September 20, 2020
The office and the rest of the building remain closed, but you can contact Karla during her office hours.
WORDS OF WORSHIP- “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the lord’” (Psalm 122:1)
GATHERING PRAYER-We come before You, O God, because You have loved us and invited us to part of Your kingdom. Still our restlessness, calm our anxieties, open our ears and our hearts that we may hear what You have to say to us and for us. In Jesus’ name we ask, Amen
CONFESSION AND PARDON –We come before you Lord, knowing full well we have not always been faithful servants. We have failed to do many things we should have done; we have done many things we should not have done and there is no health in us. We confess we have sinned against You and harmed our neighbors and loved ones with our actions and our words. Because of Your great mercy and love You offer us forgiveness. We beg You for that forgiveness in Jesus name, Amen
PARDON- “God proves His love for us in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) in the name and power of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven people.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION-May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to You, our Lord and Savior, Amen.
SCRIPTURE LESSON Matthew 20:1-15
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
20“For the kingdom of heaven is like landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. Agreed to pay them a denarius [a]the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. Told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right. ‘they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. Five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’7“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8“When evening came, 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.’ 9“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. When those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. They received it; they began to grumble 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 the day.’ 13“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. But you agree to work for a denarius? 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?’
SERMON- “Are you jealous because I am generous?”
There is one thing we need to be really clear about as we were to way through this parable: it is NOT advice on how to run a business. Jesus did not intend this parable to be used as instructions on how employers should treat their workers. There is no business that could survive a month if they followed the example of this parable. When we work with this parable, we have to keep in mind the 1st few words we read today: “The kingdom of God is like”- what we are looking at is Jesus showing his followers and us something about God, not something about business.
Now let’s put this parable into everyday content but to do that, I need your help for a minute. How many of you have children raised your hands? Now, how many of you NEVER heard a child yell out THAT” S NOT FAIR? Raise your hands. When you boil this parable down, that is the complaint of the workers. Somehow or the other they had to, they had a definite feeling they got the short end of the stick, and they are raising an objection. In this parable, Jesus is showing us the difference between our sense of what is fair and God’s sense of what is right.
Suppose for a minute you are the guy who was hired early in the day. You were down at the town square before daylight, hoping someone would need help harvesting their crop. The usual workday is Sunup to Sundown, but the pay was enough to feed your family for a couple of days with a bit of money left over. The landowner offers you a usual day’s wage for a day’s work. You agree, and you go to the field and begin working.
About 9, you see the landowner coming with the more workers; you ask one what his agreement was, and the worker says the landowner promised to pay what is right. Again, at noon at 3 and at 5 you see more workers come in. You think to yourself the fellow hired at 5 might make enough to buy his family supper, but what should he get since he only worked an hour or so.
When the Sun goes down, the manager lined up the workers up with the last at the front of the line. You are at the end of the line because you were the first one hired. Suddenly a buzz starts through the line “the workers who were hired last that a full day’s pay”. Immediately you begin to wonder how much you will get since you worked all day. Surely, they will be extra since I bore the heat of the day. As the line moves, you notice, each group of workers receive a full day’s pay. There does not seem to be any consideration for those who have worked longer. Still, you hold the expectation that because you worked I full day, you will receive more.
Then it was your turn.
You walked to the table, eagerly anticipating a bonus of some sort. When you received the usual day wage, the same everyone else had received, your immediate response was “THAT’S NOT FAIR”. Surely, it was worth something extra to have to work through the blistering heat of the day. Surely, there should be some difference between those who have worked all day and those who only work for an hour. Your cries of unfairness fill the evening air.
Because your complaint is so loud, the landowner hears and comes to you. He asked what is your complaint? You paid those workers who worked only an hour of full day’s wage we have worked, and we have worked the full day. That is not fair that we should get the same as them.
The landowner asks, “What did you agree and this morning?” you are forced to answer, “You said the usual pay for a day’s work”. The landowner replies, “You received what you agreed to. If I choose to be generous to someone else, you do not lose anything you are promised, take what you a promise, and go home.”
