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Tag Archives: Matthew 20:1-16

Here, We Love One Another (September 24, 2017)

Matthew 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being. I’m going to be saying that a few more times today, and hopefully it will be clearer in 10 or 12 minutes. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being.

I’ve come to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this parable. On the one hand, Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven brings justice to those who are at the bottom. Justice and generosity. The ones who could only get one hour of work are still paid a full day’s wage. Those with nothing—the most vulnerable and the most powerless—are lifted up. The last shall be first! Yes! The kingdom of heaven is like this! Isn’t it?

However, there is no real justice here. Nothing is changed. All of these workers will be vulnerable again tomorrow—not just those hired last. They will all be in exactly the same situation tomorrow, hoping that someone will hire them so they can eat that day. The only difference the landowner made is that now there’s division among these laborers. Division and jealousy. Rather than celebrating the landowners generosity together, now those who were “first” are envious of those who were “last.” No! The kingdom of heaven is not like this! Is it?

What do we do with this parable? The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being.

If you remember from this whole year of Matthew’s gospel, for this author the “kingdom of heaven” is right here among us. It is any time and any place that God’s compassion and love are shown in the world. But that love and compassion aren’t always received well. God is generous, but we don’t always respond well to it. The kingdom of heaven isn’t just about being nice, its coming among us also signifies transformative change—and the conflict and self preservation that accompany that change. The proof is that Jesus came bringing the kingdom of heaven, and was killed for it. This parable isn’t just about how nice God is, but it is also about how our response to God’s goodness isn’t always as good.

The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being.

So here’s where we are. We are kingdom of heaven people, and therefore we recognize that we are recipients of God’s ongoing generosity. But when that ongoing generosity begins to change us, we can exhibit some bad behaviors and some envy. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being.

As the church, we no longer have to respond to God’s new way with envy because God is generous. We no longer have to live divided, suspicious of one another, watching to make sure no one else gets more than they deserve. As kingdom of heaven people, we are committed to loving one another. The church is the community where God’s love is practiced. As we talked about last week, we know that God loves each person here completely, and in the church, we are capable of treating each other that way too. The church community can be a safe place to practice the new ways of the kingdom of heaven. The church community can be the place where mistakes are forgiven, where truth is told, where all are welcomed, and valued, and respected for who they are.

God’s generosity is more than just me. It is about us. The kingdom of heaven shows us that each of us are a precious gift. And in the church community, we can show one another what a gift they really are. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being. And we do that together, with one another.

The kingdom of heaven blesses our new way of being community. We strive to live that out. Which is why our congregational budget includes so many ways we show love to one another. Over 40% of our annual budget is invested in various ways in expressing love that is part of this community.

$15,700 invested in making sure our kids are loved. For every $100 you give, more than $6.00 goes to our children. We do this because we love one another.

$10,500 invested in people who share time and energy to make sure others here are appreciated and encouraged. For every $100 you give, over $4.00 goes to fellowship and encouragement. We do this because we love one another.

$49,000 invested in our own discipleship growth through worship and education. For every $100 you give, almost $20 goes to worship supplies, salaries, music, copyrights, and education. We do this because we love one another.

$7000 invested in caring for one another when we’re sick or hurting. For every $100 you give, $2.70 goes to pastoral care. We do this because we love one another.

$24,000 invested in making sure we have a warm and safe place to gather for worship, for learning, for planning. For every $100 you give, $9.30 goes to using, cleaning, and maintaining our building. We do this because we love one another.

(Magnets connecting one to another)The kingdom of heaven doesn’t just bless where we are, but blesses a whole new way of being. A way of loving each other. A way of taking care of each other. A way where envy and division have no place. A way that proclaims to the world, “We do things differently here. Here in this place, we love one another.”

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2017 in Sermon

 

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Some Don’t Deserve Grace (Matthew 20:1-16)

“Nothing you do can make God love you any more. Nothing you do can make God love you any less.” Does that sound about right for a God of grace?

Now, if we can just believe it. Or at least believed it was good news.

In this parable, the landowner pays everyone equally no matter how much work they did. One hour or the heat of the entire day, all of them got what they needed to buy food that day.

Well, isn’t that nice?

Unless you’re the one who worked all day long. And suddenly find yourself paid the same as someone who goofed around all day and showed up for the last hour. That’s hardly fair.

Everyone getting paid the same amount.

Well, isn’t that nice?

Unless you’re the one who worked for an hour. Feeling guilty for getting something you didn’t earn, and putting up with the complaints and the scornful looks of your neighbors who were in the sun all day long.

But that’s what a God of grace is like. Sometimes it’s not fair because others are getting something you’ve worked very hard for, and sometimes you feel like a freeloader receiving something you don’t deserve. I don’t think we really like grace as much as we think we do. At least we don’t act like it.

Some of us feel indignation because we have worked all day, if you will.

For example: We may not like grace when it comes to immigration. Some of us have earned citizenship. We are here legally and therefore deserve the rights and privileges that come with being citizens of the United States. Others who are here haven’t earned it. They have come across the borders without documentation and therefore shouldn’t have what the rest of us have. You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat. That’s grace.

Or some may not like grace when it comes to homosexuality and marriage. Some have the legal benefits of marriage while others don’t. When those [who worked for only one hour] came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Grace is hard.

Even something as basic as food can be difficult to accept with grace. Some work hard to be able to buy food for their families. Others have food provided by charities or even the government. I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. A God of grace can be hard to deal with.

God’s grace is hard for us when you get down to it, because God deals with us much differently than we want to deal with each other. In God’s view, every person, regardless of age, height, sex or sexual orientation, race, morality, health, political view, or even faith is loved, forgiven, and shown generosity. All of us. It seems that showing forgiveness and grace to anyone—to everyone—is God’s primary real concern. Who we are and what we do and how we live doesn’t affect at all God’s picture of generosity and grace. And that isn’t likely to change.

What’s more, we, the church, are called to show anyone that same kind of generosity and grace that God shows—without condition. Every person.

Though God does that in us, and through the Holy Spirit empowers us to live that kind of grace and generosity, we are the ones who put up barriers to that. We are the ones who separate ourselves—some groups more deserving and some less.

To live as graciously and generously as we have been called to do, we need to recognize that there are some people we don’t really want to be gracious toward. We need to be able to admit it. When we actually name those that we really don’t want to be generous to, it doesn’t look very pretty. But the only thing worse is pretending we are generous to all, and keeping resentments in the dark.

So who is it that you find it difficult to be gracious to? For some it’s people who speak Spanish. For some it’s those who flamboyantly gay. For others it’s welfare recipients. For some it’s politicians. For me it’s narrow-minded, judgmental fundamentalists. And TV evangelists. And ambulance-chasing attorneys. And white collar criminals. And bullies. And . .

We all have them, right? But God loves those very people, is gracious to those very people, is generous to those very people, and forgives those very people just as much as those who think they are deserving of love and generosity.

Whoever that person or group of people is for you, have them in mind here as I reread two sentences from this text:

And when [those who worked all day] received [their daily pay], they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But [the landowner] replied to one of them . . . “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”

The hard thing is that God is generous to people we don’t think deserve it. The good news is that God is generous to you.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Sermon

 

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