Trinity 15 – Rev Alison Way

Trinity 15 – Rev Alison Way – Philippians 1:21-end, Matthew 20:1-16

Here is the link to the video of this reflection:

Here is a link to a Harvest reflection from the Diocese:

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

As we mark this year’s season of creation, today’s readings from Philippians reminded me how God made humankind on the 6th day of creation in Genesis 1. So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. The second story of creation has a more complicated description of how God made man to look after his garden and then woman as it was not good to be alone. We will remember the story of Adam and Eve – The apple, the serpent and all that – how they fell from grace and were banished from the garden. There were struggles and difficulties from the start – so these are not a new thing.

There were struggles and difficulties in how God tried to relate to his people through Old Testament times through promises and the law. Then Jesus came to bring us all into God’s abundant love for us, but even with that love providing hope for eternity, there are struggles and difficulties. As this was love ultimately won for us through struggles and difficulties, alongside the suffering that Christ endured for us

Paul in our reading from the letter to the Philippians takes on board suffering and struggling as part of life. His struggles are described and the struggles of the people of Philippi to whom he is writing. It is clearly difficult for him and them, but he urges them to stay positive. His advice includes:

  • Share abundantly,

  • Stand firm,

  • Strive together

  • Do not give into intimidation…

Those words make us think about our current situation and are ones that could easily apply today. It is tricky currently as the news from all around us remains difficult. Things are still a long way from what might be described as ‘normality’  and with little prospect of normality any time soon. I think we could take a leaf out of Paul’s book and look practically across his areas of advice and encouragement.

Paul started with sharing abundantly. As we prepare for harvest – it would be good to share with those who have less by bringing suitable products to your harvest festival in church to support the Lord’s larder. This is on 27th September in Pen Selwood and 4th October in Wincanton. They particularly need long-dated items – shampoo, toilet roll, tins of baked beans and sausages, macaroni cheese and soup – plus confectionary.

Beyond that sharing, what we have been given is an important biblical principle. Though we are a bit limited currently in what we can do at the moment and even the most simple thing can be very complicated, making sure our motives begin with generosity matters. Jesus’ love for us was generous beyond words. Let’s make sure we are generous with how we are approaching people and things currently. Being kind in a time when many are struggling and not at their best is vital! (and even when that is not reciprocated!)

There was also the example of the grumbling workers in the vineyard from our gospel story. They didn’t get the balance quite right did they? Jesus turns some of our values and approaches upside down and inside out. This story comes just after he has told his disciples specifically. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (Matthew 19:30). Jesus then repeats this phrase at the end of the story too.

Jesus is saying this because his value system was different – To counter those who had got caught up in legalism and it being about religious behaviour rather than love and matters of the heart.  The vineyard owner was generous with those who came late in the day, so they could have what they needed and did not go without.

The next piece of advice from Paul was to stand firm. Standing firm in one spirit is how he puts it. Standing firm in our faith through the spirit’s guidance, means remembering God’s amazing love for us, Love for each and everyone of us. Love poured out from the heart of Jesus for all humanity. Love that is at the centre of our being and purpose each day. Now is the time to be particularly conscious of the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our hearts, enabling us to follow God’s call in some very strange times. Times that can leave us feeling powerless and vulnerable, and also for many rather isolated and lonely. God’s presence and peace is with us – let’s recognise that as a source of strength today.

The third piece of advice from Paul was to strive together. It is good we can meet together and pray together though this has not been possible for everyone. I think one of the aspects most hard to bear in lockdown was that we could not pray together. There are so many limits on what we can do at the moment and I am fearful obviously that even what we are currently doing may have to stop again. It is important to stay with it and even if we can’t pray together to stay praying. Prayer changes things. Praying for one another is something that gives us strength and praying with the scriptures is important. The full verse I am referring to here is Striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.

All through this period I have been sending out worship resources to support prayer at home and to encourage us to read the scripture. Having faith in the gospel means immersing ourselves in the scripture. In recent times our daily prayer resources have been working through the book of Acts, which tells the story of the early church – their highs and lows, and their struggles and suffering. There has been much fuel for our journey and ways their story can inform our own in our trying times.

Finally the last piece of encouragement from Paul – do not give into intimidation…Paul is writing to the Philippians in a time of great persecution, when the powers that be and opponents were stacked up against them. When it was risky in the extreme to profess the Christian faith. We live in different times – we are free to hold our views but may be finding the current circumstances intimidating and frightening. Sticking to our first principles and the love won for us in Christ is important in times like these and not to lose heart. This is easy to say but not that easy to do. Prayer, reading the scripture, and worship however we can will provide fuel for the journey of discipleship. This helps us to hold fast to what is good and pleasing. Paul’s advice in struggles and suffering applies just as much to us as to his original audience in Philippi.

  • Share abundantly,

  • Stand firm,

  • Strive together

  • Do not give into intimidation…

 I am going to end these reflections with a prayer of praise. Praise is important at times like these – to help us recognise and live in God’s strength day by day. Let us pray

We praise you, Lord, for all that you are, for the creation that is yours, for its beauty and wonder, its diversity and richness. We praise you for your presence and comfort that enriches us with your abundance. We praise you for your steadfastness that perseveres with us, faltering disciples and failing followers. We praise you that, day by day, you amaze and enrich us and reveal yourself in new and unexpected ways. We praise you that you are the same yesterday, today and for ever – and yet forever new. O Lord our God, you are indeed, from the depth of our being, highly to be praised. Amen.

References – New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 and © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.