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Sunday 11th October 2020 – 18th after Trinity – 19th after Pentecost

Today’s worship begins with the Introit ‘Let thy merciful ears, O Lord’, by Thomas Mudd, sung by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge.

A Prayer for Today

God of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses,
you stayed the hand of your wrath
when we fell into idolatry and discord;
and when we forgot our deliverance,
your love for us remained unchanging.
Transform us and our world
into a place of justice, love, and peace.
Welcome us to your wedding feast
where all are invited to be gathered in. Amen.

The Old Testament Lesson is from Exodus, chapter 32, beginning from the 1st verse.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

The Hymn, ‘Praise, my soul, the King of heaven’, sung to the tune Lauda Anima.

The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, chapter 4, beginning at verse 1.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown; stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women; for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Gradual Psalm is Psalm 23, sung to a chant by Douglas Jones in A, recorded at his wedding on 22nd July 1995 in All Soul’s Church, Blackman Lane, Leeds, sung by a choir of his dearest friends.

Dominus regit me

  1. THE Lord is my shepherd : therefore can I lack nothing.
  2. He shall feed me in a green pasture : and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
  3. He shall convert my soul : and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil : for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
  5. Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me : thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
  6. But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life : and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

GLORIA

The Gospel Reading is from the book of Matthew, chapter 22, beginning to read from verse 1.

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Hymn, ‘Thy hand, O God, has guided’, sung to the tune ’Thornbury’.

The Reflection on today’s bible readings has been written by Elizabeth Draper. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your thoughts with us.

Psalm 23, which we have just heard sung, is the best known of all the 150 psalms. You can see why: its neat length, the completeness of the message, the beauty of the language and the comfort of the thoughts. It is no surprise that it is the psalm that almost everyone knows, or knows of; the most quoted and referenced over the years.

Paul’s advice to the Philippians is similarly a beautiful and comforting exhortation. Think beautiful thoughts, behave honourably, and the peace of God will be with you.

The Old Testament reading, however, shows how easy it is to go off the path that we know we should follow. The Israelites in the desert, wondering what has become of Moses, their leader, and not sure that he will return to them, put their trust in something more immediate. They make, or get Aaron to make for them, an idol; and they are prepared to give up valuable possessions like gold rings to create it. 

What are the false idols that allure people today? We probably wouldn’t worship a golden calf, but there are certainly people who worship gold or wealth. Possessions, power, fame. These are, and always have been, the false idols that tempt people into harmful ways. We might call an addiction to drink or drugs a false idol too. The addict does not worship the substance but is in thrall to the habit.

There is nothing wrong with things like money or power in themselves; they can be used to do good for society. Think of Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates who gave their vast wealth to humanitarian or social causes. Or of reforming rulers and parliamentarians, who used their position to bring about the end of slavery, or the provision of free elementary education, or universal suffrage; and of those who continue to work to reform injustices all over the world today. Neither is there anything wrong in taking pleasure in beautiful possessions, so long as it does not become obsessive or vain.  Fame, too, may come about honourably, perhaps as a result of having special talents which are recognised and admired by other people, and which give delight to them; or which encourage people to think and respond creatively. 

It is when these goals are sought for their own sake that they become false idols; the hoarding of money; the misuse of power; the vacuous ‘celebrity’; because then they stem from, and perpetuate, false values. They encourage greed, selfishness, envy, antagonism, conflict. This creates division instead of working in unity for the common good, and a narrow self-centred vision of the world instead of seeing humanity as a brotherhood and sisterhood.

Contrast this with the picture of society Paul gives to the Philippians. He tells them to let their thoughts dwell on whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, commendable; and the peace of God will guard their hearts and minds. He contrasts this with the destruction in store for those whose minds are set only on earthly things.

But it’s difficult to avoid these earthly ways of thinking. Some 200 years ago, William Wordsworth wrote, ‘The world is too much with us. Late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers’. Advertising and mass-manufacturing have created an appetite, and modern media exert even more pressure on us today. In particular, the social media seem hard to resist, especially for young people. Facebook, Twitter and the newer platforms, I can’t keep up, encourage boasting and competition, which leads to envy and lying, and the spurious notion of success by having thousands of anonymous followers. It’s an unreal world, but it can create real anxiety and distress.

I find the Matthew story difficult to interpret. The punishment of the wedding guest who wasn’t appropriately dressed seems unduly harsh. I think his offence was that he did not appreciate what he was being offered, the true nature of the feast he was invited to. We are invited to follow the pattern of Jesus. And unlike the addict who is enslaved by his damaging habit, we are invited, not compelled, to follow. Jesus tells us, ‘My service is perfect freedom.’ 

The Israelites, in the wilderness, lost their trust in Moses as their leader and turned to other gods. Paul’s letter by contrast is full of his unshakeable trust in Christ. ‘The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything. Pray and give thanks and speak to God.’ He is confident that God is listening, and the peace of God will follow. The same confidence in the guidance, support and protection of the Lord is also the essence of Psalm 23. Let us hold fast to that trust.

Elizabeth Draper

This week’s Anthem is a setting of part of the Epistle reading: ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway’, an anonymous sixteenth century setting, formerly attributed to John Redford.

Let us pray for ourselves and for God’s people throughout the world.

Lord of all, you know my every thought and action; you are there when I arise every day and when I lay down to sleep; you follow my journeyings and prepare my resting places, and are acquainted with all my ways. Thank you, Lord, for being my anchor, my compass and my guiding light. Amen.

Lord of creation, whose glory is around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence, and know your peace at our lives’ end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ever-watchful Lord; guard the lives and homes of all your people. Protect those who labour and support any who are seeking employment at this time or who have become redundant. Bless them with your many gifts and your loving-kindness. Comfort those who are sick in mind or body; and be with those who care for them and treat their afflictions. Stretch your arms around the dying and bereaved and welcome the souls of the departed into the joy of your heavenly Kingdom. Give hope to all your faithful servants and reward them well as they strive to do their best for you in all things. Merciful architect, help us to build your house exactly as you designed it, so that it may become complete in your eyes, and that our labours in your vineyard shall forever bring forth the finest fruit. This we pray for the sake of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for all the benefits that you have won for us; for all the pains and insults that you have borne for us. Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray

That you, with steadfast love, would keep your watch around us while we sleep.

From evil dreams defend our sight, from fears and terrors of the night;

Tread underfoot our deadly foe, that we no sinful thought may know.

O Father, that we ask be done, through Jesus Christ, your only Son;

And Holy Spirit, by whose breath our souls are raised to life from death. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer.

As our Saviour Christ taught us, we are bold to say:

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.

We say ‘The Grace’.

May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.

The Final Hymn today is ‘The King of Love my Shepherd is’, sung to the tune ‘Dominus Regit Me’.

The Organ Voluntary is William Mathias’ ‘Processional’, played by Nick Moore on the Princethorpe College organ built by Binns of Leeds.

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Choral Eucharist – URC Order 4

Setting: Mass for 5 Voices (William Byrd)

Preacher: Revd Dr David Stec

SUNDAY 4th October 2020 – 17th after Trinity – 18th after Pentecost

Our previous communion service was taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but today’s service appropriately follows the Fourth Order for Holy Communion of the United Reformed Church. As before, a suitable choral setting by William Byrd has been used, from his Mass for Five Voices, This is sung by the Tallis Scholars, and for any of you who would like to join them, music is provided! Optional spoken parts of the service have been added experimentally, read by digital voices. Please feel free to use these, or read the sections in your own preferred way.

Opening Sentences

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord; for God’s love endures for ever.

Prayer of Approach

Let us pray. Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

HYMN: Christ, whose glory fills the skies (tune: Ratisbon)

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return
’til thy mercy’s beams I see;
’til they inward light impart,
cheer my eyes, and warm my heart.

3 Visit, then, this soul of mine;
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Confession of  Sin

Lord God most merciful, we confess that we have sinned, through our own fault, and in common with others, in thought, word and deed, and through what we have left undone. We ask to be forgiven. By the power of your Spirit turn us from evil to good, help us to forgive others, and keep us in your ways of righteousness and love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

In repentance and in faith receive the promise of grace and the assurance of pardon. Here are words you may trust, words that merit full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Your sins are forgiven for his sake. Thanks be to God.

