Weekly Liturgy bulletins
Notes on the Service for September 20, 2020
Eve of the Feast of St. Matthew the Evangelist
Exod. 16:2–15 • Ps. 105:1–6, 37–45 • Phil. 1:21–30 • Matt. 20:1–16
One of those “things passing away” which today’s collect says we are “placed among” is summer, for the equinox will be September 22. Written in the 7th century for the Feast of Christ’s Ascension (thus its prayer that we learn “not to mind earthly things, but to love things heavenly”), this collect was put into the Prayer Book in English in 1979. It complements Paul’s wish in today’s epistle that he would rather “be with Christ, for that is far better.”
In Sinai, newly-liberated Israelites murmur about the lack of provisions, for when they had been slaves, their masters had provided meat and bread. Panicky, they wish they had died in Egypt with full stomachs. God gives them meat in the form of quails and bread in the form of manna. That he is going to “rain down” bread on them suggests both God’s mercy and also his exasperation, for rain down is the verb used in the stories of Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the plagues of Egypt.
Three Sundays ago we read parts of Psalm 105. Today we re-read the opening verses of general praise for God’s works, vv 1-6, and then read the sections recounting their departure from Egypt (Egyptians were glad/relieved, the psalmist claims), their receiving manna, (as in today’s Exodus reading), and their having springs opened to drink (to be read next Sunday.) It is surprising that during his recital of those wilderness events, the psalmist does not mention the giving of the Law, for according to him, the purpose of God’s protection of and provision for Israel was in order that “they might keep his statutes and observe his laws,” v 45.
Paul wrote Philippians from prison, perhaps in Rome in about 60-61 CE, to the congregation which he had founded years earlier in Philippi, Macedonia. After greeting them cordially, Paul tells his friends that he would like to die and be with the Lord, but he also wants to stay alive to see the saints, by which Paul means the believers, of Philippi progress further.
Not intended as a statement of wages policy, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard stresses the equality of reward given to all saints, regardless of whether they are long-time Jewish originators of Christianity or whether they are newly-converted Gentiles, (such as many Philippians). The latest to repent are saved, and those who have labored lifelong are not to resent God’s liberality. His including this criticism of some fellow-Jewish founders of Christianity shows Matthew the Evangelist at his most generous. His feast will be September 21. This past Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday were the autumn Ember Days, days of ordinations and of prayers for laborers in God’s vineyard.
—Rev. Stephen Weissman | St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted with permission.
September 20, 2020