Picking Grapes in God’s Vineyard
The Gospel for this weekend, Matthew 20:1-16, is the parable of the vineyard owner who goes out and hires workers the whole day. He then pays those who worked one hour the same wages as those who worked all day.
I borrowed the comments below from the online blog “in the Meantime,” by David Lose:
We tend to identify – perhaps unconsciously – with the laborers working all day who feel rather taken advantage of, rather than with those who have received unexpected and unmerited generosity.
1) God gives enough. Each of the workers received a day’s wage. Some labored all day…just as they had signed up to do. Others labored for just an hour. But at the end of the day, they all received just what they needed: enough. (Think of the petition, “give us this day our daily bread.”) God gives enough, and enough is something over which to rejoice.
2) God does not give up but keeps looking to find and save all. The landowner in the parable keeps going out – all day long! – in order to find more and more people to labor in the vineyard. He will not stop. Just so, God will not give up on seeking out the lost, the vulnerable, all who are in need, all of us.
Everyday Adam and I play a game or two of scrabble. It takes at least an hour for every game. This afternoon after playing for over an hour we had backed ourselves into a corner and though we had plenty of tiles left, neither of us had any plays available. Some days are like that, we run out of plays before the end of the day. But, God willing, we get another shot at it tomorrow.
As Jesus said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Don’t sweat tomorrow, today.”
The Prayer of the Day for Pentecost 15A, begins, “O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of Your Church.”
What a challenge for God’s Church to prayer devoutly, particularly this little 54-word conversation with God who is our life’s anchor and vitality. All our holiness originates with God.
We ask God to listen and act. Whoever wrote this prayer is expecting a lot us as we gather for worship amid the commotion that is part of the coming together of God’s people. Mom and Dad corralling children to pay attention, Grandparents making faces and waving to grandchildren, late arrivals seeking a vacant spot in the pew, the choir readying themselves for their anthem, the pastor trying to remember who it was who asked him to pray for whatshisname thirty seconds before walking up the aisle to begin worship, and the arthritic hoping we can sit down soon.
Devout means earnest, heartfelt, (The Germans call it Herzlichkeit). Thus, we depend on God to look within us and not on our outside, perhaps not even what is running through our minds at that moment. Look within us for that trusting faith that God might grant us what we ask in faith so that we also may obtain it.
Prayer: O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of your church, especially in times of persecution, and grant that what we ask in faith we may obtain.” All this we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
As I was walking around the nearby St. Lucas church today, a familiar hymn tune kept playing in my head. I couldn’t quite get a hold of its identity. All that came to mind were two phrases. “Pavilioned in splendor; His canopy of grace.” I thought that was a great image. God sitting in a pavilion providing a canopy of grace under which I could take refuge against the storms of life and strengthen my faith.
After supper, I looked up the word, “canopy” in my hymnal concordance thinking that reading the entire stanza might deepen my understanding of what the hymn writer meant by “canopy of grace.”
The hymn turned out to be “O Worship the King.” Furthermore, well you know how your mind can mix things up, the phrase isn’t “His canopy of grace” but “whose canopy space.”
However, my mind wasn’t completely confused in dredging up particles of a hymn. Because the stanza does speak of grace, in fact its invites us to “Sing of His grace.”
O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
So, what about God in his splendid pavilion? That comes near the end of the first stanza.
“Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.”
I think the hymn writer, Robert Grant (1779-1838), is using such over the top language because he is trying to describe the indescribable. The key to where he is taking us “Frail children of dust” is found in his very first words. He is inviting us to “Worship the King, all glorious above.” That’s a good thing to do anytime of the day as we live under his grace space.
A question that arises in our Friday morning study of Matthew’s gospel, “Will the disciples ever get it?” In chapter 16, Jesus warns the disciples about the leaven, the negative influence, of the Pharisees and Sadducees. However, the disciples are upset that someone has forgotten to bring lunch. Jesus says he recently fed 9,000 people with some bread and a few fish. He can provide lunch. “I’m not talking about bread. But the dangerous thinking of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The disciples finally get it. Aha! The crisis is not in their stomachs.
The disciples are a mirror for Christians. Will we ever get it? Recently, I heard a sermon on the sower who went out to plant his field and some of the seed fell on shallow soil, some among thorns, some on a path and some on good soil. The preacher said that all of us have patches in our lives where the Word isn’t productive.
I’ve noticed a mean spiritedness in some of our attitudes in the field of politics. Where else do the thorns and thistles grow in our lives? Where else is the field of our heart stony or a well-worn path of scabbed over, but never completely healed hurts?
