Sunday 20th September 2020 – 15th Sunday after Trinity

Welcome

Welcome to our worship. If it is still Sunday morning where you are, I hope you will join us at Zoom coffee at 11.30am. Details, as usual, are on the emailed notice sheet – the link is the same as it was last week.

If you are watching from somewhere other than the local area, or haven’t been regular worshippers in our churches before, we would love to hear from you so do leave a comment on the blogpost or get in touch via one of our Facebook pages: Crayke or Husthwaite

Today our service is a service of the word.

YouTube Playlist

Service written out in full

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Grace, mercy and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ
be with you
and also with you.

Loving God, we have come to worship you.

Help us to pray to you in faith,
to sing your praise with gratitude,
and to listen to your word with eagerness;
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Hymn

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
When we were still helpless
Christ died for the ungodly.
The proof of God’s amazing love is this:
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Confession

Keep silence and reflect on the week

The grace of God has dawned upon the world
with healing for all.
Let us come to him, in sorrow for our sins,
seeking healing and salvation.

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.

May the Father of all mercies
cleanse us from our sins,
and restore us in his image
to the praise and glory of his name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Old Testament reading

Jonah 3:10-4:11, read by Jacqui from Husthwaite

New Testament reading

Philippians 1:21-30, read by Alison from Brandsby

Hymn

Gospel

Matthew 20: 1-16

Sermon

I’m sure you are all familiar with the story of the reluctant prophet Jonah, who runs away from God when God tells him to go to preach to the people of Ninevah. This passage is from near the end of Jonah, after his antics with the great sea creature. God has brought him to Ninevah, despite Jonah’s objections, and Jonah has done his bit as a prophet, promising the people of Ninevah that in 40 days the city will be overthrown by God.

Let’s set aside any concerns about whether Jonah was really swallowed by a sea creature and look at this as a story. Stories are powerful and there must be a good reason why this really quite short story (only 4 chapters in total) is part of the canon of scripture.

We tell stories when there are important truths that we need to know and understand at a deeper level. We tell stories where the good guy wins out in the face of indescribable odds. We tell stories where the bad guy gets their comeuppance. When I say that Jonah is a story, it does not diminish it but rather raises up its significance.

When I was a curate, there was a stained glass window in one of my churches that was called the resurrection window. It has this quote written on it:
“As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Now, I had never made this link before. It turns out that there are a lot more links that can be made between the book of Jonah and the Gospels so let’s have a look.
I will say that the suggestions I am going to make about the book of Jonah are not the only way to understand the story. You might disagree with some or all of it and that’s fine. However, the quote from the window is actually a quote from Matthew’s gospel chapter 12. This is Jesus making the link between himself and Jonah so it is definitely worth looking at.
Jesus describes the story of Jonah as a sign – something that points beyond itself. When we read the Old Testament, we are reading it with the benefit of knowing what happens next. We know the story of Jesus and we know how it all turns out. We know that, through Jesus, salvation will come to all people. Some people object to going back into the Old Testament and finding evidence of Jesus there, as if that is impossible. I am fairly sure that God can work beyond our understanding of time so I find it completely plausible that things that happened and stories that were told centuries earlier are able to help us to understand better what is going on in the New Testament.

Underneath this understanding is the principle that God always knew that Jesus was going to be born. Jesus isn’t a plan B which was needed because plan A failed. He was designed into the universe from the beginning, present in creation. As John’s gospel puts it: “In the beginning was the Word”. God has always known the pattern of scripture so we can find many breadcrumbs there that lead us to a greater understanding of Jesus. So, back to Jonah.

The big problem with Jonah is that he runs away from the purpose God has in mind for him. God said “go to Ninevah”. Jonah said, “not likely” and went as far and fast in the opposite direction as he could.

For the purposes of this story, let’s see Jonah as representing Israel: God’s chosen people. All the way through the Old Testament, we see Israel refusing to be faithful to God and heading as far away in the opposite direction as they can.