As I worked on this, it occurred to me; there is another parable where the point is the different idea of fair and God’s idea of what is right. It usually is called the prodigal son. We all know the story. The oldest demanded his share of the inheritance, took the money, went to a strange land spent everything. He was so destitute he took a job feeding pigs, an animal that the Jews considered unclean; he was so hungry, sometimes he caught in self looking at the pig's food and wondering what it might taste like. Finally, he decided rather than to starve; he would go home, throw himself at the father’s mercy, and take a job as a slave there Instead, the father threw a robe on, and him put on a signet ring and threw a party for everyone.
When the younger said son heard the party, he was furious. When the father came to ask what was wrong, the son replied, “this son of yours took the family fortune spent it doing God knows what, and when he is about to starve to death, he comes home, and you throw him a party with prime rib for everyone, I work my rear off on this farm never taken is much is the lamb for myself. “ITS NOT FAIR”
As I thought about these two stories, I wondered about the idea of fairness. I went to one of my Bible search programs and looked up the word fair learn and learn something very interesting, In the King James Bible and in the New Revised Standard Bible, God is never described as being fair in his treatment of people. God is often called loving, compassionate, just, and other similar terms, but there is never a place where either in scripture where God is described as fair. This it was something I had never really thought about before. I am still working my way through understanding what that means in terms of these two parables, so this sermon is a part of that process of understanding.
What I see so far in these two parables may be a way of Illustrating Isaiah 55: 8- 9 this is God speaking to Isaiah,” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” In both of these parables we see this pointed out clearly. Our human nature tends to agree with the younger son and the worker in the field.
What has happened is clearly NOT fair. What we need to remind ourselves is these stories are not about the workers; they are not about the two sons; they are about the kingdom of heaven and the way God extends mercy.
If we go back to the story, the landowner never promised to pay the worker what was fair. If you read the parable closely, the word fair is never in the story. He promised he would pay them” whatever is right” from God’s point of view about what is right and not from our point of what is fair. Again, we have to refer to ourselves to Isaiah’s words about the difference between our ways and the ways of God.
It is our sense of what is fair that cause the problem in both parables: both the worker in the field and the youngest son had the same idea: I have worked the longest therefore, I should get most for what has done.
That is the way OUR world works. If you work hard, you will get rewarded accordingly, and, when that doesn’t happen, we cried foul. We have to keep reminding ourselves, these stories are not about our world: Jesus was attempting to help us understand something about God’s Kingdom.
One of the principal attendant tenants of the protestant faith is that we are not saved by works, but rather we are saved by grace. That is truly the point of both parables. Neither the late worker nor the son earned what they received. They received it because of the mercy of someone else. In one sense, we know this, and yet there is a bothersome and voice that says, if we have worked hard, we should receive something for it. We have been church members, we have been taught Sunday school, and we have been officers. We had been Pastors. Surely there ought to be something “extra” for us because of what we have done. That would be fair.
Suppose for a moment that God Was fair. Suppose at the end of our lives; we stand before the throne of judgment, we got what we deserved based on everything we did, the things we failed to do, and the things we said and the things we failed to say.
Every false statement we made, every time we spoke cruelly to or about another person, every time we tried to justify some selfish decision we made, every time we judged another person because they did not meet our standards of behavior or dress would be paraded before us and then Gods judgment would be made. Is that really what we want for end our lives?
I can’t answer that question for you, but for me, the answer is no. I do not want God to judge me on the basis of the things I have done and the things that have left undone. When I stand in the judgment, I do not want what is fair; I do not want what I deserve based and words or acts of my life, I want grace. I want mercy. To paraphrase and another author, we do not sing a hymn called amazing fairness. We sing a hymn called amazing grace, and that’s the point of these parables are making for us to consider. God ways ARE NOT our ways.
There are many places where we can see this truth spelled out for us. John 3:16 is verse we can quote by memory but think about what it REALLY says in the light of this parable. “For God so loved the world he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” I want to focus on the “whoever” in that verse.
When Jesus was crucified, there were thieves on each side of him. One of the thieves turned in pleaded with Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his Kingdom. Jesus response was, “today, you will be with me in paradise.” A man condemned by Rome at the last-minute pleading with Jesus to be remembered, a truly death row conversion, and wished his granted. The verse says “whoever” and Christ bears witness to that act. Gods grants what is right, not what we might say was fair.