The Kyries

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

Gloria in excelsis

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Prayer for Today

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

A Lesson from the Old Testament – Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

HYMN: Judge Eternal, throned in splendour (tune: Rhuddlan)

The EPISTLE – Philippians 3:4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The GRADUAL PSALM – Psalm 80

1   Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep :  shew thyself also, thou that sittest     upon the cherubims.

2  Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasses :  stir up thy strength, and come, and help us.

3  Turn us again, O God :  shew the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.

4  O Lord God of hosts :  how long wilt thou be angry with thy people that prayeth?

5  Thou feedest them with the bread of tears :  and givest them plenteousness of tears to drink.

6  Thou hast made us a very strife unto our neighbours :  and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Turn us again, thou God of hosts :  shew the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.

8  Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt :  thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.

9  Thou madest room for it :  and when it had taken root it filled the land.

10  The hills were covered with the shadow of it :  and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedar-trees.

11  She stretched out her branches unto the sea :  and her boughs unto the river.

12  Why hast thou then broken down her hedge :  that all they that go by pluck off her grapes?

13  The wild boar out of the wood doth root it up :  and the wild beasts of the field devour it.

14  Turn thee again, thou God of hosts, look down from heaven :  behold, and visit this vine;

15  And the place of the vineyard that thy right hand hath planted :  and the branch that thou madest so strong for thyself.

16  It is burnt with fire, and cut down :  and they shall perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

17  Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand :  and upon the son of man, whom thou madest so strong for thine own self.

18  And so will not we go back from thee :  O let us live, and we shall call upon thy Name.

19  Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts :  shew the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.

GLORIA

The HOLY GOSPEL – 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 watchtower. 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.

HYMN: My song is love unknown (tune: Love unknown)

Today’s Reflection has been penned by our own Revd Dr David Stec

Isa 5:1-7

Ps 80:7-15

Phil 3:4-14

Matt 21:33-46

 Matthew 21:33-34 “There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit”

Jesus’s parable of the Vineyard (or the Wicked Husbandmen, as it is more traditionally known) is really more of an allegory than a parable. By that I mean that each of its details represent something in particular, and has a significance for understanding the parable, whereas in Jesus’s parables usually the parable as a whole makes a more general point.

In this parable, a householder planted a vineyard, let it out to tenants, and went to another country. When the season for the grape harvest drew near, he sent his servants to collect his share of the fruit. But his tenants beat and killed those servants, and likewise a second lot of servants. Finally, he sent his own son, thinking that the tenants would respect him, but they reasoned that he was the heir, and if they killed him, they would get his inheritance, so they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. So, asks Jesus, what will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants? He will put them to a miserable death and let the vineyard out to other tenants who will give him the fruits in due season.

Here the vineyard represents Israel, the owner of the vineyard is God, the tenants are the chief priests and other Jewish leaders, and the servants are the prophets whom God sent to his people, who were persecuted and killed. The son and heir is, of course, Jesus. Instead of receiving him as messiah, the Jewish leaders would have him killed. Thus the parable announces judgment upon those leaders: the tenants will be put to death and the vineyard let out to other tenants, just as Jerusalem will be destroyed, and the old Israel will be replaced by a new Israel, that is the early church, as God’s people.

Some features of the parable seem rather implausible. Would the owner of a vineyard be likely to keep risking the lives of his servants and even the life of his own son, as described here? And would the tenants not have realised that even if they killed the heir, the vineyard would not be theirs, as it would still belong to the father, with whom one day they would have to reckon? On the other hand, the parable does reflect the situation in 1st century Palestine, in which large estates were often parcelled up and leased out to tenant farmers. I suspect that in its allegorical details, this parable reflects in large measure how the early church interpreted the events surrounding the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus followed by the beginnings and development of the Christian community.

If we were to look upon this parable simply as an allegory of the events which it represents, it would be of some historical interest, but it would not be very relevant to us today. However, I believe that it is possible to find in this parable a message which speaks to the people of God in every age. In this respect, it is the first two verses which are of crucial importance. The parable is to be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, with only small differences between them.

In Matthew’s version, it opens with the words: “There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit.”

There are three things which particularly strike me here.

