Rite II Spiritual Communion
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 20
Collect for Proper 20

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.   Amen.

Readings for today can be found here.

Rite II, Spiritual Communion & Meditation

Rev. Bambi Willis, Rosemary Arneson, and Barry Holliday have coordinated our service for this morning. The service can be found here: https://youtu.be/Dh94EKZBxrM

We will be doing Rite II and you can follow along starting on page 355 in the Book of Common Prayer. The of Common Prayer (BCP) can be found here. The Psalm for this morning is Psalm 105:1-6,37-45 found on page 738 in the BCP. The readings are Exodus 16:2-15; Philippians 1:21-30; and Matthew 20:1-16.

A Meditation for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Dessert at the home of my in-laws was always a lavish affair. Multiple cakes, pies and other sweets graced the table after dinner. Sampling several desserts was encouraged, but one cardinal rule was to be observed. If you were the one cutting a cake or a pie, someone else got to choose the first piece. “You cut, I choose,” was voiced often and loudly. This observance insured that the one cutting the cake did not get an unfairly large slice, but rather we might say, “a just dessert.”

Just desserts are absent in our parable this morning from the gospel of Matthew.  A vineyard owner hires laborers multiple times during the day and then pays them all the same wage. The laborers who worked for eight hours got the same wage as did those who worked only one hour. The vineyard owner in the parable holds all the power and decides he is not only going to cut but is going to choose as well. 

Such a practice would be hugely disruptive within a community that presumed as we do, that if you work eight hours you should be paid more than someone who works only one hour. I have to wonder what happened the next day when the vineyard owner went out to hire laborers. Would anyone show up first thing in the morning or would folk wait until the end of the day to be hired? 

The power of the vineyard owner is absolute and he can do what he wants. By the time Matthew writes his gospel, the power of Rome was absolute and Matthew’s Christian community was on notice – if you disrupt the pax Romana, the peace of Rome, you will be crushed.

Fast forward several centuries. We are now in the Church and as a parish grappling with the ways in which some of us got a bigger slice of cake than did others. I am a white woman who had the privilege of going to college, got a good job and married into a family that loved desserts! “You cut, I choose” worked around our dining room table but not so much in the wider world. In the wider world we still subscribed to the belief that we wanted to both cut and to choose the first slice. I am lamenting that I have been so late in recognizing the ways I have used my privilege and power to further my interests at the expense of others. 

Not to be missed in our parable is the graciousness of the vineyard owner who pays every laborer the same wage no matter how long they worked. None of us, by the grace of God, gets our “just desserts.”  God does the cutting and the choosing and God chose Jesus Christ to be God’s Beloved Son. And Jesus chose to die for us that we might have life and life abundantly.  Our vocation as Christians is to know that our lives are a gift to us from God and to empower others to recognize in their own lives the power of God at work through them. 

So whether you prefer chocolate cake or lemon chess pie or rhubarb pie is not the issue. Just don’t take the biggest piece! 

Please remember all those on our prayer list this week found here or in the Good News Daily found here.

The Rev. Bambi Willis

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Sermon from the Bishop's Chapel
The Rev. Sean Cavanaugh,
Head Chaplain, St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School, Alexandria

There is no written version this week..
The YouTube version can be found here.