Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2012 - Proper 20A

Lectionary Readings

*This was preached as a children's sermon.

Do you ever complain that things aren’t fair? In the story that Jesus told, some people start working at 6:00 in the morning, and they get paid for a full day’s work. That seems fair, right? Then the boss goes and hires more people at 9:00 and pays them for them for a full day’s work. And then he does the same thing at noon, and 3:00 in the afternoon, and again at 5:00. They all worked until 6 and then, Jesus says, the boss pays everyone. And the people who worked all day long got really excited when they saw the people that only worked for an hour got a full day’s pay, maybe something like $100. So they thought since that they were there all day that maybe they’d get $500 or so. But they got the same $100 as everyone else. And they got mad and screamed, “this isn’t fair!” What do you think? Was the boss fair?

Sometimes people think this story is about the workers and focus on what people should have earned based on how much they worked. But the story is actually about the generosity of the boss, of how kind he was to everyone. The way it worked back in Jesus’ time, and even in some places today, was that people would show up at the market in the morning and hope that someone would hire them, that way when they’d return home to their family, they could tell them the good news that they found work and they would have enough money to buy groceries.
This nice boss believed that everyone that was willing to work should be able to return home proud, happy, and with enough money to live on. When Jesus tells us this story, he’s telling it to tell us something about God. He says that God doesn’t worry about what is fair, but God does care about what is the right thing to do. And the way the boss acts shows us that the right thing to do is to make sure that everyone has enough to live on.
Do you have any ideas how we can do this? What are some ways that we can make sure that everyone has enough to be okay? We can donate food, or we can give money, or we can give our time and show the world that there is enough love. And when we do this, we show the world that we trust God enough that we can be generous to others, that we trust that we will be taken care of.
Let’s talk a few minutes about this trust and the first reading we heard from. Remember that the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt and Moses went to Pharaoh and what did he say? That’s right, he said “let my people go.” And so they ran away from Egypt and when they came to the sea, God separated the waters and let them pass through on dry land, and then closed the waters back up so that Pharaoh’s army couldn’t follow them. They weren’t slaves anymore, but they were homeless. Eventually, they would find a place to live and build houses, but they were lost in the desert. And while they’re out there they start to get hungry and complain. They said, “when we were slaves, at least we had food to eat.”
And so God provides for them and makes bread fall from the sky for them to eat. Do you remember what the people said when they saw it? They said “what is it? They didn’t speak English though, they spoke Hebrew. And in Hebrew the way you say “what is it?” is man-na, so that’s why sometimes we say that God provided manna for them to eat. But I think it’s really interesting that when God provides for them, that they don’t even know what it is. Has God ever done anything for you that you didn’t understand at first? Sometimes a new school year can be like that. Maybe you’re in a different class from some of your friends, but that gives you the chance to make new friends. Or sometimes you have to read a book for school that you don’t like at first, but then you really like it in the end.
The lesson that we learn is that it is important to be thankful for what we are given, and to trust that God will give us enough. There is a poem that I really like, written by a woman named St. Teresa; and it goes like this:
Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands, no feet, no mouth but yours.
            What do you think that she might be telling us in that poem? Maybe the way that God provides for people is through the work of our hands. The way we treat each other can show the love God to the world.
So you can show generosity like that compassionate boss in the story that Jesus tells by helping to make sure that everyone has enough. And we should always give God thanks, because sometimes we are getting gifts that we don’t even understand, like the manna that the Hebrew people God in the desert. It’s a new school year, and so there are lots of chances to help others and give thanks to God. And for all of the adults out there- making sure that everyone has what they need and giving thanks are good lessons for us too. And so now, we’re going to do some of that thanking by having some prayers as we’re at the beginning of a new school year.
Will all of the students that are here today please come forward. Let us pray for our students:
Loving God, we give you thanks for all students, the youngest and the oldest, help them to know of your companionship with them as they go to school and as they seek to learn. Help them know of the gifts you have given them, and joy in the possibilities that await them this year: new friends, deeper friendships with those they already know, new knowledge, and new challenges. We all pray for them, and that your blessing be upon them and that your Spirit guide them in this new school year, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
            If you brought your backpack with you today, you can put it in front of the altar for a blessing. Let us pray:
God, we pray for your blessing upon these backpack, that those who use them may know of your presence with them, your love for them, and that you, O God, have called them to the ministry of learning, for their benefit and for the benefit of others. Amen.
            Will all of the teachers, educators, and those who work with students, please stand. Let us pray:
As our educators step into a new academic year, restore their spirits. Renew their passion for sharing knowledge and nurture their compassion for those you put in their charge. Transform them as they seek to transform; guide them as they seek to guide; open their minds and hearts as they seek to open minds and hearts. Help them listen more deeply to your Word, O Lord, so they can walk with their students, attentive to the your wisdom. Amen.
I’d like to ask all of the parents to stand up now, because they need prayers at the beginning of a new school year, too. Let us pray:
O God, you are our Divine Parent, give to all parents wisdom and joy as they help and encourage their children in their studies, in their school activities, and in social relationships this year. Give them patience; give them insight; give them help as they seek to be the parents you are calling them to be; through Christ. Amen.
            And lastly, I’d like everyone to stand. When we baptize a child, the priest asks the congregation “will you do everything in your power to support those children in their life in Christ?” And you say “we will.” It really does take a village, so we should pray for our entire community that has the responsibility for raising our children. So, let us pray:
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation. And to all of us who are blessed with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

            You all can return to your seats, and then we will reaffirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, on page 358.

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