+ SIXTEENTH SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
The First Will Be Last
THEME of The Day
In today’s Gospel lesson, Matthew narrates one of Jesus’ controversial parables in which Jesus says that the reign of God is like that of a landowner who pays his workers the same no matter what time of day they began work. When God changes his minds about punishing Nineveh for their evil ways, Jonah is angry. Yet God is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. In the waters of Baptism, we receive the grace of God that is freely given to all. As Martin Luther wrote, in the presence of God’s mercy we are all beggars.
May God bless your worship this morning.
ORDER of CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
From the Word which God has sown, a harvest will be gathered in.
We have been called to work in God’s vineyard, to share in God’s
harvest, to give God what belongs to God.
“My Word shall not return to me empty,” says the Lord. “It shall accomplish the
thing for which I sent it.”
Lord of the living harvest, we confess that we have sinned. In our thinking, speaking, doing—proper faith has not been borne. Your final harvest fills our hearts with fear. For the sake of Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive our ingratitude and jealousy, that we may serve you faithfully. Amen.
Our heavenly Father forgives our debts as often as we turn to him in repentance
through his Son, Jesus Christ. It is for his sake, your sins are forgiven in the Name
of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our God has turned to us and
we shall live.
Thanks be to God!
AN ACT of ADORATION
Let us adore our heavenly Father, who created us, who sustains us, who loves us
with an everlasting love, and gives us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the
face of Jesus Christ.
We praise you, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord
Let us glory in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became
poor; who became obedient unto death, even death
on a cross; who died and is alive forevermore; who
opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, who
is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the
Father; who will come again, as Judge and King.
You are the King of glory, O Christ.
Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the
Lord and Giver of life, by whom we are born into the
family of God, and made members of the body of Christ,
whose witness confirms us, whose wisdom teaches us, whose power enables us to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.
All praise to you, O Holy Spirit.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Lord God, heavenly Father, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, help us to trust in
your abiding grace and live according to your Word; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Jonah 3:10-4:11
[After Jonah’s short sermon in 3:4, the Ninevites all repented, and God decided to spare the city. Jonah objected
to this and became even more angry when God ordered a worm to destroy the plant that was providing shade for Jonah. The book ends with a question that challenges any who are not ready to forgive: You, Jonah, are all
worked up about a bush, but shouldn’t I be concerned about a hundred and twenty thousand Ninevites?]
When God saw what [the people of Nineveh] did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them;
and he did not do it.
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out
of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.
The LORD God appointed a bush and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over
his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” The LORD said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON Philippians 1:21-30
[Paul writes to the Philippians from prison. Though he is uncertain about the outcome of his imprisonment, he is committed to the ministry of the Gospel and calls on the Philippians to live lives that reflect and enhance the Gospel mission.]
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh,
that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which shall I choose I cannot tell.
I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with
Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary
on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue
with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may
have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that
whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are
standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY GOSPEL Matthew 20:1-16
[Jesus tells a parable about God’s generosity, challenging the common assumption that God rewards people according to what they have earned or deserved.]
[Jesus said:] “The kingdom of heaven is like a master who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After aggressing with the laborers for
a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour, he did the same. 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?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 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.’ And when those hired about the eleventh
hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a
denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 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.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
HOMILY No Griping Over Grace
Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim
No Griping Over Grace
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
Unfair is the outcry in today’s Old Testament and the Gospel Lessons. Jonah complains of God’s unfairness. The workers in the vineyard are ready to file a grievance against an employer who doesn’t know the difference between a day’s wage and the wage for an hour’s work.
There’s at least two reasons why these complaints don’t cut it. First … the workers agreed to the daily wage when they were hired and that’s what they got. Second … and this is the real issue here … the parable begins with the all-important words: “The kingdom of God is like a landowner who … hired laborers.” Jesus’ parable is an earthly story meant to teach disciples … then and now … what the kingdom of heaven is like. It’s not about unequal pay. It’s about the response to the grace and mercy of God.
By our standards God is certainly unfair. But thank God, He doesn’t work according to our standards. You see, it’s not for us to complain that God doesn’t lower Himself to how we operate in life, rather it is for us to be lifted up to His level where grace prevails.
In the parable, Jesus tells the story of a man going out of his way to hire a variety of workers to harvest his vineyard. Some Biblical scholars say that the story really should be called the “Parable of the Generous Employer”—who graciously reflects God’s own grace in giving the last what the first ones received. Yet it’s this generosity that’s the sticking point and raises resentment among those who worked a full day. They grumble at the owner for giving out equal pay to everyone. And it doesn’t help them at all when the owner points out that it’s his prerogative to do so. Their problem is envying the late hires and their anger is aimed at the boss. Which one of us wouldn’t identify with them and be the first in line to grumble and gripe? Longer and harder work should have the greater reward … right? And the owner who deals with his workers on any other basis is in trouble.
And then there’s Jonah, pouting and whining because it’s too hot in Nineveh—the city he’s marked for destruction. But the people repent and are saved, and Jonah can’t stand it. The whole reason he took off for Spain … the opposite direction of Nineveh … is that he suspected something like this would happen. It’s just like God to wind up forgiving and accepting rather than punishing those who have it coming to them. Listen to a quote from Fredrick Buechner on the subject:
When God ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to shape up and get saved,
the expression on Jonah’s face was like that of a man who has just gotten a whiff of
trouble in the septic tank. In the first place, far from wanting to see them get saved,
nothing would have pleased Jonah more than to see them get what he thought they
had coming to them.
