A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on October 23, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether “Go and Work Today in My Vineyard”  Matthew 21:25-32Children, what are some of your jobs at home?  One might be picking up your toys.  As you get a little older you might get to empty the dishwasher, or clean the toilet and sweep the floors.  How do you feel about doing those things?  Maybe you’d rather not especially after a hard week at school.  You’re looking forward to playtime, and then your mom says, “Come here, I have job for you.”  You know can be that way for adults too.  We crave time off when no one’s asking us to do anything.  And then just when we think we’re going to have that, a spouse, a friend, the pastor says to us, “Could you please help me with…?”  Our text this morning is Jesus’ honey-do list for us.  It includes growing in His Word each day; worshipping Him in His House each week; using our time, talents, and treasures to share Him others; and helping those in need.  That’s a long list.  But there’s one more to add which is the hardest of them all.  It’s Being as patient and forgiving as Jesus is.    Now if doing all of these things is what it means to work in God’s vineyard, which son in the parable are you more like?  Are you like the first son who refused to work and then later did?  Or, you like the second son who said he would work, and then did not.  Or, at times maybe we’re a little of each?  Where Jesus is going with the Parable is: 1. He wants us to serve Him from our heart.  2.  He wants us to put our love into action.   We read in our text: What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”  “I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go.  Which of the two did what his father wanted?  (Matthew 21:28-31a)  The father in the parable represents God.  In the Greek Jesus used a word for “son” that expresses a deep, tender love.  And so the tone of the father’s voice wouldn’t have been “You lazy bum, go work in the vineyard”, but simply, “Son, go and work in the vineyard.”  This father always, only wanted what was best for his boys.   So, how does the first son respond?  He snotted off to his father.  If this was today, he might have hopped on his motorcycle and tore off to a friend’s, except he didn’t stay very long.  He remembered his father’s love for him, went back and started working.  Isn’t this what we do sometimes?  For example, do you always feel like going to church on Sunday morning?  Maybe there are times you haven’t; but then you think about it, and so you go.  Or, do we always feel like giving to God our first fruits offering?  Maybe not always, yet we remember that God is the giver of everything and that God wants us to show our faith in that way, and so we bite the bullet and write out the check.  Or, here’s another example.  There’s something that needs doing, but it’s outside our comfort zone.  Or it IS in our comfort zone, because we’ve done it a million times before, but others don’t seem to appreciate it.  And so maybe our first thoughts are, “I’m done.  Let someone else do it!”  But then we remember again God’s deep love for us.  He is our creator, our provider, and our protector.   Especially He is our Savior.  He sent His Son to be holy in our place and to pay for all of our sins for us.  And since His salvation won’t do us any good unless we trust in it, God also became our Sanctifier.  He poured His Spirit into our hearts to give us faith.  As a result we do trust in Him, and we have a sure and certain hope of heaven.  What is more, we can remember  times when we started to stray from Him, like a teenage boy lipping off to his father and running over to a friend’s house.  But God was patient with us.  And when HE saw that the time was right, He found us, even if we weren’t look for Him.  For all of these reasons, we keep working at everything that’s on Jesus’ honey-do list for us. However, just because we keep working at these things, it’s not always what we want to do them.  A part of us may still prefer to be lazy, or do everything half-way or just enough so we don’t have to feel too guilty about it.  This is not serving God with our whole heart, and there’s a danger in that.  The danger is we could become like the second son.         We read in our text: “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”  “The first,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”  (Matthew 21:31-32)  Jesus here is talking with the Pharisees.  Now, whenever we hear that term, “Pharisee”, what do we think of?  Hypocrite – someone who talks a good game, but every so often his evil will show through.   The Pharisees weren’t always like that.  When the Children of Israel returned from Babylon around 500 before Christ, there was a group of sincere believers who were determined to keep themselves separate from idolatry and sexual immorality.  They called themselves Pharisees, because Pharisee means – separate.  Anyway in the 300’s before Christ, the Greeks conquered Palestine and tried to force Greek religion and Greek immorality down everyone’s throat.  