Author Archives: trevor

No Matter How Late

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew

 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why h        ave you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)


I had a friend who worked for an airline that was bought by another larger airline. He kept his job, for which he was thankful, but he lost the seniority he had built up with his original airline, and moved to the back of the line in the new airline. 

He lost all the perks that he had built up over his years of service.

And the fault didn’t lie with the company. 

It was a union policy.

In other words, union brothers at one airline refused to let their union brothers from the other airline be integrated into the seniority system, but insisted they be tacked on at the end.

I read of one example where a man who had been flying planes for thirty years was behind his own son in seniority after the merger.

Where is the equality, the fair treatment, the brotherliness in that?

I have no doubt, though, human nature being what it is, that  if it had been the other way around, the same thing would have happened.

The thought seems to be that  it’s good that I have the perks that come with seniority, but I don’t want you too have them too.  My  enjoyment of  my perks would be spoiled if you were to get them too.

It’s like you get to a certain level of salary in your job and you feel good about it, then you find out that someone else, who doesn’t seem to have worked as hard, or as long as you gets the same.

You have the same raise as before. You have reached the same level as before. But it just doesn’t seem that good anymore, does it?

Gore Vidal famously said, ‘It isn’t enough to succeed, others have to fail.”

It’s true, isn’t it?

Just imagine you have run in a race as hard and as fast as you can, and you break the record for that distance, then you find that all the other runners ran through the finishing tape, just as you did.

The all broke the record together.

That would  kind of spoil it wouldn’t it? 

Now I don’t wish to boast, or seem more righteous than anyone else, but I don’t fit that pattern. 

As a long time minister, I have many perks in my job.

That’s right.

I can come into the church whenever I want, and ring the bell.

I can come in and read from the big bible, anytime I want. I can – and don’t tell Marilyn – come into the church and play the organ anytime I want.

And if a new minister comes in, I don’t mind sharing my perks with him or her.

Even if they don’t have all the years that I have served.

The worker who was chosen first in the parable we heard today, said, “ I have worked all day, and got the pay I was promised, but when I find out that you have only worked one hour and got the same pay, then my pay which I thought was fair, doesn’t seem fair any more.” 

There was no unemployment insurance in those days. There was plenty of unemployment, of course, because a lot of people had been moved off their land when they couldn’t pay the taxes the Romans demanded. 

No unemployment insurance!

If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat.

If there was no work then there was no food.

Men would stand around in that hot sun, waiting for an employer to come along and choose them for a day’s labour.  If they were chosen at the beginning of the day, then their families would eat.

If they were chosen halfway through the day, then they would eat, but not so well. 

If they waited in that burning sun all day long and were not chosen, then their families would starve. 

This employer came early and took the men he thought he would need, but there was too much work for them. So he came back at noon, and then later, at three o’clock, and again at about five in the afternoon and took more workers each time. 

That was normal.

What was different was that when it  came time to pay his labourers, this man paid each of them – the ones who had worked all day, the ones who had worked only half a day, and even the men who had worked for one hour only – he paid them all a full day’s pay.

The ones who had been there the full day, and who had been paid what they had been promised, didn’t like the way this employer worked. They grumbled that the late-comers had been treated as well as those who had laboured all day. 

Does that sound like the airline union member with seniority?   The worker with twenty years experience?   Does it sound like long-time faithful workers seeing new people coming in and being treated as well as they?   And not liking it!!

It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

And we don’t like it.

Now I must say it is not like that in my church.

You may only have been a member of the church for a month and you will be just as privileged to provide for the coffee hour as someone who has been here for ten years.

And I have seen people here for the first time, helping to put away the chairs and tables after coffee hour is over.

And no one complained.

All joking aside, Jesus is saying that’s  how the kingdom of Heaven is – everyone accepted fully, and welcomed, whenever they find Him. and you know,  I am glad that’s how it is.

I am glad that when I finally came to know my Saviour,  I was accepted, forgiven and loved, as much as those who had come to know him years earlier.

I never felt that I was second class.

You know, some people die after a full life, and have had the chance to serve Him for years.  Others, die young, and consequently don’t have the same number of years to serve God.  But He loves us all the same.

The problem with us human beings is that we may have forgotten how to be grateful for his grace.   We are too busy comparing what others are getting.

The men who were chosen to work first thing in the morning had the satisfaction of knowing that they had work. They would be paid. Their families would be fed.

Those hired halfway through the day, would have experienced relief that at least they would earn something.  But imagine how those who had to wait until mid-afternoon, or just one hour before the end of the day – imagine how they felt at not being chosen.

Imagine how their hearts must have fallen each time they were passed over?

The ones who were chosen first had a lot to be thankful for, over and above their pay and  knowing what it was like not to find work, they should have been glad to see others doing alright.   

A truly grateful person can never resent another.

