Worship for Sunday 24th September 2023, by Rev. Joy Rulton

Call to worship:

God calls the strong and the weak,
the grateful and the grumblers,
those who have much to give and those who have little.
And he calls us,
so come and worship the God
whose generosity is beyond words
and whose love binds us all together.


Sing of a God in majestic divinity,

     seeding the heavens with numberless stars,

forming our dust and our dreams of infinity,

     God of our genes and the judge of our wars.

Sing of a child who was cradled so tenderly,

     sing of a boyhood by Galilee’s lake;

sing of a cross and a Saviour who wondrously

     suffered and died for humanity’s sake.

Sing of a Spirit who daily addresses us,

     lives in our sciences, nature, and arts;

moving through all of creation and blessing us,

     guiding our minds and engaging our hearts.

Sing of this God who in glory and mystery

     chooses to lie in humanity’s womb,

enters the prison and pain of our history,

     rises triumphant and opens the tomb.

Words © 1981 The Hymn Society (admin. Hope Publishing Company)

Prayer of adoration and confession:

We adore you, O God, our king;
your name shall be always upon our lips.
For your love is great, and greatly to be praised.
Those who went before us praised your works.
Those who follow us will praise your name.

Our words shall resound with the proclamation
of your goodness and righteousness.
For you are gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and great in mercy.
You are good to all,
and you show tender mercies to everyone.
Your kingdom is glorious in power,
your majesty is beyond words,
your kingdom will last for ever,
and your praise shall be sung eternally.

We adore you now, Creator God.
We adore you now, Loving Lord Jesus.
We adore you now, Eternal Spirit.

Prayer of Confession:

For the times when we have not lived in a manner
worthy of the gospel of Christ,

Lord: forgive us.
For the times when we have not stood firm
to your kingdom values,

dear Lord: forgive us.

For the times when we have not united in the Spirit,
Lord: forgive us.

For the times we have heard your call
but turned away from you,

Lord: forgive us.

For the times we have not celebrated your goodness and love,
Lord: forgive us.

We are sorry that we do not always listen,
do not always hear, do not always obey;
and we ask for discernment,
courage and strength to be faithful to you.

Hymn:   From Psalm 51

Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
And take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

Songwriters: Keith Green

Create in Me a Clean Heart lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Readings:  NRSV

Jonah 3:10-4:11

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the    next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

Matthew 20:1-16

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And 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?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “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.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

Hymn:  StF 508

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner’s fire,
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin, deep within

C: 1990 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing


When I was a teenager my family lived in a village surrounded by fields. Several arable crops were grown, among them being peas, not grown up sticks or netting, but left to ramble over the ground.

My brother, Michael, and I decided we’d earn some pocket money by helping with the harvesting. We were each given a large sack, and, when it was full of peas, you took it to be weighed and were paid 50p. It takes a lot of peas to fill a sack! It really was backbreaking work.

However many peas I picked, though, my sack never seemed to weigh enough. It was many years later that my brother admitted he’d been taking peas out of my sack to fill his own. I’d done much more work than he had, but he was paid the same amount as me by the end of the day. Hardly fair, was it?

We’re taught when we’re young that fairness matters. It grates when we see someone else get the glory, or the money, or the nice house.

This is another story about the kingdom of God. The grape harvest had to be picked quickly as soon as it was ripe or the rainy season could destroy the crop. Work began at sunrise and continued until sunset. The men would wait in the marketplace to be hired. They could stand for many hours, often getting no work at all and when there was no work the family went hungry. The Torah insisted that laborers be paid at the end of each day they worked, because those who lived on a denarius a day were just above the poverty line.

We can quite see, though, why the workers who had been slaving in the fields for long hours through the heat of the day would be jealous and angry at the seeming injustice of those who turned up later being paid the same wage. Can you imagine what would happen if the same situation happened today? I wonder what the unions would make of it. Imagine the outcry! We couldn’t contemplate a system where those who work a twelve-hour day get paid exactly the same as the people who roll up to work for the last hour! What a mad, unfair system! It’s hardly surprising that people were complaining to the landowner!

What answer do they get? Instead of the “Oh, I’ve got that wrong. I need to give you more,” that they were probably hoping for, they get, “It’s my money, I’ll do what I like with it Are you just jealous because I choose to be generous?”

Envy isn’t an attractive quality, even when things do seem really unfair. Once we start to compare ourselves with others, there will always be people who have more than us and seem to have done little to earn it. Other people seem to get all the blessings and the credit when we’ve done all the work. But then when we look at the world around us, we all know life just isn’t fair. How many of us can honestly say we’ve never been envious of what others have.

The problem is that envy can eat away at us inside. It can make us resentful and bitter and prevent us living the life in all its fulness that God promises us. One theologian wrote, “Why is goodness often the occasion for anger? Why do we find it so difficult to rejoice over the good that enters other peoples’ lives, and why do we spend our time calculating how we have been cheated?”

Look at Jonah. He ran away to avoid delivering the message of forgiveness that God sent him to proclaim. Jonah complained, “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” And surely this cannot be for them, the people of Nineveh?

Rather than get caught up in comparing ourselves to others, maybe we should spend our energy doing what God asks of us – sharing the gospel where we can and making more disciples. We are called to work in God’s vineyard and rejoice in his generosity.

The landowner kept going back to the marketplace, hiring the people nobody else was prepared to take on. Our God has a heart of compassion for those no one else seems to care about.

