Prayers at Mid-day for Wednesday, 24 June, 2020 (Proper 12, Trinity 2)
(Today we remember in the Anglican Church of Canada calendar, the Birth of John the Baptist).
O God, make speed to save us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.
The Lord is our refuge and our strength: O come, let us worship.
36 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 37Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to take the censers out of the blaze; then scatter the fire far and wide. 38For the censers of these sinners have become holy at the cost of their lives. Make them into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they presented them before the Lord and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the Israelites. 39So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers that had been presented by those who were burned; and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar— 40a reminder to the Israelites that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, shall approach to offer incense before the Lord, so as not to become like Korah and his company—just as the Lord had said to him through Moses.
41 On the next day, however, the whole congregation of the Israelites rebelled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the Lord.’ 42And when the congregation had assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned towards the tent of meeting; the cloud had covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45‘Get away from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment.’ And they fell on their faces. 46Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer, put fire on it from the altar and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them. For wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.’ 47So Aaron took it as Moses had ordered, and ran into the middle of the assembly, where the plague had already begun among the people. He put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. 48He stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. 49Those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. 50When the plague was stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
1 I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
to you, O Lord, I will sing.
2 I will study the way that is blameless.
When shall I attain it?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is base.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 Perverseness of heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
5 One who secretly slanders a neighbour
I will destroy.
A haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not tolerate.
6 I will look with favour on the faithful in the land,
so that they may live with me;
whoever walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.
7 No one who practises deceit
shall remain in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue in my presence.
8 Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all evildoers
from the city of the Lord.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 23Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
Matthew 20: 1-16
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; 4and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” 7They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” 13But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
Commentary (Fr. Michael)
The contrast between today’s readings from Numbers and from Matthew’s gospel could not be sharper. Numbers 16 tells of a rebellion by those Israelites who did not accept the authority of Moses and of his priest, Aaron, while in the wilderness. After the followers of the rival priest, Korah, are destroyed by God, the people blame Moses and continue to be rebellious, provoking God to threaten to “consume them in a moment” (Nu 16:45). this irate reaction is fairly typical of God during the flight from Egypt, during which Moses several times begs God to relent from destroying his people (Ex 32:7-14).
In my experience, such moments in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, are why many Christians are alienated from the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament as most of us grew up knowing them. That many Anglicans thus have little interest in the Hebrew Scriptures is hardly new. One school of early Christians, the Marcionites, actually denied that the God of the Old Testament and the Father of Jesus were actually the same God. While I could write at length on why I think such beliefs are misguided, I will only note that books such as Numbers show the early Jewish faith wrestling with the idea of God’s justice, to which Moses can successfully appeal for mercy. It was not that God was capricious or cruel, but rather that God, who encompasses a perfection and righteousness beyond our abilities to attain, could still have mercy on humans with their many failings.
In Matthew’s gospel, the parable of the labourers and the vineyard is about God’s mercy. Rather than getting the lesser rate of pay, which is what they deserved (law), the labourers arriving late in the day get the same reward as the others (grace). One of the long narrative arcs of scripture is our gradually seeing that God’s true character is grace and mercy. We may want a God of justice when we feel badly treated by others, but the God that we all need, fortunately, is one who gives out his abundance, and not according to what we deserve.
When have you experienced God’s grace? When has God’s love and generosity moved you to treat others that way?
What questions come to your mind about these passages?
Lord, I pray that the people of God in all the world may worship in spirit and in truth.
Lord hear my prayer.
Lord, I pray that the Church may discover again that unity which is your will.
Lord hear my prayer.
Lord, I pray that the nations of the earth may seek after the ways that make for peace.
Lord hear my prayer.
Lord, I pray that the whole of creation, groaning in travail, may be set free to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Lord hear my prayer.
I pray that all who with Christ have entered the shadow of death may rest in peace and rise in glory, and I pray especially this morning for the souls of the thousands that have succumbed to Covid 19.
Lord hear my prayer.
I pray that you will protect medical and essential workers, inspire the efforts of researchers and scientists seeking treatments and a vaccine for Covid 19, and that you will heal the world you graciously gave us.
Collects of the Day (Proper 12, Trinity 2):
O God our defender, storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Almighty God, you called John the Baptist to give witness to he coming of your Son and to prepare his way. Give your people the wisdom to see your purpose, and the openness to hear your will that we too may witness to Christ’s coming and so prepare his way; through you Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Thanks be to God