Salvation Unto Us Has Come
September 23, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Christ Lutheran Church
September 24, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Salvation Unto Us Has Come
For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the a owner of the vineyard who went out early in the morning to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. Coming to an agreement with the workers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Matthew 20:1
In order to understand the Lord’s parable today, we must understand that the Vineyard is the church, Jesus is the Lord of the Vineyard, and we are the workers called into it.
Called in from a life of nothing, idly standing around the marketplace of this world, not knowing where we came from, where we are going, or what to do in the meantime.
As a result we invent purposes for ourselves, some noble, some not, but devise we do. But whether noble or not, we formulate them to make ourselves feel good. Because there are benefits involved. Money, power, adulation and feeling good about ourselves. But bottom line is that each of us is the object of this self-occupation, not God.
Do we mean to condemn a person for of that? How could we. We were all born into the same reality, and would spend our own lives in that same idleness (no matter how busy we may be) because outside of God’s Kingdom there is only vanity as the Solomon says.
And yet a human life is a terrible thing to waste, like a rocket scientist employed as a dishwasher, because we are made in the “likeness” of God, and because its potential in the Kingdom of God is incalculable.
And so the only place we can find work that fully engages us, and rewards us beyond measure: where neither moth can destroy nor thief steal, is in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The hymn of the day for this Sunday “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.”
It is what the workers in the Vineyard would have sung, instead of complaining, had understood the high calling to which they had been called. To enter into Christ by Holy Baptism makes you eternal, and promises you a life that cannot be paralleled by the glittery promises that the devil makes you. We know this from Genesis 3 when the Serpent promised, “You will be like God;” but we all know how that worked out. And any other promises of glory, apart from the cross of Christ, and membership in his Kingdom should be considered as nothing, and even less than nothing, because they all lead to perdition.
All that said let us take a closer look at things.
First we should recognize God’s grace in this parable.
No one is breaking down the church doors to get in; because they don’t know what they are missing. If they did our pews would be full, and we would have to engage in one building project after another. But as Saint Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 ff.
“But if our gospel is veiled it is veiled only to those who are perishing: the unbelievers whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God …
Said another way we can never find the Master, but he must come to find us. That is what happened in the marketplace that day. God’s Holy Spirit enlightened the eyes of men to go to the place where they could share in the glory of God: his Vineyard. And not only is there nothing better than that, there is nothing beyond that. Just as there is no such thing as December 32nd, there is nothing beyond the Kingdom of Heaven.
Do we work in God’s vineyard? Yes. What work we do? Most importantly we worship our God. We engage in Divine Liturgy. We take pains to stop worshiping ourselves, our comforts, and created things; to leave the things that are perishing behind, and sing the LORD’s song in a strange land. (Ps. 137)
In so doing the church brings the Kingdom of Heaven into the world. Not by so-called evangelism programs, but as often as we eat THIS Bread and drink THIS Cup we proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes,” which is the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” (1 Cor. 11:27 & Rom 1:16). The church by her presence in the world, and the Divine Truth which she sings, keeps the world from utterly destroying itself in a homicidal rage.
If you think things are bad, try to remember how bad they were 3 years ago when for all intents and purposes the true worship of God all but ceased upon the earth. Can it get worse? Only if the church is foolish enough to close her doors again.
What other work do we do? We deny ourselves; take up our crosses; and follow Jesus into death, burial and resurrection. We put our sinful passions to death each day, each moment. And that is a vocation from which there is no vacation.
We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and in general level out God’s gifts to the world by improving the lot of the poor, the ailing and the otherwise hopeless.
We don’t do this by socialism! as governments and liberals of every stripe think it should be done. But we do it by love.
The church robs from the rich and gives to the poor. But it’s not other people’s money we take. But rather as Jesus counsels we sell all that we have, give to the poor, and follow him. And be sure of this. That when your final hour draws near you are not going to call your financial advisor to your side, to review your account balances. But rather your pastor to bring Jesus to your side on whose strong shoulders he carries his lambs into his Kingdom. You are those lambs.
And much to the dismay of hyper-protestants not only do we work, but we also obtain rewards. (Ruth 2:12, Ps. 58:11, Isa 40:10, Ps 19:11 et. al.) Jesus teaches us this in Matthew 10:41 when he says, “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.”
And again the Heavenly Voice in Revelation 14:13 says, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!"
And so Saint Paul, who is no Protestant at all, says in 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
And now let us consider the Vineyard itself. This is a sacramental parable with sacramental teaching. Let all Christians be clear that as no one can have God without Christ, no one can have Christ without Liturgy.
We do not come here to “enjoy a cup of coffee,” or to the meet “the Guy” as one local “church” sign boasts – as it meretriciously panders to the public. But rather the Vineyard is the place where the baptized are absolved and Eucharistically cleansed of transgressions committed against their Spouse and where we are made whole again.
And so we should understand that when Jesus talks about Vineyards, Vines and Branches. When he walks through grain fields on the Sabbath, and does his “water miracles” that he is preparing us for THIS life. Right here. Right now. In the Kingdom of Heaven.
Salvation unto us has come!