Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Working For the Master, NOT Mammon"

S‑1074 09/21/2008 19SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #301; (S) #347; (C) #374

Texts: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Theme: “Working For the Master Not Mammon” (Matthew 20:13-15


Question: “How Safe are Your Finances?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: “But He [Jesus] 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?’” (Mt. 20:13-15).

Saints in Christ, the movie “Meet the Parents” is a story about a Jewish male nurse, who is ready to propose to his girlfriend Pam. Greg Focker discovers that Pam’s father, Jack prefers to be asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage before the proposal. Greg and Pam take a visit to the Burns home, in order to ask Pam’s father for his daughters hand in marriage. While there, Pam’s ex-boyfriend Kevin Rawley (who is a still a good friend of Pam’s father) asked Greg “How is your portfolio?” This question was asked to make fun of the male nurse who is the love of Pam.

In this movie, Kevin made it sound that the most important thing to have is a good portfolio so that you can be secure in your financial needs. And many people in our society and even here think the same way. What is important in life is to have the most amount of money and toys. It appears that many of us spend their whole life trying to get rich. PAUSE. So “How is your portfolio? Are your finances secure? Are you certain of your future?”

No one can be certain of the future. We know all to well, that what we have can be gone in an instant. You have seen on television and heard on the radio the news of the economy. The stock market is like a roller coaster—very unstable to say the least. Many have lost there jobs and finances as these giants banks—Fannie Mae, Lehmann Brothers and Merrill Lynch went belly up. And when hurricane Ike came ashore in Texas, it wiped out many people’s homes and businesses. One person was heard saying, “All I have ever worked for is gone. The hurricane took it all. I have nothing left!

In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus shares a parable with His hearers and us to help us realize that the Kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one; that our lives here on earth are not forever, but temporary; that we should focus on that which is important and live our lives in the service of the Master rather than seeking out mammon.

Today’s reading serves as a corrective that many people have about the Kingdom of God and how we can get into it. Peter had asked in the previous chapter saying “See, we have left everything and followed You. What then will we have?” (19:27). Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ responded by assuring Peter that all would be well rewarded, and He offered the parable of the workers in the vineyard. He said that those who came to work in the last hour received the same payment as those who had endured the burden and heat of the whole day. Those who had worked longer complained about this and they lost the grace of the landowner who announced: “So the last will be first and the first last.”

Why did Jesus share this parable with Peter? What did He want Peter and us to learn? That man indeed by his own fault can become last rather than first and he can be lost. It is nothing except goodness, grace and mercy when a person becomes first from the last, a saint from a sinner, hell-bound to heaven-bound. A person can lose grace but he can never merit it. To be sure, then, the payment for the work in God’s vineyard is not earned. Instead, it is a payment of grace, a gift of God’s free goodness.

You know the Master in the story, could have avoided a lot of the trouble had he started giving the wages to those who began early. But no, the Master had to be different. He started with those who worked the least and gave them the same amount. And those who watched and saw what took place, began to get Jealous and envious of the blessings and the generosity of the Master.

People still today get jealous and envious of others, because they equate everything by worldly standards. They want all people to be treated equally, regardless of how they live their lives. They think of God as their boss who owes them something because they have lived their lives in obedience to Him. And if they don’t get it, they begin to grumble and complain about it. But our Lord and Savior, is not like that at all. Entering the Kingdom of heaven is not dependant on us being a life-time Christian, or a new convert; but rather on the mercy of God alone for the sake of Christ.

There is more to this parable than meets the eye. On the surface the issue at hand seems to be one of pay; however as we look closer we see that one of the underlying issues is that the workers misunderstand the nature of the work they are called to, and they misunderstand the One who has called them to do it. They see the tasks which have been given to them as a chore, obligation, burden and responsibility. They don’t see it as a privilege or something they “get to do”. Rather than complain, they should have given thanks for the privilege of working for the Master.

The text certainly points out the extravagant love of Jesus, the Householder, giving generously to all. In those days when DAILY bread was a big issue, Jesus wanted all the people to have their DAILY bread. In this sense Jesus was fulfilling the law providing for all, misphat {judgment}, the commonwealth, not thinking only of the strict law but fulfilling the law in an extravagant way and this evokes the green eye of envy on the part of those who want more than daily bread.

This parable cuts to the quick it speaks to us about our attitudes toward the work which has been given and prepared for us to do. It also points us back to the One who has given us every task to perform; it reminds us that we are to be about the work of the Master.

This parable challenges us to ask few important questions “Are we working for the Master or for Mammon? Are we serving the Lord, Jesus Christ or ourselves? Who is Lord and Master of our lives? Who directs us in all that we do?”

What do most people seek and love above everything else? Isn’t it mammon? Isn’t true that most human hearts rejoice more in a profit of temporal goods than in anything else? Isn’t true that most people find their greatest pleasure and comfort in gold and silver; in acquiring land and properties? Why do so many rise early in the morning and remain at their jobs till late at night? Isn’t to obtain more and more of this worlds good? People more often than not, are serving mammon rather than the Master.

Oh, that we would heed and hear the Master’s voice anew today and realize that He has given us all that we need. That our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ worked for our benefit in all that He did. Study Scripture and you will find that the whole life of Jesus was about serving His Master and Father. Hear Him say, “For I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed saying: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). Again, “How is it that you are searching for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk. 2:49).

What is the Father’s business? What was the Father’s will? What was the desire of the One who sent Jesus? It is to save mankind from the punishment of hell and death. And Jesus did. Jesus came about to work in God’s vineyard and told the people of Israel who He was and who sent Him. But they didn’t believe Him. Instead, they despised and rejected Him. He told them of the salvation that He offered them, but they didn’t believe Him. He told them, that He came to wash away their sins, to sacrifice His life for them, but they didn’t believe Him either. But they took Him, beat Him, and nailed His hands and feet to a cross outside the city wall of Jerusalem. They pierced His side with spear and blood came out. This precious blood was the payment for the sins of all people including those who serve mammon.

Oh, yes, Jesus went into the vineyard and worked to fulfill the Father’s will. He did so out of love for us, for you and for me. He did those things fulfilling the will of the Father so that we might have eternal life with Him. We have been purchased by His blood; He has forgiven us all of our sins; He has opened the gates of heaven for us.

The next time someone asks you, “How is your portfolio? Are your finances secure? Are you certain of your future?” Then, respond by saying, “Yes! Yes, indeed!” And when they ask you, “Why?” Then tell them, that Your Master and Lord, Jesus Christ has saved you from hell, sealed your future and secured heaven for you. Tell them, that Christ Your Lord has guaranteed you His constant love and peace and that He will guide you on the journey of life.

God grant us the grace to continue to work with Him in His vineyard as He gives us the privilege to do so all of our lives. Amen.

No comments: