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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sermon 09182011


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Jesus Christ, You  came to seek and save the lost.  In our daily walk we like the vineyard workers expect to be paid more that those who sweated under the burden of working in your church from the beginning.  Our perception is we are owed, but this story is not about who is owed more, but Your Father’s Good and gracious way to give to all, whether first or last the same blessing of being in Your Kingdom.  Whether we joined Your church last Sunday or the day this building was dedicated in 1948, You offer us eternal no matter how long we have been saints of Emmanuel.  Enable us to lay claim to Your gift to us and celebrate being in Your presence with all the saints of Emmanuel.  AMEN.

A few weeks ago, I received a first hand lesson of the difference between, power and authority.  On our way to a funeral in Leoti, I was travelling along a two lane road.  When all of a sudden a police man appeared from the other direction and immediately turned his lights on and turned around.  In that   moment, I understood clearly, I had probably unintentionally ‘broken the law’, and I could exert my power over my car and do one of two things, quickly pull over or continue on.  What I also realized is that the officer may not have the ‘power’ to ‘pull me over’, but He did have the ‘authority’.

So to in our Gospel this morning we have the story of the vineyard workers who had the power to ‘demand’ more pay for ‘shouldering’ the burden of the day.  The workers who had worked for the entire day, felt they had shouldered the heaviest burden of the work and the ones hired only an hour before being paid had not done an even amount of work.  Thus when the vineyard owner came to pay the workers, in his wisdom, he began with the last ones hired and paid the agreed upon daily wage of a denarius.  We know when the longest working laborers came to be paid, they felt they would be paid more than a denarius.  And when they were only paid a denarius, they exerted their power by saying, they felt it was not fair.
The vineyard owner, who had the ‘authority’ to make a ‘contract’ honored the contract.  He had hired all of the men to work in his vineyard and would pay them as agreed.  Thus, with the authority of the one who owned the vineyard the owner paid everyone equally as promised in the contract.

Are we any different today?  Is our viewpoint any different here at church?  You see, this story that uses the vineyard as a ‘backdrop’ is actually a metaphor of the church.  Yes, the vineyard owner is God.  And we are the laborers that God has called at ‘different’ times in our lives to work in the vineyard known as the church.  The jobs we are called to do until we go to be with God in His kingdom include, but are not limited to serving on council, serving coffee after service, greeting visitors or members at the door as they enter, assisting with communion, whether on altar guild or the distribution of the sacrament, or even ushering and ringing the bell at the beginning of service, during the Lord’s Prayer and at the end of the service.  Service in God’s vineyard also includes teaching Sunday School, leading the youth group, fall and Spring clean-up, mowing the grass of the church and even visiting the sick and homebound.  As well, there is a spiritual aspect, praying for the people of the congregation who are sick, homebound or in need of special prayer, praying for a spirit filled worship service, for the organist who plays our hymns, the person reading the lessons and especially for the leaders of the church.

Each of us chooses the way we will serve and the amount we will serve.  But like the workers who labored long and hard compared to the last hour workers, our sinful humanity will feel we ‘deserve’ more than a denarius.  Our ego will chime in and say, I deserve much more than I am receiving.

But God is clear here.  It is out of divine grace and compassion of God that we receive what we do.  It is God’s divine favor upon us that we are given what we receive.  This is why in the passage, the owner of the vineyard in response to the workers, first says, “Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” And immediately follows up with, “Take what belongs to you and go”.  This dismissal when translated into the understanding of this being the church clearly means, those who are disgruntled and use their ‘power’ to demand more are quickly and clearly dismissed from the presence of God.  One of the commentaries I read in preparation said, ‘this dismissal is an eternal dismissal from God’s presence, into the place where there is weeping and gnashing teeth—depart from my face, my salvation you shall not taste.’  Jesus points to us today and says, if you labor in my vineyard with selfish zeal and the demands of misguided justice, you will forfeit the eternal inheritance because of your ‘more subtle sin of self-righteousness’.

This is why we who labor in God’s vineyard need to daily, hourly and every second rely solely upon God’s grace offered to us through His Son and Savior, Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  For our realization and reality needs to be God is generous and will give us no matter the laborer, nor the amount of or length of time we have labored, the gift of eternal life.  This gift of eternal life is God being generous, not only for you and me today in all of our labors, seen and unseen, but for all the saints of Emmanuel of all time and all place who have labored in God’s vineyard we call Emmanuel Lutheran Church.  AMEN.
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