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  • Pastor David’s Sermon – 2014/09/21

    Texts:
    Psalm 145:1-8
    Exodus 16:2-15
    Matthew 20:1-16

    Sermon:

    I’m sure all of you remember all those times in school (and for some of you who are still in school, if you haven’t had this moment yet, you will) when the teacher would say, “Now pay attention. This is important.” Did that mean that all the other times that teacher was talking, it wasn’t important?

    Well, this morning, I’m asking you to do something I don’t normally ask; I’m asking you to remember and think about both of the Scripture readings I did for you today. Now normally, I just like to preach on one of them. And that’s because I think pastors can sometimes spend too much time talking about how two passages of Scripture fit together, rather than telling you why it matters what they say. So I generally err on the side of just preaching one. But this morning’s texts go together so well, I can’t help but tie it all back to both of them, and begin to speculate on what they mean in terms of God’s interaction with us today.

    Our first reading came from Exodus. Now, if you’ll recall, we’ve been sort of working our way through the story of the Patriarchs. We started in Genesis with Abraham, then moved to his son Isaac, to his son Jacob, and to his son Joseph. From there, we skipped a few generations and got to Moses and the book of Exodus.

    Moses, as I’m sure you’ll recall, had grown up in the house of Pharaoh, and was chosen by God to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in the land of Egypt, to the Promised Land. I’ve been really Exodus-heavy in my preaching lately, so if you’ve been at church at all the last few weeks you probably remember what’s been up with Moses. First, three weeks ago, he encountered God in the form of the burning bush, who told him to go and lead the people out of Egypt. Two weeks ago, we read about the final plague that was to affect the people, and the Passover meal they shared before leaving Egypt. Last week, we read about how, following the crossing of the Sea, the waters came back together, drowning the Egyptians who had followed them, in spite of Pharaoh’s promise not to do that.

    This week, we find ourselves a little further down the line. A thing that gets really frustrating in life is that, when something great happens, life just keeps going. Thursday night, for example, I was at the volleyball game here in town, in which we hammered Centerville. The third game was really tense. Back-and-forth it went, every point was crucial. It was stressful and exciting. Even though we were up two games to none at the time, this was Centerville’s chance. They fought hard, and they wound up squeaking out a win – I want to say 25-23. It was close.

    But then, after that game, they started over from scratch. Zero-zero. Marion came out and scored a bunch right away, and all the pressure and stress and closeness of that other game was just… gone. There was a big climax, but it happened early. Still, the game had to be finished out. And that’s where we find Moses and the Hebrews this week. They’ve had their big climactic moment – now they’re back to regular ol’ cares and concerns.

    Okay, pause that story, and let’s move on to the Matthew passage. As you’ll recall, when we’ve been reading Matthew lately, Jesus has mostly been teaching in parables. Today’s parable is about a landowner who hires people to work his land. Much like today, a wealthy few people own a very high percentage of the land, and those who try to scrape by on their own small farm don’t do so well. So the landowner hires people. They show up. And later in the day, the landowner is in town, and sees laborers, but not the ones he hired, just standing around. He offers them work for the day, which they gladly accept.

    They work, and at the end of the day, these latecomers get paid first, and – surprise, surprise – they get a full day’s pay. The others behind them are excited, because if those guys got a full day’s pay, how much will the ones who worked the full day get? Things is, though, there’s a twist – they only get their regular, full day’s pay. This makes us question the fairness of the act, I think.

    Now, back to Moses quickly. We have this group of people who were miraculously led out of Egypt. But, shortly in the narrative, what do they become famous for? Complaining. They’re famous for grumbling about their conditions.

    See, God got them out of slavery in Egypt, and that was great. But where are they now? They’re in the desert. Their first three days (if you go back in the text and read chapter 15), they didn’t even have water. Now, they’re still without food. It seems like some pretty legitimate complaining to me! They don’t feel they’re being treated fairly. So, again, we’re forced to question the fairness of God, and the fairness of these stories.

    In these two stories we’ve read for today, what we’ve seen so far is that people are dealt different hands in life, and it doesn’t seem all that fair. In the case of the laborers in the fields, no matter how much (or little) they worked, they all got treated the same. In the case of the Hebrews, God called them out of Egypt, to a place without food or water.

    But in that story, something remarkable happens to these people in Egypt. Suddenly, there’s enough food for everyone! There’s stuff like bread on the ground, just as if it’s morning dew. It’s called “manna,” which is not actually a proper Hebrew word. It comes from the Hebrew words, “man hu” which means, “what is it?” This stuff just shows up one day, and it’ll follow them around for forty years, until they get settled in the Promised Land. That ways, they’ll always be sure to have enough to eat. In a time of scarcity, God provides for them.