It was as the result of a desperate attempt to get out of the assignment that he got
himself thrown overboard and swallowed by the whale instead. But the whale
couldn’t stomach him for long either, and in the end Jonah went ahead, and with a
little more prodding from God, did what he’d been told. He hated every minute of it,
however, and when the Ninevites succumbed to his eloquence and promised to shape
up, he sat down under a leafy castor oil plant to shade himself from the blistering sun
and smoldered inwardly. It was an opening God couldn’t resist.
Jonah is all upset—enough to die—at God’s failure to show His wrath toward the heathen Ninevites and the withering bush that was supposed to give him shade. “You’re bent out of shape over a dead bush you didn’t plant or grow?” is God’s retort to Jonah’s pouting. “Can’t I be concerned about being gracious and forgiving to a city like Nineveh … to the 120,000 who don’t know one hand from another?”
It’s easy, isn’t it? … easy to be like the resentful brother or sister, refusing to go into the party when the prodigal returns. Easy to be envious because God has been generous with the likes of a thief on the cross and the Ninevites who make it into the kingdom at the eleventh hour, making them “equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”
But is God’s mercy and grace really something to grumble and complain about?
Writing to the Philippians, Paul was bent upon their growth in joy and faith. He told them how working together, side by side, in the vineyard … and yes … suffering together, too, was a privilege given to those who know something of the heat of the day. In perhaps what is the key verse in Philippians, Paul encourages the church there to do only one thing: “live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”
So, what does all that have to do with us on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost? How is it that we live out our calling—no matter what time of day we are put to work in the kingdom?
Certainly, it means valuing the latecomers … the newbies … to the vineyard and to the faith. It means being a welcoming community—going out of our way on Sundays and wherever we gather—to get to know people and introduce them to what we are all about … because all of us are here only by the grace of God alone. His love and mercy in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus was shared with us by someone else … be it our parents, friend, or neighbor.
It means going into the market place—like the owner of the vineyard did—to see if there are people in our work places … or in our neighborhoods who are waiting for someone to invite them … to lead them … to show them by example as well as word, the splendor of being in the Savior’s service.
It means imagining the people we believe to be the least deserving of being saved, praying for them and for the right opportunity to share God’s mercy and love with them in Christ Jesus, our Lord. It means seeing ourselves for who we are—reluctant messengers of God who have our share of Jonah-like qualities in us—whom God yet chooses to send as His messengers.
It means that forgiven and called to serve, we are ready to go to work and to keep on working until we feast at the heavenly banquet prepared by our Lord.
It means that until that final day, we eat and drink together at the feast our Lord spreads for us here at His table … that through Word and Sacrament we receive the nourishment we need to keep us alive in the tasks He has given us and be glad for our calling. With nourishment and strength, we work alongside one another here in this place called Grace, with Jesus at our sides and within our hearts. And that, good people, is more than enough reward at the end of the day!
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life + everlasting. Amen.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
With the whole people of God, let us join in prayer for
The Church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
Gracious God, you make the last first, and the first last.
Where this gospel challenges The Church, equip it for
its works of service and love. Strengthen those who
suffer for Christ’s sake. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our
God of wonder, the heights of the heavens show us the vastness of your steadfast love.
Have compassion on your creation. Where human selfishness has brought ruin and destruction, we look to you to heal, renew, and redeem your world. Provide needed rains
and weather conditions to bring all wildfires under control. Protect all firefighters and first responders as they seek to manage further devastation caused by all of the current wildfires. Bring strength to relief workers and agencies as they bring comfort, and relief to those who have been affected and displaced by the Almeda and Obenchain fires in the Rogue Valley, we pray especially for Pat & Penny, Lyle & Sandra, Richard & Doris, Pam, Norm & Marilyn and Sharon, who lost their homes. Assure them of our love, prayers, and willingness to be of help and service to them during these difficult days. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of all, make your ways known to all nations and leaders of the world. Give us ears to hear one another during these days of protests and civil unrest. Speak kindness to our bitter grudges. Calm our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Fill all leaders with mercy and understanding, that they advocate and genuinely care for those who are poor and most vulnerable. Bring peace, justice, and calm to the turmoil in Belarus as its citizens seek a more democratic representation and government. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of our salvation, you promise to deliver us. Give those who suffer in any way a strong sense of your presence and love. Work through the hands of doctors, nurses, and technicians to bring healing to Shari, together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are homebound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of welcome, make our congregation a community of mercy and grace for one another and for all our neighbors. Give us a welcoming heart, that our words and actions may extend your free and abundant hospitality to all whom we encounter. Refresh us with new dreams of being your people in these anxious times. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of life and grace, you give us everlasting life. Whether we live or die, we are yours. We thank you for all the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith and have given us examples of faithfulness by their lives of witness and service. Remind us of everything they have said and done in your Name, that strengthened by their examples we may faithfully give witness to your Name until we, too, are gathered together with them in your eternal presence. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Our Father who art in heaven;
hallowed be Thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom
and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER of THANKSGIVING
Blessed are you, God of heaven and earth. You satisfy us with good things as an eagle feeds her young. Renew our strength, that we may go with eagerness and joy into the places where you send us to work in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.