God Tears the Fence Down

October 15, 2017

Bible Text: Jonah 3:10-4:4, Philippians 1:1-11 and Matthew 20:1-16 |

PRESBYTERIAN SHARING SUNDAY,OCTOBER 15, 2017

MEDITATION
GOD TEARS THE FENCE DOWN

Jesus was the master of teaching in parables. Jesus’ parables are short stories that teach a spiritual lesson and help explain the character of God by using similarities. They are often based on agricultural life that was intimately familiar to His first century audience. Unfamiliar concepts, such as the kingdom of God, were compared to something from everyday life that could easily be understood.
In this parable of the vineyard, Jesus is speaking in opposition to our current world’s definitions of justice. He is offering an alternative that is actually God’s definition and is God’s promised hope for all people.

In this parable, Jesus tells of a landowner who is looking for people to work in his vineyard. At the beginning of the day, he finds some labourers, agrees what to pay them, and then sends them to work. He does the same thing at nine, noon, three and five o’clock and each time he finds people who haven’t been hired yet. He tells them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.”

We are surprised at the end when those who began work at the end of the day receive the same wage as those who began first thing in the morning. Naturally, those who worked all day in the scorching sun begin to grumble – why should those who worked only an hour get paid the same? But the landowner says he paid them what they agreed – why should it matter that he paid the last people the same?
This goes against our own idea of justice and fairness.

There is a cartoon that shows the difference between justice and equality. Three people are trying to watch a ball game through a fence. Each is different height. In the first scene, each person stands on a step that is the same height. This is equality – each have the same size step, but only the tallest person was able to see over the fence.
In the next scene, each person stands on a step of a size that best suits them. And each can see over the fence. This is justice.

But guess what – Jesus’ parable goes even beyond this idea of justice. God actually takes this fence down.

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He offers love and grace and justice not just for some – not just for those who may have worked for it or deserve it – but He offers it for all. Jesus gives us a definition of justice that is God’s definition.

God breaks down the barriers that we use to organize the world. Life and death are polar opposites. But we see these human boundaries broken down in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In God’s world, hope is offered to those who don’t expect it – who don’t think they deserve this hope. In God’s world, the ‘least of these’ are considered equally. In God’s world, tears are turned into laughter. In God’s world, the blind are given sight.

These things shouldn’t happen. Somehow, by our definitions and ideas of justice, these things are not deserved. In the parable, the fact that all the workers received the same wage for different hours worked seems to be the opposite of justice.
However, it is instead, a different definition of justice and a reminder that
God’s justice is first and foremost an expression of God’s generous grace.

In the Presbyterian church, one way we express our desire to follow Jesus is through our support of ‘Presbyterians Sharing.’ It is our attempt to bring Jesus’ parable to life – to live out the grace that we have experienced in Jesus, and to share that grace as widely as possible.

When Presbyterians from across Canada join together to share in mission and ministry through ‘Presbyterians Sharing,’ we are collectively putting our faith into action – across Canada and across the world. And we are working to create a world according to God’s vision – where all have equal access to God’s love and grace. By pooling our resources, we support leaders, create resources and connect together to do things we couldn’t do on our own.

Together, we are able to proclaim a message of God’s hope through our actions. Let me share with you just a few of the ways this is being lived out.

Supporting Congregations
Congregations across Canada want to share the gospel in word and in action – wanting to be vibrant expressions of God’s love.
Congregations helping congregations is at the core of ‘Presbyterians Sharing.’

Together we help equip congregations by providing materials and resources; we support theological education; we encourage visionary leaders; we support

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mentorship and provide grants to start new congregations and renew established congregations.
And it is working. Congregations are stepping out of their comfort zones to try new things and witness to the resurrection of Christ in new ways.
Members from St. Luke’s Church in Bathurst, New Brunswick, where they are being supported by renewing a regional ministry, say, “Working together in service for others has strengthened our faith as we support each other and the wider community. There is great power in prayer. We thank God for all who have encouraged us in our journey of faith.”
The Rev. Deb Rapport participated in a mentoring program to support her leadership in Toronto’s ARISE Ministry, which provides outreach and pastoral care to human trafficking victims and people involved in the sex trade. She shares, “I have grown and strengthened my leadership capabilities through this process. I have been blessed and encouraged by the coaching, guidance and wisdom of my mentor.”

Offering Hope
Another way we help live out God’s vision of abundant life through ‘Presbyterians Sharing,’ is by supporting ministries inCanada that reach out to some of Canada’s most vulnerable people: refugees, Indigenous communities and inner-city communities. These include ministries like Tyndale St.-Georges and action Refugies in Montreal, ARISE ministry in Toronto and seven ministries serving primarily Indigenous people.
And lives are transformed. Livesof people like Jane who participated in Tyndale St.-George’s employment program in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood in Montreal.
The statistics for Little Burgundy are grim: 2/3 of children and youth live below the poverty line and 32% of students drop out before finishing high school. But Tyndale St.-Georges is helping provide community member – children, teens and adults – with the tools they need to realize their own dreams, at every life stage. Tyndale’s employment programs not only teach job search techniques, but also build self-esteem and life skills. Jane shares, “I came to Tyndale during the lowest time in my life,and I decided to give it a shot. I was looking for something to bring back my self-confidence that would enable me to go back to the workforce. And Tyndale delivered exactly what I was looking for. And now I’m strong – I’m back again – and I’m ready to go back to work.”

