The entire life of Jesus is a revelation of the heart of God, so the Matthew 19 text is a glimpse into how Jesus treats all of his children which is as individual souls and mindful of their eternal fate. Which is nothing like our modern obsessions with care and fairness. And I don’t really want to be too hard on care and fairness. Because it is not that God doesn’t care, or that he isn’t fair. It is that his care and fairness so exceed ours as to make us look like barbarians.
God’s care is not about indulging our temporal and usually spiritual desires. God’s care is his eternal faithfulness. When God promises something, you can take it to the bank. Hell is perfectly fair. The punishment always fits the crime. God is graceful, granting to us what we don’t deserve.
So in this time of work, this time under the cross, God’s care and fairness and seem contrary to ours. But that is because we don’t understand what we have been given. We don’t understand the joy of working in THE vineyard. That is what this sermon attempts to think about. How God has given us so much more and better than what our hard hearts would demand.
This sermon took a form that I don’t often use, but it fell out of my prep work, three points and a poem. The standard sermon coming from this text is probably missions or something completely law based. My struggle this week was how not just to fall into the “get to work” vein. And the three points fell out, with the third speaking to my soul.
Point1: The foundation of the vineyard is the grace of God. “The Master of the House went out to hire laborers.” The first move is always God moving towards us.
Point2: The response of the workers is faith based on the character of the Master of the House. Can he make good on his promise?
Point3: The call to the Vineyard is the call to work besides God. We are invited into the life and work of god.
That third point is the crisis of grace and our understanding. Do we recognize the amazing nature of that offer, or do we just want our wage? Can we rejoice with the widow who finds her coin? Can we enter the party house for the prodigal, or have we lost the joy of the vineyard?
The Poem is simply Psalm 51 (often our offertory). Cast me not away from your presence, but restore unto me the joy of your salvation. We all occasionally find ourselves on the wrong side of the crisis of grace complaining about it radical equality. David’s words are our prayer. Let us recognize who we work with and the joy of that call.
That title is Peter’s question that leads to the aphorism: the first will be last and the last first, and the parable of the vineyard. This sermon looks at in sequence:
a) the literal facts of the parable, that God provides our daily bread
b) what it reveals to us about God, that He is never less than just, but full of surprising grace
c) a moral teaching, that comparisons within the vineyard are dangerous and instead we keep our eyes on Christ
d) the end times hope, that in the regeneration/new world the heat of the day of the vineyard gives way to pure light.