Sermon – October 25, 2020 – Pentecost 21

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Pastor Jacobson  ~  Pentecost 21  ~  October 25, 2020  ~  Matthew 22:1-14 

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Save the Date

A Sunday school teacher was teaching his middle school class about the wedding in Cana. That was the wedding where Jesus miraculously turned water into wine. The wine was of such quality the master of the banquet said to the bridegroom, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first, and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2:10). The Sunday school teacher then asked the class what they had learned from this lesson. One student said, “I learned Jesus is almighty God. Jesus can do anything.” A second student answered, “I learned Jesus cares about our every need. Nothing is too small for Jesus.” And then a third student answered, “This is what I learned. If you are going to have a party, make sure Jesus is there.”

For the record, Jesus does not condone drunkenness. But let the record also show, Jesus does condone a good time. Jesus is quoted as saying, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). And one of the ways the Bible describes that full life is through the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. At the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, Jesus, the bridegroom will visibly returns to this earth and bring his bride, the church, to live with him forever in heaven. Everything will be perfect because everyone will be made perfect. This day is most certainly going to come and it will be fun. Save the date! Don’t miss it through unbelief. Don’t mess up through hypocrisy.

  1. Don’t miss it through unbelief.

It’s still Tuesday of Holy Week and this is the third parable Jesus has told in a row. The sad story here is how God’s invitation to believe in him is often rejected through unbelief. One of the ways unbelief is demonstrated is through simple indifference. Jesus describes simple indifference in the parable this way, “They paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business.” Certainly nothing wrong with having a field. Nothing wrong with having a business. Those are good things to have, and those are good things to be busy doing. However, those noble pursuits turn evil when they become more important than the wishes of the king. He wants them at the party and they should have gone. This simple indifference is similar to Jesus’ description of the time of Noah and the flood. “People were eating and drinking, marrying and giving into marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away” (Matthew 24:38-39).

A second way unbelief is demonstrated is through open hostility. Jesus describes outward hostility in the parable this way: “The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.” The Bible starts this open hostility story with Abel killed by his own brother Cain, and we see that story rerun throughout many of the pages of the Bible.”

So where do we fit into with these groups of unbelievers, the ones who were simply indifferent to the king’s invitation and the ones who were openly hostile to the king’s servants? The Good News is we don’t fit in with them. We believe the Gospel. We’re not indifferent to the Gospel. We’re so motivated by the Gospel we came to church or we turned on our computer to listen to what God has to say to us in his Word. With God’s help, we are trying to make sense of this sermon.  😉    So far we are learning how God wanted certain people to come to his party, but how many of those people didn’t want to come.

It’s a blessing to learn from our mistakes. It’s a greater blessing to learn from other people’s mistakes. Can what was happening to the chief priests and Pharisees happen to us?  Can we become indifferent to God’s invitation? Can the studying of your fantasy football roster become more important than studying the sacred Scriptures? Are you thinking more about what needs to be done for your earthly home? Have you talked to your kids about a plan to take them on vacation, but not about a plan to take them to heaven? Most worldly pursuits, just as the field and business mentioned in the parable, are in themselves harmless. But they lose their neutrality when they stand in the way of God and entry into eternal life. Save the date! Don’t miss the party through unbelief. Don’t become indifferent to God’s gospel invitation and don’t become openly hostile about it either.

In the parable the invitation comes again and again. The people Jesus is teaching have received the gospel invitation from John the Baptist, from Jesus himself, and later they will receive the gospel invitation from the apostles. God doesn’t want his people to miss heaven. The opportunity is too great, and the alternative is so severe. He’s going to do all he can, but to some the Word of God can look like another phone call from a man or a woman named Potential. Have some of you ever received a phone call from Potential? His or her last name is “Spam,” Potential Spam. No one calls me more than Potential Spam and no one irritates me more than Potential Spam. I don’t want to murder Potential Spam, but I never want to receive a phone call or text or e-mail or letter from him ever again. Could what is being said about Potential Spam also be said about Grace Ev. Lutheran Church? How do people feel about a call from Grace Ev. Lutheran Church when they haven’t come to Grace Ev. Lutheran Church for a long time? How do people feel about an e-mail from Grace Ev. Lutheran Church when they haven’t prayed for or participated in anything at Grace Ev. Lutheran Church for a long time? Do some throw away the Grace Ev. Lutheran Church Newsletter before it makes it into the house or is opened? Even though our ministry suffers from human limitations, we have the gospel invitation and the blessing of our Lord. Don’t ever treat the servants of Grace Ev. Lutheran Church as Potential Spam.

