Saturday, January 26, 2013

Septuagesima Sunday, 2013.
Matthew 20:1-16. First and Last.




Septuagesima Sunday, 2013

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn #132                           O God of God                                    3:55
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 151            Christ the Life                       2:78

How To View This Despot – Grace and Mercy

The Hymn # 227     Come Holy Ghost                             2:72
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #409   Let Us Ever Walk                              2:91

1 Corinthians 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;  2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;  4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

KJV Matthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Septuagesima Sunday

Lord God, heavenly Father, who through Thy holy word hast called us into Thy vineyard: Send, we beseech Thee, Thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may labor faithfully in Thy vineyard, shun sin and all offense, obediently keep Thy word and do Thy will, and put our whole and only trust in Thy grace, which Thou hast bestowed upon us so plenteously through Thy Son Jesus Christ, that we may obtain eternal salvation through Him, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.



How To View This Despot – Grace and Mercy



KJV Matthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder [house despot – the Lord], which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

First I wanted to know the term used for the householder in this parable. This is not a house-manager or steward, a manager who does not own the property. It is a combination of house and despot. We use the later term for someone who is the absolute master of a country. No one can counter his commands.

Therefore, in the original text—in the universal language of Greek, in those days—this was a story about the master of the property and the day laborers he hired. No one who owned property in those days was subject to regulation, so he did not have to worry about the minimum wage regulations.

Hiring workers for a harvest is still common today, so extra people are brought in as they are needed. In some areas in the country, there are specific gathering places for day laborers, where property owners dicker with them about what will be done and for what price.

Because of the terms and the setting of the parable, we know this story concerns God and His justice, or rather His mercy and love, contrasted to man’s opinions about God.

2 And when he had agreed [symphonied] with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

As Luther wrote about this sermon, it is a mistake to apply some meaning to every single detail and weave a tale about something never taught or even indicated in the Scriptures.

Pay means merit or works. Wages are often described in metaphorical words. “The wages of sin is death.” That is literally the “broiled fish” of sin – because that food term became a word for pay. I made our son use literal terms so the Greek stuck in his mind. Because it is fun, it is easier to remember, easier to see how easy Greek really is. Thus Jesus did not “call” the disciples, but phoned them. Another common term that appears in the New Testament is aspirin.

Pepper was so valuable in the Roman Empire that it was demanded as payment for the barbarians to leave Rome when they invaded. Gold, silver, pepper.

Here coinage is used. One reason why Alexander the Great conquered was his use of coins. Kingdoms piled up gold but they did not coin it, so the gold was no more useful than a pile of silk. Alexander grabbed the loser’s treasury and made coins, paying for his path of conquest (food, lumber, clothing) as he took his small army through various kingdoms and united them under his Greek heritage. That heritage made Greek the language of civilization, and that made it easy to spread the Old Testament through the Greek OT (Septuagint) and the Greek New Testament.

They all symphonied for the price of a penny, literally a denarius a day. A symphony is an arrangement of notes where all the sounds agree, even though they have different voices. So there was agreement.
This is God or Christ directly and graciously involved in turning over the divine work of the harvest, not merely to rostered church workers, but to all believers. Everyone participates according to gifts given (Romans 12).
The problem with over-allegorizing is to make every detail represent something. A parable has one main lesson and often one or two subordinate lessons. God’s grace is presented first and then objections to that grace second.



3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

As Lenski said, Christ is directly involved in seeing that this work is done, so He Himself makes additional arrangements.

During the Reformation, the Catholic party said, “Those Lutherans are ordaining people on their own. They are not legitimate ministers because we did not train and ordain them.” The Lutherans said, “The pope does not have a monopoly on the work of Christ. If they are not faithful to the Word, they are working against Him.”

Today, synodical bureaucrats say, “We have to train, certify, ordain, and place church employees or the work is not valid.” People respond, “But your employees embezzle the funds, abuse the members, drive away and scatter the flock. And those are just the district presidents. The pastors and teachers are often almost s bad. We are better off without Holy Mother Synod.”

This next group—in the parable—are told they will get whatever is right. When we moved, it took much longer than all of us anticipated. The majordomo bristled that he was getting short-changed. I said, “I will make it right at the end.” We had an energetic discussion almost identical to this parable. But one major fact was different – I was engaged in work for pay. This parable is about God’s grace and mercy. Any effort to make this a contract (God does this, and we make a decision; or God has done so much, so we must do the rest) is wrong.


5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

So these are many different examples of being gathered for work in the Kingdom of God. They are not different times in the church itself, but many different circumstances.

There have been many occasions when people took upon themselves the task of spreading the Gospel. God is behind this, making idle people (without faith) active in sowing the seed of the Word.

Or they may just pursue something they love to do and that spreads the Word as a consequence – art, music, and poetry, taking care of a church property. I can give circumstances where one particular action has led to many different positive results, where that action was only part of the picture but an important part.

Gardening and farming should make anyone humble about God’s work, because the hardest work is only a tiny part of the results. Seed will grow to a harvest, often when given little attention. A compost pile, when constructed correctly, will produce the best medium for planting and soil improvement. A hard-working gardener will say, “I am less than 1% of the work, far less than that.” So it is with the Gospel, where people praise themselves for using man’s wisdom to get man’s results. And they despise those who patiently sow the Word and glorify God in faith for whatever follows.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

The Lord (kurios, literally lord) said to the steward (literally, the one delegated) – Call the laborers and pay their wages, from the last to the first.

This is what sets up the first hired for a bad case of coveting. They will see the last hired getting a penny so they expect far more pay for doing a lot more than those who were hired at the last minute.

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

If someone received a penny the last hour, the first hired should get many times that, based on human reason. A labor revolt is ready to start.



11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman [the house-despot; God] of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

The steward began paying wages, but this revolt is against the justice of God. Like anyone else thinking along the lines of the Law and works, these people said, “Equal rewards for equal work. We did the most. We are first. We get the most.”

This is going to bring a rebuke, because God’s wisdom is not man’s wisdom. His thoughts are beyond understanding. Isaiah 55:8

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Someone promoting new translations complained about this phrase being ruined – “Is thine eye evil because I am good?”

Here is the NIV and New NIV –

NIV Matthew 20:15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

This NIV paraphrase is not what the parable says. This is another case of the arrogant stylist improving on what the Holy Spirit gave to us through Matthew. This evil eyesight as a response to God’s goodness is a perfect parallel. This phrase means far more than envy. The firsters are so angry and unbelieving that they accuse God and hate Him for being unfair in their eyes.

Lessons of This Parable.
This parable is a mystery to unbelievers, and it is often misinterpreted within the church.

The work and pay should be seen our relationship to God in His Kingdom. He gathers us through the Gospel with this simple message from His Only-Begotten Son, “Believe in Me. Trust completely in Me, and you will be forgiven your sins and given eternal life.”

God does this completely through His grace and mercy. One of the great collects invokes God as showing His power chiefly in His mercy. Mercy comes from one Source, but it has many objects.

This is not pay for work, but people warp it into that strange equation. “I have done more, so I deserve more.” Or – “I have a greater, more influential office, so I deserve that much more.”
People have different gifts and different degrees of faith. A child does not believe in the non-reciprocity of the second genus, because he does know the term. If questioned, he will actually answer better than most seminary graduates, if the students have been trained in rationalism. But the child’s faith, the adult’s faith, and the minister’s faith all have the same object – the mercy of God, the forgiveness of sins.

The sins differ too, from the greatest to the smallest, but God’s mercy extends to all.

When spiritual gifts differ, and they always do, we believers should admire and praise those other gifts, and not be jealous of them. I have seen many examples of someone wanting another banished because of the danger of being overshadowed by the other person’s gifts.

As for forgiveness of sin – I have seen “pillars” outraged that the Gospel will be offered to someone not worthy, in their eyes. In one case, the anger was directed at me. “Do you know about his family?” In another case, a council member said, “Don’t visit that family. They have too many problems.” In neither case was the person qualified to throw stones at anyone. But who is?

Believers rejoice that someone who has hit the bottom is willing to repent, show genuine sorrow for sin, and trust in the atoning death of Christ. In the case of carnal sin, the problem is obvious.

The foundational sin, unbelief, is far more subtle, harder to detect, and more obstinate to treat. People take pride in their opinions and openly reject what the Word of God plainly teaches.

I see this pattern in false teachers. They cast around for a way to be successful in the eyes of the world and the worldly members of their congregation. This works well for them, often surprisingly well. They become more hardened against the Word of God and blinded by the Gospel they reject. One pastor told us he wanted a known adulterer taken back into his congregation, even though the man was not repentant, would not return to his wife, even though his wife wanted a reconciliation. But there are many church officials worse than that.


Two Lessons of the Parable
The two lessons of this parable are clear. The last are those in despair, sunk in sin, known as open transgressors. They may even be dying with a knowledge of all their sins and their open rebellion against the Word. But in repentance and faith, they receive the same Gospel as anyone else, the same forgiveness. They have the same Savior.

And there are ministers, faithful to the Word, who get nothing but rebuffs and insults. Their denomination makes a point of honoring apostates while punishing the faithful. Members do not always appreciate a faithful pastor. We had family friends who loved their faithful pastor. He had a faction in the congregation always giving him a bad time, with the help of synod officials. I told them to try to make up for the difficult ones.

Paul Gerhardt, the great hymn-writer, had those experiences his entire life. It never changed, even though he was establishing himself as the leading poet and hymn-writer of his country. He is still honored for his work. As much as Luther, he established hymn-writing. I see most other hymns as trying to equal Gerhardt, even though I like the hymns.

Pastors need more Luther in their lives, so they realize that the difficulties are signs of God’s approval, not signs of failure. Opposition always accompanies orthodoxy, but orthodoxy also produces spiritual fruit and blessings.

The first want the best and most luxurious, to reward them for their heavy-duty office work, their lack of visitation, their efforts protecting Holy Mother Synod instead of the Word of God.


Sound Doctrine


"Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God's grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God's grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God's fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands."
            Thorough Declaration, Of Other Factions and Sects, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1103.

"'If there ever was a strictly conservative body, it surely is the Missouri Synod. Nevertheless, this growth!...It is a mark of the pastors and leaders of the Missouri Synod that they never, aye, never, tire of discussing doctrine on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. That is one trait that may be called the spirit of Missouri. People who thus cling to doctrine and contend for its purity are of an entirely different nature from the superficial unionists who in the critical moment will declare five to be an even number. God will bless all who value His Word so highly.'"
            (Dr. Lenski, Kirchenzeitung, May 20, 1922)
            cited in W. A. Baepler, "Doctrine, True and False," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 515f. [GJ – Note that the UOJ faction in Missouri gained momentum and took over with the canonization of the Brief Confession of 1932.]

"We should not consider the slightest error against the Word of God unimportant."
            What Luther Says , An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 637.

"Error and heresy must come into the world so that the elect may become approved and manifest. Their coming is in the best interests of Christians if they take the proper attitude toward it. St. Augustine, who certainly was sufficiently annoyed by wretched sectaries, says that when heresy and offense come, they produce much benefit in Christendom; for they cause Christians industriously to read Holy Scriptures and with diligence to pursue it and persevere in its study. Otherwise they might let it lie on the shelf, become very secure, and say: Why, God's Word and the text of Scripture are current and in our midst; it is not necessary for us to read Holy Scripture."
            What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 639.

“You cannot of a truth be for true doctrine without being unalterably opposed to false doctrine. There can be no 'positive theology' where the God-given negatives have been eliminated from the Decalog."
            Norman A. Madson, Preaching to Preachers, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1952. Preface.




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