Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday, Februray 8, 2009 Septuagesima Matthew 20:1-16

For the kingdom of heaven is like a Man ruling a household, Who went out at early dawn to hire workers into His vineyard. And having agreed with the workers for a denarius (for) the day, He sent them to task into His vineyard. And having gone out around the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace, idle. And to those He said, "You go also into the vineyard and whatever is right, I will give to you." And they went forth. And again, having gone out around the 6th and the 9th hours He did the same. And around the 11th, having gone out, He found others standing and He says to them, "Why are you standing here the whole day idle?" And they say to him, "Because no one hired us." He says to them, You also go into the vineyard." And evening having come, the Lord of the vineyard says to His steward, "Call the workers and deliver to them the pay, beginning from the last, up to the first." And having come, those around the 11th hour, each one received a denarius. And having come the first, they assumed that they would receive more; and each one of them also received a denarius. And having received, they grumbled against the ruler of the household, saying, "These, the last ones, only worked an hour, and you have made them equal to us, the ones who bore the burden of the day, and the heat!" And He, answering one of them said, "Friend, I am not being unrighteous with you; Didn't you agree with me on a denarius? Take what is yours and go. But I wish to give to these, the last, as also to you; Isn't it lawful to me to do what I want with what is Mine? Or is your eye evil because I am good? Thus, the last will be first and the first last.

Today we have another one of Jesus' parables that just doesn't make any worldly sense. But that's OK, since His kindgom is not of this world, nor are the Lord's teachings compatible with worldly ways. In the story, it surely seems that the vineyard owner is not being fair. He's overpaying those who worked very little. Such things just don't happen in these tough economic times. Nor did they occur often back in Jesus' day. But that's precisely Jesus' point in this parable. God's ways are quite a bit different.

How sad it is for so many within Christendom today that they fail to understand this parable's point. The rewards of the kingdom of heaven do not depend on whether you work a lot, or hardly at all. Heaven is not attached to human work whatsoever. It is all about the good gift Giver, and His gracious will to give generously, regardless of our human efforts. For the kingdom of heaven comes to you when God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let His Name be hallowed, nor His kingdom come.

Many Christians, including not a few Lutherans, get this all wrong. A recent Barna poll indicated that almost half of Lutherans assumed they would get into heaven by trying to be good enough. Nothing could be farther from the truth! For Jesus had just been asked by His disciples, "Who can be saved?" He responded, "with men, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!" It is not possible for man to contribute even the tiniest bit to his salvation. That's why we are not co-Saviors. It is all up to Jesus!

"But Pastor," you might be thinking, "don't the workers in the story have to work for their wages, at least a little bit?...don't they have to do their part, however small?" While on the surface it might appear that way, if we look closer, we find that there is nothing in this parable about *earning*. Only about giving. The Lord of the vineyard chooses to give what is *right*, but not what is merited. What is given is given according to the promised word of the Lord of the Vineyard. Agreed to or not, the Lord gives from love.

. . Through St. Paul, the Holy Ghost makes it clear that all the works which justify man and which qualify you for heaven are finished by Jesus at the cross. You are saved by grace, through faith, not of your works, lest you boast. No one can be saved by obeying of the works of the Law...Yet the saved do work. They run the race given them to run. But the works God gives you are not of the burden of the Law. They are sanctified works which Christ does through you, using you as a instrument or tool for loving others.

Still other well-intentioned Christians feel that they must do their part in faith after God has finished with grace. They foolishly assume that since Jesus did the saving, now they must do the believing. Yet they fail to realize that even their faith is a gift of God. Like breathing, they are only believing because of what God does within them. Since your baptism, God's Holy Spirit has made you reborn as a believer, and He remains in your heart to keep you in the one true faith along with all other believers in Christ Jesus.

Strugglers and strivers here on earth, hard-workers and hearty laborers of this world, and those who try with every effort to get ahead may be first in the here and now. But those who trust their own works in the kingdom of heaven, will find themselves last. For Jesus' kingdom is different. It is where God does all the washing, all the giving of His Word, and feeds you with His Own Body and Blood for your forgiveness. Amen

Today's Hymns from LSB:
#555 Salvation Unto Us Has Come
#566 By Grace I'm Saved
#785 We Praise You Oh God Our Redeemer Creator

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