Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last and First

21 Sep 2008

We went to church this morning at St. Barnabus in Jericho. It's an Anglo-Catholic church in a dramatic Italian-style building with a grand square tower. It must have one of the most highly decorated interiors of any church in Oxford, if quantities of gold leaf count for anything.

The sermon text was based on the parable of the vineyard. Laborers who began their work at the beginning of the day had agreed to work for a penny. But they were angry when they learned that workers hired near the end of the day were also paid a penny. The priest pointed out that if the full-day workers had been paid first, they would have gone away without knowing that the late-comers got the same wage. But the first were paid last, making the point of the story: that grace and forgiveness are available to all believers in equal amounts no matter how good or bad our lives have been. We can't earn grace.

I commented to the Priest afterward that this was a good sermon for us Lutherans since Martin Luther had stressed the free gift of grace in opposition to the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. Then the Priest pointed out that the Sunday School children had unexpectedly demonstrated the point very well. At the end of the service, the school-age children explained their Sunday School project: a vine hanging with paper leaves and bunches of grapes, bearing names of good qualities and names of people for whom they wished these good things.Then the pre-school children showed us their Sunday School project: they'd "picked" paper bunches of grapes and put them into paper baskets they'd colored. It was revealed that they'd each been "paid" two Smartees for their "work". When the older kids heard about the Smartees (pieces of candy) they cried, "It's not fair!"

Life often isn't.


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