Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 20 September 2020

by Andy Cokayne 20 September 2020

Welcome - A call to worship from Psalm 113 v 1-9

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Our first hymn is : ‘How deep the father’s love for us’

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Prayer and Lord’s Prayer

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One of the passages of scripture set for today is: Matthew 20 v 1-16

Message: Our Generous God 

I can remember being in a conversation at work about pensions. We were debating pension pots, which were often a point of contention, and how big certain people’s would be. A name came up in conversation, "Well his is quite large!" and a number was mentioned. "You're joking! He's only been here 5 minutes." came a comment back, "And his pot is as big as mine." He'd actually worked there about 5 years, but we had been paying into the pension over 40 years. "Well if the company's been generous and made that possible for him, why not?" came a comment. But we were all livid! To think that someone, after only 5 years, could have a pension pot the same as ours, who'd been paying in for over 40 years. It was outrageous, it was clearly not fair, somebody should speak to the unions. How could the management allow it! What a way to repay us loyal workers! We all got ourselves very wound up. We later discovered, of course, it was all hearsay, someone had overheard a conversation, and assumed the rest.

But does the first part of the story sound familiar? With people claiming they want fairness, but in reality it is envy raising its ugly head. A manager hires staff at the start of the day to work for him, and agrees a day rate with each. Each is content with their pay, and starts work. He then goes out at various times during the day and hires other staff, and simply says to them that he will pay them a fair wage. At the end of the day when they queue up for their pay, each is paid exactly the same irrespective of how long they have worked. Whether it's the full day, through all the heat, or whether it was just an hour towards the end of the day when it was cooler and so more pleasant. Those that worked the longest started to complain, "It's just not fair!" And you can imagine how the conversation would go. The manager hears this and replies to those complaining, "I am not being unfair to you. You agreed the day rate and were happy with it, and I have paid you what we agreed. But it's my money, and if I choose to pay the one who was hired last, the same as I paid you, what is that to you, it's my money." "Or are you envious because I am generous?"

How often are we caught complaining "It's not fair!" Sometimes it's in church. Having time is often a double edged sword. We can either use our time wisely, or we can allow our thoughts to run away with us, and before long start to think how unfairly we have been dealt with, at a particular time or in a particular situation. We may ask Our Heavenly Father "Why?" "It's just not fair!" And then when we meet up again, we meet with a chip on our shoulder, or a grudge to bear. Our Father may ask us "Is it really unfair? Stop complaining!" "Or are you envious because I am generous?"  Are we not often similar, someone receives something, and we are envious. We think it is unjust. Why them? And so we cry out "It's not fair!" Yet really we are unhappy because we are envious. We would be far better allowing our focus to be on God's gracious benefits that he has given us, and be thankful for what we have.

But what else can we learn from this passage, after all Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God. In v 1 we read 'For the kingdom of heaven is like....'  Jesus is trying to give his disciples a lesson about God's kingdom. The Vineyard owner represents God, the wage a Denarius represents salvation, the workers are those who believe in Christ. 

  • The first thing we learn is that all who are chosen by God receive the same salvation equally, no matter how long they have served God, no matter how long they have been Christians. The thief on the cross beside Jesus, believed only in the last minutes of his life, yet he received the same salvation as any other believer in Christ. 
  • The second thing we learn is that God is fair. He agreed to pay those who worked all day a Denarius, and he kept his promise. But He was generous to those who worked fewer hours. He paid them more than they deserved. 
  • The third thing we learn is that we serve a generous God. To be generous is never unfair: God can be generous with whoever He chooses. Our salvation is always of grace. It does not depend on how many hours we have worked; how clever we are; whether our family has previously been Christians, what we have done; or how good we are; our salvation depends purely on the generosity of our God. 
  • We cannot earn our salvation it is a gift of God, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 2 v 8-9 'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast. No-one deserves being saved, it is purely by God's grace, his unmerited favour, that we are saved and called into his kingdom. Grace is God's generosity in action. 

Our God is generous, remember the feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and after everyone had eaten 12 baskets full of leftovers were picked up we read in Matthew 14 v 20. Later there was the feeding of the 4,000 with 7 loaves and a few small fish, and again after everyone had eaten, 7 baskets full of leftovers were picked up Matthew 15 v 27. God didn't just supply enough to meet their needs, He provided more than enough, such that there was plenty left over.

During part of Jesus' teaching that we call the Sermon on the Mount, we read these words in Luke 6 v 38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Emphasising the generosity of Our Heavenly Father. But notice the sting in the tail "For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." We are supposed to imitate our Father in character, so just as He is generous to us, so are we to be to others. 

Jesus completes his teaching by these words in verse 16 'So the last will be first, and the first will be last.' The workers who started work last were the first to be paid. All part of God's upside down kingdom. 

Our final hymn is : 'Only by grace can we enter'

Our final hymn is : 'Only by grace can we enter'

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We are united with churches throughout the country as we share together in the 'The UK Blessing'

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