This short act of worship has been prepared for you to use if you are unable to attend church.
If you are well enough why not spend a few moments with God, knowing that other people are sharing this act of worship with you.
Loving God I know that you are with me in every moment of my life but as I set this special time aside, I pray that I might feel your presence. [Pause].
I pray that you would send your Holy Spirit, that in the stillness I might hear your Word and be joined in fellowship with sisters and brothers who gather in your name this day.
Hymn: Only By Grace Can We Enter (StF 565) Sing/Read/Pray/Proclaim the words or listen to it HERE
Only by grace can we enter, only by grace can we stand;
not by our human endeavour, but by the blood of the Lamb.
Into your presence you call us, you call us to come.
Into your presence you draw us,
and now by your grace we come,
now by your grace we come.
Lord, if you mark our transgressions, who would stand?
Thanks to your grace we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.
Lord, if you mark our transgressions, who would stand?
Thanks to your grace we are cleansed
by the blood of the Lamb.
Only by grace can we enter …
Let us pray together
Gracious God, I praise you for who you are. For you are the Lord, the giver and sustainer of life whose nature is love. I thank you that even when I rebel against you, your unquenchable love seeks me out. I thank you that in Jesus, you made the first move and have rescued me. I pray that as your Word ministers to me, I might so open my heart to your grace that it might fill me, transform me and overflow into all my relationships and dealings with the world. Amen.
Today’s Reading from the Old Testament: Exodus 16: 2-15
Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 20: 1-16
Time to Reflect
All Christians talk about grace but it seems to me that as Methodists we talk about grace a lot! This unearned, love of God in Jesus Christ freely offered to all people is both the foundation and heart of our worship, the sacraments and our new life in Christ. It is this grace that is expressed in God’s saving action toward us and nothing of our faith can ever be outside a response to God’s grace.
In turning to Matthew 20 we reach Jesus’ parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard. The New Testament scholar Charles B. Cousar suggests that the best response a preacher can make to this text is to simply get out of the way of this challenging, perhaps even annoying picture of God’s grace. Why annoying? This story is told to Jesus’ disciples who have as Peter says “…left everything and followed [Jesus]” (Mt 11:27). It is to these that Jesus tells his story of workers who queue for their wage after a whole day toiling in the scorching sun. We can imagine their eyes popping when the latecomers receive a full day’s wage for but one hour’s work. If they have stumbled upon such generosity, what then will be their reward? Imagine then the knot in their stomachs as they receive nothing but the exact same coin as their colleagues who had hardly broken sweat. What employer would be so foolish as to alienate such faithful workers?
This then is Jesus’ answer to his faithful follower’s enquiry about their reward. Confronted by the reality of God’s grace all legalistic religion, all bargaining with God finds its end. The reward is the work itself for it is carried out in the presence of the master.
As we are confronted by this grace, so it poses a question. Is it enough for us to know that we labour in the presence and purpose of the God who loves us? As our story stands on the threshold of Holy Week in Matthew 21, are we content that we shall gather with last minute arrivals so that even a thief, in the last minutes of his life, finds a gracious promise of paradise?
In our frustration, may we recall with humility, the grace first shown to us.
Grace and peace.
Take a time to sit quietly
A time of prayer
I pray that the world might know your grace. As I begin to inhabit a “new normal”, I pray for wisdom for the leaders of the world that powerful nations might respond with that self-giving generosity that you bring to the world.
On this peace Sunday, I pray for all those who respond to your love by making the first move to call an end to conflict. I pray for those caught up in conflict, those who flinch at the sound of explosives or gunshot.
I pray for those slowly returning to collective worship as some places of worship reopen and for those who feel excluded from that worship.
I ask your blessing on those close to me that even in these distanced times that you would give me the opportunity to reflect that grace first shown to me.
I ask these prayers in the only way that I can; in the power of your Holy Spirit and in the name, grace and character of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father ……
or sing a verse of a hymn that comes to mind
What shall I do my God to love,
my loving God to praise?
The length, and breadth, and height to prove,
and depth of sovereign grace?
Your sovereign grace to all extends,
immense and unconfined;
from age to age it never ends;
enfolds all humankind.
Throughout the world its breadth is known,
wide as infinity;
so wide it never passed by one,
or it had passed by me.
My trespass was grown up to heaven;
but, far above the skies,
in Christ abundantly forgiven,
I see your mercies rise.
The depth of all-redeeming love
what angel tongue can tell?
O may I to the utmost prove
the gift unspeakable!
Come quickly, gracious Lord, and take
possession of your own;
my longing heart vouchsafe to make
your everlasting throne.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
A prayer of blessing
God to enfold you,
Christ to uphold you,
Spirit to keep you in heaven’s sight;
so may God grace you,
heal and embrace you,
lead you through darkness into the light.
John L. Bell (b. 1949)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 648
Words and Music: From Love and Anger © 1997, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH Scotland. <www.wgrg.co.uk>
Original Materials by Andrew M Emison
All Hymns reproduced under CCLi 246179