The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

October 11, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Mercifully grant, O God, that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts, for without your help we are unable to please you;  we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Our God is both just and merciful.  He will hold us accountable for our sins, yet as we repent of them we will find mercy and forgiveness.

The word of the LORD came to me:  “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:  “‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’  “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son— both alike belong to me.  The soul who sins is the one who will die.  Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’  Hear, O house of Israel:  Is my way unjust?  Is it not your ways that are unjust?  If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die.  But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life.  Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die.  Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’  Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel?  Is it not your ways that are unjust?  “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD.  Repent!  Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.  Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.  Repent and live! (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 25

To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

in You I trust, O my God.

Remember, O LORD, Your great mercy and love,

for they are from of old.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious

ways;

according to Your love remember me,

for You are good, O LORD.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,

for I am lonely and afflicted.

Look upon my affliction and my distress

and take away all my sins.

Guard my life and rescue me,

for I take refuge in You.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            As it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

 SECOND LESSON – Philippians 2:1-11

By humbly taking on human flesh, laying aside the use of His divine powers, suffering and dying to save us, our Lord Jesus gave us both the motivation and the pattern for humble Christian living.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Alleluia.  (Philippians 2:10, 11)

 CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 21:28-32 (Sermon Text)

The call to live and work in God’s kingdom is answered in various ways by the people of our world, but only repentance and faith in Jesus will lead to a true reward in heaven.

“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.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.  “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.  He answered, ‘I will sir,’ but he did not go.  “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”  “The first,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  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. (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 

SERMON  What Do You Think?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What do you think?  While that question is very simple and very straightforward, it is also an extremely effective way of teaching.  Unlike questions such as, “Don’t you think we should do this?” or, “Do you really think you should be doing that?” the question, “What do you think?” is an answer-neutral question.  It invites a person to share their opinion.  It empowers a person to express their evaluation of an idea or an event.

Because this question is both non-intimidating and thought-provoking it is not surprising that Jesus— the Perfect Teacher— asked this question on a number of occasions.  When the collector of the annual temple tax asked Peter, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” as soon as Peter came into the house where Jesus was staying, the Lord said to him, “What do you think, Simon?  From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes— from their own sons or from others?”  (Matthew 17:24-27)  When Jesus’ disciples wanted to know, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus’ response included these words, “What do you think?  If a man owned a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for that one that wandered off?”  (See Matthew 18:1-14)  And in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked the expert in the Law who was trying to justify himself, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (See Luke 10:25-37)

What Do You Think?  Since this is such an effective question and since our text for this morning opens with our Lord asking this question, we are going to utilize this question as our sermon theme for today.

Matthew chapter twenty-one brings us back to the Tuesday of Holy Week.  Jesus had just ridden into Jerusalem amidst shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Shortly after entering into Jerusalem Jesus cleansed the Temple of the merchants who had greedily set up shop in the House of the Lord.  That’s when and why the chief priests and the elders of the people demanded that Jesus tell them who gave Him the authority to do what He was doing.  That’s when and why Jesus asked the religious leaders of God’s people, “What do you think?” That’s when and why Jesus gave us the Parable of the Two Sons.

The parable itself is quite simple.  A loving father had two sons.  He asked both of his sons to go and work in the vineyard today— a very reasonable request.  The first son was blunt, he was rude, and he was disrespectful as he answered his father by saying, “I will not!”  But then, after thinking about what his father had asked him to do, after thinking about how rudely he had replied to his father, the first son, “Changed his mind and went.”  When the father asked his other son to do the very same thing— go and work in the vineyard today— the second son very politely replied, “I will, sir.”  But his words were just for show.  His actions— or perhaps we should say, his inaction— revealed that he had no intention whatsoever to actually do what his father had asked.  Jesus’ question “What do you think? led Him to ask a follow-up question, a question that was much more  pointed.  He asked the chief priests and the elders of the people, “Which of the two did what his father had wanted?”  They had no choice but to say, “The first.”

That simple clear parable then opened the door for Jesus to make a clear powerful application.  Speaking to these religious leaders Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, 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.”

The son who was so blunt and so rude and so disrespectful to his father represents the “tax collectors and the prostitutes.”  The “truth” is that because of their words and because of the way they lived their life the “tax collectors and the prostitutes” were despised by not only God’s people in general, but especially by the religious leaders of God’s people.  The “truth” is that the “tax collectors and the prostitutes” were considered to be a “lost cause”— even on a religious/spiritual level.  And yet, the “truth” is that these social and spiritual outcasts were “entering the kingdom of God ahead of the chief priests and the elders of God’s people!  How could that be possible?  They listened to John the Baptist’s call:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).  By the power of God the Holy Spirit they heeded John’s call: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).  In short, like the first son in Jesus’ parable both their hearts and their lives were “changed.”  By God’s power and by God’s grace they put their sinful ways behind them and followed the will of their heavenly Father.

On the other hand, the chief priests and the elders of the people were like the second son in Jesus’ parable.  They knew all the right words to speak— but, it was all just for show.  They even knew how to outwardly live their life in a way that impressed the people around them— but again, it was all for show.  Even when they saw how John’s message changed both the hearts and the lives of the people, they considered to be the scum of society, they did not “repent and believe.”  That led to the sad “truth” that the “tax-collectors and the prostitutes” were entering the kingdom of God ahead of the chief priests and the elders of the people.  Note very carefully, my friends, that Jesus did not say that the “tax-collectors and the prostitutes” were entering the kingdom of God instead of the chief priests and the elders of the people.  Jesus was reminding these men that there was still an opportunity for them to listen to God’s call to repent, there was still time for them to “change” their life and humbly do the will of their heavenly Father.

What do you think?  That’s the question that Jesus is asking us today.  Have you ever known anyone who was like the first son?  I have.  When you look closely at the actions of their life, when you listen closely to the words that come out of their mouth it seems as though they have rudely and disrespectfully refused to do what the heavenly Father wants and expects— to work in His vineyard.  Perhaps they were too busy establishing their career.  Perhaps they were focused on providing a comfortable life for their family.  Perhaps they were just enjoying life.  Perhaps they figured that they had plenty of time to do the Father’s will— later.  But then, after a while, after the seed of the Gospel had been planted in their heart, the Holy Spirit caused that seed to sprout and to grow and to bear fruit in their heart and in their life.

Have you ever known anyone like the second son?  I have.  They know all the right words to say.  They know how to sound very religious.  They might even know how to live an outwardly upright life.  But, when you listen more closely to what they say you start to hear a self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude— an attitude which like the Pharisee in the Temple looks down on others, an attitude which thanks God that they are not like “those people,” an attitude that trusts in their own righteousness.  (See Luke 18:9-14)  When you look more closely at how they are living their life you see that they don’t spend much time at all working in the heavenly Father’s vineyard.  Actively supporting the Lord’s kingdom work just isn’t high on their priority list.

What do you think?  When we listen very closely we can not only hear Jesus asking us that question, but we also are able to hear Him ask us the follow-up question, “Which of these two sons are you?”  Yes, there may be times in our own lives when like the first son we say “No!” to our heavenly Father’s will.  We know what He wants us to do.  We know what He doesn’t want us to do.  Yet, we decide that we know better and we do what we want to do.  Then by the power of God the Holy Spirit working in our heart, we “change our mind,” we repent of our sin and strive to obey the will of our heavenly Father.  There may even be times when like the second son our profession of faith far exceeds the practice of our faith.  If so, we could be in danger of Jesus warning us that people we consider to be the castaways of our society— prostitutes, homeless and drug addicts— are entering the kingdom of God ahead of us!

What do you think?  Could we strive with God’s help to combine the best of both sons?  Every single day our heavenly Father lovingly calls us to work in His vineyard.  What if we immediately say, “I will, Sir!” and then eagerly go about His work?  With the cross of Jesus Christ clearly before our eyes (Pointing to the cross), with the joy of salvation filling our hearts and with the power of the Holy Spirit guiding our hands and our feet we can carry out the kingdom work of:  reaching out to the lost with the sweet message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, putting our faith into action by remembering Jesus’ words, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40) and by supporting God’s kingdom work with our time, our prayers and our offerings.

What do you think?

To God be the glory!

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dearest Jesus, we humbly acknowledge that you are the Church’s Head because you washed and cleansed her with your own holy, precious blood.   We also rejoice in knowing that you are the Church’s rock-solid foundation for you are the One who supports and protects your Church all across the world and down through the ages.  Dearest Lord, we confess that because of our weak and sinful natures we daily sin much and therefore daily need the assurance of your forgiveness.  Do not forsake us or cease to intercede for us with the heavenly Father.  Restore the joy of everlasting salvation to all who trust in you.

Keep your church which you have cleansed with your own blood, free from the power and influence of the devil, the world and the sinful flesh of sinful mankind.  Let no Christian become weary of producing the fruits of faith that you expect of us, but, motivated by your love, may we joyfully set about to obey the will of our heavenly Father who asks each of us to work in the vineyard of His church. Grant all Christians the grace to recognize the gifts and talents bestowed upon them by the Holy Spirit and direct their use in ways that will benefit the gospel and be of service in your Kingdom.  Fill every member of the church with the spirit of love, of self-sacrifice and of mercy.  Give each of us the courage to stand up for convictions anchored in the Scriptures and to witness your saving name to a hostile world.  Uplift and sustain us as on eagles’ wings until the day when you lovingly take us by the hand and lead us one by one from the Church Militant on earth to the Church Triumphant in heaven.  Hear us, O blessed Redeemer.

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

 

C:        Amen.