We sometimes read of a person being convicted of some sort a serious crime, and, when they have been in prison for a while, they suddenly become very religious. Sometimes we look at this with our eyes squinted a bit, suspecting what they have done is put on a show of some sort board the hopes of a later settings or improve conditions. Again, the verse says “whoever,” and we have to considers God sense of what’s right over our sense of what is fair.
Looking at Romans 5:8, we see another view: “God proves his love for us while we are still sinners, Christ died for us’” long before any of us were born, long before our great great grandparents were born, the act of salvation was given on the cross. None of us have done ANYTHING to deserve that. Even if we had worked hard at being in model Christian all of our lives, there is there enough places where we had not lived up to our own expectations, let alone to the things God asks us. There are enough places where we had failed that it would we would be fair of God to condemn us, but the verse does not that say God proves his fairness; it says God proves his love.
In both of these parables, we see that the cry out to us THAT’S NOT FAIR, but in both stories, we see God is acting in ways that are right. Again, that is the point of the stories Jesus want as to struggle with the concept of the way God sees things sometimes, it makes us considered possibilities we rather not think about. Jesus want us to be clear about the kingdom of God is not given according to what our sense of what is fair. It is given according to God sense of what is right.
When we balk for one reason or another as the workers or son did, we need to stop and examine what exactly we feel we have lost our why it was unfair. Most of the time, it is because we have been shortchanged in one way or another. As Billy Waterson, a Christian comedian, says, “I know the world is unfair, but why is it never unfair in my direction?’
Both these parable point to our past concept of what is fair towards the idea of God’s grace, something totally unexpected, totally undeserved, and yet totally wonderful. We all heard something stories about someone drive-in where the customer not only pays for their own meal but for the person behind them as well. Pretty soon, the line has gone as gone forward with each person paying for the one behind them. Because they have received something unexpected, they are doing the same for someone else. There is not a sense of obligation but a sense of sharing a gift that they had received.
The parables we have worked on today put up a caution sign for us if we think about judging the faith of another person. They teach us it is not our place to judge another based on when or how they came to their faith.
We have to come to our faith by a wide variety paths based on the circumstances of our lives. Your path is different from the person beside you for a variety of reasons but you each have come to accept the truth of the message we share. Each of us, regardless of how we came to the truth, is promised the same results, residents in the kingdom of heaven .There are no qualifiers.
Some Christian scholars said a long time back the ground around the cross was level, by that they meant while we come to the cross from many different directions with our with many different backgrounds still when we get there, the question remains the same: do you accept Jesus Christ as YOUR Lord and savior. When we can accept the truth of that statement, then we can accept the idea that the latecomer is admitted into the kingdom just as fully as the person who is believed all their lives. When we truly understand the full power of amazing grace, God offers all of us; then, we can answers God’s question: are you jealous because I am generous?
AFFIRMATION Apostle’s creed Ecumenical version
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION-Lord, we pray for those who have lost homes, for those who have lost crops, for those who have been devastated in any way by the storms. As we edge closer to the time of election, we pray for our leaders, that they may see more than what is important to them and understand the needs of others around them. We pray as we make our choices we, too, may see more than what is important to us and look toward the good of our country. We pray for those who are ill in body, mind or spirit, that You may be with them to lift them up and grant them healing. We pray you would be with each of us, that we may be servants of your will in all we do, we ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING-We thank You for power line workers from all across the country who have been here helping to restore services. We thank You for Doctors and Nurses who labor during this time of pandemic. We thank You for the many gifts we have received from Your love day after day. We thank You for those who have been healed in any way. We thank you for the many people who volunteered in helping with the cleanup and pick up after the storms. Above all, O God, we thank You for Your saving grace freely extended to us. Amen
THE LORD’S PRAYER
CHARGE & BLESSING-I charge you to go out into the world as witnesses to God’s love. To render no person evil for evil, but to witness to all the healing and forgiving grace of God. Now, may the Lord bless and keep us all every day from this day forward, Amen