  1. Don’t mess up through hypocrisy.

Eventually, the gospel invitations will stop, and they will be given to other people. That’s what Jesus warns in the parable. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you can find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.’”

Here is where we fit in. Through the world-wide preaching of the Gospel what was once known only in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria has also reached us in the United States of America. Through faith in Jesus we have become his guests at a feast of joy which already begins in this life. Every day here on earth we celebrate the forgiveness of sins. In this Christian church Jesus daily and fully forgives all sins to me and all believers. Isaiah the prophet said, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). And this is good because Isaiah also says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (64:6).

Jesus ends his parable of the wedding banquet with a disappointing story because Jesus doesn’t want us to mess up through hypocrisy. It’s not enough to be in church when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. It’s not enough to be a good person when you die. Those behaviors are probably good enough to receive a church funeral. Those behaviors are probably good enough to have good words spoken of you by others. Those good behaviors won’t pass as good enough with God. Unlike us, God sees though hypocrisy like we spot an underdressed person at a wedding banquet and so evaluate your motives. Why are you here? Why are you listening to God’s Word and committed to living a God-pleasing life? You are here because you have been invited by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and through faith, not good behavior, Jesus has given you a robe of righteousness to wear all the days of your eternity. Jesus is having a party, make sure you are there. Amen.

Sermon – October 18, 2020 – Pentecost 20

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Pastor Wagenknecht ~ Pentecost 20 ~ October 18, 2020 ~ Philippians 3:12-21


If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord; whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. – Romans 14:8

Paul wrote those words to the Romans six years before he was in prison before Caesar. The words in our text from Philippians were written while in prison toward the end of his two years under guard, and he was expecting to soon be released and to come back to Philippi. This epistle to the Philippians is one of encouragement and joy.

In Philippians 1, Paul wrote “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” In Philippians 2, Paul wrote “If there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any affection and compassion,” then imitate the humble attitude of Christ, who humbled himself unto death, even death on a cross. Here in Philippians 3, Paul wrote “Press on toward the goal” – the goal of heaven.

Already when I was in grade school here at Grace, I believed “to die is gain,” “if we die, we belong to the Lord.” Probably about 6th grade we were studying time, days, months, years, and we thought about the year 2000. I wondered if I would ever live till 2000, I would be 60 years old by then.  Wow! Well, I made it by the grace of God. I was ready to die, because I knew Christ my Lord. Philippians 1:21 – For me to live is Christ; to die is gain. To live for Christ or depart to be with Christ. I’m pulled in two directions. Paul wrote that to die and be with the Lord was better by far, but he also realized he had a calling to live on for the sake of the believers in Philippi. I suppose that is why I lived till 2000 – to serve.

So now I press on, and I even lived till 2020 – Like Paul, I have remained in the flesh to serve Christ – to fill in today for Pastor Clark. If I live past 2020, Paul today reminds me to PRESS ON.  Press on toward the goal of heaven in the power of Christ.

  1. PRESS ON toward the goal of heaven.

Today’s epistle reading in Philippians 3:14 tells us “I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That upward call from Jesus is, “Come, follow me, and I will give you the crown of life. He told us “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live” John 11:25. Paul wrote “We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us…I am convinced that neither life nor death…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37ff. Whether we live or die we belong to the Lord. And especially to die is gain!

In Philippians 3:11 Paul tells us to press on toward this call, which he says is “the hope that he will arrive at the resurrection of the dead.” That is the goal we are talking about. The resurrection to eternal life in heaven. “Not that we have already obtained this or have already reached the goal.” We are still living here in 2020, so now we press on walking according to the pattern we gave you. That pattern was in the epistle reading from last Sunday, Philippians 2:5 – Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. We are to imitate Christ’s humility and consider others better than ourselves. We are to look not only to our own interests, but to the interests of others. Although he was God, he emptied himself and became fully human, and went to the cross for us. We are to imitate that humility. “Though he was by nature God, he did not consider equality with God as something to be displayed, but he emptied himself taking the nature of a servant and was born in human likeness” Philippians 2:1-4. In the same way that Jesus pressed on toward Calvary, toward the resurrection, and toward the return to his glory in heaven we are to press on toward the goal of living for Christ here, heading for heaven, and living with him in glory forever. In these days of 2020 we need to press on in serving others; press on with the masks and distancing; press on without fear of illness or death; press on, persevere, keep on keeping on.

