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Readings and Sermon for Sunday, September 20, 2020

Prayer of the Day – Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

First Reading – Jonah 3:10-4:11

Psalm – Psalm 145:1-8

Second Reading – Philippians 1:21-30

Gospel – Matthew 20:1-16

Sermon – In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. The text for this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time is taken from Matthew 20:1-16. (Read Gospel). Vs. 16. “So the last will be first and the first will be last.”

There are many ways of measuring success. Of course, the most popular would be that the more money you earn, the more successful you are. That is why in our Gospel for today the people complained. Those who worked from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. received the same pay as those who worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, the boss told them that he has the right to do what he wants with his money. Both arguments make sense.

The measure of success depends on how you define success and what scale you use to measure it. The laborers in the Gospel are interested in measuring their success economically. They feel that full time workers should be paid more than part time workers. However, doesn’t it rain on both the worker and the slacker. Doesn’t God’s forgiving grace fall upon the new convert to Christianity of age 65 as well as on the baptized baby of age 1 month? The way I figure it, we should be satisfied and thankful for what we are given and never mind what others have been given. Sweep off your own front stoop and don’t judge your neighbor. God has the right to treat all of us as he wishes. Perhaps God sees some people and expects more from them. And God sees others and “lets them slide” since he knows that they aren’t capable of much more. Just like when we give to charities. God may expect more from a wealthy person than from a poor person. However, what a poor person gives from the heart is just as important as the abundance given by a wealthy person.

Members of a congregation have different gifts. Some with the talent of speaking in public may feel comfortable in reading lessons or preaching a sermon for the pastor. Some may serve the church in different capacities such as teaching, being on the church council, or showing up at worship. No one is greater than another. This is how the kingdom of God works, whether we see it that way or not.

The kingdom of God is like a generous employer who knows there is enough work for everyone to feel useful. The kingdom of God is like having enough to be generous, and ensuring that others have enough too. Within “The Church” those who have more, perhaps more money and/or perhaps more intelligence will “help out” those who have less. That’s what a good Christian does. And he does it humble without bragging about it. The “poor person’s” Christian example or inspiring personality can in-turn be a huge example to others.

The parable warns against allowing yourself to be reduced to a reward for your work. God created a world where there is enough for everyone. You are more than a wage. You cannot be measured by the hours that you work or by what you save or by a score you receive. You are infinitely more valuable than that.

Of course, we all know that it’s wise to save for retirement. It’s good to work hard and be a “company man” or a “company woman.” Isn’t it better to be happy in the work that you do than to only look for the paycheck? It’s good to pay your bills on time. In the world in which we live, these are good attributes to have. However, your outlook on life and eternal life is different. You cannot add up a person’s wages to find their worth within God’s kingdom. If you are more valuable than an hour’s wage, so is everyone else. Likewise, God gives out beauty to all in different degrees. One expression says it well. “When God gave out good looks, you must have been first in line.” God has the right to do with his gifts as he sees fit. Live your life and do not allow the social and economic scorecards of human society determine your value. God grant us this faith. In the Name of the Father, Son, + and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible verses to help combat fear and give us peace:

Psalm 56:3-4

Isaiah 35:3-4

Isaiah 41:10

Isaiah 60:1-2

Matthew 6:25-34

Matthew 14:25-33

Mark 4:35-41

Luke 8:22-25

John 14:27

Philippians 4:6-7

2 Timothy 1:7