Sunday Worship – 24th September 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Allerton Methodist Church and explores fairness in wealth and resources which has been prepared by Stuart Ayrton one of our Circuit Local Preachers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Call to Worship

Let one generation tell the other: God is great and deserves our praise. Let us glorify our God and our king; Let us praise the Lord for ever and ever. I will begin every day with praise on my lips; my mind will meditate on the great things God has done. I will celebrate God’s abundant goodness; And joyfully sing of the justice of the Lord. For God is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, and lavish in love.

Song – StF 125 – Praise and thanksgiving


God of amazing boundless grace, we come together to praise you.
God of inexhaustible compassion, we come together to pray to you.
God of perfect justice, we come together to be guided by you.
Outrageous God, You do not treat us as we deserve, but so much better.

You do not give us what we deserve, but so much more. You do not limit your generosity, but give to all. You are just beyond our understanding, merciful beyond our imagining, and so we worship you. Even when your justice seems to us unfair and your generosity misplaced, we worship you – for you are holy, gracious and wise. We worship you in Jesus’ name.

Loving God, Your generosity is as vast as the sky, as deep as the ocean, as stunning as a sunset, as beautiful as a smile, as mysterious as silence, as profound as birdsong, as unique as love. We can only stand in awe and ask that you help us become more like you: More generous, more compassionate, more just.

Dear God, so often we are like the first workers in the vineyard, resentful, ungrateful, angry.

So often we feel little for those on street corners, waiting for work, waiting for dignity, waiting for kindness. So often we miss opportunities to work together, to support one another, to be gracious to one another. So often we call unfair that which is amazing and unjust that which is beautiful. So often we limit your generosity to the size of ours.

Assurance of forgiveness

Eternal God, in confidence we trust your forgiveness, in gratitude we receive your grace, in humility we learn from your justice, in faith we cherish your generosity, and in prayerfulness, we ask that you would make us people who appreciate first and complain last –

To your glory and for the good of all.

All seeing God, as the landowner gave work to all those who needed it, so you give grace and we thank you, so you give strength and we thank you, so you give hope and we thank you, so you give purpose and we thank you, so you give life and we thank you.

We thank you for all your love and care for every single one of us.

In Jesus’ name, we thank you.


Song – StF 129 – To thee O Lord our hearts we raise


Matthew 20: 1-16 The parable of the workers in the vineyard


A topsy, turvy, upturned world, Where values are distorted, The first is last and last is first 
With everything contorted. The rich are begging at the door while ones they were despising
Are given charge of Godly wealth, In stature they are rising. 

Magnificat has come to stay, The proud have been extinguished; The humble poor are lifted high, their poverty relinquished. The reign of God has come to pass rebutting our world’s choices, each one that we would count as last within this time rejoices. 

And will we ever find a place  with pride and wealth rejected, or will hypocrisy deny our need to be accepted? The choice is ours, the crisis dawns, the time to make decisions, to stand with God or walk alone within this world’s divisions. 

© Andrew Pratt 15/8/2011

Song – StF 124 – For the fruits of his creation


Jesus tells a parable about the owner of a vineyard. The owner is concerned to hire as many workers as possible, all through the day, and then pays all his workers the same, irrespective of when they started work. The kingdom of heaven is like this; no one gets more or less than anyone else, everyone belongs and receives in equal measure.

Starting with a story that Jesus told about the relationship between a landowner and his employees we are encouraged to think about the fairness or lack of it in a world currently characterised by strikes.

In this parable it is the generosity of God, as portrayed by the landowner, that highlights a different approach to wealth. Those employed last receive a day’s wage, hugely generous for their single hour’s work. All the other workers receive the same, even those who have worked a 12-hour day. In a context of widespread unemployment this generosity is life changing. In the context of the preceding story, it demonstrates how a focus on money, even when understandable in the circumstances, can distract from a focus on what really matters.

There is a reminder here that God is free to make decisions without fitting into the framework of what, to us, seems fair. Outrageous grace gives what we do not deserve and does so with abundance. The final challenging sentence, ‘the last will be first, and the first will be last’, appeared at the end of the preceding story and reinforces this message. God’s take on things often involves different priorities and turns our expectations upside-down.

As we head into harvest season, perhaps this ‘harvest parable’ might make us think about those working at the bottom of the food chain. Those involved in harvesting and processing food are often some of the poorest paid. Furthermore, the recent downturn in migrant workers in the UK post-Brexit and post-Covid (together with fuel costs) has pushed up production costs, resulting in price rises and shortages in supermarkets, or increased imports from areas of cheaper labour costs, despite the environmental impact.

