HYMN From heaven you came, helpless babe
1 From heaven you came, helpless babe,
entered our world, your glory veiled;
not to be served but to serve,
and give Your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now to follow Him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.
2 There in the garden of tears,
my heavy load he chose to bear;
his heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not My will but Yours,’ He said.
3 Come see His hands and His feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice;
hands that flung stars into space
to cruel nails surrendered.
4 So let us learn how to serve,
and in our lives enthrone Him;
each other’s needs to prefer,
for it is Christ we’re serving.
Graham Kendrick (born 1950)
READING Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He 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. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About 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. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When 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? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’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.”
SERMON Vineyard Workers
It all seems so unfair – GRANTED , the guys that start work at 6 in the morning accept the man’s terms, yet nonetheless, they do 12 HOURS work, and some others do 9 HOURS, Or 6 OR 3 HOURS in the vineyard – and the tailenders only do ONE HOUR. Surely justice demands that the 12 hour men get 12 times what the one-hour lads get?! But NO!
Chapter 19 ends with that well known verse (30) “many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.“. This following story about the vineyard owner is now going on specifically to illustrate that point. The NIV misses it out completely, but verse one should start with the word “FOR…”. And you will have noticed that the last verse we read – verse 16 – is very similar “so the last will be first, and the first will be last.”.
Let’s start at the beginning. Verses 1 & 2 tell us that this vineyard owner went to hire workers at 6 in the morning – and finding some labourers he entered into a deal with them. The deal was that they would work for 12 hours and get the usual pay of one denarius. (& he goes again & again up to 5pm) and the strangest part of all – pay-time ! Instead of paying the first workers first, the man orders that the 5 pm workers be paid first – one denarius! so that all the workers would SEE what each other was getting. They needed to be taught a lesson. The fault in these men was 3-fold – and we find their sins catalogued in verses 13-15.
- MONEY-GRABBING. They were more concerned with the wages than they were with helping this good man. They showed no gratitude for being offered employment.
2 THE OWNERS RIGHTS If you notice what was the grounds of their complaint, it was this : “see these last minute chaps… you have made them equal with US ! ” – they were trying to interfere with his kindness to others.
3) ENVY They saw the one-hour workers getting a full day’s wage and they were absolutely GREEN with jealousy.
Our congregations are FULL of these grumblers.
- The first problem we have in the Church is that there are those people who are more concerned with OTHER things than they are with God’s Kingdom.
But we must enter Christ’s service for love and love alone.
The trouble is that such people do not realise that God does NOT enter into any such bargains. This parable teaches us that the only way to enter heaven is by the expansive kindness of God – NOT by us keeping a bargain.
- That brings us to the second problem in our Churches – namely those people who do not acknowledge God’s sovereignty.
So with the Church – you say I’ve been here all my life – what right have new people to suddenly appear on the scene?!
- Why is it that we hate new folks in Church so much ? Largely because of our 3rd sin. We are JEALOUS. We see some young folks in the Church who are just so happy in their Christian life and it makes us terribly envious. God, it’s just not fair!
We’ve worked 12 hours – and they’ve just worked ONE – and they seem to be ahead of us in the Christian life !
It may be the 11th hour of your life – but remember the criminal who was crucified with Jesus – YOU, like him, could, even now, enter into the best life imaginable.
Isn’t that Good News?
And it is also Good News for the people of your neighbourhood, your workplace. Why was it that the 11th hour men were not at work ? Perhaps they were just lazy ! But they claimed that no-one had hired them. No-one had invited them to come to work.
Well, our responsibility must be to ensure that all those around us hear that invitation to come to Christ – even if it be the 11th hour for some of them. May our friends not use the excuse when they are judged by God that no-one ever invited them into the family of God.
Hymn Today Your mercy calls us
1 Today your mercy calls us
to wash away our sin,
however great our trespass,
whatever we have been;
however long from mercy
our hearts have turned away,
your precious blood can wash us
and make us clean today.
2 Today your gate is open,
and all who enter in
shall find a father’s welcome
and pardon for their sin;
the past shall be forgotten,
a present joy be given,
a future grace be promised,
a glorious crown in heaven.
3 Today our Father calls us;
the Holy Spirit waits;
His blessed angels gather
Around the heavenly gates
No question will be asked us
how often we have come,
although we oft have wandered:
it is our Father’s home!
4 O all-embracing mercy!
O ever-open door!
What should we do without you,
When heart and eye run over?
When all things seem against us,
to drive us to despair,
we know one gate is open,
One ear will hear our prayer.
Oswald Allen (1816–1878)