Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (no audio this week)
Passage: Matthew 20:1–20:16
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
Date: September 23rd, 2017; Pentecost 16; series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“That’s not fair!”
We hear these words at hockey games when a player hooks down another and doesn’t get a penalty.
“That’s not fair!”
We hear these words being shouted back and forth between siblings at home - when a brother takes a larger piece of cake than his sister or when a sister takes the spot where her brother was sitting.
“That’s not fair!”
In our gospel lesson for this morning we heard about some workers who felt that they were being treated unfairly.
And I think we can all understand their complaint.
In Jesus’ parable we heard that some men worked a full-day, others half-a-day, and some only one hour – yet they were all paid exactly the same amount.
I would be mad too.
If I worked all day long and some guy shows up for the last hour and gets the same money that I do – “that’s not fair.”
Even though the workers who put in a full day’s work received the wages that they were promised – it doesn’t seem fair that the others who worked less got the same.
Jesus said that this transaction between the landowner and the workers - is like the kingdom of heaven!
Is Jesus telling us that the kingdom of heaven is unfair?
Yes, he is. The kingdom of heaven is extremely unfair.
And thanks be to God this is the case.
If the kingdom of heaven were fair - then we wouldn’t have any hope of being part of it.
You see, when we say that something is unfair - what we are really saying is that someone didn’t get what they deserve.
The hockey player deserved a penalty for hooking.
The sister deserved the same amount of cake as her brother.
The workers in our parable who worked all day long deserved more money than the others because they worked more hours.
So if the kingdom of heaven was fair – we would simply get what we deserve.
Again, thank God we don’t.
Because what we deserve is punishment and eternal damnation for our sin. We deserve death.
I know this isn’t pleasant to talk about, but it is important to understand that before God we deserve nothing but his judgment and punishment.
It is important because if we believe we deserve God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy - we are putting our faith and our trust in ourselves.
And there is absolutely no hope when we place our trust in ourselves.
Instead, we acknowledge our sin, repent of it - and we trust the One who declares that he is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.
We trust the One who was sent by his Father to save the world that we would not perish in our sin.
Instead of what we deserve, Jesus gives us his love, forgiveness, and mercy.
Instead of the death we deserve, Jesus gives us life.
He lived a perfect life without sin.
He did not deserve to be falsely arrested, tortured, and hung on a cross to die in agony.
We deserve it.
How unfair. In fact, there has never been anything so unfair in the history of the world.
But because God is merciful and gracious and wanted to save you from your sin and death - Jesus endured suffering and death that he did not deserve.
This is the way things work in the kingdom of heaven - and it is difficult for us to understand and accept.
It is completely foreign to us.
Here on earth, kingdoms do not operate like this. Ours are not kingdoms of grace.
Ours are kingdoms of the survival of the fittest.
Ours are kingdoms where you have to earn what you get and if you commit a crime you get the punishment you deserve.
Ours are kingdoms for the fittest, not the weak.
Thank God the kingdom of heaven works on different principles than ours do here on earth.
When we turn on our TVs and watch the news we get a view of what it is like living in the kingdoms of this world.
We see hatred, violence, murders, destruction, and greed.
And we experience these things personally in our lives too.
Ours is a kingdom of chaos and hurt.
But, we have dual citizenship.
We are citizens of two kingdoms.
Yes, we are still citizens of this world and we are subject to the difficulties of living in it - but we are also at the very same time citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
In the waters of Holy Baptism, God made us citizens of his kingdom in heaven. He made us his people by washing us clean of our sin.
In Holy Communion we literally sit down at our Kings table in the kingdom of heaven.
He comes to us in his true body and blood to forgive us, to strengthen our faith in the truth that the kingdom of heaven is ours. We belong. We are citizens.
In these ways, God assures us that we are his people.
There are many in this world - many in the community in which we live - who only know what it is like to be a citizen of a worldly kingdom.
They have only experienced the worldly kingdom of the survival of the fittest - the kingdom of greed, and anger, and jealousy, and death.
As we love them, support them, forgive them – as we proclaim to them the sure hope and life that we have in Christ - our neighbours get a glimpse of what it is like to be a citizen of the kingdom of grace.
God wants all people to be his citizens – regardless of class, race, language, culture, lifestyle – he wants them to have faith.
He wants everyone to know and trust that because of all that Christ Jesus accomplished for us - we do not get what we deserve.
Instead we receive God’s love, forgiveness, and eternal life.
How blessed we are to live as his faithful and loyal citizens. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.