amass before we die. If we understand God’s economy, deeply within our souls, we will be more gracious to others who are so different than we are, but all the same brothers and sisters in faith.
There is a church in Tennessee named All Saints. And this is a true story of what happened to this church, when the older, dwindling, hard-working, English-speaking congregation could no longer support the building and was in anguish about closing it.
What happened? A group of desperately poor immigrants from Burma were settled in their town and came to church. They were not the answer to the poor white folks’ prayers. They needed a huge amount of support. And they needed the church to change its ways.
What happened was a miracle. Not the magic wand kind we all want. No, the other kind of miracle, the kind Jesus talks about in kingdom parables. Everyone had to work incredibly hard. Set-backs occurred often, and they occurred when people were exhausted.
The future was hard to see, so they had to keep going in faith, when many wanted to stop. And the miracle was not so much what they did, but what happened to them along the way.
In the wake of each set back, they grew a little closer, became a little more of a community, lived a little more by faith. They argued. Yes, they did. As Jesus tells us the workers in the kingdom argued, about what was just and fair. So, we learn that argument is part of life in the kingdom, it isn’t all Kum-bay-yah moments. But we also learn that generous the love of God stretches far and wide, lavished upon those whom God calls God’s own…all of us! That is God’s model of economy. That is Grace!! May it be so! Amen.
Commentary provided by Stanley Saunders, Karoline Lewis, Emerson Powery, David Lose, Ira Brent Driggers, Shannon White, Flannery O’Connor and Paul Rader.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
THE PRAYER’S OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Hear our cry, Almighty God. Listen to our prayer. How long will we have to hide in our homes from this invisible enemy? Where will it strike next? And whom? And what if…? Our screens relay a continuous escalation of suffering and death around the world. Panic and anxiety abounds. Our souls are weary from the strain of the life-altering unknowns.
Heavenly Father, from the depths of our pain and confusion, we cry out to You. From fear-filled hearts and anxious minds, we plead with You. Rescue us, Father of compassion and grace. We lift up our eyes to You, Lord God, the One who sits enthroned in heaven.
On all who have contracted the virus
Lord have mercy
On all who have lost loved ones to this sickness and are in mourning and anguish
Lord have mercy
On all who are unable to earn an income because their jobs have been suspended
Lord have mercy
We cry out for healing and needed resources
We cry out for comfort and peace
On all medical professionals and caretakers attending to those infected with the virus
Christ have mercy
On all scientists and technologists striving to find a vaccine and to make it available
Christ have mercy
On all leaders of institutions and governments as they make decisions to try and contain the virus
Christ have mercy
We pray for strength in the long and exhausting hours of labor
We pray for wisdom in the research and difficult decisions
On all who have not yet contracted the virus
Lord have mercy
On the most vulnerable of our society who are unable to buy extra food or get proper medical attention
Lord have mercy
On all disciples of Jesus Christ discerning how to reflect His love to others within this crisis
Lord have mercy
We plead for protection of health
We plead for all to remain calm and kind
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the expanse of the universe. And yet this earth is no longer as You created it to be. Holy Father, our earth groans from the devastation caused by the curse of the Fall. My God, Your Word is true. One day You will liberate creation from its bondage to decay and death.
Life is sacred and precious in your sight. You are the God Who sees us and sustains us.
Nothing can separate us from the Father’s unfailing love and kindness, not even sickness or the fear of tomorrow. You are our Light as we walk in this darkness. We will remember to celebrate the beautiful gifts You have given us in this present moment.
Almighty God, You are our Rock, our Refuge from the enemy, our hiding place.
You calm our frantic thoughts and fill our despairing hearts with joy and strength.
In Your Presence living water springs forth in the wilderness.
You restore our souls.
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
Every good thing is a gift from God — the food we eat, the things we have, the time we spend, our whole lives. We give our lives back to God as a way of saying thank you — sharing money with those who are in need, giving food to those who are hungry, and spending our time to help others.
CONGREGATIONAL MEETING TO ELECT OFFICERS
Session members: Don Tatham, Wendy Kunz & Karen Cruscillio
Deacons: Becky DiGati, Julie Farkas, Colleen Seeburgh & Marian Craig
Trustees: Dale McIntyre & Jules Farkas
DOXOLOGY, HYMN No. 609, Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise God, all creatures high and low. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise God, in Jesus fully known: Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
You are the source of every good and perfect gift, O God. Use these tithes and offerings for your glory. Let your church be a spring whose waters never fail; and let your people be repairers of the breach and restorers of streets to live in. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Now go to share the love of God.
We will share it with childish abandon.
Go now to share the grace of Jesus.
We will offer this gift, fresh every morning, to all we meet.
Go now to share the generosity of the Holy Spirit.
We will hold nothing back as we embrace each one this week.