History books called it Hellenization.  Anyway the Pharisees refused, so the Greeks hunted down as many as they could find and crucified them.  The Israelites finally got rid of the Greeks by asking for Rome’s help, and you know how that worked out.  But isn’t it ironic that the Pharisees would do to the Lord of Glory what had been done to them?  What changed the Pharisees?  How did they go from servants of God to enemies of God?  Little by little they began to trust in their serving for their righteousness, rather than trusting in the promised Savior.  Because their trust had shifted, they closed their eyes to their “little” everyday sins.  Sometimes they did that by simply lying to themselves.  At other times they would “re-write” God’s law in a way that they could keep it perfectly – by their standards.  Gradually as they continued doing this, their hearts became hardened to God’s Word and they would look down on others who weren’t as “good” as they were.So, how did God feel about the Pharisees?  He loved them.  And so, He sent John the Baptist to them, who called on them to recognize their self-righteousness and their laziness toward the real work of God, and then God would wash away their sins and give them His Holy Spirit.  For centuries the Pharisees had been saying, “This is what we want, this is what we want.”  But when it came right down to it, they refused!  They were the second son in the parable.  He appeared to be respectful.  But it was an over-the-top phony respect.  “I will go, sir” instead of a sincere, “I’ll do it, dad.”  Still, the Heavenly Father kept on loving these Pharisees.  Three days after this they would nail Jesus to a cross, and then He would pray for them, “Father, forgive them.”  And now let’s think a little more about our service to God.  Have we too done the right things for the wrong reasons?  What I means is: was our motivation pride in ourselves instead of trust and thankfulness in God?  If at times it has been, we were not truly doing the work God called us to do.  We were being like the second son, who was a picture of what the Pharisees had become.  They proudly boasted, “I will go, sir”, but there was no true repentance in their heart.  As a result there was no true obedience in their life either.  In fact they ended up hating God.  So, what do we do if we realize that our service to God has not been with our whole heart like the first Son, or our obedience has been more words than actions like the second son?  Shall we refuse to believe there’s anything wrong with our righteousness?  Then we really have become like the second son.  But why would we want to stay this way, and be forever lost?  Rather let’s sincerely pray after the sermon: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me now away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit.  For Jesus’ sake, God will hear our prayer.  He will forgive us.  He will strengthen our faith through His Word.  He will increase our joy in serving Him.  And now as we trust in Jesus day by day, let’s put our faith into action day by day.  Through us the Lord will produce many fruits.  The needy will be helped; the discouraged will be encouraged; and especially those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior, will learn of Him.  On top of all these blessings, as we serve Him and as we see how He blesses all that we’re doing, we will grow in our faith and joy.  Then even more we will want to serve God from the heart.  And finally these principles apply to everything that’s on Jesus’ honey-do list for us – our growing in His Word, our worship, our serving Him with our time, talents and treasure.     When a parent asks a child to do some work around the house, is that parent being mean?  A child might feel it is mean to have to work, when he still wants to play.  The truth is that parent could probably do all those things that need doing faster and better if he did them himself.  But the parent loves his child, and he wants them to grow and that’s why he gives him work to do.  In the same way God loves us.  So, in a sense God’s vineyard doesn’t need us.  He could raise up stones who could sing better than we can; He could send angels to share Jesus with others better than we can; or He could miraculously supply our budget needs the way He fed the 5000 with 2 small fish and 5 buns.  God could just do all those things and more, but He is sending US into His vineyard that we may grow in our joy and in our ability to serve Him.  And then when we’re in heaven, He will reign forever and ever.  However, it’s His intent to hand the operation of His vineyard over to us.  On that day, we will whole heartedly say, “Whatever you say, Lord, we will do”, and then with our whole heart, we will do it.  But God doesn’t want us to wait until we’re in heaven to start.  He gave us this parable of the two sons to encourage us to serve Him from the heart and put our love into action from now on, so let’s do it!  Amen.

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