This weekend concludes our series of scriptural reflections on God’s fairness, mercy and justice. Last weekend’s parable of the workers in the vineyard began another theme which will continue in one form or another until Advent. The vineyard is an image which can be interpreted in many ways, often as a background to our “work” as Christians. (Recall the disciples’ question to Jesus in John 6:30: “What is the ‘work’ you do?”) Part of that “work” is detailed in the opening lines of our Philippians reading, urging us to stay focused on the humility necessary for the well-being of the community. The latter part of this passage, a poetic meditation on Jesus’ humility, is often called the “Philippians hymn” and may be one of the earliest hymns sung at Christian worship.
Paul’s exhortation to unity in community is expressed in the hymns “Where Charity and Love Prevail” and “Simple Gifts,” a tune and text which are part of our 19th-century Shaker heritage. “Simple Gifts” describes the attitude of humility with perfect simplicity. I often suggest this hymn for weddings. “Jesus Calls Us” is also a meditation on the work of Christ, and is one of three hymns from Iona Abbey that we will sing this weekend, the others being “The Love of God Comes Close” and “I’ll Love the Lord.”
Iona hymns often use folk tunes and poetry elegant in its simplicity which makes its point without religious rhetoric. Our gospel passage emphasizes the commitment and energy necessary to move from good intentions to action, so three of our songs at 10:00 have “yes” as their theme: “I Say Yes, Lord,” “I’ll Love the Lord,” and “Trading My Sorrows.”