REFLECTION ON THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY
THEME: COME AS YOU ARE
DATE: 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2008.
Last week Sunday, we reflected on the love of God as expressed in the symbol of the cross. I remember telling you that it was God who first took the initiative to offer us salvation and ours is a response in faith by way of offering our will, intellect and indeed our everything to him. Today, in the first reading, we see that same God inviting us and offering us mercy. One important attribute of our God is that fact that He is merciful and quick to forgive. This is what should give us hope that no matter the weight of our sins God offers us His mercy which is beyond human understanding. That is why His thoughts are not our thoughts and our way His way. The warning here is that we should not take the merciful of God for granted.
Here is a gracious offer of pardon, and peace, and of all happiness. It shall not be in vain to seek God, now his word is calling to us, and his Spirit is striving with us. As Christians, we should not be frustrated searching for God because He says that when we seek him we will find Him. The only way our seeking will be in vain is when we remain in sin and take his mercy for granted. The prophet Jeremiah puts it beautifully in Chapter 29:12ff “Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me and I will answer you. You will seek me and will find me when you seek me with all your heart. Yes I will be found by you and I will restore you to your land…”
But there is a day coming when he will not be found. There may come such a time in this life; it is certain that at death and judgment the door will be shut. There must be not only a change of the way, but a change of the mind. We must alter our judgments about persons and things. It is not enough to break off from evil practices; we must strive against evil thoughts. To repent is to return to our Lord, against whom we have rebelled. If we do so, God will multiply to pardon, as we have multiplied to offend. But let none trifle with this plenteous mercy, or use it as an occasion to sin. Men's thoughts concerning sin, Christ, and holiness, concerning this world and the other, vastly differs from God's; but in nothing more than in the matter of pardon. We forgive, and cannot forget; but when God forgives sin, he remembers it no more
The second reading offers us a practical example of a man who sought God and found Him even in the most difficult circumstances of his life. Paul is certain that in Christ in Christ he will find courage never to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. As J. B. Lightfoot puts it, “The right of free speech is the badge, the privilege, of the servant of Christ.” To speak the truth with boldness is not only the privilege of a Christian but a duty. For Paul, Christ was the reward of life; the only worthwhile reward was closer fellowship with his Lord. Thus if Christ is taken out of life, for Paul there will be nothing left. That should be our attitude too. When we make Christ the source, the centre and the summit our life, we will surely find him.
The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews. The parable may also be applied more generally, and shows, 1. That God is debtor to no man. 2. That many who begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at a great deal of knowledge, grace, and usefulness. 3. That the recompense of reward will be given to the saints, but not according to the time of their conversion. It describes the state of the visible church, and explains the declaration that the last shall be first, and the first last, in its various references. Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle: a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may be called a state of idleness. The market-place is the world, and from that we are called by the gospel. Come; come from this market-place. Work for God will not admit of trifling. A man may go idle to hell, but he that will go to heaven, must be diligent. The Roman penny was seven pence, halfpenny in our money, wages then enough for the day's support. This does not prove that the reward of our obedience to God is of works, or of debt; when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but it signifies that there is a reward set before us, yet let none, upon this presumption, put off repentance till they are old. Some were sent into the vineyard at the eleventh hour; but nobody had hired them before. The Gentiles came in at the eleventh hour; the gospel had not been before preached to them. Those that have had gospel offers made them at the third or sixth hour, and have refused them, will not have to say at the eleventh hour, as these had, “No man has hired us.” Therefore, not to discourage any, but to awaken all, remember, that now is the accepted time. The riches of Divine grace are loudly murmured at, among proud Pharisees and nominal Christians. There is great proneness in us to think that we have too little, and others too much of the tokens of God's favour; and that we do too much, and others too little in the work of God. But if God gives grace to others, it is kindness to them, and no injustice to us. Carnal worldlings agree with God for their penny in this world; and choose their portion in this life. Obedient believers agree with God for their penny in the other world, and must remember they have so agreed. Didst not thou agree to take up with heaven as thy portion, thy all; wilt thou seek for happiness in the creature? God punishes none more than they deserve, and recompenses every service done for him; he therefore does no wrong to any, by showing extraordinary grace to some. See here the nature of envy. It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others, and desires their hurt. It is a grief to ourselves, displeasing to God, and hurtful to our neigbours: it is a sin that has neither pleasure, profit, nor honour. Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.
POINTS TO NOTE
For Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was a beginning of a new life no matter the time we come.
Those men who were standing in the market place were not idlers, lazing away their time. It was a place for labor exchange and the fact that they stood there till five o clock shows how desperately they wanted work. The lesson is that God’s salvation comes to those who are desperately in need of it. We must begin to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Thus no matter the time we come, God will always give us what we need for our faith journey.
In the Christian church seniority does not matter. In God’s house everybody is a first born son.
The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews. The parable may also be applied more generally, and shows,
That God is debtor to no man. We cannot earn what God gives us.
Those many that begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at a great deal of knowledge, grace, and usefulness.
That the recompense of reward will be given to the saints, but not according to the time of their conversion. It describes the state of the visible church, and explains the declaration that the last shall be first, and the first last, in its various references.
Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle: a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may be called a state of idleness. The market-place is the world, and from that we are called by the gospel.