Mathew 20:1-16 “What Will You Earn”

Mathew 20:1-16 “What Will You Earn”

The final group of parables that Jesus shares are the parables of the end times. The parable of the vineyard workers is the one we look at today.

Here is a strange case of pay equality. No gender gap, women and men are all paid the same, a denarius. The rub comes at the end of the day when all the workers received their denarius. Those worked all day felt they should get more. Isn’t it human nature.

The denarius represents eternal life and the riches of heaven. Everyone who comes to Jesus gets the same. The person who follows Jesus from their first word to the person who accepts Jesus on the last day of their life all go to the same heaven. None of the workers were in the field long enough to earn what they got paid.

I was at the  Vasaloppet race last year. It was getting toward the end of the day, the winners having crossed the finish line many hours ago. But as people came off the lake and up the hill by the Library, they received the same bells clanging and shouts of joy for they had made it.

As followers of Jesus we need to remember God’s goal finishing the race of life not who got there first.

But there are differences between those who come first to the field and those who come last.

The longer they worked in the field the more they enjoyed the presence of Jesus in their life

The more God helped them through life

There is the confidence and assurance they have eternal life ahead.

The late commers suffered before they came to the field,

They also did not enjoy the love of Jesus each day like those who came early

Instead of being upset because they get the same eternal life we do we should be glad they made it.

A friend Clive and I were climbing Mt. Whitney. Clive wanted to take a break and told me to go on ahead. I went on to the top and had been sitting there for 20 or 30 minutes when Clive finally showed up. We signed the log book together. Sat on a rock and enjoyed the view. We both enjoyed the same view and thrill of being at the top. I just got to enjoy it sooner and longer than Clive.

As we see people come to Jesus we can rejoice that they have finally made it. Celebrate they have finished the race. And we can celebrate all years that we have enjoyed the presence of God in our lives and the blessing of God in our lives. We have not worked in the fields alone nor have we worked in vain. Every year in the presence of God is a blessing worth all the work for God we could ever do.

So break out the bells and ring them loud for everyone who finishes the race.

 

Matthew 2:1-13 “What to Give Him”

Read Psalm 72

We call them kings, they may have been astrologers or magicians, or Wise Men. We don’t know how many, only that it’s wise men not wise man, and there are three gifts mentioned. When they come looking for a new born King of the Jews, everyone is upset, king Herod would not to kill every child in Israel to protect His throne. In fact he shows restraint in that he only kills the children of Bethlehem.

The wise men brought Jesus gifts of God, Frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds brought wonder, amazement and worship. So what gift will I bring?

For many Jesus is something they take, we even talk about accepting Jesus. Jesus is a garnish on the plate of their life like parsley on your dinner plate. Jesus is not someone you accept, Jesus is someone you surrender to. To take the blessings of God is not hard at all, but to surrender your life to God is nearly impossible.

We no more give God a part of our life, our pride, our wealth, sexuality, leisure time or whatever, and like little thieves we are taking it back. Our sinful hearts are like a yo-yo that goes away from God and then is drawn back to His hand. God does not tire of this game we play with Him, for He forgives and is rejoicing each time we return.

This week the church helped a couple of families with Christmas. One person said the greatest thing is that you thought of me, you cared about me. I think God feels the same way. In Harry Potter the selfish bully, Dudley, counted up his birthday presents then got upset because there weren’t as many as last year. God is not impressed by how much, how many or how big, our gifts to Him are. What matters to God is that we care about Him, thought of Him above all else.

In Rev 4:10 the 24 elders cast their crowns down to the feet of Jesus. They surrender all their glory at the feet of Jesus.

What can I cast to the feet of Jesus. What glory, riches, sinful thought or activity I hold dear to my heart can I surrender to Jesus? Will I lay it at His feet like the Wise Men did? Will you surrender your life, hopes, dreams, goals, desires and lay them at the feet of Jesus?

As your giving and receiving gifts this Christmas, take some time to pray and think about what you could give to Jesus, what you need to give to Jesus.

One Of Their Own

This Sunday of advent we remember the shepherds. An angel choir sent to give the news about the birth of Jesus. Why not kings or those in the temple? But the choir of angels biggest concert is given to a handful of shepherds half asleep on a hillside.

Israel was looking a warrior to defeat the enemy. They looked for a bull. But most of the prophecy about the coming Messiah talks about shepherds. Zachariah talks about the worthless and evil leaders as worthless shepherds who destroy the flock.

Zech 10:2&3 “Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.  “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah,

Zech 11:1-17 Worthless shepherds who do not care for the flock but are even devouring the best of them. Worthless shepherds.

Jeremiah 23:1-6 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 

Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Jeremiah 3:15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

The hope God gave to Israel was a picture of a shepherd, not a bull. On that night in Bethlehem God sent shepherds to great the great shepherd. Jesus claims this position in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd”. Jesus is the shepherd of Jeremiah 2 & 23. But the story does not end there. Notice Jeremiah 3:15 uses a plural, “Shepherds” not shepherd. Jesus passed on the shepherd position to His Disciples and then on to all of us. You and I have been called to be shepherds to the sheep.

The question comes to us. Do we care about the people around us that are being destroyed? Do we seek out and protect the young, heal the broken? Do we provide nourishment for the flock? Or are we about our own nourishment?

God is looking for shepherds not kings. I wonder which am I, a shepherd or a king? Which are you, a shepherd or a king? If we as a church are not shepherds, then God will remove us from our place and raise up new shepherds who will care for the people.

This Christmas as we look at nativities let us remember to be shepherds not kings. Perhaps you could leave the shepherd part of your favorite nativity set out all year long in a noticeable place to remind your self that you are to be a shepherd not a king.

Let us be shepherds to the people around us, caring for those being destroyed every day. Let us protect the young, heal the broken, and nourish the rest. Let us be shepherds not kings.

Micah 5 2 From Ancient Days

Micah 5:1-4 “From Ancient Days”

Today we remember Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary are forced to make journey of 60 miles or so, from Nazareth in northern Israel to Bethlehem in Southern Israel. While Jesus is to come from Nazareth God told Israel their king would come from Bethlehem. To fulfill this prophecy God arranges a census that would send Mary and Joseph on the 60-mile trip through the mountains of Israel to Bethlehem.

I seriously doubt that a 9-month pregnant Mary was saying, “Oh yes I see how this trip to Bethlehem is important, that makes my back feel a lot better.” For them the trip hardship. But they are driven by a census on a trip to fulfill Micah’s prophecy given 750 years before them. So old is the prophecy that the temple leaders have to go look it up.

We often think our lives are just a jumble of haphazard events with no rhyme or reason, certainly no great cosmic plan of God. But there is a plan, there are reasons we cannot see or even understand.

I can picture one ticked off Joseph throwing stuff into sacks and strapping them to a donkey. He may have some ideas of what the roman’s could do with their census. On the trip they go, to a crowded town with no place to stay but a stable full of animals.

You are part of God’s plan, I am part of God’s plan, at least some of our life events are part of God’s plan, even the parts we don’t like. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” So where ever we are at in life God has a plan for us.

Another thing we can get from Micah 5 is that this plan is a long term one. Micah describes Jesus as one from ancient times. Jesus predates everything on earth. John chapter 1 says Jesus is God the creator. His roll in history all mapped out before the earth began.  Of course, Mary and Joseph could not see or understand this.

Your life events are not made up by God on the spur of the moment. It’s not like you wake up and God says let’s see what I can have Rick do today. No there is a plan, painted in broad strokes at least. This plan is older than the earth.

This great ancient plan takes Jesus from a stable in Bethlehem to a cross in Jerusalem, to a tomb, and to the throne of heaven. Not an easy trip.

Yet whatever the plan and the events of our lives Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that this great plan of God is for our good not our demise. His plan is to give us hope and a future. His plan is not directed at our moment but our eternity.

As we see pictures of Joseph and Mary on their journey to Bethlehem, or Jesus in a manger stall, let us remind ourselves that God is alive and well, guiding our life even in the darkest of days, to carry out a plan for our good, for our eternity.

Ready For Jesus

Matthew 25:1-13

Christmas is a wonderful month-long party. Advent is focusing our hearts and minds on Jesus and not on the party and presents. Each week of advent focus on a part of the Christmas story. This week it the prophets. People sent by God to tell Israel of the coming Messiah who would save them all and set things right. Yet for all the prophesies given them the people were not looking for Jesus, and certainly not ready to meet Him. In Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus gives the prophesies about His return. As we focus on the celebration of Jesus’ first coming it is important to consider His second coming.

The ten young women are outside the reception hall waiting for the celebration to begin. The groom is delayed so those who did not bring enough oil to last the night were worried and while they went to find more oil the groom shows up, the door is shut, and they miss the party. Once the groom arrives the door is shut and there are no second chances, only regrets.

As we focus on advent, we should also ask the question are we ready for Jesus? As I reflected on this, I find that I am not ready. If we think about it, Jesus is going to come for each one of us in the next 30 or 40 years, some sooner and some later, but He will come. Matthew 24:38 – 42 tells us things will be going along as normal and one will be taken and another one left. This is not only a picture of the rapture, but it is a picture of life. If the rapture does not happen in our life time, we will still go to meet Jesus. The question is will we be ready?

What will this meeting be like? Will we be frightened? Will we feel guilty? Will we recognize Jesus as a friend or as a judge?

One of the things we dreaded in school was the pop quiz. You never knew when it was coming. But there was one good thing about the pop quiz. If you kept the quiz questions you had a good idea what would be on the real test. Jesus’ first coming is like the pop quiz and He taught us what will be on the real test.

Jesus told us to focus on loving God above all and to love others. Jesus taught us to repent and be forgiven and then to forgive others. Jesus told us to live carefully with respect and obedience to God. These things are the final exam.

Am I ready to meet Jesus today? I am still working on getting those quiz questions right. I have much more to learn about forgiving and being forgiven. I still have not gotten the obedience thing right and I am to sloppy with my thoughts and actions. No, I still have some work to do.

Are you ready? If today is the day you are taken while we are left, are you ready? Use this advent season to not only celebrate the Baby in Bethlehem, but also to prepare yourself to meet Jesus the coming King.

When the groom arrives, the door is shut, and the party starts.