In the Lessons for this week the Gospel as usual gives the key to the theme of the day. When a payment time comes for the laborers in the vineyard, it was learned that each was to receive equal pay regardless of hours worked. The reward is the same in the Kingdom whether we enter early or late. They who return to the Lord (Old Testament reading) will receive mercy and pardon. In the Epistle lesson Paul says he does not know whether to live or die, because death would mean a closer relationship with Christ, his greatest reward. The Lord is good to all. The suggested Psalm relates to the Old Testament lesson –“seek the Lord.” The Hymn emphasizes our stewardship of life and harmonizes with the Gospel with its emphasis on working in the Kingdom.
Collect for Proper 20 –Lord God heavenly Father, since we cannot stand before You relying on anything we have done, help us trust in Your abiding grace and live according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Monday, September 15, 2008 – Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16 Antiphon, V. 17, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” This psalm is a song of deliverance from death. It may have been written by David or another king such as Hezekiah. (see Isaiah 38:10-20)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 – Isaiah 55:6-9 – Generosity of mercy to all who return. Sunday’s first reading the prophet’s hearers are encouraged to seek God and return to Him for mercy and pardon. God’s thoughts and ways are totally different from ours. This truth is illustrated in today’s reading, the parable of laborers in the vineyard. If God were like the world, he would not take back his enemies and freely pardon them. The world, rather, would seek revenge and treat enemies with hatred. We, by our nature, do not love or seek reconciliation. We hate and kill and never, never forgive. God is so different — thank God for that!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 – Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30 – Generosity of Christ in life and in death. Paul finds life on earth is Christ and anticipation of death as gain. Paul is torn between living and dying. Today we begin a series of four Lessons from Philippians. At the time of writing, Paul was a prisoner in Ephesus (ca. 52-55). He expected martyrdom, but was released. In the light of his possible execution, he writes that he is in a state of tension: to continue to live or to die. To do the latter would be better, for then he would be with Christ. However, it would be better for the church if he would remain on earth. Then he could visit his people again in Philippi. But, when he comes or not, they are to live lives worthy of the gospel.
Paul appeals to his people that they live lives “worthy” of the gospel. Faith and works, doctrine and life, religion and ethics must be equally emphasized. They should not be separated. Believe and accept God and equally practice that faith in everyday living. What kind of life is worthy of the gospel? Paul says it is in having one spirit and one mind as the people work together to build the church. Untold damage is done to the cause of Christ when Christians do not live up to their faith.
Thursday, September 18, 2008 – Matthew 20:1-16 – Equal generosity to all. Jesus gives us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. Jesus teaches what the kingdom is like. The parable does not deal with labor relations nor with hours and wages. It teaches that people in the kingdom do not work for rewards. Regardless of how long we have served, the wage is the same — the privilege of serving God. We are reminded that God can do as he pleases with what is his. His generosity is seen by giving the same pay to those who worked the last time. The last who come to the kingdom receive the same as those who enter first.
How does God justify the apparent injustice in the payment of wages? God claims he is God, and can do what he pleases with his own. This, too, is different for today’s employer. He cannot pay what he wants or hire those he wants to work for him. He is limited by laws. God deals differently from the world. His grace (payment) is not determined by wages or hours worked. God is so generous that he gives the denarius of grace (salvation) to everyone regardless of length of service or quantity of work performed. God goes beyond justice to give his peace to all who come, whenever they come.
Friday, September 19, 2008 Psalm 27:1-9 - The Psalm appointed for next has as the key verse, verse 4a. David is confident the Lord will deliver him from all those who conspire to bring him down. The prayer presupposes the Lord’s covenant with David.
Saturday, September 20, 2008 –1 John 3:17 – This passage is the inspiration for the hymn. “We give Thee but Thine Own” God’s love which He pours out in the believer’s heart (Romans 5:5) enables the Christian to love fellow believers. Or, the believer’s love for God is rooted in Christ’s love for the believer.
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