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Pentecost 16 2020, Proper 20
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 19-20, 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9. Philippians 1:12-14, Matthew 20:1-16

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            I enjoy getting into running every once in a while, but I have only ever run in one race which was when I was at seminary.  The seminary is very near to Forest Park in St. Louis which is a huge, beautiful park with Art Museum, Zoo and remnants from the 1904 World’s Fair. I generally ran four miles or so a few times a week and I felt pretty good about myself as a runner.  So when I saw the notice I signed up for the “Faster Pastor” 5K at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in the spring of 2001.  During the race I was doing okay, running my regular pace, but then this classmate of mine, Matt Thompson, who I thought was kind of out of shape, ran by me like I was standing still.  I tried to speed up, but I couldn’t catch him.  It felt terrible.  I enjoyed running when it was just me running and keeping track of the time, but it really messed it up for me when I started to compare myself to others. 

            In our Gospel reading today we see an example of how people get messed up by comparing themselves with others.  The men working all day in the Vineyard were content with their daily wage of a denarius until they found out that the men who only worked one hour also got a denarius. 

            This parable is one that I believe gives people a lot of heartburn because we completely understand the workers’ frustration.  It is not fair.  These guys worked 12 hours through the heat of the day…those guys worked one hour in the cooler evening…and got paid the same.  It’s not fair.  When you are working it is easy to be content with your pay until you find out the gal next to you, doing the same thing, is making 50 cents an hour more than you are. You were content, now you are upset. You were happy, now you are jealous.

            This is the way of the world.  You are in competition with those around you.  You are told you get what you deserve.  You get what you earn.  This is the way of the world, but this is not God’s way.  God’s way is different. 

God’s way is different.  This is the profound message of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven; the Reign of Heaven.  God reigns, He rules, in ways very different from what you expect.  God does things that you do not understand.  God acts in ways that do not make sense. 

            God acts in ways that do not make sense and that is really disturbing in this parable, and yet this is where you find the beautiful Gospel truth.  Here in the midst of this troubling story, you get to see God’s mercy and grace so clearly because God does things differently than the way you would do them.  God’s mercy and grace are completely separate from your works.  God does not measure your accomplishments.  God does things differently.  Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.[1]

            We are offended by the parable of the workers in the vineyard because we completely understand the position of the workers who worked all day.  It is not fair.  But as mom used to say, “Life is not fair.”  And an even greater truth is “God is not fair.”

            God is not fair.  And that is amazing, incomprehensible, good news.  God is not fair.  God is not going to give you your just deserts.  God is not going to give you what you earn.  Romans 6:23 (ESV) 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [2] 

At the beginning of the service you confessed that you are by nature sinful and unclean. You have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone. You have not loved God with your whole heart; you have not loved your neighbors as yourself.  And then you said that you justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.

            You deserve God’s punishment.  You deserve to be punished now, and you deserve to go to Hell for eternity.  You said that is what you deserve.  The great, Good News of the Bible is that are not going to get what you deserve; because God is not fair. 

            God is not fair.  God the Father punished His Son, Jesus, the Christ, God in flesh, instead of you. Jesus took the punishment for your sins. Jesus is the perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God who is sacrificed in your place.  Jesus takes your sin to the cross and suffers and dies because of your sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[3]  God is not fair.  Praise God for that.

            Tell that liar that God is not fair and you will not get what you deserve.  This is incredible mercy of God.  You don’t get what you do deserve.  The genuine grace of God is that you get what you don’t deserve.  You get forgiveness and eternal life.

            Jesus got what you deserve, and you get what Jesus deserves.  In Christ you are the righteousness of God.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are a child of God destined to inherit eternal life in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  You are on the narrow way to that leads to life.

            Now the devil wants to derail you.  The devil wants to get you off the narrow way and onto the wide, easy way that leads to eternal death.  The devil wants you to take your eyes off of Jesus and instead compare yourself to others. The devil wants you to forget about the prize.  Forget about the crown of righteousness.  Forget about eternity with Jesus.  Forget about all that and instead worry about other people.  The devil wants you to keep score in church about who does more and who does less.  The devil wants you to feel prideful superiority over that other guy, or, if not that, the devil wants you to feel fearful crushing inferiority next to someone else.  The devil does all of this to get you off the narrow way to life because he wants to destroy you.  The devil will try to convince you that you are not good enough.  You have not done enough.  You deserve death and Hell.  It is only fair.

            Tell that liar that God is not fair and you will not get what you deserve.  This is incredible mercy of God.  You don’t get what you do deserve.  The genuine grace of God is that you get what you don’t deserve.  You get forgiveness and eternal life.

            Don’t worry about the other runners in the race; keep your eyes on Jesus.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  It is not about what you or the others are doing.  God’s mercy and grace is all you need.  Forgetting what lies behind strain forward to what lies ahead.  Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Set your mind on the things of God rather than on the things of man.  Never forget, salvation unto us has come, by God’s free grace and favor.  Thank the Lord, God is not fair.

            Amen


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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