pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Which Son?

Reading: Matthew 21: 28-32

Verse 28: Son, go and work today in the vineyard.

The priests and elders have just tried to question Jesus about His authority.  In today’s parable Jesus continues the conversation with them.  One son is asked by his father, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard”.  The first son refuses but later goes and works.  The second son hears the same request, says he will go, but does not go and work in the vineyard.

In Luke 10, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”.  Paired with our commission to go forth to make disciples of all nations, we have much to wrestle with in today’s parable.  Which son are we?

Each Sunday we gather in our churches to lift our voices in praise to God and to remind ourselves of how we are to live in the world as followers of Jesus.  We hear the Word proclaimed and the message brings application of the Word.  We offer up prayers of thanksgiving and we bring our requests as well, believing God to be loving and caring and merciful.  At the end of the service we receive a blessing or benediction that sends us out into the world to share Jesus.  We head out the doors to be His light and love in the world.

Jesus asks the priests and elders, “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted”?  We would answer as they did: “The first”.  The one who actually went out and worked in the vineyard.  It is important that he went out and worked in the vineyard because the harvest is indeed plentiful.

As Christians it is much easier to sing the songs, to pray the prayers, and to receive the message on Sunday morning than it is to go out into the world and to love our neighbors or to welcome the stranger.  It is difficult to love all people, to always offer grace and forgiveness, to be a humble servant.  Yet this is what the Lord of the harvest did every day.  The Father asks each of us to go to the vineyard, to labor today for the kingdom.  In reality, which son will you be today?

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Sufficient for Us All

Reading: Matthew 20: 1-16

Verse 21: You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.

Today’s parable is challenging.  It has been prompted by Peter asking Jesus what the disciples will receive for following Jesus.  After all, they left everything behind to follow.  Peter’s question is prompted by the response Jesus gave to the rich young man who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life.  If we recall, the young man went away sad because Jesus asked of him more than he could give at the time.  Peter is told by Jesus that they will be by His side in eternity.  In fact, Jesus says that all who leave things or people behind will inherit eternal life.  Jesus ends this response with, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first”.  From here, Jesus tells today’s parable.

In short, workers are hired throughout the day to come to the vineyard to help with the harvest.  The owner of the vineyard promises each of them the same thing: a fair wage.  They work and line up at the end of the day to receive their pay.  Some had worked all day, some just an hour.  The last are paid first and all receive the same pay: a denarius.  Those who worked the longest are upset, saying to the owner: “You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day”.  The landowner responds with this: “Or are you envious because I am generous”?

In life, Christians come to faith at different stages in life, each joining in in the building of the kingdom.  The Lord of the harvest promises the same reward to each of them: eternal life.  They go to work and then line up for the reward at the end of their lives.  Some labor for all if their lives, some for just a short time.  The lifers and the new converts receive the same pay.  Those who have been faithful all of their lives can be tempted to say, “Lord, you have made that person who just accepted you equal to us who have served you all of our lives”?  The Lord of the harvest will respond with words of grace and love and invitation.

Yes, God loves us all.  He loves the saints and the sinners.  He loves the saved and the lost.  Heaven rejoices each time a lost soul becomes a part of the family.  His grace is sufficient for us all, whenever and however we come to faith.  The promise is the same: love God and claim eternal life.  Thanks be to God!


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Harvest Fields

Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38

Verse 38: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Jesus spent most of His three years of formal ministry being out and amongst the people.  Our opening line reminds us how Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching, preaching, and healing.  He spent time in the synagogues, but He also spent a great deal of His time outside the walls of the church building.  When we think about all of the stories of Jesus that we find in the Gospels, not too many actually take place in the formal church setting.  This is our first lesson today.

As Jesus spent time with people, as He saw the crowds, “He had compassion” for the people.  Jesus saw the people and their need for a Savior.  Matthew writes that they were “harassed and helpless”.  We too are called to the last, the least, and the broken.  These are the harrassed and helpless of our day.  We are called to also offer compassion as we feed, clothe, visit…  We are called to offer what we can to those in need.  But moreso we are called to share our faith.  Verse 36 ends with, “like sheep without a shepherd”.  To not know Jesus is to wander through life, bouncing from one thing to another in our search for contentment and satisfaction.  Only through knowing Jesus Christ do we find peace and hope in this life.  Jesus had compassion on the people, loved on them, and gave them all He had to offer as He served among them.  This is our second lesson.

Our passage ends with, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field”.  Jesus is encouraging the disciples to go out into the harvest fields.  In the very next verse, 10:1, Jesus sends the 12 out to do what He has been doing: to teach, preach, and heal.  When I think about my community, I see harvest fields.  There are many who do not know the love and grace that Jesus Christ offers.  They have never heard the good news.  Relatively speaking, yes the workers are few.  My prayer is to be sent out into the harvest fields.  My hope is to share the faith I profess with others today.  May it be so.


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Reap

Reading: John 4: 27-38

Verse 35b: I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.

The disciples return just as Jesus finishes His initial conversation with the Samaritan woman.  It is an unusual scene by the norms of the day, but the disciples have seen Jesus engage any and all time after time.  He does not appear to be a man with any barriers.  The woman heads back to town to tell others of her encounter with Jesus and people from town head to the well to meet Jesus.  As the disciples have returned with food, they offer Jesus some.  His response puzzles them: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about”.  Staying on the surface level, they wonder if someone else has brought Jesus some food.  Further explanation is clearly needed.

