Pentecost 16 – September 20

Come All Laborers
Prayers for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost
September 20, 2020

A short time remains before the US elections on November 3, 2020  While the churches can take no partisan stands, we can pray and work for a just common life as a natural extension of our faith.  Voter Registration Day occurs this week, on September 22.  UCC Our Faith our Vote has an Action Center, which helps people across the country find their voting registration status, their polling place, and state-by state requirements for absentee voting.  Spread the word! 

In these days of widespread unemployment, the images in this service may be difficult for some congregants. As always with Worship Ways materials, take and adapt according to your circumstances.

Since Congregations are returning to “in-person” services at different paces, Worship Ways for Summer 2020 will be edited for online use.  “Rubrics” for virtual services will be noted in red;  take and adapt as you need!

Leader should speak the lines of the people, along with the Leader’s lines

No matter how you approach this Gospel story, it’s going to upset someone. Jesus intended this!  As you explore this parable in worship, remember that this parable offers a vision of God’s realm. Invite your faith family into careful reflection about how each of our discipleship manifests this vision.

Call to Worship (inspired by Matthew 20:1-16)

One:   Our eyes are heavy.
                     Our hope is soaring.
                     We wait in the marketplace.
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Our God is gracious.
One:   Our feet are tired.
                     Our expectations rise.
                     We are hired first.
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Our God is merciful.
One:   Our backs are sore.
                     Our spirits are low.
                     We are paid last.
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Our God is slow to anger.
One:   Our tempers flare.
                     Our anger rages.
                     We take what belongs to us.
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Our God abounds in steadfast love.

Invocation (inspired by Matthew 20:1-16)

Call all the laborers, O God,
Call your laborers who woke early,
Call your laborers who came late,
Call your laborers who feel wronged,
Call your laborers who feel overlooked,
Call your laborers who have no employment,
Call your laborers who can’t feed their children with this wage,
Call your laborers who know they are working in your fields,
Call your laborers who use their wage to increase your love,
Call all your laborers, O God,
Tell us to roll up our sleeves
For we know that we have work to do.
Let us find you in the work we share here and now,
in Christ’s presence we pray.                                       Amen.

Make a Sacred Space

Invite members of your church family to create “Vineyard altars” at home for this worship service. (Or, if you have returned to in-person worship, create one central spot, mindful of social distancing). Bring objects that are symbolic of our labor. Recall that this vineyard is not merely where we work but where we labor with God. These sacred objects may include:

  • vacuum cleaners, brooms, dusters and laundry baskets for home cleaners and janitors,
  • posters, puppets and felt boards from Sunday School classrooms,
  • pots, pans and wooden spoons from soup kitchens or home kitchens,
  • baskets of harvested crops, shovel and hoes for farmers and landscapers, or
  • blueprints, building models and t-squares for architects and designers,
  • lobster traps, fishing nets and waders for fishermen,
  • computer mouse, pencils, paper for writers and artists….etc!

If the “at home altars” can be arranged in such a way that they can be seen at some point on camera—wonderful!

Prayer of Confession

Paul ask his churches:
“Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,
so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you,
 I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit,
striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,…”
Let us spend a quiet minute reflecting on where we have failed to
“strive side by side”…for the Gospel.


Words of Assurance

Beloved in Christ rejoice! 
In grace and mercy, God abounds in steadfast love
Forgives us, and sets us free to grow in grace.
Bless God’s name forever!

Scripture, Sermon, Prayers of the People

Notes for the worship planners in 2020:

Consider a simple message or even an  interactive Bible Study that engages people with the Scriptures for today

  • Act out the Story

Set up an interactive drama using the Matthew text as a script.  Ask someone to take the role of the landowner. Invite this person to hire three groups of workers from those gathered in person or online. Have these groups enter  breakout rooms, if possible, and talk with each other about how it feels to be hired first, for a long day’s work; or be hired mid-day; or be hired late, after hope for work was almost gone.  Then draw everyone back into the large room and, have the landowner pay the workers reciting the words from the Gospel Lesson. (This actually works best if you only prepare the landowner in this dramatic telling. The first hired usually get upset right away.  Ask some questions of the laborers hired early and late about their reaction to the landowner’s action—anger, confusion? surprise, gratitude?) Allow the Gospel to be told as the landowner sends the laborers away with the same pay. Be sure that the landowner offers the wisdom offered in the Gospel including the last verse.


  • Bless the Altars

As much as possible, create a “tour” of the various altars created by the congregation.  Invite people to talk about their work—not only their jobs, their vocations, their dreams—what about their work is an offering to the kin-dom of God? 

  • For the Prayers of the People, you might use a bidding prayer (“God, we pray today for those who are sick, including ….”) and encourage folk to type in their prayers using Zoom chat or Facebook Live; allow for more time in silence for those prayers to be typed and read. Consider a collective response at the end of each bidding prayer.

  • A caution regarding prayers of the People online: Folks gathered in-person often recount a lot of detail in their prayers concerning other members or family (“Elderly Name, living alone, experiencing isolation…”  In  a private, in-person gathering, this information may be safe, but online, it can expose vulnerable people to harm, since we can’t control who will join the gathering or access it later online.  Invite people to be prudent in offering prayers:  “For First name only, in need of healing”; “For First name only, comfort in grief”  etc. 

Encourage people to contact the pastor directly with news of those needed extra pastoral care

Call for the Offering

When our eyes are heavy, we dream of another world.
When our spirits are low, we turn to each other.
When our anger flares, we need each other’s gifts most.
We give our gifts of tithes and offerings to create your kingdom of heaven.

Dedication of the Offering

O God, you have called your laborers to give their gifts.
Bless these offerings so that they reflect the work of the kingdom of heaven.
With Christ, our servant, we pray. Amen.

Benediction(inspired by Philippians 1:21-30)

One:   Let us continue in our work.
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Let us live in manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

One:   Let us be in one spirit, striving side by side,
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Let us find Christ in our struggles,

One:   Let us be surprised by the joy in our faith,
People:         Out loud, but muted
All:    Let us find you, O God, in all our work. Amen.

Written by the Rev. Elsa A. Cook, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a budding spiritual director and wandering interim minister. She writes liturgies and shares her thoughts on Adapted for online use by Susan Blain.

Copyright 2020 Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved. 


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