    This is really similar to the laborers in the fields of Jesus’ parable, actually. There are some people out there without work, so the manager in the parable provides them with labor and wages. Now, there are all sorts of people out there who will give you clever interpretations of this one. For example, they point out how smart the manager is. I mean, if you were a day-laborer, and someone offered you a full day’s pay for a part day’s work, guess who’s door you’re going to show up at, first thing the next morning. That kind of generosity demands loyalty. So it could be seen as God “buying” the loyalty of these “stray” people through one generous act.

    But there’s more to it than that, I think. In Jesus’ parable, we see that people are provided for, not because they’re “good enough,” but because God calls them forward to receive a gift. In the story of the Hebrews from Exodus, we see that people, in spite of their complaints and seeming ungratefulness, receive what they need. At the end of the day, there is a uniting theme between these two passages: God is generous; and God’s generosity is not our generosity.

    On some level, it offends us that God’s sense of “justice” might be different from our own. But I have a theory behind that. You see, people only get offended by things that seem unfair when they’re the ones getting the bad end of things. Like, last Sunday, in the Packers’ game, there was a weird thing with a timeout that probably shouldn’t have been a timeout, and it cost the Jets a touchdown. It wound up winning the game for the Packers. But I’m not up here saying, “That was so unfair! We should’ve lost!” Nope. I’m up here saying, “Well, them’s the breaks. I’m glad it worked out for us.”

    See, when we’re the beneficiaries of extra help, we don’t think it’s unfair – only when we think others are being treated better than we are. Logically, that means that, if we’re offended by the part-day laborers getting full-time pay, then we must be identifying with the full-day laborers who are getting the “raw end of the deal.” The question is: why do we identify with the laborers who worked all day, rather than with the ones who came in at the end?

    Is it because we’re such hard workers in our own lives? Is it because we’ve been going to church long enough that we think we’ve earned the right to be considered among those who have been laboring the whole day? Is it because we think we’re basically good people, and this is maybe a story about God extending grace to those who aren’t?

    Well, it doesn’t matter, because I’ve got news for you. We’re the end-of-the-day workers, too. We’re the Hebrews wandering and complaining because things aren’t perfect. There’s a comedian who did a routine in which he talked about how he was on the first ever airline flight where there was wireless internet available. There wasn’t any warning this would happen. Mid-way through the flight, the passengers were told they could take out their computers and phones and use the internet.

    After ten minutes the flight attendant had to get back on the loudspeaker and tell people there was a problem with the internet, and they had to shut it off. This comedians said that the guy sitting next to him was indignant. “Psh. This is so unfair! I was promised internet!” The comedian pointed out that, ten minutes ago, this guy didn’t even know that wireless internet on an airplane existed, and now he was mad about it not working! What kind of an ungrateful person was he? The name of this routine, by the way, is “Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.”

    And that’s how we’re just like the Hebrews. Everything is amazing, and still we find things to complain about. The Hebrew people were freed from oppressive slaveowners, and given their freedom, and they couldn’t find it within themselves to be grateful right away. Admittedly, at least they were concerned for food and water at the time.

    And yet, even though we complain (and about more trivial things than food and water); even though we’re the end-of-the-day-laborers who fancy ourselves the beginning-of-the-day-laborers, God still showers grace on all of us. Jesus Christ still has mercy on all of us, and treats us better than we deserve. And that’s because God sees things differently than we do.

    We think of resources as scarce: if you give a book to one friend, you can’t give it to another; if the government spends our tax dollars on one project, they can’t spend it on a different one; if you eat that thing now, you can’t eat it later. We are programmed think of things as scarce, and it’s necessary that we do so.

    But God? Well, God doesn’t deal in scarcity. God deals in abundance. God has more than enough love and mercy and grace to spread around. So there’s no need to worry that treating one person with that love and grace and mercy means that there’s none left over for anyone else. Instead, increasing one person’s lot increases everyone’s lot. By showing love and grace and mercy to that one person, there is simply more to go around for all of us!

    And that’s why, in trying to live the life God calls us to lead, we’re asked to break out of our old patterns of thinking. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as people beholden to scarcity, and start thinking of ourselves as people blessed with abundance, and share out of it. That is the task to which Christ calls us, and it’s a tall order. We are asked to think of the world in a whole new way. And we find that, when we attempt to give as God gives, we have more than we expect; whether it’s time, or money, or food, or friendship. May God help you find your abundance, and teach you to share it with the world. Amen.

