Our September 20 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. Our social spacing seating arrangement assures minimal risk when you come in person.
The September 27 worship service will be held outdoors behind our sanctuary, weather permitting, with members and friends in attendance. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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September 20 Sermon
Jonah 3:10-4:11 | Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30 | Matthew 20:1-16
“Are you envious because I am generous?” That is the most telling line in this parable. Indeed, it is the central point of the story. True, it is a reasonable question to come from the owner at the worker’s response to the wages situation. Or, as we know, looking at the parable, it is a fair question from God to us. And we also know, although we do not like to admit it, that the answer to this question, from us, is too often, “Yes!” Too often, we do in fact begrudge God His generosity. Human beings have always been that way. I don’t know why. Sin, yes, but which one, either Pride, Envy or Greed. We don’t like to share, and our God shouldn’t either.
That is one problem which we have with the Gospel. It is nothing short of a generous outpouring of God’s grace upon all people. It is free to all. We don’t like that. We, like the laborers in the story, especially don’t like to share with those Johnnie Come Latelys, 11th Hour Christians (shouldn’t it be 23rd Hour Christians?). But, that is because we also don’t like to remember that God is also being generous with us!! We don’t deserve what we receive either! It is all a free gift from God’s generous grace. And God has been gracious for a long time, and to some very ungracious people.
Look at Jonah’s lesson for today. That is exactly what is going on. Jonah is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. It is actually terribly funny. Some Bible scholars believe that it is a satire. But most people don’t read its short four chapters. They get hung up on the “Whale” story. It is an amazing story, and it relates to Jesus’ parable this morning. It, too, is concerned with God’s generosity.
Where we pick up the story today, Jonah is mad, pouting. Why? Because God has forgiven the whole city of Nineveh! When God first calls Jonah to go to Nineveh, at the beginning of the book, Jonah doesn’t want to go. Why? Jonah doesn’t like the people of Nineveh, in fact he hates them. It is the capital city of the hated Assyrian Empire, which has conquered Israel. And, Jonah is almost certain that God is going to forgive them anyway. Jonah sees absolutely no reason for him to go to all of the effort. He would rather see them destroyed with a great heavenly down pouring of fire and brimstone. That, to Jonah’s thinking, is what they deserve!
Jonah even goes to great lengths of getting out of it. He hops the first cruise ship out of port heading in the opposite direction, Tarshish (Spain), finds himself in a terrible storm, aboard a floundering ship, and then thrown overboard, at his own request, and swallowed by a “great fish.” All to be vomited up on the beach next to Nineveh (in other words, if God wants you to be somewhere, you may as well go, He’ll get you there one way or another – and you probably won’t like the other).
Reluctantly, Jonah goes into the city, figures, “Well, as long as I’m here.” He probably cleaned himself up first. He probably looked pretty bad after spending three days in the belly of the whale (Christian apologists have always related this to the three days Christ spends in the tomb).He grudgingly calls the people to repentance, very quietly and unenthusiastically. And figuring that no one will repent, he then goes to find a front row seat for the action. But nothing happens. Jonah doesn’t realize that he was right, God wanted to forgive Nineveh, they repented (in spite of Jonah’s half-hearted cries), and God did forgive them. So, Jonah sulks.
That brings us to the bush (cucumber bush) in the lesson this morning. It is God’s object lesson for Jonah. It grows in a night, dies in a night. Jonah liked it, gets angry at its demise. So much so, that he wants to die. He is a bit of an extremist. Jonah is very small-minded (but God used him anyway). Jonah was upset over a plant, while God was concerned with all the people of Nineveh. That is the difference between God and Jonah, between God and us. God is generous to all of his creatures. Human beings do tend to be envious and petty.
It is the same lesson in the parable in the Gospel lesson. All of the laborers are paid the same. Whether you work in the vineyard, come to faith, early or late. We are paid the same from God’s generosity. All who have faith in Christ are saved. We are the least, the last. We cannot save ourselves. And we thanks to sin, do not even deserve the wages which have been given to us from God. But, God chooses to make us first from his grace. Do not envy this, like the other laborers in the parable, or even Jonah, rather it is something to be glad and rejoice in! God strives to save all of his children. That is after all, the very Gospel itself. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. That is given to “all who believe and are baptized.” We are saved. We are paid, not what we deserve, but from God’s generosity. Thank God for God’s exceedingly generous grace. That is the Gospel!