Let me paraphrase Paul in our epistle reading for this weekend, “To this end Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the stony ground and Pharisee in ourselves as well as that which is alive to Christ.”
The epistle for Holy Cross Day is I Corinthians 1:18-21. In verse 23 Paul writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” What kind of god would save people through the cruelty of a crucifixion? Really? It’s ridiculous.
However, for us who believe in the foolish and bloody crucifixion of Jesus, the cross speaks volumes about God who always seems to pick the most difficult means of accomplishing his purpose. Wouldn’t it have been easier and more popular to have a superhero savior who at the last minute freed himself from the cross, pulled it out of the ground and used it to pulverize his enemies? Wouldn’t Communion be more appealing with a cup of coffee and a crème filled chocolate covered doughnut? Wouldn’t it be more appealing to hear that deep down inside we’re all okay after all?
But God has made the cross the thing. In a display of foolishness and weakness God showed his power and wisdom through Christ crucified. An instrument of death is become an instrument of life.
The psalm for the Day, Psalm 98, is also a psalm used at Christmas and Easter. The psalm has it right, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.”
Merciful God, your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, one God, now and forever.
Jesus begins the Gospel lesson for last Sunday (Matt. 18:1-20) by setting a little child amid his adult disciples. As he continues it becomes clear that he is speaking of disciples who are little in the faith. Woe to anyone who treats these little ones with contempt or looks down one of these insignificant ones. These may be people who are half in and half out of the church, or half – hearted, nominal disciples. Those who have been disappointed in the church or by the church in how they were treated during a difficult time; yet, they remain a follower of Christ. In Jesus eyes, these are not little ones but those considered such by “serious” believers.
The clincher comes in verse 10b,” In heaven their angels always behold my Father’s face who is in heaven.” Hebrews 1:14, speaks of ministering angels sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation. In Psalm 91:10-11, God sends angels “to guard you in all your ways…they will bear you up lest you stub your toe on a rock.”
These little Christians have angels close to Jesus heavenly Father who is also “Our Father who is in heaven.” If the little disciples are that important to the God and Father of us all, then every believer is to be important to the pillars of the church. As Chrysostom said, “How should he be little who is dear to God.”
Prayer of the Day: Pentecost 14A.
The prayer begins “O God, from whom all good proceeds…” I think this can be understood in two ways. First, there is no good which we receive that is not from God. Secondly, everything which proceeds from God is good, even though we may wonder about that at times.
Next, we assert that we are God’s humble servants. I am reminded that that’s what I am, a servant of Christ humbled by the measures to which Christ went to save me from my own pride. I am also humbled that thousands of fellow believers are making a confession of humility on my behalf.
Now we humble servants ask God for the gift of “Holy inspiration” to help us do two things. First, to set our minds on things that are right. But how am I to discern what things are right? Well, it’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things in Christ. Thinking right things begins with repentance, believing the Gospel and obeying Jesus command to love one another even as he has loved us.
Secondly, to do what is right. Here we also need help, so we prayed for his merciful guidance to not only lead us in right thinking, but also in actively doing them.
Then as Martin Luther directs us, “go joyfully to your work.”
Thus, we prayed this weekend: O God, from whom all good proceeds, grant to us, Your humble servants, Your holy inspiration, that we may set our minds on the things that are right and, by Your merciful guiding, accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
There is enough for three sermons in the Gospel reading for Sunday, Matthew 18:1-20, It ends with Jesus talking about, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” If that doesn’t settle it, then take a couple of witnesses and finally involve the whole body of Christ.”
Consider the context. The disciples asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus put a little child in their midst, who was of little significance in the light of the disciples’ question, and tells them, “You become like little children. This child is the greatest. Don’t the little ones in the faith with contempt.”
If one your brothers or sisters in Christ strays, put everything aside and go after them. In the Father’s family, restoration of lost one is the priority. And it involves sinning against another family member, then go and talk with them. If that doesn’t work, take along a couple of others to listen and be witnesses. If that doesn’t work involve the whole family of Christ in seeking to return the lost little brother or sister. If that doesn’t work, then regard them as a mission project.
Jesus is with you the whole way, even where only two or three are gathered. This is a priority for Christ also.
In the text which follows, Peter asks how often do you go through this process. Seven times seems good. But Jesus says, “It never ends. Keep at the business of forgiveness. Because your heavenly Father is forever forgiving you.”
In the church, this priority is also one of the most difficult activities, and often the least fruitful. But Jesus is indicating that we should not let the straying, remain lost in the wilderness of the world.