Message for 6/7 “Rich & Poor, No More”

We are still meeting in person at 11 am Sunday for a service, with worship, prayer, singing from the Praise Voices, Communion, and masks and hand sanitizer. And Food Pantry will be open 5:30-7 pm this Tuesday. For those joining us from home, here’s a recording and text of the message for this week.

7 June 20 Sunday Message; “Rich & Poor, No More”

Call to Worship Matthew 19:23-26

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Tithe, Offering, and Prayer Concerns: Father in Heaven, we thank you for the opportunity to give of ourselves in your service. You have provided so much to sustain us, and we give just a fraction back. Father we ask that you remind us of what is important in this life, and what is just noise, and drowns out the essentials. Life in you, serving and loving others in your name. Please accept our gifts and prayer concerns to further your kingdom in this hurting world. Amen!

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard Matt. 20:1-16

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Message; “Rich & Poor, No More”

As I watched the protest across America this last week, I have to admit that I was recoiled in sadness and disgust. I found myself so low in the depths of being disturbed, I folded into myself for a little while trying to make sense out of the mayhem of barbarity.

Watching on TV each day as legitimate protest and righteous outrage over the despicable treatment of a man in restrained custody, and the virtuous indignation of that injustice was hijacked each evening in most of the major US cities, devolving into a nightly installment of bedlam, and anarchy.

It was like I was a young man all over again, 40 years ago. Stationed in the Farr East on active duty Air Force. There were way too many young men who would suffer the next day after going out on the town, to parties, and events the night before, and perhaps in their youth, drinking too much, talking too much, and acting wild too much. Only to wake up the next day, with a head ache, lungs ready to collapse from coughing up dust from the effects of smoking menthol Marlboro cigarettes to excess, and feeling dead and ashamed on the inside of our soles due to the effects of having performed like a mindless twit. That was due to the effects of reduced inhibition, based on alcohol, or the pure energy of the crowd, the ultimate group think.

My fear is that as this behavior continues in our society, the whole reason for the justified protesting will recede into the abys of the pandemonium, or the confusion of the moment and we will not learn from the teachable moment that our society might have benefited from Mr. Floyd’s mistreatment and abuse by the police in Minneapolis. What happened to Floyd was wrong, what we as a people do about rectifying that cruelty must be right! Must be God centered and not based on emotion of the moment, or we are subject to repeating the violence in a ceaseless never-ending cycle of hate.

Yes, a real fear is that like the drunk that becomes immune to regretting the night before by diving right back into another drink upon waking up, or the couple that reengages in the argument early the next morning to keep the battle fresh, that we as a society might become too used to this new realism. Solidifying our animosities against each other and becoming what this country has always sought to fight against, a patchwork of discord and hatred.

Before I go any further, today’s message is not a political treatise on what is wrong or what political party is in the wrong, or what America needs politically to go forward. Why? We are not a political church, and as a House of the Lord, and a refuge for all sinners, and not just our favorite desperados of the moment, we must look to tangible proactive actions that the people of God may engage in to fight the forces of malevolence (evil) currently running amuck all over the landscape.

If you are feeling a little lost and a bit overwhelmed by all of the things going on all around you right now. The pandemic, the job and economic conditions in the country, or the rioting, violence, and hate. There is nothing wrong with you. You have every right to feel apprehensive and sad about the events. It is times like these that have always been a force, driving God’s family closer together and deeper in their walks in Him.

So what does today’s readings have to do with living in harmony with other people and ending violence? My goal today is to share with you three thoughts on how the Lord’s teaching about wealth and work, and wages are timeless concepts and are every bit as relevant today as it was on the day, he instructed the Children of Israel back then.

  1. There is wealth, and there is wealth.
  2. God has His own ideas about fairness.
  3. Where is there Good News in any of this?

These three ideas are just a starter list that you could build upon for the rest of your beautiful lives. They are three random ideas I had when thinking about you, me, our society, and our Lord, beginning with: …

1). There is wealth and then there is wealth. What is wealth? What can you do with it? What should you do with it? This is quickly devolving in to a whole lot of questions, so let’s begin with the Lords teaching partially from our Call to Worship today from Matthew 19: this time from vs. 21-26

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The last verse in my opinion is the most important to grab and hold upon. It is the hallmark of our faith. We have tried to go it alone at times and how did that work out? Like a Prodigal Son? But each time, and in each of our own experiences, we are welcomed back home (God’s Home) by a loving father waiting for us to realize the obvious; with Him all things are possible in fact down right doable.

So, what is the Lord asking from us in this passage, and what is He offering to instruct us right now at this time? I ask the question this way because my thought is that there are facets of this passage that will change depending on the audience that the Lord is growing at the moment that He is instructing. God can do this without changing the truth of the Gospel one iota. The first thing we need to identify is what wealth is.

Does the Lord have just one thing in mind like money? I don’t believe so. I believe it is relative by the individual the Lord is instructing and maturing. Here is a short list of things that could be considered things that make a person wealthy:

  • Property; money, gold, antiques, real estate,
  • Associations; frats, clubs, race, careers, friends
  • Popularity
  • Education
  • Knowledge
  • Faith and relationship with God
  • Gifts of the Spirit

If I hoard any of the above and do not share with others, if I allow my ego to inflate my role or importance in the scheme of things, or look down on others I am sitting on a camel and looking at the eye of the needle. And I am too loaded down with stuff, even my own ego (for Heaven sakes) is too large to squeeze through.

In other words, I could have an incredible understanding of God, and have faith that could move mountains, but if I lack love I am nothing. I didn’t say that, God did through Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

That is why we as a Church who may be poor financially, are rich in the Lord and are called not only to help the needy, but to know and love the people we are assigned by God to help! If not we are again staring at the eye of the needle. If this sounds unfair, think about and pray about Matthew chapter 20 our message reading for today, and note; …

2). God has His own ideas about fairness.

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

When we stop trying to be a wealthy person by the world’s standards, either with money, popularity, or to be in the in-crowd, education, plus knowledge, and we learn humility and gratitude, all of those old ideas of fairness go by the wayside, and more like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now when we look to our brother; it won’t be to see what they are getting before us, but what do they need, and how can I assist? Materially or prayer, or both. In other words; I have and you need. Whether it be knowledge, money, food, shelter, friendship, or just someone to care. Perhaps I meet a rich man who is bankrupt spiritually, and in my wealth, I pray for Him, love him, am patient with him. The time for baseline thinking is over for us when we have learned to trust God!

No one can be getting an unfair amount more than me if my heart and soul do not feed the that petty jealousy that fuels my discontent.

In other words, I do not have to be the jealous older brother in the story of the “Prodigal Son” who was more worried about his brother receiving more than him, instead of his own relationship with his father. Only by working on my own stuff with the Lord’s help am I able to answer the last big question I have in this message: …

3). Where is there Good News in any of this?

You see, in the world’s way, I can’t see much good in anything that isn’t coming directly my way, unless I learn to let God change my thinking. I am reminded of what Clint Eastwood’s character said in the movie Unforgiven “Fair has got nothing to do with it!” Thank you for allowing me that cheap trick at a Clint Eastwood reference. And by the way, this highlights the point of the message. I know that from my church family, they will overlook my defects in life, and not judge me harshly for a movie reference. How? Because we love each other and trust each other and hope for the best in each other. If not, Church would host its own mini riots of bedlam, because God’s Spirit is not being invited to shepherd God’s people.

This is what letting God transform our thinking does on a small scale, and what our society needs on a big scale. It’s what happens when we take our brotherly love outside of God’s living room, out into the world where we learn to look at what other people need instead of what they are getting away with before we get our fair share.

Fair’s got nothing to do with it (thankyou Clint) and everything to do with it. When we are God’s tools in this broken world, we now become the instruments to allow God’s fairness to rule in our hearts. As Amos wrote all those years ago in Amos 5:21-24

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Time and again, God shows us that our giving back to Him, our offerings, our service, is not about giving God stuff, but us learning to trust the Lord enough to part with our wealth (that short list spoken of earlier) that came from Him to begin with.

When we make life all about us instead of God, God’s children, and God’s love for caring for those in need, we become just noise with no purpose but ourselves a selfish lost cause.

You see, all of my works that are inspired by me, are like the children of Israel of old, filthy rages of iniquity.

Why? Because it’s not God working through me, it’s me trying to be dynamic and falling flat on my face.

Why? Because I am more worried about what my neighbor is getting away with instead of what my community needs from me, in service to our Lord.

The Good news from all of this, is when we have learned to put God first, by loving our neighbors as ourselves, trusting that He has put the perfect people for the time in our lives, we will have grown beyond petty jealousies to be a part of the solution in our sick hurting society.

A final thought about the working in the vineyard; perhaps if the workers that had been hired in the morning had been a little more diligent in their work, there would have been no need to hire more help towards the end of the day to finish the job. It is my hope that we as Christians of the working day remain vigilant in the Lord’s service. In our service, the more people God brings on with us the better, to help make this a better world not based on petty stuff, but on grace, goodness, and loving each other.

Amen!