We might overlook the goodness that God has sent to us. We might take for granted the lovely way he has looked after us.  Sometimes, it takes seeing another’s loss to bring it home to us.

There was a couple who had lost their son in the war. They made a sizeable contribution to their church, in his memory. When the announcement about the donation was made, a woman whispered to her husband, “Let’s give the same amount for our boy. “

Her husband said, “What are you talking about? Our son wasn’t killed.”

“That’s just the point,” she said, “Let’s give it as an expression of our gratitude to God for sparing our son.”

Let’s be grateful for what God has done for us,

Let’s do our best to help others find His love and Grace – just as we have.

The story that Jesus told to illustrate the kingdom of God,  is a great story, isn’t it?   It guarantees all of us a welcome into the kingdom, however early, or however late we arrive.

And it behooves us all to point the way for others.  And to rejoice with them when they find it. 

No matter how late in the day.


All We Need to Do

            The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew.

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”

And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them,

“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. This is the Gospel of Christ, (Matthew 21:23-32):


The preacher went on and on, and some of the people began to wonder when he was going to finish. It wasn’t that what he said wasn’t interesting, but rather, most of those there were long time church members and they didn’t think they needed to listen too closely.

And it was a hot day and even though the windows were open, it was stuffy in the church, and most people there wanted to get home for lunch, and hopefully, a cool drink. So they looked at their watches, and sat this way and that, and looked around, and counted the tiles in the ceiling, and eventually the sermon was over and the rest of the service would soon go by, and they could leave.

The parson shook hands with each member of the congregation as they exited, and then he turned to go back inside, to tidy up before he left. But he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye.

He turned and saw an older man, dressed in old and shabby clothes brushing grass from his pants. The man saw the parson and smiled, “Can I talk with you sir?”

“Well, er, I was just going. But come inside. Would you like a glass of water?

 “Thanks, but no. I just walked into town an hour ago, and was tired, so I sat against the church wall in the shade, and I heard what you said. I meant to be on my way, but something you said stopped me.”

“What was that?”

“You said that because of what Jesus did we are forgiven whatever bad we have done and can be back on good terms with God again. Is that right?”

“That’s basically what I said, “ nodded the preacher.

“Does that apply to me too?”

“It applies to everybody.”

“And what do I have to do?”

The parson took this man by the arm, and led him to the altar rail. “Just kneel here and ask God to forgive you for your sins, and if you are truly sorry, then He will and you will be free.”

 The man did that. He prayed aloud,” God, you know I have been a bad person. You know I have stole stuff, and hurt people. And I am sorry. I am tired of being on the outside. Can you please forgive me. Can you please let me in?”

 Something seemed to change in that old man. He stood up. His eyes were wet but his shoulders seemed to be set a little straighter. His face didn’t seem so lined.

“I’ll go now,” he said to the parson who was also crying, and he walked out the door.

The minister sat there for a long time. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. He had preached each week at this church for seven years, and although he knew some of his flock needed to repent of the way they lived, none had ever indicated they would.

Oh, the people at his church seemed like such good people, There was the odd person you had to tread lightly with. There were people who partied a bit. One couple seemed too strict with their children, and he worried about them. But they attended regularly.

They all seemed to listen to what he preached, and seemed to want to follow what he said, but he knew they didn’t.

But this man?

Here was a man who had rejected God, had lived his life outside of God’s grace. had refused God, and yet he had finally realised his mistake and had come back to his Father. (I came across this true story on the web many years ago. Still relevant today)

Matthew tells us that Jesus is talking to those who show their love of God by how they played by the rules, by the law – in other words, how they showed it. They seem to be saying they serve the Lord but often they don’t. The law gives them latitude to look good but not necessarily to be good or to do good.,

And he gives them the story of the two sons, to illustrate what he means. One rejects his father’s order but later changes his mind and does it. The other says OK, but then doesn’t. He is telling the Pharisees something here, but they probably won’t hear what he is saying. Their lives are so organized around the law that they can’t imagine how they could be wrong.

 I am going to tell you another true story of two brothers. One was eight and the other four years old. Someone had given them a budgie in a cage, which they loved, but often forgot to look after. It was their responsibility and mostly they did what they had to do, but being young children they often forgot.

Then one day the cage was silent, and their mother checking it saw the bird was dead Its food box was empty and the water container, was dry. Then she remembered that in the last day or day or so, she had kinda heard, and kinda saw, it do something weird. It would jump down from its perch, head toward the seed bowl and do a sort of strange dance around it before going back to the perch. She had no idea what it was doing, and had been too busy to really check it out..

I remember when she told me about this, about thirty years ago, but it was only the other day that I understood what had happened. I am a really slow learner.

 Birds aren’t so dumb as you might think. They can be trained to do tricks, and they can learn.( Some day I will tell you the story of the chicken that played the piano.)