  • Pastor David’s Sermon – 2014/09/21

    Texts:
    Psalm 145:1-8
    Exodus 16:2-15
    Matthew 20:1-16

    Sermon:

    I’m sure all of you remember all those times in school (and for some of you who are still in school, if you haven’t had this moment yet, you will) when the teacher would say, “Now pay attention. This is important.” Did that mean that all the other times that teacher was talking, it wasn’t important?

    Well, this morning, I’m asking you to do something I don’t normally ask; I’m asking you to remember and think about both of the Scripture readings I did for you today. Now normally, I just like to preach on one of them. And that’s because I think pastors can sometimes spend too much time talking about how two passages of Scripture fit together, rather than telling you why it matters what they say. So I generally err on the side of just preaching one. But this morning’s texts go together so well, I can’t help but tie it all back to both of them, and begin to speculate on what they mean in terms of God’s interaction with us today.

    Our first reading came from Exodus. Now, if you’ll recall, we’ve been sort of working our way through the story of the Patriarchs. We started in Genesis with Abraham, then moved to his son Isaac, to his son Jacob, and to his son Joseph. From there, we skipped a few generations and got to Moses and the book of Exodus.

    Moses, as I’m sure you’ll recall, had grown up in the house of Pharaoh, and was chosen by God to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in the land of Egypt, to the Promised Land. I’ve been really Exodus-heavy in my preaching lately, so if you’ve been at church at all the last few weeks you probably remember what’s been up with Moses. First, three weeks ago, he encountered God in the form of the burning bush, who told him to go and lead the people out of Egypt. Two weeks ago, we read about the final plague that was to affect the people, and the Passover meal they shared before leaving Egypt. Last week, we read about how, following the crossing of the Sea, the waters came back together, drowning the Egyptians who had followed them, in spite of Pharaoh’s promise not to do that.

    This week, we find ourselves a little further down the line. A thing that gets really frustrating in life is that, when something great happens, life just keeps going. Thursday night, for example, I was at the volleyball game here in town, in which we hammered Centerville. The third game was really tense. Back-and-forth it went, every point was crucial. It was stressful and exciting. Even though we were up two games to none at the time, this was Centerville’s chance. They fought hard, and they wound up squeaking out a win – I want to say 25-23. It was close.

    But then, after that game, they started over from scratch. Zero-zero. Marion came out and scored a bunch right away, and all the pressure and stress and closeness of that other game was just… gone. There was a big climax, but it happened early. Still, the game had to be finished out. And that’s where we find Moses and the Hebrews this week. They’ve had their big climactic moment – now they’re back to regular ol’ cares and concerns.

    Okay, pause that story, and let’s move on to the Matthew passage. As you’ll recall, when we’ve been reading Matthew lately, Jesus has mostly been teaching in parables. Today’s parable is about a landowner who hires people to work his land. Much like today, a wealthy few people own a very high percentage of the land, and those who try to scrape by on their own small farm don’t do so well. So the landowner hires people. They show up. And later in the day, the landowner is in town, and sees laborers, but not the ones he hired, just standing around. He offers them work for the day, which they gladly accept.

    They work, and at the end of the day, these latecomers get paid first, and – surprise, surprise – they get a full day’s pay. The others behind them are excited, because if those guys got a full day’s pay, how much will the ones who worked the full day get? Things is, though, there’s a twist – they only get their regular, full day’s pay. This makes us question the fairness of the act, I think.

    Now, back to Moses quickly. We have this group of people who were miraculously led out of Egypt. But, shortly in the narrative, what do they become famous for? Complaining. They’re famous for grumbling about their conditions.

    See, God got them out of slavery in Egypt, and that was great. But where are they now? They’re in the desert. Their first three days (if you go back in the text and read chapter 15), they didn’t even have water. Now, they’re still without food. It seems like some pretty legitimate complaining to me! They don’t feel they’re being treated fairly. So, again, we’re forced to question the fairness of God, and the fairness of these stories.

    In these two stories we’ve read for today, what we’ve seen so far is that people are dealt different hands in life, and it doesn’t seem all that fair. In the case of the laborers in the fields, no matter how much (or little) they worked, they all got treated the same. In the case of the Hebrews, God called them out of Egypt, to a place without food or water.

    But in that story, something remarkable happens to these people in Egypt. Suddenly, there’s enough food for everyone! There’s stuff like bread on the ground, just as if it’s morning dew. It’s called “manna,” which is not actually a proper Hebrew word. It comes from the Hebrew words, “man hu” which means, “what is it?” This stuff just shows up one day, and it’ll follow them around for forty years, until they get settled in the Promised Land. That ways, they’ll always be sure to have enough to eat. In a time of scarcity, God provides for them.

