Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sermon for 1/24/16: Septuagesima

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Rejoicing in a Generous God

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

The master of the vineyard said, “Go work in my vineyard and I will pay you what is right.” He never mentioned fairness or equality. He said he would pay what is right, or righteous. This is the kingdom of God. You don't get what you have earned; you receive what the Lord freely gives. Then you realize that whether you work eleven hours or one hour—whether you’ve been a Christian your whole life or came to faith in old age—what you have from Him is a gift. That's how the Lord works. Because of Christ, you don't get what you have earned. You don't get what you've got coming. You get forgiveness, life, salvation. Jesus does the hard work in His suffering and death. He bears the heat of the sweltering judgment of God for your sins on the cross so that, on the Last Day, when it is time to settle your accounts, the Lord just hands you something you never earned or expected: salvation and eternal life. People think Jesus told parables using everyday illustrations to make a point. But nobody ever gets paid this way. The unions would strike. The government would step in. Labor laws would be enforced. People would go to jail. But in God's kingdom, you don't get what you have earned. You get what is right—that is, you get what is righteous in the sight of God. You get what Jesus has earned for you.

If you so choose, you can certainly complain that it's not fair. You can try to cut a deal with God. You can approach Him on the basis of your works: He must pay you what He owes you. But if deal with God like that, you deal only with the Law. The Law says to love God and love your neighbor. If you don't do those things, you don't get paid. It's as simple as that. And much as we like to try to fool ourselves that we love God and love others, our lives and our sins show that we don't. There's a reason the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Death is the payment you get for not doing your job. That's what you've earned; that’s what you deserve for breaking the Law, for not loving God like you should, for not loving your neighbor as you've been commanded. On the Last Day, those who thought they could bargain with God on the basis of deeds will get exactly what they have earned. They will hear those awful words, “Take what is yours and go your way.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what hell is. 

But Jesus did not come to pay you what you deserve and send you on your way. He came to take the riches of God and do what He wants: and what He wants is to give you those riches. It doesn't matter when you've been brought in—as an infant; in adolescence; or even on your deathbed, inhaling for the last time. He has called you into His vineyard beginning with your baptism, and He settles up for you according to His righteous will, giving you the riches of His labors: the riches of forgiveness and eternal life in the spoken word of absolution and in His body and blood. When He comes again on the Last Day, there will be a payday, but not like the world thinks. Oh, for those that wanted to make an agreement with God, they'll get what they deserve. But you get what is righteous in God’s sight; you get what is Christ's. He has for you such gifts that all we can do is give thanks for the generosity of this Lord. True faith and worship is not to come to God and negotiate. It's to receive from Him the generous gift He has for you. There is no comparing; there’s just the Lord, who takes what belongs to Him and gives it to you “without any merit or worthiness in [you].” That's how the Kingdom of God works. When it comes to the Lord, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what Jesus freely gives. You'll get forgiveness. You’ll get everlasting life. The Lord does not give you what is fair—thanks be to God for that! He gives what is righteous in His sight. He gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. Come and receive what the Master freely gives. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.  

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