Septuagesima (2016)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
January 24, 2016
Central Passage
Matthew 20:1-16

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

The point of our Lord’s parable about the workers in the vineyard hired at the beginning, middle, and end of the day is obvious. It’s a parable about the mercy of the Lord. He gives equally to all, without qualification of when they first believed or how hard they work or what their job is in the vineyard.

There’s no mention of laborious labor or that those hired first became lazy. There’s no mention of the last being more skilled and surpassing those hired first. The Lord’s provisions have nothing to do with the worker and everything to do with His mercy and grace.

And we know this. He is the Lord. He can do as He pleases with what is His and all things are His. And we are in no position to begrudge His generosity. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

And neither are we in any position to begrudge His discipline. Soldiers are disciplined so as to perform well in battle. Firemen are disciplined so as to perform well fighting fires. Teachers are disciplined so as to better instruct and guide their students. Pastors are disciplined so as to keep the congregation in the apostolic doctrine. And Christians are disciplined by their Lord so as to remain faithful in plenty and in want.

The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. That’s a famous Scripture quote at funerals, and rightly so. But it really is a great Scripture quote for all of life. The Lord gives you all that you have. And He may well take it all away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

But what He does not remove from you is Himself. He never makes you fast from His word of mercy and grace, righteousness and peace. He never causes you to fast from His presence. He never says to Himself, “I’m going to let so and so go it alone for a while and see how they fare.” Instead, the point of His disciplining – where we get the word “disciple” – is to cause you to more steadfastly cling to His word and promises and seek His presence. The Lord disciplines those He loves so that they will love the One who disciplines them.

It only becomes hard because we so often fall into temptation. Not particular sins, though particular sins are the fruit of falling into temptation, and what you get from that fruit is death. But rather, falling into temptation is to stop believing that your Lord is your Lord; that He has somehow failed you at one point or another and that you need to either look out for yourself or look to someone or something else for your good.

I know the struggles. You leave here feeling good about the Lord but in the back of your mind is the thought, “But I got that job. I worked for it. But I pay for everything I own, the Lord doesn’t give anything to me for free. I’ve never won the lottery. If the Lord really loved me and disciplined me so that I would love Him, wouldn’t He heal my family or cause our church to grow or make me happier about life?”

Repent. The Lord gives as He sees fit. Not to crush you and abandon you, but to lift you up on high and seat you in the heavenly places.

Remember, Christian, this world is fast fleeting. Jesus is risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. You’re not on this earth to have a particular career or a home of your own or a big, healthy family. Don’t fall into temptation by letting the cares and chances of this life choke out your faith. You’re on this earth that the glory and power of God may be shown

through you. That begins with Him sending His Son to suffer and die for you, to shed His blood for you on the cross. Why? So that death would no longer threaten you; so that your rebellion would no longer damn you. Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away sin and death and in Him God is setting apart a holy people to display the glory of God.

Your faith in the promises of God in Christ Jesus displays the power and mercy and grace of God to all people. Consider the martyr whose witness at death converts kings and armies and hardened heathens. Standing fast on the promises of God our Savior we can leap over a wall or stand against a thousand troops. But those are large and grandiose. Better than leaping walls or standing before armies or giving witness before kings is to love our children and teach them the ways of God. Not only is it better, but it’s harder.

It’s harder because our children know us and our foibles. They’ve seen us give into hatred and anger. They’ve heard us curse each other and perhaps them, not to mention other people who have slighted us. It is harder because our children have seen our hypocrisy. But now let them see us love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Let them see us lay down our lives not only for their future – which is a misty fog – but more for real people who need our time, our money, and our witness. Let them see us remain silent before our accusers. Let them hear us speak the truth about God and man. That is how the glory of God is shown through us.

Don’t begrudge the Lord’s generosity to others. We all know the Lord Jesus died for everyone and loves everyone, but we forget that since we are the Body of Christ and individually members of it, that His death and love for them flows through us. Yet while we were sinners and haters of God, Christ died for us, for the ungodly. He loved us by giving us His beloved Son who by His great love for the Father and for us and all sinners, was crucified and shed His blood for us for the forgiveness of our rebellion.

May this mercy of God discipline us so that we would give thanks in all things while loving all people, standing firm on the promises of God who promises to give us the kingdom.

+ In Nomine Iesu +