View/Listen in Divine Service at Minute 18:15
Isaiah 55:6-9; Phil. 1:12-14,19-30; Matt. 20:1-16
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Is. 55
Last week, after finishing an excellent, but lengthy and deep, book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who opposed Hitler and was killed for this, I needed something light and cheery to read. So, I dug out my books of “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoons. Being a father, I particularly enjoyed this one:
When my girls were little there were times that I, too, made up things and had fun with them. I look forward to doing so with Claire and Emmett. You can have fun with kids!
When it comes to knowing and understanding God, we’re the littlest of kids. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” God says in Isaiah 55. In fact, He is not only much smarter than us and way beyond our understanding; His thoughts and ways can trouble us. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” What He says and does often makes no sense to us because it is quite contrary to what we think and do.
- Jesus’ parable from Matt. 20: we can all relate to those who worked all day and yet were not paid any more than those who worked only one hour. That’s not fair!
“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.” This is God. He is beyond you. He is not concerned with doing what we think is fair. Accept Him and be glad in what He does… or go! If you follow your own wisdom as you seek to know Him, and so evaluate His words and deeds on the basis of what you consider to be good and right, you will not know Him but will lose Him. For, God hides Himself from those who judge Him. Aauughhh!! Calvin’s shock and fear – that is what you end up with.
But, God does want to be known! More than that, He wants to be close to you, to be your Father. So: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” That is His encouragement through Isaiah. And, that you might not only know Him but love Him and confidently call upon Him, He draws near to you… not in might and power, but humbly… in weakness.
Where? God tells us. He calls out in Is. 55:1ff:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.”
Listen… incline your ear… hear. God comes to us and speaks to us in His Word: the words that His prophets and apostles wrote down under the guidance of His Holy Spirit; and, especially, the record of all that Jesus said and did, for the Bible is all about Him. God is speaking to you and telling you of His Son in the words of the Bible! As they fill our church Service, this means that God is here and is speaking to you here. Come and listen! Hear, that your soul may live.
And, what a life He gives. Here in church – in the Word that is proclaimed, and in the Sacraments that His Word establishes and fills with Christ – God gives you His Son. Christ is here to fill you… to fill your body and life with His divine, God-filled body and life.
I know, it doesn’t seem like it. You probably don’t feel anything happening in worship, and may not feel any different when you leave. Like the workers in the vineyard, we get only a denarius, it seems; just enough for another day.
But, as you hear and believe God’s words, your day is consecrated as His, lived under His blessing and guidance. Your very body, and so your life, is filled with Christ. No matter who you are or where you are – a child at home; working at a new, or very old, job; retired and piddling around; residing in a nursing home; even serving time in prison – you are God’s child in Jesus. He sends you forth as workers in His vineyard. Because your life is now His, nothing you do will ever be little, and will certainly never be in vain.
- The apostle Paul: he ends up in prison, and yet says that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Ph. 1) Even the prison guards learn of Christ! And, the letter he writes from prison is added to the Bible. It is a blessing for hearts and lives to this day.
In the parable that Jesus tells of the laborers in the vineyard, the focus is not on the labor, or even on the laborers. It is on the vineyard owner. Out of his goodness and astounding generosity he rewards each worker the same. And so, Jesus teaches, don’t focus upon what you are doing and the blessings you will receive for this – something we often focus upon. Your God is good, and incredibly generous! He is pleased with you who simply believe in Him, no matter who you are. He is pleased with the work you do at His direction, no matter what it is and how great – or little – it seems. If others seem to be more blessed than you, do not be envious or begrudge God’s generosity to them. God isn’t having fun with you or toying with you. He enjoys you! So, instead of complaining, rejoice in the goodness of God. Rejoice that you are in Christ’s kingdom! Rejoice that He calls you to be His worker and values your work. Rejoice that, even though this world is unjust and will always be filled with inequities, in Jesus every Christian has the same reward, the same wonderful “pay”: eternal life in God’s vineyard of heaven, where there is no scorching heat, no inequity, no dissatisfaction or unhappiness, but only complete contentment and utter joy.
“To live is Christ,” St. Paul says; peace with God our Father and joy in Him is ours now! “To die is gain,” for then He will raise us to live in His peace and joy forever! Open our ears, our minds, and our hearts to Your Word of life and salvation in Christ, Lord! Come and fill us, and make us your glad workers! To the glory of your name and our eternal blessing. Amen.