Were those workers really so different from each other? None of them owned the vineyard. All needed a job and all were chosen, invited in, by no effort of their own doing. The landowner kept his word to those he hired first at the start of the day. And he was so generous he gave the same to those he hired at the end of the day. Maybe they didn’t deserve it, but he knew they would need a whole day’s pay to feed their families.  “That’s not fair,” we might say. No, it’s not. But it is grace.

Grace changes everything. It turns lives around “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  Grace reminds us that we are not nearly as self-sufficient, deserving, or independent as we might think. Grace reveals the goodness of God. It looks for unity and inclusion. We just need to be open to receive what God is offering us. When that happens, we start to see ourselves and the world in a different light, God’s light. And with him, there is enough for everyone.


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.
In Jesus’ name we pray.

Questions to ponder:

When have you thought, ‘That’s just not fair’?

Does God’s justice sometimes seem unfair ?

Hymn:  StF 156

From the breaking of the dawn
To the setting of the sun,
I will stand on every promise of Your word.
Words of power, strong to save,
That will never pass away,
I will stand on every promise of Your word.
For Your covenant is sure,
And on this I am secure,
I can stand on every promise of Your word.

When I stumble and I sin,
Condemnation pressing in,
I will stand on every promise of Your word.
You are faithful to forgive,
That in freedom I might live,
So I stand on every promise of Your word.
Guilt to innocence restored:
You remember sins no more!
So I’ll stand on every promise of Your word.

When I’m faced with anguished choice,
I will listen for Your voice,
And I’ll stand on every promise of Your word.
Through this dark and troubled land
You will guide me with your hand
As I stand on every promise of Your word.
And you’ve promised to complete
Every work begun in me,
So I’ll stand on every promise of Your word.

Hope that lifts me from despair,
Love that casts out every fear,
As I stand on every promise of Your word.
Not forsaken, not alone,
For the Comforter has come,
And I stand on every promise of Your word.
Grace sufficient, grace for me,
Grace for all who will believe,
We will stand on every promise of Your word.

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

© 2005 Thankyou Music

Prayers of intercession

We pray for all those who struggle to find regular work,
and for those who are overworked in ‘sweatshops’.
We pray for those who struggle to ‘make ends meet’,
because they are low paid.
Loving God, we pray for the coming of your kingdom
when all will be rewarded for their labours with generosity.

We pray for those who are looking for jobs,
for those who work in job centres,
and for all who offer careers advice, help and support.
Loving God, we pray for the coming of your kingdom
when all will be valued for who they are
rather than for what they do.

We pray for those in dangerous jobs:
for the emergency services,
for all whose work brings them close to real dangers every day,
and for all who have been injured through their work,
or whose health has been adversely affected.
Loving God, we pray for the coming of your kingdom
when all will be safe and secure
and will be healed and made whole in you.
Hear our prayers, in the name of Jesus.

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.

Hymn:   StF 410

In the wonder of creation,

when all nature shares one song,

showing God’s imagination,

all may see his love goes on.

Through the Holy Story spoken,

of God’s people called as one,

gathered, exiled, saved and broken,

this we learn: His love goes on.

In the Christ who died to save us;

in God’s risen, living Son;

through the Spirit, whom he gave us;

this we know: His love goes on.

In the telling of the Gospel,

Matthew, Mark and Luke and John

join the Church in testifying

through the years, his love goes on.

From the perfect days of gladness

when the sun has brightly shone,

to the slog of working madness,

all the while his love goes on.

Through the times of harsh temptation,

seeking strength but finding none,

in our human desperation,

mercy comes; His love goes on.

In the joys of celebration,

of new birth or victory won,

in the deep peace of salvation,

tell the world his love goes on!

Through the dark days of depression,

when all sign of faith is gone,

hope may find no fresh expression,

but we trust his love goes on.

Through the hopes of our tomorrows,

and the things we’ve left undone –

future joys and present sorrows –

through all time, his love goes on.

In our Kingdom-shaped endeavour,

when God’s glorious work is done,

to the promise of forever,

God is here: His love goes on.

© Andrew T. Murphy 2008


God, send us out as workers in your vineyard,
to do whatever you call us to do,
to do it fairly and without favour,
so that all may share in your harvest of generosity.

May the blessing of God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Be with us always.

Song:  Blinded by your grace, Stormzy

I’m blinded by your grace (By Your Grace)

Lord I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me
I’m blinded by your grace
You came and saved me

One time for the Lord
And one time for the cause
And one round of applause
One time for Fraser T Smith on the chords
I think we got one, I stay prayed up then I get the job done
I’m Abigail’s youth, but I’m God’s son
But I’m up now, look at what God’s done
Now I real talk, look at what God did
On the main stage runnin’ ’round topless
I phone Flipz then I tell him that we got this
This is God’s plan, they can never stop this

Like, wait right there, could you stop my verse?
You saved this kid and I’m not your first
It’s not by blood and it’s not by birth
But oh my God, what a God I serve

I said a prayer this morning
I prayed I would find a way
To another day, I was so afraid
‘Til you came and saved,

you came and saved me
And the rain was pouring, ’cause the sun faded away

Now I’m in a better place, no longer afraid
Blinded by your grace, you came and saved me,

Blinded By Your Grace, Pt. 2 lyrics © Razor And Tie Music Publishing


Prayers from rootsontheweb and The Vine

CCL: 5441182