Posts Tagged ‘workers in the vineyard’

There Is No Order In Grace 9-21-14

This sermon is based on Matthew 19:30-20:16. It is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. I explore the sense of fairness being broken by the master’s actions, but then discuss how there is no measure to God’s grace other than that we receive the fullness of it.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/there-is-no-order-in-grace-9-21-14

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Since becoming the pastor here at Underwood Lutheran, I’ve presided over two weddings, and in both of them…the placement of the individuals who made up the wedding party was the same…everyone has their place…and as I think back to the multitude of weddings that I’ve been to, regardless of my level of involvement with them, I can say that there is certainly a normal placement of people that is pretty universal…a sort of inverted V…spreading out from the front…pastor here…bride and groom here…best man and groomsmen going out that way…maid of honor and bridesmaids going out that way…ring bearer and flower girl alongside…father of bride standing out here at one point…ushers in the back… …and in my time…I’ve stood in just about all of them at least once.

I’ve stood here in the pastor’s spot…being married I’ve obviously stood in the grooms spot…I’ve been best man…I’ve been a groomsman…I’ve been a ring bearer…I’ve been an usher…I haven’t managed father of the bride yet…but my daughter is only 8, we’ll give that one some time…and believe it or not…I’ve even stood over here in the bridesmaid line…long story…I’m not going into it…but yes I have even stood there. (pause)

Being part of the wedding party is a lot of fun…but for me, the best aspect…the biggest benefit…is that you get to go through the food line first at the reception. 9 times out of 10, the wedding party is the last to get there…and yet they are the first to eat…and I pay attention to these things…because inevitably…whenever I am at a reception and have not been part of the wedding party…my table is one of the last one’s to go through line…never fails…even if I’ve been one of the first to arrive…I’m always one of the last to eat. (pause) The first will be last…and the last will be first…Sound familiar?

This phrase bookends the gospel lesson for today…and perhaps you’ve heard me say it before…but in the writing style of the New Testament…when they repeat something…it means that it’s important…and of course today our speaker is Jesus himself…The first will be last and the last will be first.

Jesus, currently in an ongoing discussion with the disciples, uses this phrase to make a point…and then he transitions into the parable that makes up the bulk of today’s lesson…and then at the end…he says the phrase again…wrapping everything up…and so I have found myself coming back to that phrase over and over again this week…not because I want to…but because that appears to be the theme of yet another one of Jesus’ parables. (pause)

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early to hire laborers for the vineyard…they agreed on the wage…and he sent them out to get to work…Three hours later…he goes out again…Oh hey…there’s more people hanging around…Hey guys…go get to work…and I’ll pay you…and again a couple hours later…More people? Okay…go get to work…and then in a few more hours…Wow…more people…off to the vineyard…until finally, he makes one last trip right before the end of the day…and yet again…there are people standing around who have yet to be invited to work…people who lack the call into a crew…and yet again…the master says come on, I’ll hire you. (pause)

Hmmm…so the kingdom of heaven apparently has a WHOLE lot of work to do…and apparently there are a lot of people standing around lacking direction…interesting…but that’s just the start of things.

At the end of the day…once the work is over…the master decides that its time to settle accounts and brings in those late arrivals first…and low and behold…he pays them for a full day…and word trickles down the line. (pause) WOW!!! This guy is generous…they only worked for an hour…and he paid them for a full day? We’ve been here longer…some of us WAY longer…I WONDER HOW MUCH WE’RE GONNA GET? (pause)

And when the first workers finally get their paycheck…and greedily open up the envelop…expecting to see countless riches from this generous master…they are shocked…and amazed to find…exactly what they earned…exactly what the master had promised them at the beginning of the day. (pause)

And this…does not…sit well…and we hear that they begin to grumble and complain against the master…but in typical fashion, they don’t actually take it to him…the greek word here indicates a sense of quiet mumbling…similar in scope to what we might do in the midst of an argument when the other person leaves the room and we grumble about them…not really wanting them to hear what we have to say…because in all likelihood, it isn’t’ that nice…but yet we want the last word because darn it…we’re right and they’re wrong.

MASTER!!!! This isn’t fair…We have worked our tail off for you…we’ve been here all day…the whole time…we have done 10 times as much…and yet you give them the same amount as us. (pause)THAT’S NOT FAIR!

Gone is their viewpoint of the master as a generous man…now he’s just acting ridiculous…because common sense dictates that WE’VE done…far outweighs what they’ve done…we’ve earned it…they haven’t…we deserve it…they don’t. (pause)

Sound familiar? (pause) I’m sure it does…anyone with kids has heard countless arguments about fairness…I’m pretty sure that the phrase “That’s not fair” is uttered in my house at least once a day…probably more…and when we’re honest with ourselves, our views of what’s fair…what’s right…what’s justifiable…goes far beyond childhood doesn’t it?

This is something that we see all the time…smack dab in the middle of our day to day life…and perhaps in our capitalistic society…driven all too often by the almighty dollar…we run into this attitude constantly…and this parable really speaks to us…and we feel like those guys who started off the day in the vineyard are completely justified in their concern over the paycheck situation. (pause)

The notion of earning…or seniority is certainly prevalent for us isn’t it? So much so, that its second nature…this thought that those who have been at longer deserve more…that they should be justly rewarded for their work…for their service…for their time.

But Jesus tells us in this parable today that this is not the case in the kingdom of heaven…and so perhaps we try to shift our thinking now…remembering that, Oh yah, this isn’t supposed to be about money…its about the kingdom…and so we start thinking about the church…the congregation…and all the work that we’ve done over the years…has that thought ever crossed your mind? That I’ve done my part…I’ve put in the time…and maybe, just maybe I deserve the benefits more than that person…or that one…ever thought that? Even for a moment? (pause) I know I have from time to time…that notion of superiority kicks in, whether I want it to or not…guilty. (pause)
But you know what…Jesus has this amazing ability to shut me up pretty quick when he reveals the truth about things. And in typical fashion, he does the same thing here…when the master reminds us that he is allowed to do what he chooses with what belongs to him…and then Jesus reminds me again that this is about the kingdom of heaven…not money…not seniority…its about the gift of God.

God is like the master who continues to go out into the world…looking for those who have not been brought in yet…he doesn’t stop after the first trip…or the second…or the third…he keeps on going until the very last moment, continuing to bring people in…and regardless of when he finds that person…the result is the same…the full measure of God’s grace.

Because the grace of God cannot be measured out…it cannot be divided based on how long you’ve been in the body…grace doesn’t work like that…but he makes us a promise that if we call his name…if we come back into relationship with him through faith in Christ that we will receive the full measure of his grace…in its entirety.

And just as the master says to the first workers…God does us no harm by offering the same measure of grace to those that come after us…and no matter of longevity changes that grace…whether we are believer for a century or an instant…we receive the full measure of forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord…and we need only look to the scripture in order to believe it…

Because as Jesus hung on the cross…dying for the sins of all humankind, one of the men hanging next to him looked up and said Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom…and Jesus looked back at him and assured him that Today…you will be with me paradise. (pause)

Friends in Christ…we know, full well, that there are times when jealousy rears its ugly head…and we all fall into the trap of thinking that we’ve earned it more than the next person…no matter what the subject is…but despite all that…despite our failings…and our sinful nature…we have a Master who is generous…who offers us the free gift of his grace…not because we earn it…but simply…because he chooses to…it doesn’t matter when you show up…only that he has called you in. Thanks be to God. Amen