The film and musical Made in Dagenham is based on the story of women who went on strike at the Ford factory in Essex, wanting the same pay as men for the same job. This contributed to the 1970 Equal Pay Act. Today, however, someone under 20 on minimum wage is paid a third less than someone over 22 on the national living wage doing the same job. Is that fair? Interpreters of Jesus’ parable don’t agree on whether the amount paid to everyone was a subsistence wage or a good wage. Is there a difference between a landowner who pays an agreed bare minimum regardless of the hours worked, and one who pays everyone the same decent wage, whether they have worked for one or 12 hours?

There has been a lot of talk in the UK government about ‘levelling up’ in recent years, and there has been a cabinet post given responsibility for it. What lies behind this, of course, is that people in certain areas of the UK (largely in the north of England) feel left out of economic benefits that have ‘blessed’ the south-east. This feeling of being left behind, justified or not, is not unique to the UK nor the present time, and has sometimes had revolutionary consequences. For example, this was true in the area where Jesus was from and where he told this week’s parable: Galilee, in northern Israel. Galilee was a centre of unrest and discontent, with a history of absentee landlords (some of whom lived in Jerusalem) exploiting their workers – many being day labourers.

In previous generations, many industries employed day workers in the UK. That may have been fine in prosperous times, but when unemployment was high, for some it meant the family going hungry for a day or more. In recent years, migrant farm or factory workers have been in a similar situation, particularly if they did not qualify for state benefits. Of course, there are other factors at play too in today’s global market. But at the heart of it all is an economic model driven on one side by the desire for profit for the employer or shareholder, and the desire for the lowest possible prices by the consumer. It is a rare company where the needs of the employees come first.

And that was also true in Jesus’ day, and this parable speaks out of that context – its language and images would be familiar to those listening. But Jesus is not talking about employment practices or wage policy. The vineyard in the parable is a ‘codeword’. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is frequently compared to a vineyard, and often it is not complimentary! But Jesus uses the same images to point instead to another kingdom – one where all are treated equally (whether or not we think that is fair): the kingdom of heaven

An anthropologist working in Africa once put a basket of fruit near a tree and told the children he was studying that the first one to get to the fruits would win them all. When he told them to run, they took each other’s hands and ran together, and when they found the fruit they sat and enjoyed them together. He asked them why they did that, as one could’ve taken all the fruits for themselves. They said: ‘Ubuntu!’ ‘Ubuntu?’ He asked, ‘What do you mean?’ to which they replied, ‘How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?’ Desmond Tutu often commended this African concept of ‘Ubuntu’ with its sense of interdependence. Maybe it is a different form of levelling up!

God’s grace, in short, is not the sort of thing you can bargain with or try to store up. It  isn’t the sort of thing that one person can have a lot of and someone else only a little.  The point of the story is that what people get from having served God and his kingdom  is not, actually, a ‘wage’ at all. It’s not, strictly, a reward for work done. God doesn’t  make contracts with us, as if we could bargain or negotiate for a better deal. He makes covenants, in which he promises us everything and asks of us everything in return.  When he keeps his promises, he is not rewarding us for effort, but doing what comes  naturally to his overflowingly generous nature.

There is always a danger that we get cross with God over this. People who work in  church circles can easily assume that they are the special ones, God’s inner circle. In  reality, God is out in the marketplace, looking for the people everybody else tried to  ignore, welcoming them on the same terms, surprising them (and everybody else) with  his generous grace. The earliest church clearly needed to learn that lesson. Is there  anywhere in today’s church that doesn’t need to be reminded of it as well?

Song – StF 518 – Father hear the prayer we offer

Prayers of Intercession

Response after each bidding: God, be with them.

Eternal, ever-living, ever-present God, in the struggles and joys of this day, we pray:

For those who are overburdened, weighed down, demoralised, fearful or desolate because of what life has thrown at them…

For those engulfed in pain and anguish, facing illness and death…

For those troubled in mind and spirit, who find no peace or calm…

For those alone and lonely, without friend or comfort…

For those frightened and bewildered, who see no direction or purpose in their lives…

Eternal, ever-living God, Bless them all in this and every hour, In this and every step of life’s journey.


Lord’s Prayer

Song – StF 272 – From heaven you came, helpless babe


God, send us out as workers in your vineyard. To do whatever you call us to do. To do it fairly and without favour. o that all may share in your harvest of generosity. The creative power of God go with us. The compassionate love of Jesus go with us. The driving force of the Spirit go with us, As we follow our calling to link God to his people. Amen

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