 This budgie had probably seen that when it did that little dance – made a noise, and jumped around, that it would not be long before food and water arrived. And here it was doing that and expecting the same thing to happen.

This time there were no little boys around, but the bird performed that same ritual, which had been answered in the past, hoping food would appear.

 Like from God?

 We read in the Old Testament, and in other historical accounts that people would have gods whose purpose was to help humans. A god who provided rain, another who provided fire, another who brought good luck and so on.

It seems that humans have always had a real sense that there is a God, and have sought ways to influence God. To win his favour. But how to please this God? How to ensure that he would continue to favour his people? The answer appeared to be that sacrifices would have to be made.

The sacrifice would have to be something precious. God wouldn’t want a worthless sacrifice, would he? So sometimes a child was sacrificed.

The Old Testament refers to this, and we know from archeological research that it took place in South America. You will remember the story of Abraham being prepared to sacrifice his only son, Isaac but being restrained by an angel. Sacrifice has always been a part of worship, it seems.

We especially remember the sacrifice that Jesus made, for us – his own life, And we remember it in the Eucharist, don’t we?

We relive that last night when Jesus was with his disciples when we participate in the Eucharist.

Such rituals help us to remember and to commemorate, and to make a connection, with our God. And are very valuable as a part of our faith. They help us to come close to God. To feel a nearness with God and with each other. And we do them to persuade God to be near us.

But they are for us, not for God. He doesn’t need ritual, he doesn’t need praise, He needs nothing. He created everything there is. Why would he need anything?

Psalm 50, says it well,” I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds. 10 For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the air,[a] and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine

 If God is so great, and so powerful, then he doesn’t really need anything, does he? Even praise?

 That’s something we need to do. We need to, as I said, to help us feel close to God. I remember the first time I knelt at the altar rail and took communion. I was blown away by the feeling, the blessing, the closeness to God I felt and still do. But really, it’s not what we do in here, in our beautiful old church, that is important. It is what we do out there.

What we do here is to help us to do the important stuff out there. And what we do for others. What we do to others. How we help others. How we Love others.

That’s what He wants from us.

And when we finally do see Him, He is going to ask, ” What did you do? ” Not how much did you worship? Or how many times did you go to church?

 Like he would ask those Pharisees, what did you do for others? And they would say, “We obeyed all your laws.” But he would ask, again, ” What did you do for others?

And He will ask the same thing of us. Not did you jump off your perch and do a dance to please me, but what did you do for others?

You might say, ” Well, I played a good round of golf every week, or I worked hard and built a nice home. Or I attended church every Sunday and sat through hundreds of sermons. And He will ask again, ” But what did you do?” “

And He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”… And the goats on the left…….?.

For over a hundred and eighty years people have needed the church I attend as a place of praise, of prayer , of ritual, of community, and friendship, all of which have helped our forebears, and help us, to know what it is we should be doing out there, and to encourage us to do it.

So we should be able to answer the question, ‘ What did you do?” with confidence.

The man I mentioned at the start of this sermon had done nothing good, it seems. In fact he confessed to doing a lot of bad. But when he sat outside that church,for a moment after the service, he thought of people  who attended regularly, some there would be, the preacher knew, didn’t actually follow what he tried to tell them in his sermons.

But that old man who had wondered close by , not a church attendee it seems, had found something that urged him to move from his old life into a new one.

 He didn’t jump off his perch and do a dance, nor did he make any great sacrifice, all he did was acknowledge his need to be right with God.

I have loved my church. I have loved all who attend faithfully,. I have loved doing worship there,. I have even liked preaching,   but I oft need reminding, and maybe you do too, of all we need to do.

Even a Goose Knows

        The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew

 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others,

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. ( Mt. 16:13-20)


Some missionaries in the Philippines set up a croquet game in their front yard. Several of their Agra Negrito neighbors became interested and wanted to join in the fun. The missionaries explained the game and started them out, each with a mallet and a ball.

As the game progressed, opportunity came for one of the players to take advantage of another by knocking that person’s ball out of the court. A missionary explained the procedure, but his advice only puzzled the Negrito friend. “Why would I want to knock his ball out of the court?” he asked. “So you will be the one to win,” the missionary said.

This short-statured man, clad only in a loin cloth, shook his head in bewilderment. In a hunting and gathering society, people survive, not by competing, but by sharing equally in every activity.

The game continued, but no one followed the missionaries’ advice. When a player successfully got through all the wickets, the game was not over for him. He went back and gave aid and advice to his fellows.

As the final player moved toward the last wicket, the affair was still very much a team effort. And finally when the last wicket was played, the ‘team’ shouted happily, “We won! We won!”

That’s how Paul tells us the church, the body of Christ should be.

A team. We all play and we all win together.

Paul’s favourite thought is of the church as a body. The members of the body neither argue with each other, nor envy each other, nor dispute with each other as to their relative importance.