In verse 9 of this third chapter between last week’s epistle and today’s epistle, Paul writes about how we can reach that goal. I know Christ Jesus my LORD…not having a righteousness of my own, which is from the law, but that righteousness which comes through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God by faith. Not by works of the law, but by faith in Christ’s works. We reach that goal of heaven on the strength of the righteousness of Christ, and not by our keeping the law.

  1. PRESS ON in the power of Christ.

Verse 12 of our text reads, Not that I have already reached the goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus also took hold of me. Christ reached down and took hold of us. We were sinking down, and he pulled us up. Here on earth our daily struggles will continue until we die. We nightly pitch our moving tent a day’s march nearer home. Find strength to persevere in Christ. Paul encouraged the Philippians in 1:6, “I am convinced that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” What was begun in baptism, encouraged in Sunday school, prayed for by your parents and god-parents, guided in every sermon you have heard, will be completed when you gain heaven through death.

After Christ humbled himself unto death, paid for our sins, and called us heavenward, God highly exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name that, “at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD” Philippians 2:10. This mighty Jesus is the one who gives us the power to press on.

How do we press on? In the power of Christ…

  1. Get up in the morning and thank God for another day of Grace.
  2. Read or meditate on some of God’s promises that he will be with you today.
  3. Pray for his strength, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”
  4. Conduct yourself in a way that is worthy of the Gospel letting your light shine.
  5. Press on all day making deliberately loving decisions. Tell yourself over and over, “Press on!”
  6. Take some time to read through the four chapters of Philippians.
  7. Find in this letter the encouragement: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!”

The last verses of our text remind us that “Our citizenship is in heaven. We are eagerly waiting for a Savior from there, the LORD Jesus Christ. By the power that enables him to control all things he will transform our humble bodies to be like his glorious body.” See why “to die is gain.” Jesus will transform this weak, sickly, aging body into a glorious, perfect, eternal body. Amen

Let me close with these words from next Sunday’s epistle:

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7.


Sermon – October 11, 2020 – Pentecost 19

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Pastor Jacobson  ~  Pentecost 19  ~  October 11, 2020  ~  Matthew 21:28-32

28“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.’ 29“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31“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. 32 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.



  1. Don’t make light of your sin like the Pharisees.

The Parable of the Two Sons is relatable to us. Imagine being a child and being told to do something. That’s not so hard to imagine. “Clean your room.” “Pick up after your pet.” “Put your dishes in the dishwasher.” “Take the garbage to the road.” We have all been on the receiving end of such direction, and if we were wise, we said, “I will” and did it. If we were foolish we said. “I will not.” The first son in the parable says, “I will not.” How defiant! Such defiance is typically met with strong discipline. If you are a brother or a sister in this scenario you probably want to keep a safe distance. The discipline could get ugly.

“I will not” is how Jesus depicts the sin of the tax collectors and the prostitutes. What open and blatant defiance! “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the Bible says, but tax collectors cheated their neighbors for all they could get. What scumbags! The Bible also says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” but the prostitutes rented out their bodies like an overnight hotel room. How disgusting!

The sin of the tax collectors and the prostitutes was obvious. The sin of the chief priests and the Pharisees was less obvious. They were like the second son in Jesus’ parable. The second son said what any father wanted to hear, “I will, sir.” “I will clean my room.” “I will pick up after my pet.” “I will put my dishes in the dishwasher.” “I will take the garbage to the road.” Those words are music to any parent’s ears, but as the drama of this parable unfolds this second son doesn’t go to work in the vineyard. The first son does.

The chief priests and the Pharisees clearly see the sin in the story Jesus tells. When Jesus asked, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” they quickly answered, “The first.” The chief priests and the Pharisees had a more difficult time seeing the sin in their own life. Jesus helps them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came 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.”