The first is the great care with which the owner did his work. He not only planted the vines, but put a hedge around the vineyard to separate it and protect it from wild animals, he dug a winepress, ready for the grapes to be trodden, and he built a tower that could be used by the vinedressers and those who kept watch against thieves. Everything was there in place for the vineyard to be up and working. If he had always intended to be an absentee landlord, he need not have made such a thorough job of creating it; he could easily have left much of the building work to the tenants. But he clearly took a great pride in his vineyard, and did everything that he would have done, if he had planned to cultivate it himself.

This second thing that stands out is that the vineyard was intended as an investment for the owner and his family. That is doubtless one reason why he made such a thorough job of setting it up. The purpose of the vineyard was to make a profit, and we can infer from the parable that the lease specified what proportion of the fruit was to be kept by the tenants, and what proportion was to go to the owner. One small detail of the parable that is unique to Matthew’s version is that the owner is referred to as a “householder”, whereas in Mark and Luke he is simply a “man”. The description of him as a “householder” adds just a little support to the thought that he was a family man, and the vineyard was an investment for the benefit of his whole family. He certainly had a son and heir, whom he involved in the business by sending him to collect the portion of the produce that was due to him.

The third thing that I particularly notice here is the great trust that the owner placed in his tenants. We cannot tell how well he had known them beforehand, or whether they were complete strangers to him. But he trusted them enough to leave his brand new vineyard in their hands, and to go and live abroad, confident that the tenants would honour the terms of the lease, and deliver his share of the fruit when it was due.

One thing that is very clear is that Jesus’s parable of the vineyard was very much influenced by Isaiah’s parable, which is our Old Testament  lesson, and in which Israel is thought of as God’s vineyard. Isaiah presents his parable as a love song concerning his beloved who had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. “He digged it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it”. Do these words not remind you of the great care taken by the man in Jesus’s parable in setting up his vineyard? Isaiah’s beloved too expected his vineyard to produce a profit: “He looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild (more literally ‘bad’ or ‘stinking’) grapes.” So Isaiah declares that his beloved will tear down the wall of the vineyard and leave it to be trampled underfoot. As in Jesus’s parable, the owner of the vineyard is God, and the vineyard itself represents Israel. Isaiah concludes, “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!”

Similar imagery is to be found in Psalm 80, where Israel is compared with a vine: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.” The psalmist goes on to lament that the walls of the vineyard are now broken down, and those who pass by pluck its fruit, and the wild boar ravages it.

The essential message that we can take from all these biblical passages is that God entrusts his people with some tremendous resources, then waits for them to produce the fruit due to him. He invests much in the growth of his kingdom and each one of us is a part of that investment. By living the Christian life and sharing in the work of the church we can each contribute to the growth of his kingdom. Jesus, using the imagery of the vine, once put it like this, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15, verse 5)

It is very appropriate that the readings set by the Lectionary for today should be concerned with vineyards and vines, because today should be a communion Sunday for St Andrew’s. Our tradition of celebrating communion quarterly and at Easter means that every communion Sunday is a special occasion in the life of our congregation. Unfortunately, in the present situation caused by the corona virus, because we do not meet for public worship, it is not possible for us to celebrate the sacrament. The way things are progressing as the present time, it looks as though it may well be some considerable time yet before we are once again able to gather around the Lord’s table. This only means that when the day comes (as it surely will) when we can safely come together for worship, our first communion service will be all the more of a special occasion.

At the last supper, Jesus left his disciples with the promise, “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26, verse 29) We await that day, and in the meantime we look forward to the day when we shall again drink of the fruit of the vine in the presence of Jesus as we observe the sacrament of the Lord’s supper at St Andrew’s.

Revd Dr David Stec

Prayers for the Church and the World

Almighty God, whose Spirit helps us in our weakness and guides us in our prayers; we pray for the Church and for the world in the name of Jesus Christ. We pray for the Church throughout the world. Renew the faith and life of the Church; strengthen its witness; and make it one in Christ. Grant that we and all who confess that he is Lord may be faithful in service and filled with his spirit, and that the world may be turned to Christ.

We pray for the nations of the world, for our own country, and all who work for reconciliation. Guide the nations in the ways of justice, liberty and peace; and help them to seek the unity and welfare of all peoples. Give to our Queen and to all in authority wisdom to know and strength to do what is right.