You don’t have to look very far to see and hear stories of the tragic legacy of the Indian residential schools. ‘Presbyterian Sharing’ is helping congregations and individuals walk alongside Indigenous people on a journey toward reconciliation.
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In June, 33 Presbyterians from across Canada travelled together to visit Presbyterian Indigenous ministries; worship at a Presbyterian church on a reserve;
and visit the sites where two residential schools were run by the Presbyterian Church. The group listened to stories of anger and pain and offered apologies. They also witnessed some of the ways in which Presbyterian ministries are transforming lives.
At Birdtail Sioux First Nation, site of the Birtle residential school, Doug Hanska thanked the visitors with an honour song. He explains, “The stop they did in Birdtail, I know it may not mean much to a lot of people, but to some of us it means a lot,” he said. “We can forgive and move one, like our teachings tell us.”

Supporting International Mission Partners
Our efforts at tearing down walls don’t stop in Canada. In a broken world desperate for God’s vision of grace and justice, our gifts to ‘Presbyterians Sharing’ support international mission partners by sending mission staff and short term volunteers and by providing grants.
The Rev. Dr. Paul McLean has been working with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan for more than 30 years, helping them translate the Bible into Indigenous languages so that people can begin to really know the gospel in the language of their hearts.
Jackie Bannerman, a young adult intern, recently spent eight months in Hungary supporting the refugee ministries of our partner, the Reformed Church of Hungary.
This September, The Rev. Blair and Vivian Bertrand began a 3 year term with the Presbyterian church of Central Africa, in Malawi. Blair will support leadership development through a youth department and theological education in Zombacollege. Vivian hopes to help combat poverty.
Rev. Glynis Williams who is Associate Secretary for International Ministries in the Presbyterian church spoke in Chesterville for St. Andrew’s Anniversary Service the end of September.
She shared with us the experiences of certain missionaries and I would like to briefly review three missionaries that she talked about.

Dr. Nick and Becky Bauman were appointed in Feb. this year for 2 years to the United Mission to Nepal. Dr. Bauman is training doctors and providing surgical services in the Tansen Mission Hospital.
David McIntosh is a co-Director of the Center for Mined minority Issues and Mission based in Tokyo. The aim of this centre is to respond to the rise in racism and hatred in Japan against minorities, such as the Korean people.

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In the Middle East, probably one of the hardest places to be a Christian, ‘Presbyterians Sharing’ supports the Near East School of Theology as they equip Christian leaders to serve congregations there and maintain a Christian witness of peace in the turbulent countries of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Liza Titizian works as a librarian at the Near East School of Theology. She is completing her Masters & received a Leadership Development Grant from
the Presbyterian Church. Liza is from Syria and is Armenian. She is the first indigenous librarian at this school.

These are just glimpses into some of the ways gifts to ‘Presbyterians Sharing’ are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people – across Canada and around the world.

We still struggle to follow Jesus. We may understand God’s definition of grace – grace that is undeserved and is offered to all – but it is still difficult for us to offer that same grace to others. We still have our own ideas of justice and equality –
and we forget that God through Christ has knocked down those fences and boundaries. We are tempted like those in the parable to resent the generosity of God.
But if we are led by the Spirit, perhaps we can be inspired by it.
I would like to end this message by remarking on how Julie Payette’s inspirational and eloquent speech this past week is so relevant to the role of ‘Presbyterians Sharing.’ Julie Payette recently took the oath to become the 29th Governor General. She is a former astronaut. She remarked on how well the astronauts worked so well together on their space missions in order to achieve their goals and she extended this analogy to how Canadians could make a difference in so many areas such as climate change, poverty and cultural divisions just by working together. One quote that stood out for me was,
“We share this extraordinary world that looks so small from space with no divisions visible.”
From this perspective ‘Presbyterians Sharing’ represents how much our church can accomplish just by working together. Working together to share God’s love and grace and see God’s generosity at work, not just in our country but all across the world.
Together we can make a difference!

RESPONSIVE READING:
Psalm 145:1-8

One: I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever.
All: I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever.
One: Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure His greatness.
All: Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.
One: I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.
All: Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness.
One: Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.
All: The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

ANNOUNCEMENTS
I’d like to start by thanking everyone for taking part in today’s service. Thank you Bob, Doris, Phyllis and I greatly appreciate your input.
There are envelopes and bookmarks inserted inside the bulletin. If you would like to make a donation to ‘Presbyterian Sharing’ you can place the envelope on the offering plate. Any money given after this service goes over and beyond the $2,500 that St. Paul’s gives already to Presbyterian Sharing.
If you wish to support the Syrian refugee family that our Presbytery has sponsored, you can place an envelope marked ‘Syrian Refugee Family’ on the offering plate.

There are several announcements in the bulletin.
I would like to highlight the Fall Extravaganza that supports the Dundas County Hospice at Winchester Olde Town Hall next Sunday.

I would also like to point out the Paint Night hosted by Ladies Aid. It will be here at St. Paul’s on Thurs., Nov. 2 at 7. Tickets are $40 & need to be purchased in advance. You can buy tickets from several people – Doris, Libby and myself& Jen all have some tickets available. Part of the proceeds are supporting Ladies Aid. If you have any more questions you can speak to Libby Pelkey. It should be a really fun evening and be sure to spread the word around about it.

There are special services coming up in November and please mark them in your calendar. Take note of the Joint Service November 12. There will be no service here at St. Paul’s.
Are there any more announcements?