Material for Worship on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Good morning. We hope that you are finding these materials helpful as you worship at home. This week the eucharist will be celebrated in private at 8.30 a.m. with prayers said for the whole community of Dunblane, for Scotland and for the world. Nerys will officiate at the morning service in church which will be livestreamed on our Facebook page at 10.30 a.m. while Revd Moira Jamieson will lead the night service using Celtic-style prayers and music. If you wish to attend any of our services, please get in touch with Sue at services @

Let us start our time of worship this morning by giving thanks to God for each other and for all the blessings we have enjoyed this week.

There seems to be a lot of grumbling going on at the moment in the media and on our streets. I know that many things are wrong in our world and it is important to speak out but it is easy to have a grumbling attitude towards everyone and everything, including God.

There’s a lot of grumbling in today’s readings which, taken together, challenge us to think about our own attitude and to reflect on God’s attitude towards us.

You’ll all be familiar with the story of the reluctant prophet Jonah who gets swallowed up by a big fish after running away from God’s calling. In our reading today from the last part of the story, Jonah 3.10-4.11, read here by John, the author’s satirical intent becomes very obvious. We find Jonah grumbling because, when he eventually gets to the city of Nineveh and speaks to the people, they actually listen to him and repent and God lets them off from the punishment Jonah thinks they deserve. You may want to spend some time with this image ‘Jonah and the Gourd Vine’ by Jack Baumgartner which encompasses the whole story.

‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ is the question God asks Jonah twice in this passage. Jonah knows that God is merciful and gracious but he doesn’t like it and wants no part in it. In his mind the people of Nineveh deserve to be punished and because of that he is unable to rejoice in their change of heart. He has forgotten how disobedient he himself had been and how merciful God was towards him. He is angry at what he sees as the injustice of the situation. He thinks he knows exactly what God should do and is annoyed that God’s approach is different. God, however, doesn’t give up on grumpy old Jonah. God continues to try to change his heart and help him to see things through the eyes of love. God doesn’t share our ideas about who are deserving and who aren’t. God doesn’t only care for those we think he ought to but for all God’s children. As Jonah himself admits, God is always ‘gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’.

Jesus experienced the same grumbling attitude when he started living out God’s love on earth, especially from the religious leaders who thought they knew better how he ought to behave and with whom he should spend his time. In his teaching, Jesus tries to help us grasp something of the nature of God’s love for us which is so much wider and more far-reaching than we can imagine. We see it in our Gospel reading today, which is traditionally known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard but should maybe be called the Parable of the Generous Employer. Listen to Gudrun reading Matthew 20.1-16:

The first lot of workers are happy to agree to a day’s wage but later resent the fact that the employer gives the same amount to the last lot who only worked an hour. It is natural to think that this is not fair, but the employer is looking at it quite differently. ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ is his response to their grumbling. He sees the needs of all the men in the market place and wants to provide for them all. For a hired worker to be unemployed even for a day was a disaster. They and their families would go hungry. This is why the employer returns in person to the market time after time to seek them.

His behaviour is unexpected and open to criticism and so, Jesus implies, is God’s attitude towards us. It’s easy to forget that not a single one of us deserves God’s love. It is a generous, costly gift which doesn’t depend in any way on human merit. In God’s kingdom ‘the last will be first and the first will be last’. So, the next time we see God’s generosity in evidence, however much of a surprise it is to us, let’s not grumble about its unsuitability but rejoice with the angels at his amazing love and let’s seek to imitate it in our own lives.

You are invited to listen to Hazel singing ‘King of kings, majesty’.

King of kings, majesty,
God of Heaven living in me,
gentle Saviour, closest friend,
strong deliverer, beginning and end,
all within me falls at your throne.

Your majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your majesty.

Earth and Heaven worship you,
love eternal, faithful and true,
who bought the nations, ransomed souls,
brought this sinner near to your throne;
all within me cries out in praise.

Your majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your majesty.
Jarrod Cooper

Let’s pray to our loving God for a change of heart, an awakening of a more generous way of living and the courage to reject wrong attitudes that diminish us.

Increase in us love, not only for the victims but also for the perpetrators of evil and violence.

Help us to better understand offenders and give us compassion to support them.

Help us to pray for all governments which run on corruption and fear and to speak out for justice.

Encourage us to recognise the needy in our community and to respond with generous hospitality.

Deepen our love towards our own families and friends and prompt us to pray and act as you would do.

Today’s Collect
O Lord, let your constant compassion cleanse and strengthen your Church: and since, without you, we cannot continue in safety, may we ever be governed by your grace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.