We pray for all who serve our community. Grant that men and women in their various callings may have grace to do their work well; and may the resources of the earth be wisely used, truth honoured and preserved, and the quality of our life enriched.

We pray for the sick and the suffering, victims of injustice, the lonely and the bereaved. Comfort those in sorrow; heal the sick in body or in mind; and deliver the oppressed. Give us active sympathy for all who suffer; and help us so to bear the burdens of others that we may fulfil the law of Christ.

We pray for our families, friends and neighbours, and for all who need our prayers. Keep us and the members of our families united in loyalty and in love, and always in your care; and may our friends and neighbours, and all for whom we pray, receive the help they need, and live in peace.

We remember those who have died. Eternal God, accept our thanks and praise for all who have served you faithfully here on earth, and especially for those dear to our own hearts. May we and all your people, past, present and to come, share the life and joy of your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Invitation and the Gracious Words

All those present may be invited to share in the Lord’s Supper. Hear the gracious words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.

The Peace

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

HYMN: O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray (tune: Song 1)

1 O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray
That all thy Church might be for ever one,
Grant us at every Eucharist to say
With longing heart and soul, ‘Thy will be done.’
O may we all one Bread, one Body be,
One through this Sacrament of unity.

2 For all thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;
Make thou our sad divisions soon to cease;
Draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,
By drawing all to thee, O Prince of Peace:
Thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,
One through this Sacrament of unity.

3 We pray thee too for wanderers from thy fold;
O bring them back, good Shepherd of the sheep,
Back to the faith which saints believed of old,
Back to the Church which still that faith doth keep:
Soon may we all one Bread, one Body be,
One through this Sacrament of unity.

4 So, Lord, at length when sacraments shall cease,
May we be one with all thy church above,
One with thy saints in one unbroken peace,
One with thy saints in one unbounded love:
More blessèd still, in peace and love to be
One with the Trinity in Unity.

The Offertory

If you are partaking of your own bread and wine in your home, you are invited to offer this prayer of blessing:

Eternal God, we come with these gifts to offer our sacrifice of praise and the service of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Narrative of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper

Hear the narrative of the institution of the Lord’s Supper as it was recorded by the apostle Paul. I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Taking of the Bread and Wine

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and following his example, we take this bread and this cup, and give thanks to God.

The Thanksgiving

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

With joy we give you thanks and praise, Almighty God, Source of all life and love, that we live in your world, that you are always creating and sustaining it by your power, and that you have so made us that we can know and love you, trust and serve you. We give you thanks that you loved the world so much that you gave your only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life. We thank you that Jesus was born among us that he lived our common life on earth; that he suffered and died for us; that he rose again; and that he is always present through the Holy Spirit. We thank you that we can live in the faith that your kingdom will come, and that in life, in death and beyond death you are with us.

Therefore with all the company of heaven, and with all your people, of all places and times, we proclaim your greatness and sing your praise.

Sanctus and Benedictus

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy Lord God, by what we do here in remembrance of Christ we celebrate his perfect sacrifice on the Cross and his glorious resurrection and ascension; we declare that he is Lord of all; and we prepare for his coming in his kingdom. We pray that through your Holy Spirit this bread may be for us the body of Christ and this wine the blood of Christ. Accept our sacrifice of praise; and as we eat and drink at his command unite us to Christ as one body in him, and give us strength to serve you in the world. And to you, one holy and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we give praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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.

 The Breaking of the Bread

The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

The Sharing of the Bread and Wine

Before you take the bread, you may say:

Take, eat – this is the body of Christ which is broken for me; this I do this in remembrance of him.

Before you take the wine, you may say:

This cup, of which I drink, is the new covenant in the blood of Christ, shed for me and for many for the remission of sins.

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: Grant us peace.

The Acclamation

Let us praise the Lord. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Blessing and honour and glory and power be to our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Most gracious God, we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here. You have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life and renewed us for your service. Now we give ourselves to you; and we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love reaching out into the life of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

HYMN: Forth in thy Name, O Lord, I go (tune: Song 34)

Dismissal and Blessing

Go in peace to serve the Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with us evermore. Amen.

ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Fantasia in Four Parts (Orlando Gibbons) played by Roger Goodwin on the Schmitt-Erz-Johannus Organ, Walferdange, Luxembourg

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