    This is really similar to the laborers in the fields of Jesus’ parable, actually. There are some people out there without work, so the manager in the parable provides them with labor and wages. Now, there are all sorts of people out there who will give you clever interpretations of this one. For example, they point out how smart the manager is. I mean, if you were a day-laborer, and someone offered you a full day’s pay for a part day’s work, guess who’s door you’re going to show up at, first thing the next morning. That kind of generosity demands loyalty. So it could be seen as God “buying” the loyalty of these “stray” people through one generous act.

    But there’s more to it than that, I think. In Jesus’ parable, we see that people are provided for, not because they’re “good enough,” but because God calls them forward to receive a gift. In the story of the Hebrews from Exodus, we see that people, in spite of their complaints and seeming ungratefulness, receive what they need. At the end of the day, there is a uniting theme between these two passages: God is generous; and God’s generosity is not our generosity.

    On some level, it offends us that God’s sense of “justice” might be different from our own. But I have a theory behind that. You see, people only get offended by things that seem unfair when they’re the ones getting the bad end of things. Like, last Sunday, in the Packers’ game, there was a weird thing with a timeout that probably shouldn’t have been a timeout, and it cost the Jets a touchdown. It wound up winning the game for the Packers. But I’m not up here saying, “That was so unfair! We should’ve lost!” Nope. I’m up here saying, “Well, them’s the breaks. I’m glad it worked out for us.”

    See, when we’re the beneficiaries of extra help, we don’t think it’s unfair – only when we think others are being treated better than we are. Logically, that means that, if we’re offended by the part-day laborers getting full-time pay, then we must be identifying with the full-day laborers who are getting the “raw end of the deal.” The question is: why do we identify with the laborers who worked all day, rather than with the ones who came in at the end?

    Is it because we’re such hard workers in our own lives? Is it because we’ve been going to church long enough that we think we’ve earned the right to be considered among those who have been laboring the whole day? Is it because we think we’re basically good people, and this is maybe a story about God extending grace to those who aren’t?

    Well, it doesn’t matter, because I’ve got news for you. We’re the end-of-the-day workers, too. We’re the Hebrews wandering and complaining because things aren’t perfect. There’s a comedian who did a routine in which he talked about how he was on the first ever airline flight where there was wireless internet available. There wasn’t any warning this would happen. Mid-way through the flight, the passengers were told they could take out their computers and phones and use the internet.

    After ten minutes the flight attendant had to get back on the loudspeaker and tell people there was a problem with the internet, and they had to shut it off. This comedians said that the guy sitting next to him was indignant. “Psh. This is so unfair! I was promised internet!” The comedian pointed out that, ten minutes ago, this guy didn’t even know that wireless internet on an airplane existed, and now he was mad about it not working! What kind of an ungrateful person was he? The name of this routine, by the way, is “Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.”

    And that’s how we’re just like the Hebrews. Everything is amazing, and still we find things to complain about. The Hebrew people were freed from oppressive slaveowners, and given their freedom, and they couldn’t find it within themselves to be grateful right away. Admittedly, at least they were concerned for food and water at the time.

    And yet, even though we complain (and about more trivial things than food and water); even though we’re the end-of-the-day-laborers who fancy ourselves the beginning-of-the-day-laborers, God still showers grace on all of us. Jesus Christ still has mercy on all of us, and treats us better than we deserve. And that’s because God sees things differently than we do.

    We think of resources as scarce: if you give a book to one friend, you can’t give it to another; if the government spends our tax dollars on one project, they can’t spend it on a different one; if you eat that thing now, you can’t eat it later. We are programmed think of things as scarce, and it’s necessary that we do so.

    But God? Well, God doesn’t deal in scarcity. God deals in abundance. God has more than enough love and mercy and grace to spread around. So there’s no need to worry that treating one person with that love and grace and mercy means that there’s none left over for anyone else. Instead, increasing one person’s lot increases everyone’s lot. By showing love and grace and mercy to that one person, there is simply more to go around for all of us!

    And that’s why, in trying to live the life God calls us to lead, we’re asked to break out of our old patterns of thinking. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as people beholden to scarcity, and start thinking of ourselves as people blessed with abundance, and share out of it. That is the task to which Christ calls us, and it’s a tall order. We are asked to think of the world in a whole new way. And we find that, when we attempt to give as God gives, we have more than we expect; whether it’s time, or money, or food, or friendship. May God help you find your abundance, and teach you to share it with the world. Amen.

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    Sunday Church Service: 9:30 am
    Adult Sunday School: 10:30am
    Wednesday Youth Service: 6:30 pm

    102 East 1st Street
    Marion, SD 57043
    Phone: (605) 648-3876
    Email: emmanuelpc@goldenwest.net
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