Monday, January 28, 2013

His Generosity

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 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 a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”(Matthew 20:1-16)

Or do you begrudge my generosity? I think sometimes we do. You know this is why we are here, we are here because of his generosity. This congregation is here because of his generosity. You are here because of his generosity. Every one of us is here for that reason alone. His generosity. It isn’t what we are doing for him, but what he is doing for us, what he has done for us, and what he continues to do for us. The church lives off of his generosity, the generosity of God, the generosity of Jesus Christ who poured out his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. His generosity, and he means to share it with everyone including you, and he does this through you.

But then we begrudge his generosity. We at times do. All the romantic pictures of women working in a vineyard aside, it is sometimes hard to see how working in the vineyard is a privilege. You have to bear the midday heat, and it can scorch every bit like the sun. The world resents you for working in this vineyard. They really do. And they will persecute you for it. Family will shun you, girlfriends will leave you, boyfriends will turn on you, husbands and wives will split up and often times all because you have been called to work in the vineyard, because you have a loyalty to the master of the house who hired you and offered you a denarius. For some of us it happened early in the morning, before our eyes were even opened, when a pastor showed up in the hospital and poured water over our heads in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We have really known nothing other than the salvation and forgiveness of sins that is ours in this vineyard. For others perhaps he found us outside the local café a little later in the day. Maybe we have seen a few called in the evening of life just before the death of night set men on their death bed confessing Christ whom they have never confessed before. Maybe they were out and out heathen their whole lifelong, maybe they were for all intents and purposes good people who didn’t think they needed church because they were good. And yet there on their death bed, staring it in the face, their sins haunt them and they realize that just that, just the fact that they thought they could live without God, that they didn’t need his help and refused it, didn’t need his forgiveness and rejected it was the most immoral thing a person could do, more dangerous than living a life of debauchery with the prodigal son in a brothel of drunken orgies. And then we begrudge God’s generosity. We begin to think of all we have sacrificed for him, the family that doesn’t invite us to the family picnic anymore, or is all awkward when you show up. Perhaps the girlfriend or boyfriend that didn’t work out because you wouldn’t go to a “church” that refused to acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the money, perhaps even tithes you have given over the years to the church, and all that money could have bought you a summer home, maybe a rifle or shotgun you wanted, a vacation to Mexico. Maybe you think about the weekend getaways cut short because you wanted to go to church.
And perhaps you start getting a little twisted in your head, who sacrificed for who.
For most of us it doesn’t even take a man confessing Christ at the eleventh hour for us to begrudge God’s generosity. We hardly even recognize it. We think we were the ones who earned all the money, when it is God who has given us our life, and sustained it with everything we have, including our job, and all the superfluous junk we have laying around our house that makes us stop and think every once in a while that perhaps we should have a garage sale. Yes, then we begin to begrudge his generosity, because we begin to think these things are more important than the sacrifice of his Son on the cross for our sins.
This is actually where too many so called churches have gone. What passes for Christianity today is sick. It has been co-opted with self-help programs, and the cross is barely preached. There are actually churches that would have you believe that church is about you being blessed by God with more things to put in your estate sale when you pass. Somehow they buy into the game, and in the name of God, will tell you you can know how much God loves you by pointing to these things. It is a sham.
No, in the end, it is death. In the end there is a dark night that will take us all, everyone of us that does not have the denarius the Master of the house pays his workers whether hired on in the morning afternoon or evening, everyone of us who have not grabbed hold of Christ’s generosity upon which the church lives. Finally, when it is all said and done, you cannot live without this generosity, Jesus and God will do just fine without your sacrifice, the question is will you do just fine without your sacrifice, if you forsake the work of the vineyard? No, because you cannot live without his sacrifice, and you know this. Apart from his death on the cross, apart from his blood pouring from the cross and quenching your thirst for righteousness, apart from his forgiveness, you are nothing but a sinner rebelling against God. But because of his death and resurrection, you have died and been resurrected to new life in Christ. You are his servants, who have been given eternal life according to his generosity. You live even now in the heat of the day by his generosity, finding refuge from the scorch of the sun in baptism, finding sustenance for your faith and life in the bread and wine, his body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, that quenches your thirst and satisfies your hunger for righteousness. Because here is your righteousness in his generosity. And so when the master of the house is pleased to call others at other times of the day, we have no reason to begrudge, but be thankful that he has used us, and used you who work in this vineyard, to make use of our sacrifices in sustaining the church he has built upon his sacrifice, the rock that is his son, against which the gates of hell will not prevail, yes he has used you to call another soul into his kingdom and share in his generosity, that they too might know his generosity as you know it. And this is not a time to begrudge but to rejoice with angels, that another sinner has repented.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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