Sunday Eucharist prayers, readings and reflections are available below.
TRINITY XV SUNDAY 20 SEPTEMBER
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Philippians 1:21-30, Matthew 20:1-16.
Give us grace to labour faithfully in your service, desiring no reward but the knowledge that we are doing your will.
Keep us cheerful in our daily tasks, honourable and honest in duty and with regard for those with whom we work.
We pray for all who are sick and especially Mary Maxwell, Paul Evans, Adrian Lewis and Gerald Lewis.
And we pray for all whose lives and toil is over. May they be granted rest, refreshment and peace.
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16.
AD 306 was a significant year for the Christian Church. It was the year Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor. His father, Constantius, had been in charge of the army at York and had just defeated the wild tribes on the edge of the empire beyond Hadrian's wall. On his death his soldiers proclaimed his son Constantine emperor.
With the army he set out for Rome. But short of the city he met an even stronger army at the Milivian Bridge. There he saw the vision of the cross of Jesus, with the clear message, "In this sign conquer". He won the battle and embraced the Christian Faith, the first Christian Roman Emperor. During his rule he brought about many reforms; prisoners were no longer allowed to be kept in total darkness, gladiatorial fights to the death in the arena were ended, he called Councils of the Church, most famously at Nicea. At the end, and only at the end of his life, he was baptised, believing that he would be punished for post-baptismal sin.
Which brief history brings us to the Gospel for today, the Parable of the labourers in the Vineyard. The men who worked for just one hour received the same pay as those who worked all day. It appeared to be grossly unfair.
But this is not a social comment on pay and conditions. Look carefully at the words "the last shall be first, and the first will be last" . It is the same answer Jesus gave when Peter Challenging him said, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Matthew 19:27.
The point about the parable is that we do not receive wages from God for serving him. We cannot make a contract with God. Constantine left it until he was on his deathbed before he was baptised. But he had been serving God for many years before it came to that.
St Ignatius, in the sixteenth century, made the same point in his prayer, when he asked only "... to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do thy will". Serving God is a special calling, a privilege. When our day comes to its end we may simply hear his words, "well done, good and faithful servant".
Some of our actions may please God, others will grieve his heart. But God's love is not dependant on how we behave, it is constant, unchanging, unconditional. If we can but open our hearts to his love and forgiveness our lives can be transformed, as can the life of the world.
At Calvary, the criminal crucified with Jesus was not deserving of anything, but of Jesus he made a simple request: "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom." To which Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." And so a criminal was first to enter God's kingdom, with God's grace and with equal blessing with all who would follow him.