Jesus then explains that the true ‘food’ that feuls Him is to do the work of God.  Perhaps knowing that the townspeople are heading their way, Jesus says, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest”.  Jesus and the disciples are about to be joined by people who are searching for the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Jesus has down the seeds, now the harvest is at hand.  He tells them that the hard work is done – He planted faith in the woman who has in turn planted seeds in the people who approach.  The disciples will now “reap what they did not work for”.  Where do we fit in the story?

First, Jesus’ call to look to the fields applies to us.  There are many in our lives ‘ripe’ for the truth and saving grace of Jesus Christ.  It is our role to help people to the well so that they can drink of the ‘living water’ that Jesus offers.  Second, we need to be ready to reap what the Holy Spirit works in someone’s heart once they accept Jesus as Lord.  This “work” is the work of the Spirit.  We can only plant seeds and inspire searching.  God alone makes the seeds grow into faith.  Lastly, we need to be ready to step in and walk alongside that new believer, nurturing and guiding their growth.

As we look at those in our lives, who is searching, who is ripe to meet Jesus Christ?  What can we do today to sow seeds of faith?  How can we be ready to reap and walk with those new to faith?


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Blessings

Reading: Leviticus 19: 9-18

Today’s passage falls under the heading, “Various Laws”, in my Bible.  It is part of a longer list of “Do not…” laws that appear to jump from one subject to another, as the subtitle maybe suggests.  Sprinkled throughout this chapter is the phrase, “I am the Lord”.  It occurs five times in the ten verses we read today, 19 times in the chapter.  In the repetition of this phrase we are reminded of who God is – the creator and giver of all things – and of our role within God’s kingdom.  Our role should be one of gratitude for all that God has blessed us with.  Out of this gratitude should flow a love for all of humanity.

This role is represented well in verse nine.  God instructs, “Do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather gleanings from your field”.  God repeats this same idea in the next line concerning the grape harvest.  Yes, God wants to bless us with the bounty of a good harvest, but we are not to work and work and work for every last seed of grain or the very last grape.  This simple idea has several applications.  First, we are not to be greedy.  We are to be satisfied with what God provides.  Second, we are to share God’s blessings with those in need.  Third, keep the proper perspective – God created for all of humanity, not just for us.  In following these lessons, we maintain our connection to God and to one another.  In these lessons, we remain in our proper role with respect to honoring God and loving our neighbor.

Verse nine applies to the harvest – it was very relevant in the agrarian society of early Israel.  It translates well today as well.  It applies to our time, our talents, our money, our love, our possessions – to all that God has blessed us with so richly.  True, God calls us to work.  But not to the edge, to the point where work is our sole focus and the consumer of all we are.  Yes, God gives us each talents and gifts that bring blessings to our lives.  But He gives these so that we can bless others as well.  What gift of God do you guard to closely?  How can you loosen your grip so others may share in the blessing?


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Prayer

Reading: Psalm 67

Psalm 67 contains a common prayer pattern.  In the opening verses, the psalmist speaks of God’s grace, blessings, and light coming to mankind.  Through these gifts, mankind is drawn in and comes to know God’s ways so that salvation may come.  For us, each time of extended prayer should begin the same way, by recognizing how God has worked in our lives and by allowing this to draw us close to Him.

Then the Psalm moves on to our role: praising God, being glad, and singing for joy.  When we praise God, we are lifting Him up to His rightful place of majesty and power.  In this is the implication of our smallness and our dependence upon God.  We praise partly because we recognize our absolute need for God and also because He is just and because He guides our lives accordingly.  Our praise and thanksgiving flow out of our recognition of His activity in our life so it is a natural second phase of our extended prayers.

The Psalm wraps up by recognizing that the land yields it’s harvest as God blesses us.  In the psalmist day, the literal land was the source of life for the people.  It was a very agrarian society.  For us today, we rely on the harvest of the land too but most of us are several steps removed from the process.  Today, for most of us the figurative land is our place of employment, our homes, our relationships with each other.  In this sense, God continues to bless us richly with all we need.  Within this also is a recognition that all comes from God; none of our blessings come solely through us.  There is an interdependence between God and our lives.  It is through our relationship with Him that we come to see how much God provides for us.  This third part of our extended prayers is a time to recognize our connection to God.

By daily praying through these three phases or parts, we come to know God more deeply and begin to be daily transformed by His power.  As we recognize His hand in our lives, as we offer our praises for this activity, and as we acknowledge our connection to and need for God’s presence and blessings in our lives, our faith deepens.  This day may we each offer a prayer like Psalm 67 and through it draw closer to our God.


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The Gift of Faith

In Psalm 126 the people have returned from exile. For this they praise God joyfully.  But a hard reality also faces them.  No one was there the year before to plant crops and to store up grain.  In the midst of a joyous return they face a food crisis.

The people of Israel have just experienced the miracle of being freed from slavery.  They have seen God’s great power at work in their lives.  So they turn their prayers to the need at hand. They pray for food and a good harvest and are confident that their God will respond with a good harvest.  They have faith in His future blessings.

In our world today, many also have a hunger – a spiritual hunger.  During the time of Advent. as we draw nearer to Christmas, people are more aware of Christ and faith.  We have the food that the lost need.  We can offer them the great news of Jesus Christ – a morsel that always satisfies.  We are called to share what we have.  When we give away our faith, strangely enough it grows in us too.  Bless another today with the gift of faith.

Scripture reference: Psalm 126