Armadale UCA

20th September 2020


Modern Scales of Justice – Allan Swart

`The injustice of justice`

Pentecost 16

Rev Fiona Winn

Welcome and Grace

Scripture sentence

`…live your life
in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…`
Philippians 1: 27

TIS 137 (Dix – 314) `For the beauty of the earth`

Two very different musical versions:
Reawaken Hymns: https://youtu.be/L_WHg29dFvQ
John Rutter`s version: https://youtu.be/4VzrIhvKx5I

For the beauty of the earth
Folliott S. Pierpoint
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the Love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:
Christ our God to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light:
Christ our God to thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above;
For all gentle thoughts and mild:
Christ our God to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For each perfect gift of Thine
To the world so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth, and buds of Heaven:
Christ our God to thee we Raise
This our joyful hymn of praise.

Opening prayer

God of confronting, uneasy justice,
God whose perspective comprehends, subverts and overturns
our human perception of what is just,
and who constantly provokes and challenges our comfortable ideas
of justice, mercy and love,
we come to You to have our disordered thinking ordered,
to have our mistaken understanding corrected,
to have what is wrong in us righted.
You are not a God who leaves us in our ignorance.
You have given us texts and teachers,
stories and histories,
companions, communities, congregations
where, together, we may wonder and ponder anew
what the All Mighty can do..
You lead us to fresh insights and encourage us
to think, and think again…
Your desire is for us to mature and grow,
to develop and expand in our faith, in our life and living.
You made us. You know us. You love us.
You deal justly with all.
This is hard for us.
Forgive our foolish ways…restore us in our rightful minds.
Lord have mercy…
Forgive our insistence on our own way…
help us desire Christ`s way. Christ have mercy…
Forgive our refusal to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly
the way You do justice, the way You love mercy,
the way You came and come among us humbly
in Jesus Christ – the One who is Your way
to true justice, love and humility. Lord have mercy…
`Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains.
Your justice like the great deep….
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God.` Ps. 36: 6, 7
We hear Christ`s words of grace `Your sins are forgiven
Thanks be to God. Amen

Readings:

Exodus 16: 2-15

2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 

Psalm 105

God’s Faithfulness to Israel

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the 
Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,[a]
children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
Then he brought Israel[d] out with silver and gold,
and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
    and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 He gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the 
Lord!

Matthew 20: 1-16 - The Labourers in the Vineyard

20 “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,[a] he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 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. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 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.’ 13 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? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Song ` There is a redeemer`
https://youtu.be/ldRcFz7rK7w

Keith Green

There is a redeemer
Jesus, God's own Son
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain

Thank you, oh my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
'Til the work on Earth is done

When I stand in Glory
I will see His face
And there I'll serve my King forever
In that Holy Place

Thank you, oh my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
'Til the work on Earth is done

There is a redeemer…

Reflection and Q and A

The injustice of justice

I find the picture of the scales on the front of the order of service a little disconcerting. What is it? I think it is because the scales are perfectly balanced.

Justice. Equilibrium. Balance.

Hard to get the balance right.

Hard to attain. Perhaps harder to maintain.

It seems justice is on everybody`s lips in these days of `Black Lives Matter`, the `Me Too` movement, climate change - any number of issues.

What does justice mean to you? What do you believe justice to be?

The Gospel of Matthew addresses life within a Christian community of Greek speaking Jewish converts. It is concerned with how this new way of life is to be lived.

The Gospel upholds and challenges the understanding of the law: what it means and how it is to be lived in this early community of Jesus` followers.

The parable Jesus tells, is concerned with justice – and our response and reaction to the justice of God, the justice of the Kingdom. It challenges what we think about what is fair and right; what is just.

We wouldn`t, we don`t, do things that way. Should we?

Is the vineyard owner just in his payment of the workers in his vineyard? The workers hired at the beginning of the day don`t think so. They see what has happened and they complain (Matt. 20; 10, 11). They had an expectation, a mistaken expectation, that they would be paid more because they`d been there longer. They believe they are entitled to more. But that isn`t what they agreed. Theowner of the vineyard needs to remind them.

And what about when it comes time for payment? The vineyard owner deliberately pays the last workers first and the first workers last. Everyone is absolutely clear about who gets paid what. There`s no hiding the vineyard owner`s intent. He`s making a clear point – `This is what we agreed at the beginning of the day. I told you the conditions – which you accepted then. ` `I am not unfair` he says (Matt. 20: 14)

The last first, the first last.

This is hard for us to comprehend. This is not justice as we think of justice. It actually appears to be unjust. But this is to misunderstand the vineyard owner…

What do you make of this vineyard owner? Would you work for him?

What do you think? Is it possible for justice to occur without someone feeling aggrieved or hard done by?

What can we say about God`s justice from this parable?

And do we have the right to complain to God?

I think we do – but I think it is a privilege rather than a right….)

In the Old Testament reading the Israelites are full of complaint. Already they have forgotten God`s goodness in liberating them from Pharaoh`s cruelty. Already they are fearful and afraid. They are hungry and thirsty. So much so that they look back longingly to Egypt, the place of their suffering and oppression. They want to go back.

Are they justified in complaining to Moses and Aaron, complaining to God, about their predicament?

It may be understandable – but it is justified? Is it a fair, appropriate response, given all that God has done for them?

The prophet Jonah gets angry with God when a shrub which gave Jonah shelter withers and dies. And God asks Jonah `Do you do well to be angry?` (Jonah 4: 9) This is a question I ask myself a lot. It is a question which challenges my often petty and selfish motivations - and my real fears too.

When we consider all that we have, even in, especially in, these difficult times, it is important to be honest with God about our fears –and then allow God to re-mind us, re-form us, as we reflect on what God has done, how God has provided, for us in Jesus Christ, who came to bring justice to the poor and the oppressed, the forgotten and those on the edge, on the edges. And as our thinking is changed, then we are to go and be that change. `…do justice

Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer

TIS 569 `Guide me O thou great Redeemer`
A Welsh Songs of Praise:
https://youtu.be/SkVT8O5E1rM
From St. Paul`s cathedral: https://youtu.be/226d7rMiZ2M

William Williams

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim though this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven,
Feed me now and evermore.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through;
Strong Deliverer,
Be thou still my Strength and Shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Bear me through the swelling current,
Land me safe on Canaan's side;
Songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee.

Blessing
May the blessing of the only true, wise and just God,
Father, Son and Spirit,
enlighten, expand and protect you
today and into the days to come.
Amen