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9-24-17 Sermon

Sermon September 24, 2017                                                                                                                             

Matthew 20:1-16

May the gifts and the peace of God our Father, and our Master, Jesus CHRIST be poured into your lives, as you serve in His Kingdom!                                                                                                                                

Is God fair?  How can this parable be right?   How could God allow this?                                                 

As I look at this passage, if I reduce it to a lesson on morality, ethics, or a code of justice, it fails miserably—in fact it seems to contradict them.  One study source stated, “Fairness is a human concept that does not apply to God. Whatever He does, is right.”  

That being said, what is the real focus of this scripture?  God isn’t fair--He is generous. As you heard the Gospel read, did those who had worked all day, have a right to complain, that they had not been paid enough?   

In Jesus’ day, men who wanted to work would be in the market place early in the morning.   Those needing workers would go to the market place and select the best workers. Notice they had agreed upon a fair wage for a day’s work.   

Then about 9 o’clock, he hired more men, saying:  go into the vineyard and whatever is right I will give you.’ Same thing happened at 12:00 noon, 3:00 in the afternoon, and even at 5:00.  As the day progressed the less able workers were the only ones left.  For every man able to work for the day meant his family would have food for that day.  So when at the end of the day, ALL the workers were paid the same amount, jealousy entered the picture. “We worked harder and longer than the johnnie-come-latlies, we deserve more money.” 

Note the householder’s reply:  "Friend, we agreed upon an honest and just wage you would receive for a whole day’s work.   I paid you the agreed upon wage!  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”         

Parables exist for a teachable moment. In this parable, the real focus is when Jesus asks the amazing question: “Friend, do you begrudge my generosity?”  Each of us must also answer the question: Do we begrudge Jesus His generosity?       

Because if we hesitate on answering, we also begrudge someone the love of God.  Are we jealous, because God’s love is poured out on someone we have judged “not worthy”?                                    

Before we get all self-righteous, thinking we’d never go that far, let’s consider the prodigal son, forgiving father, jealous brother.                                                                                                                               

The jealous brother – got ticked off, because his father wanted to celebrate the return of the long messed up younger brother. He resented the fact that his father still loved the younger son! We might agree with the jealous brother, because…it wasn’t fair! Then consider Jonah, sent to Nineveh, to warn them of God’s wrath, very upset with God, "I knew it! I knew this was going to happen!   I knew you would turn your punishment into a program of forgiveness!  So, God, if you won't kill them, kill me! I'm better off dead!"                                                                                                                            

God asked Jonah, “What do you have to be angry about?"   But Jonah stormed out of the city to sulk. He built a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to Nineveh.” Jonah 4:2       

Jonah was bitterly angry about God’s grace.                                                                                                

What about the people we’d rather not forgive?                                                                                       

Those we don’t want to have anything to do with?  Do we begrudge God sharing His love with them? Or do we just not want to talk about it and walk away?                                                                        

The work in God’s vineyard isn’t pulling weeds, or harvesting grapes, the work is to minister to each other, assure each other of God’s love, His grace, His forgiveness.                                                       

No matter who they are or how awkward it is to love them; no matter the cost to us….for our cost is nothing compared to the cost of the cross.                                                                                                      

Do we begrudge Jesus’ generosity?                                                                                                                                   

In this parable, Jesus addresses the dissatisfied workers by saying, “friend” translated to mean   partner—one who has ownership in the work. And that’s what this parable of the Kingdom of God is about.  As the master made many trips to the market place, he found the elderly, handicapped, the people who were seldom chosen.  Jesus offers to them and to us a part in His kingdom! Come into my kingdom – partner with me for real meaning in your life.                                                                                            

This parable isn’t about workplace fairness. It’s about God offering a part in His kingdom to all who want to be included.                                                                                                                                          

In one-way or another—all of us are broken, as is every person who comes through our doors.  Jesus our Savior has deemed all of us acceptable by dying on the cross.  They sit beside us, they come to this same altar, for the same reason: we all need the Bread of Life; we all need the Blood of the covenant – that forgives our sin and theirs.                                                                                                                  

We need to minister to each other in love. Not just because Jesus commands us to do so, or to make ourselves feel good.  It’s the profound sense of grace that God has placed us together.  His righteousness is promised to us – given to us, even though we don’t deserve it.  Our God is about the righteousness of CHRIST. We should be too.  Amen