Remember John the Baptist? What is one thing you want to remember about John the Baptist? What is John the Baptist known for? What is the thing John the Baptist primarily did? John the Baptist baptized people. John the Baptist baptized the tax collectors and the prostitutes. John the Baptist did not baptize the chief priests and the Pharisees. Why was that? Why did John the Baptist baptize the first group, but not the second group? I think you know the answer. The tax collectors and the prostitutes, those openly blatant sinners, saw the seriousness of their sins and repented. The chief priests and the Pharisees, those outwardly righteous people, did not see their sins and did not repent and so they were not baptized.

Like the chief priests and the Pharisees, we easily see the self-righteous, holier-than-thou sinful attitude in their story. It’s so easy to see the sin in the story, but like the chief priests and the Pharisees it can be more difficult to see the sin in our lives? Do you see the sin in your life? When was the last time you gave yourself a page 156 examination? Page 156 in our hymnal is titled, “Personal Preparation for Holy Communion.” The first question reads, “What does God tell me about myself in his Holy Word? Answer:  “He says that I am a sinner and deserve only his punishment.” Question:  “What should I do if I am not aware of my sins or am not troubled by them?” Answer:  I should examine myself according to the Ten Commandments and ask how well I have carried out my responsibilities as a husband or wife or single person, as a parent or child, an employer or employee, a teacher or student. Have I loved God with all my heart, gladly heard his Word, patiently endured affliction? Have I been disobedient, proud, unforgiving? Have I been selfish, lazy, envious, or quarrelsome? Have I lied or deceived, taken something not mine, or given anyone a bad name? Have I abused my body or permitted indecent thoughts to linger in my mind? Have I failed to do what is good and right?”

Your sin is a big deal. And there might not be a more damning sin than being outwardly righteous. Outward righteousness sounds good and looks good especially next to open defiance, but where the openly defiant are more likely to be shown the error of their way, the outwardly righteous are more likely to be applauded for their good appearance. You are not a better sinner than any other sinner. You know that, but even still there’s always a little chief priest and Pharisee in us that says, “I’m glad I’m not like other people,” and “Look at all the good things I do.” And so next time when your brother is getting the discipline he deserves, don’t think about how much better you are than he. Think about your own sins. See yourself in this salvation story. Don’t make light of your sin like the Pharisees, and don’t miss out on the power of the Gospel in your life.

  1. Don’t miss out on the power of the Gospel in your life.

Each brother made a mistake in this parable. The first son’s mistake was open defiance. The second son’s mistake was outward righteousness. They both made mistakes, but the first son we are told, “later changed his mind and went.” We’re not told what changed his mind and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the tax collectors and the prostitutes changed their minds about the lives they were living, and we know what changed their minds. It was the gospel.

John’s baptism, like our baptisms, is the gospel. The gospel is that our sins are freely forgiven through faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ earned forgiveness for all people through the perfect life he lived and through the atoning sacrifice of his death on the cross. The gospel forgives cheating scumbags. The gospel forgives disgusting morals. This gospel forgiveness not only wipes away the debt of such sins, but also empowers a new life in Christ. The tax collectors could have kept their day jobs, but they couldn’t keep cheating people. The prostitutes had to find new work, and they did. The difference was night and day. The people couldn’t miss seeing the power of the Gospel in how their lives had changed!

That power, up to this point, had no effect on the chief priests and the Pharisees, but Jesus wanted that to change. The gospel forgives the outwardly righteous, too. Jesus doesn’t give us the ending to the parable of the second son. We don’t know if the second son changed his mind like the first son or if he did not. Jesus was not looking at the chief priests and the Pharisees to give him the conclusion, but Jesus was steering them in the right direction. Jesus said, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering ahead of you,” but Jesus didn’t say the door to the kingdom of God had been closed to them. They didn’t believe John the Baptist, and they were not baptized by him, and they remained unchanged even after they saw the great change in the tax collectors and the prostitutes; but on this Tuesday of Holy Week, in three days Jesus will die for their sins, Jesus is still holding the gospel on the doorstep of their hearts. Will they receive it with joy and change their life, or would they stubbornly refuse the gospel and stay the same?