Paul was sure that was what the church should be like. Each member has a task to do and it is only when each contributes  the help of her own task, that the body of the church functions as it should.

We are urged first to know ourselves, and our gift: to assess our capabilities honestly, without conceit or false modesty.

Then we are urged to use the gift that God has given us. 

Paul is saying that even if the contribution we can make is going to be unseen, without praise, and without glory, that we should still make it, and that without the offer of that gift, the world, and the church, can never be what they are meant to be.

Because whatever gift we have comes from God. And it comes for a purpose.

Paul  calls a gift from God charismata.

Some people have charisma.

You could practice playing the violin for a lifetime and yet would never be able to play like Yehudi Menuhin. He had more than practice going for him. He had something plus. Charisma  – a gift from God.

Similarly, you might toil for a  lifetime and still be hopeless in the use of wood and metal – like me, and yet, another person fashions wood or metal effortlessly. The tools become a part of the artisan. A gift from God. A charisma.

You might practice speaking for ever and a day, and never acquire the presence and the special something that makes people listen to you. A gifted speaker, on the other hand comes to the podium and soon has the audience in the palm of her hand.

Try writing.  You can try and put words onto paper and never get them right, whereas someone with the gift of words, can see his thoughts take place, flowing effortlessly from  mind  to  paper.

My thoughts flow effortlessly from mind to paper, or rather computer, then I need someone with gift of translation to correct all the typos.

Everyone has their own charisma. Their own gift from God.

It may be for writing sermons, for building houses, gardening, fashioning wood, working with figures, playing the piano, singing songs, teaching children, playing football, or golf.

And gifts are not given to be used solely in the church. They are given to be used in a wider context.

The gift of healing, for example.

A physician who has studied, and has found the balance between medicine as a science, and medicine as an art, is truly a healer.  Using that gift for healing, that charisma, to make the lives of people more bearable, is truly serving God.

At the other end of the scale, my mother was a relatively uneducated woman. She left school at age fourteen. She worked as a maid for the local vicar.  

Later, as a married woman, with four children, she didn’t have much time to develop whatever gifts she might have had.  But there was one gift she had in abundance. Compassion.

I remember her going to the homes of two elderly members of our church and getting down on her hands and knees, and  cleaning their homes.  Regularly. And no thought of being paid.

No-one at the church knew what  she did.

It was what she could do, and her use of that gift – of compassion for others – was just as important in God’s scheme for the world, as the use of the gift of healing by the physician.  And it had nothing to do with the church.

All of us are gifted by God, and He expects us to use our gift.  Because in using our gifts we are acting as members of the body of Christ.

Imagine if Jesus were here now.

Wouldn’t he be healing people?

Wouldn’t he be helping the old and infirm? 

Wouldn’t he be teaching? 

Wouldn’t he be feeding people? 

Wouldn’t he be teaching us how to forgive?

If he were working in a company, wouldn’t he be trying to make sure that the business of that company was done honestly?

If he were working in a job that involved meeting people, and handling their complaints, then wouldn’t he be loving and understanding?

Of course he would, if he were here.

But he is not here.

He is not here in body.

He is here in Spirit. And he is here in the gifts that we have.

So doesn’t it make sense for us,  in whatever job we have, or in whatever way we live, or in however we work for our church, or in whatever we do, to act like him? To be his body here in the world?

And being members of his body here in this world, each doing what we are gifted with, and called to do, we don’t fight with each other, or expect to be placed higher than another, or envy what others do.

It’s kind of like – it is like – being on a team.

Isn’t it?

You know we don’t always act as if we are on a team – at least not as if we are on the same team.

There is sometimes dissent. There is sometimes disagreement. There is rivalry. Because we are human. And we haven’t all reached a state of perfection.

But you, know, the church at large will never be a church that effectively reaches out to those who are lost, if we shoot our wounded, and enter into big battles about small things.

Instead of becoming fishers of men, we are, as often as not, keepers of a shrinking aquarium.

Next Fall, when you see geese heading south for the Winter, flying along in a ‘V’ formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way.

It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in ‘V’ formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater  flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

Christians who  share a common direction, and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they travel with the  shared strength of each other.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of those immediately in front.

When the lead goose gets tired, he or she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.

It pays to take turns doing hard jobs with people in church, just as it does for geese flying South.

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

What does it mean when we hear honking from behind?  

Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by a shot, and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the wounded goose until it is either well enough to fly, or it dies.   And then they launch out on their own, or join another formation going in the right direction.

If people outside knew that we would stand by them like that in church, they would be pushing the walls down to get in.

You see, all we have to do to attract those who are missing out, is to demonstrate to the world that here at church, we have as much sense  – as geese!

That seems a small enough price to pay to win the lost and minister to each other.

Even a goose knows it makes sense to work as a team.