If Jonah represents Israel, then those around him could be all the other nations. At this point in the Old Testament, Israel has been conquered by two different empires: the Northern part by the Assyrians and the Southern part by the Babylonians. It isn’t too great a leap to see the great sea creature swallowing Jonah as a metaphor for the destruction of Israel.

The amazing thing, though, is that Israel came back from exile. After 70 years or so, the people of Israel were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. Having been swallowed up, they were regurgitated and given a second chance.
Things were going to be different though. The capture and exile had destroyed much that could not be recovered. The line of Kings from David and Solomon on down was broken and could no longer sustain the life of the Israelites. Here (and I wonder whether we are getting a bit tenuous, but I’m prepared to go along with this) we come to the strange plant that God makes to grow over Jonah. The whole organisation of Kings and temple, which had sustained Israel previously had withered away and they seemed somewhat lost. The shady plant of hierarchy and ritual was no longer giving them shade.

Jonah, at this point, is angry. He is angry because God told him to preach judgement on the people of Ninevah and, when they listened to him and changed their ways, God had mercy on them.

What happens next? Well, it is through the actions of Jonah that the 120 thousand people of Ninevah are saved. It is through the actions of Jesus, who comes out of Israel, that the whole world is saved. There are patterns in the way that God works: Jonah is thrown overboard to drown and is rescued, Israel is exiled and brought back, Jesus, the Israelite, is crucified and then resurrected. What seems like destruction becomes the seed for something far greater.

The story of Jonah can be seen as the story of Israel. The story of Jonah can be seen as the story of Jesus. The story of Jonah can be seen as our story too.

Jonah forgot that his purpose in life was to be faithful to God. Israel consistently forgot how God had asked them to live and went their own way. What about us? Is it possible that we stray from God’s way of life? Undoubtedly.

Jonah got angry when God had mercy on the city of Ninevah. Having finally got there and told them all of God’s judgement, he was furious that God showed them mercy.
What about us? Do those of us inside the Church ever judge those outside and think ourselves better than them? Do we ever resent that God is consistently forgiving and merciful to others as well as to us? Quite possibly.

The story of Jonah is the story of Israel, the story of Jesus and the story of you and me. The common thread in all of this is God: gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. A love that followed Jonah to the ends of the earth, a love that brought Israel out of exile, a love that reaches us in whatever dark places we find ourselves. Read the story of Jonah again and know that the steadfast, forgiving, love of God is offered to you, if you choose to accept it.

Affirmation of faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

Hymn

Intercessions

Response:
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Almighty God, As we hear the story of ancient Ninevah, we pray for the people Mosul, Iraq, that they too may know the steadfast love of God. We pray also for the whole of the Middle East, for peace and reconciliation among the nations.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Merciful God, We pray for all involved in government across the world, especially those who have responsibility for making decisions about the pandemic. We pray for Boris Johnson and his government, for Kevin Hollinrake and for all those in local government. We pray too for those with responsibility for implementing those decisions, and especially for all NHS workers.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Loving God, we pray for our communities. Help us to see the needs of those around us and echo your love for us in our love for them. We pray for our schools and for all those who work there, particularly Miss Bennett and Mrs Jackson as they take such responsibility for the safety of the children.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Healing God, we pray for those who are sick and for those living in fear of illness. We pray that those suffering anxiety may find peace and that those approaching death may find release in your loving care. In a moment of silence, we pray for those we know who are suffering.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Eternal God, we thank you for your promises of salvation and we pray that those who have died may know your love and your rest. We hold before you particularly Elizabeth and Mavis, that they may discover the joy of eternal life.

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer

The Collect

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,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lord’s Prayer

In whichever version or language comes most naturally, as our Saviour taught us, so we pray.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Offertory Prayer

Generous God, we thank you for all you have given us. We thank you for all the ways that we can give to you in return. We ask that through our gifts we will see your kingdom grow in our hearts and our homes, our neighbourhoods and our nation, to the glory of your name.
Amen

Blessing and Sending Out

Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak;
help the afflicted; honour everyone;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen

Go in the peace of Christ
Thanks be to God.

Hymn

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

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