That is the same question God is asking you this morning? Do you see the error in your way? Do you see your sin of outward righteousness? What should you do? What does page 156 say? Question:  When I realize that I have sinned against God and deserve his punishment, what should I do? Answer:  I will confess before God all of my sins, those which I remember as well as those of which I am unaware. I will pray to God for his mercy and forgiveness. Question:  How do I receive his gracious forgiveness? Answer:  His Word assures me that Jesus led a pure and holy life and died on the cross for me to pay the full price for all my sins. Through faith in Jesus, I have been clothed in my Savior’s perfect righteousness and holiness. Question:  How will I respond to this priceless gift from Jesus? Answer:  I will daily thank and praise him for his life to me. With his help I will fight temptation, do my best to correct whatever wrongs I have done, and serve him and those around me with love and good works.” Amen.

Sermon – October 4, 2020 – Pentecost 18

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David R. Clark  ~  Matthew 20:1-16  ~  October 4, 2020  ~  Pentecost 18


1“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Dear friends in our Savior Jesus,

“Life isn’t fair.” How many times have you told your children that or been told that yourself? We repeat it so often is seems to be a core value of American life.

But as much as we agree this is true, deep down, don’t we really believe life should be fair? You can hear this underlying theme in many of the political races going on right now. What is in your heart when it doesn’t turn out the way you would like? Perhaps you have found yourself saying, “What did I do to deserve that?” Or, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Perhaps the problem is not in circumstances. Perhaps the problem is in us. Being a Christian means believing there is something better than “fair.”

That isn’t easy! Jesus’ disciples had their own ideas about fair which led him to tell them this parable.

An employer went down to the marketplace, the business section of town, to hire people to work for him for the day. He was paying the going rate, a denarius, and all that he wanted from them was an honest day’s work. When he saw the amount of work he had, he went back to the marketplace and hired even more men. He agreed to be fair with them. He hired additional people at 9:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.

When 6:00 p.m. rolled around, his foreman lined the men up with those he had hired last being paid first and those he hired first being paid last. Much to their astonishment, he gave each of the men who had been hired at 5:00 p.m. and had only done a single hour’s work, a denarius. He did the same for all those who had worked less than a full day’s.

The men who had worked the full day saw this and expected that since all of these other guys had received a full day’s pay for less than a day’s work, they would probably receive more. But, in fact, he gave each of them the same pay. They grumbled about this. The landowner explained:  ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20:13-15)

This parable is difficult to understand if we don’t look at its context. In the previous chapter we find two significant events which led Jesus to tell this parable. The first is a rich young man who came to him and wished to justify himself. Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:21-22) As they saw him go away sad, the disciples were confused. “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27) In effect, both were saying, “That isn’t fair.”

Sometimes people have that same problem today, too. It would be as if they said, “I was baptized, confirmed, and married here, but someone who has been a member for six months who repented of an outwardly sinful life has all the benefits I do.” That’s what the rich young man said and why Jesus told this parable for you and me.

That’s one example, but it shows that in our hearts, we still believe we are earning something or deserve something, and we aren’t quite getting what we have earned or deserved. Based on this parable, here are some thoughts to lead you to apply this parable to yourself.

It’s pretty obvious that the workers concern was the pay, but it was more than that. They worked longer but got the same pay. That’s what they thought was not fair. And that’s the first take home for all of us. You don’t want God to be fair with you. When we think that way, we only think of the good things we have done and the perceived lack of good things others have done. That’s where we get that feeling of entitlement. Brothers and sisters, God knows what you do and for how long you have done it. Let me say that again, God KNOWS what you do and how long you have done it. Do you really want him to “pay” you on that basis? Do you deserve a blessing or an extra blessing because you have been able to give offerings all your life, not just a couple of years? Or because of the way you raise your kids? Or because you serve? If so, you are probably overestimating how God looks at those offerings. You can apply that to every area of life. God’s blessing is not a wage that we earn or deserve. What we have earned or deserved is something far, far less.

And that brings us to the second take away. We need to stop talking about God being fair. God is not fair, he is gracious. It was not fair that he punished someone else for our gossip, our blasphemy, and our laziness. It was not fair that he punished a perfect person for our despising of the Word and Sacrament and despising of our marriage and confirmation vows. But that is what he did! Why? Because he loves you enough not to be fair with you. He loves you enough to be gracious with you. That grace, and only that grace, is why you and I can hold our heads up as children of God.

And perhaps that grace is the greatest take home. As God has been gracious with us, let us be gracious with others. And as we do, show that there is something better than fair for everyone. Amen.