Septuagesima: Christian Life Together

Lessons: Exodus 17:1-7, 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5, Matthew 20:1-16
Hymns: 587, 566, 396, 412, 827

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

      What is Jesus teaching us in today’s Parable? Is He teaching us that it is better to stand around idle all of our lives and then join His kingdom when our lives are drawing to a close? Is He teaching laziness so that we can become first? Is that how it works in the kingdom of heaven?

      It is easy to abuse Jesus’ teaching in today’s parable. After all, those who go to work at the end of the day receive the same wage as those who go to work at the beginning of the day. Many then abuse Christ’s teaching of grace alone in this parable by reasoning, “I’ll do whatever I want. I don’t have to volunteer in church. I don’t have to support the church with my offerings. I don’t have to hear the Word of God each Sunday. I don’t have to receive the Sacrament. I don’t have to speak well of the Church. I don’t even have to pray for the well-being of my church, her members or her pastor! I can do whatever I want. (pause) And then at my deathbed or when I get really old, then I will make up for it all. I will become active then. I’ll give a nice gift to the Church. I will tell God I’m sorry for all my neglect. And because I labored that short time, God will grant me the same reward as those who labored hard in Christ’s church all their lives.”

      Is this how we can play the system? No! For Jesus is not teaching laziness as a Christian. He is not teaching to abuse Him, His grace, or His forgiveness. But He is teaching that those who are converted late in life receive the same eternal salvation as those who are converted early in life. All who believe and are baptized will be saved. All who believe will be with Jesus in heaven forever.

      And for that we rejoice. We rejoice that God is merciful and saves sinners who are converted later in life. We rejoice that God is merciful and saves sinners who are converted early in life. We rejoice that God grants all who believe in Jesus the same salvation. We rejoice that God has granted us salvation by grace. We rejoice that this salvation of our bodies and souls is earned and won by our Savior Jesus Christ, who as the truly patient Lamb of God, went to the cross and bled and died for us all there. He made the ultimate payment—the ultimate sacrifice—for our sins. He gave up His life for us.

      We rejoice that we are members of Christ’s kingdom now, that as we sojourn through this veil of tears, Jesus is shepherding us. We rejoice that He hears our prayers and answers them. We rejoice that we have peace with God, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

      Many think it is not fair that Christians converted late in life should receive the same rewards as those converted early in life. They think lifelong Christians should get more. But we have more. We have the pleasure of a life with Christ. We have the distinction of being baptized. We have the privilege of hearing His words of promise and receiving the Sacrament. We have peace with God right now. We don’t wander through life pondering who put us here and where we’re going, for God has revealed these answers to us. We are being shepherded right now by our Good Shepherd. There is so much that we enjoy right now as Christians!

      Yet many would rather have it the other way around. They think it is somehow beneficial to run with the world with her lusts, sins, and evils. They think that real life is hampered by Christ and His Church. And so they think they can have nothing to do with His Word, His Church, His forgiveness, His kingdom. And then—right before death—make up for it all. But Jesus sees through such hypocrisy. Those who think they can do such things are deceiving themselves.

      Rather than teaching laziness as a Christian, Jesus teaches us the opposite in today’s parable. Jesus very kindly finds fault with two groups of people in this parable: 1) Those who stood around idle all day and 2) Those who worked all day and became jealous of those who stood around idle most of the day. Jesus warns the latter group not to be evil because He is so good.

      Jesus is the active agent in this Parable. He is the one who earned, offers, and grants the gift—the same payment to all in the vineyard. The payment given to us is the payment of His blood—His life. And this payment gives all believers the same wage—the same reward, which is the complete forgiveness of all sin. All who believe are covered with the righteousness of Christ and are seen by God as keeping the entire Law.

      How can we not be thankful for having, experiencing, and enjoying these gifts? And how can we not desire to work in His Church as workers in the vineyard for having received such immeasurable blessings?

      God gives His gifts freely. He does so as He pleases. He gives according to His standards, not according to our own standards. He chooses what is right. We do not make that determination.

      We leave those things up to Him and we happily labor in His Kingdom. We do not look at others and say, “I’m done working. I’m not giving any more to the church. I’m not volunteering any more. I’ve done too much work. For those other people haven’t done a thing. I’m quitting just to get them to work.”

      Such reasoning is not the mind of Christ. You don’t give or refrain from giving because of what others do. You don’t volunteer or refrain from volunteering because of what others do. You don’t help or refrain from helping because of what others do. No, you do it because you are a Christian. That is your identity. Therefore you give, volunteer, and help because you embody Christ as a Christian and because you walk in the good works which God has prepared for you to do.

      As Christians, we are actually called to labor. We are called to enter the vineyard and labor there with others and for others.

      When we are called into the vineyard, we are called into the Christian Church. And this Christian Church is not just present right here in Lexington. Yes, we are organized as a congregation. Yes, we are called to life together as Christians. Yes, we enjoy fellowship with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, God teaches us

to congregate with one another.

      Yet, we are called to a Christian Church which is far larger than this congregation. We have brothers and sisters throughout the world. Our influence, our laboring, and our help must go beyond this congregation. We have tremendous opportunities which, should we be standing idle, we would watch them pass by. There are so many good mission opportunities that we can support to help others worldwide enter into Christ’s Church. And there are even many in our own community who do not know Christ.

      As Christians we are called to a life together in which we labor with one another for the good of our neighbor.

      Therefore, we strive to win a treasure. Or to use the words of Paul in our Epistle, we run a race. We bear the heat and burden of the day. Know that there will be trials along the way. Know that many may mock and scorn us for being faithful to Him throughout our lives.

      Your life as a Christian is also a fight. You can’t simply state that you wish to wait until your deathbed and then repent. Why not? Because as a Christian, you run—you race—for an imperishable crown. You race—you fight—for a prize. You fight so that you do not become disqualified. The Christian race—the Christian fight—is not some game of beating the air. It is not imaginary. It is not a simple toy or plaything. This is reality. God’s gifts are true and sure and certain. But so are the roars of the enemy, the temptations of the flesh, and the seductions of the world.

      The devil, the world, and our sinful nature are always seeking to destroy. So we fight against them. We fight the devil with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We fight the world’s temptations by prayer and meditation. We discipline our bodies and bring them into subjection so that we do not become disqualified.

      This isn’t a show. It isn’t merely a game. It is reality. It is the Christian life. And we all live, run, race, and fight together so that we may all receive that imperishable crown. We live and labor for one another as members of God’s kingdom and workers in God’s vineyard.

      And Christ grants us an imperishable crown—a gift of grace that is far better than a measly denarius. It is better than all the world’s wealth. For we cannot buy our way into Heaven. We can’t even work our way into Heaven. Instead, Jesus shed His innocent Blood on our behalf on the cross. He died to pay the penalty for our sin. He rose to grant us the victory of eternal life.

      Jesus gives you a treasure far greater than the treasures of the world: He reconciles you to the Father and grants you everlasting salvation. Jesus does what He wishes with His things. He is good. And His wish is to grant you the treasures of heaven. It is yours for free, granted to you by His grace.

      Today’s parable amounts to this: we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. He saves us. It is a gift of grace. And living in this grace, we joyously labor in His kingdom. Thanks be to God! Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen