The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

October 18, 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.

Almighty God, in your bountiful goodness keep us safe from every evil of body and soul.  Make us ready, with cheerful hearts, to do whatever pleases 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 – Isaiah 5:1-7

In the picture of a vineyard, God describes His longing for the fruits of faith and spiritual growth to be produced by His people, Israel.

 

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:  My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.  He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.  He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.  Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.  “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.  What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?  When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?  Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard:  I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled.  I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there.  I will command the clouds not to rain on it.”  The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.  And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.  (NIV1984)

 

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 118

 The LORD is my strength and my song;

He has become my salvation.

The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;

the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!

I will not die but live,

and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

I will give You thanks, for You answered me;

You have become my salvation.

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;

The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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 3:12-21 (Sermon Text)eba

Let us recognize the God-given position we have and make the most of every opportunity to live for Jesus Christ.

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.   (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  I will proclaim your name to my people; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.  Alleluia.  (Hebrews 2:12)

 

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 21:33-43

The Lord expects us to be fruitful in our lives of faith.

 “Listen to another parable:  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard.  He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower.  Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.  When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.  The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.  Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.  Last of all, he sent his son to them.  ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.  But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’  So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”  “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”  Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:  ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Press on Toward the Goal!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Our grandson Max has learned to love running cross country races.  In fact, he has learned that he is very good at running cross country races!  Every year the Lutheran grade school that our grandchildren attend in Des Moines, Washington, gathers together with the other WELS/ELS grade schools in the area for a cross country tournament.  Each runner is allowed to walk the course with a parent before the race begins.  Then they go back and run the race— competing against all the other runners.  The first year Max ran the 1.5 mile race he finished in second place.  His time was ten minutes and forty-two seconds.  Last year as Max and Heather (his Mom) walked the course in preparation for the race Heather said, “He would point out specifics of the trail as he remembered them (‘This hill is steep, but short.  Once you’re at the top, it slopes downward for a while’).  When he ran the race the second year, he was able to plan how he would run.  He knew the pace and speed he should take based on what he knew was coming up on the course.”  When Max ran the race last year, he used that knowledge to shatter the course record!  The old record was ten minutes and twelve seconds.  Max set a new course record at nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds!

As I was studying our sermon text for today, I automatically thought of Max running that race with a picture of the course in his head.  As you may recall, the apostle Paul specifically compares the life of a Christian here on this earth to a race.  (See 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Galatians 5:7)  In this race there are hills and there are valleys.  In this race there are obstacles and distractions along the way.  But as Christians we know that in this race there is only one destination!  With the picture of a race in the back of our minds let’s listen as God the Holy Spirit says to us through His servant Paul:  Press on Toward the Goal!  There are two things I would like us to focus on today.  First, let’s see that pressing on toward the goal shapes the journey that we take through this world.  Then, let’s see that pressing on toward the goal gives the journey of our life a clear destination point.

Pressing on toward the goal shapes the journey that we take through this world.  What did that mean for the apostle Paul?  Paul addresses that question when he says in the opening portion of our text, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

When did the Lord Jesus Christ “take hold” of Paul?  It was on the road to Damascus, wasn’t it.  There on that road the risen and ascended Christ brought Paul to faith in Jesus as the Promised Messiah, as this world’s only Savior from sin.  There on that road Jesus “shaped”— or perhaps we should say, “re-shaped”— the journey that Paul was to take through this world.  Earlier in this letter Paul confessed to the Philippians the vain futile course his life had been on.  He told them, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Philippians 3:4b-6).  Paul was fully convinced that he was “on course” to living the most perfect life anyone could possibly live!  But once Christ “took hold” of Paul, once Paul was brought to faith in Jesus as his Savior, he came to understand that all of the things that once gave him such great confidence were— “rubbish”!  Once Christ “took hold” of Paul, He (Pointing to the cross) completely re-shaped the “course” of Paul’s life!

How did the fact that Paul had been brought to faith in Jesus as his Savior, how did the fact that Jesus had re-shaped the journey that Paul took through this world reveal itself in Paul’s life?  Paul tells us that his faith in Jesus now led him to “forget what is behind” and “strain or stretch or reach toward what is ahead.”  Does this mean that Paul pretended that his past never happened?  Not at all!  While Paul freely confessed that he was “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) he did not allow his past to shape the  course of the rest of his life.  Trusting in the grace and the forgiveness that Jesus won for him on the cross (Pointing to the cross) Paul “pressed on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (him) heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Has Jesus “taken hold” of you, my friends?  Yes, He has!  When?  For most of us Jesus “took hold” of us when we were baptized as a little baby.  That seemingly simple act literally “shaped”— or perhaps we should say “re-shaped”— the course of our entire life!  Before we were brought to faith in Jesus as our Savior, the course of our life lined up perfectly with Paul’s words, “For, as I have told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.”  If any of us doubt that these words accurately describe the course our life was on before  we were brought to faith in Jesus, all we need to do is examine what our old sinful nature wants us to do!  By nature we want to live as “enemies of the cross of Christ.”  By nature our “destiny”— and this word very literally means “goal”, or we might say “finish line,” what we receive when our journey here comes to an end— the “goal” our life was “destruction.”  By nature our “god” was whatever we decided would bring us happiness and security.  By nature we found “glory” in what the God of heaven condemns as “shameful.”  By nature our life was laser-focused on “earthly things.”  Praise God that He graciously “took hold” of us and gave us the faith that enables us to press on toward the goal!  Praise God that our faith in Jesus now shapes the course of our journey through this world!

Once we understand that pressing on toward the goal shapes the journey of our life, it is so very easy for us to understand that pressing on toward the goal gives the journey of our life a clear destination point.  Look at how clearly God the Holy Spirit reminds us of that truth in the closing verses of our text.  Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

 “Our citizenship is in heaven.”  What an absolutely glorious truth!  We could be living in a run-down shack, a magnificent beautiful house or we could be homeless— no matter what our present address might be, it is not our permanent address!  Because “our citizenship is in heaven” we know that we are just “sojourners” here on this earth, we are simply passing through this world.  Because “our citizenship is in heaven” we do not set our minds on “earthly things.”  This means that we do not consider the things of this world to be of utmost importance.  Yes, we thank the good Lord for all the many wonderful earthly blessings He has given to us.  Yes, we enjoy the many wonderful things that God’s Creation has to offer us—but, we always remember that “our citizenship is in heaven”!

The realization that because of what Jesus has done for us “our citizenship is in heaven”  daily reminds us that we need to continue pressing on toward the goal.  No matter how discouraging our life here in this world might become, no matter how disappointed or how disgusted we might become because of what we see taking place in the world around us we keep our eyes focused on our final destination point, our heavenly home.

When our eyes, our heart and our life are focused on heaven then we will always have the joyful confidence that when our dear Lord and Savior returns to this earth in all of His power, majesty and glory He will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  Just try to picture that truth in your mind.  Every single day we have no choice but to deal with these “lowly,” “humble,” mortal bodies.  Even the most elite athlete can sustain an injury that instantly changes their life.  As the years go by, we begin to recognize more and more just how “lowly,” just how “humble,” just how mortal our physical bodies are!  Illness and injuries and viruses are unavoidable.  And yet, as Christians we know!  We know that because Jesus has conquered death (Pointing to the cross), because Jesus has now returned to His rightful place at the right hand  of the heavenly Father, our Jesus can and our Jesus will fulfill His promise to “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”!  With that truth as our beacon in this sin-darkened world we press on toward the goal, keeping our final destination clearly in view.

Unlike Max, we do not have the opportunity to preview the course of our life before we run that course.  We do, however, have something that is infinitely better!  We have a Savior!  We have a Savior whose nail-scarred hands and feet assure us of how much He loves us!  We have a Savior who has the power to guide us and strengthen us and when necessary pick us up and carry us as we journey through this world.  We have a Savior who has not only returned Home to heaven as the Victor over sin, death and the devil, but we have a Savior who has promised us that through faith in  Him and what He has done for us (Pointing to the cross) His victory is our victory for all of eternity!

My prayer this morning is that like the apostle Paul we will “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus”!  Pressing on toward the goal shapes the journey we take through this world.  Pressing on toward the goal gives the journey of our life a clear destination point.

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

Dear Savior Jesus Christ, your Word assures us that you want to take us home to heaven to live with you in that perfect and glorious life that has been yours from eternity.  For this reason you willingly suffered and died for our sins and then victoriously rose to life again.  Help us to always take you at your Word, trusting you as our Lord and Savior, and longing for the wonderful rest that awaits us in heaven.  Life here is wearisome and discouraging because of our daily struggles against the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.  We long for the day when that conflict will be over; when the enemies of righteousness will no longer tempt us and when we will always do what is good and right in your sight.

While we live in this world, constantly remind us that our treasure is not here but in heaven with you.  Keep us watchful and waiting for the hour of your return when you will transform these weak, sinful, mortal bodies into glorious, perfect, immortal bodies.  Until then help us in our daily toils and struggles so that with your help and with your guidance we will daily press on toward that goal of living with you in your heavenly home.  Give us patience and strength to bear up under all things that test our faith.  In your heavenly wisdom lighten our load of suffering and sorrow.  Pardon all our wrongs and inspire our hearts and minds with the peace of God which transcends all understanding.  Live in us, O Christ, and grant that we who by faith have been crucified with you may live now by faith, ever doing the works of righteousness that bring glory to your name.  Take us to heaven and give us blessed rest there.

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.