Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin
Listen to Today’s Sermon:
Jesus went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “May this never be!” – Luke 20:9-17
God had shown tremendous love to his people in the past. He had given them the promise of a Savior from sin. He had rescued them from slavery in Egypt. He had given them his very words in the Law, and even sent his messengers, the prophets, to warn the people of their sin and call them back to his love. But many behaved like the bad tenants in Jesus’ parable. They rejected, mistreated, and even killed some of the prophets. They refused to return to God the praise and devotion he deserved, and now were about to kill his Son. Jesus could not give a stronger warning – those who reject God’s Son will not escape judgment.
What’s the most staggering thing about this parable? Isn’t it the great lengths the owner took in dealing with his tenants? What father would send his son to such a violent and rotten group of people? Wouldn’t we consider this risky, and even reckless? Yet this is a picture of God’s great love for sinners. It goes far beyond our human imagination. Ponder God’s Son walking to his death for us. Here all the restraints on love are broken. He loves us, even though we are sinners.
God has shown tremendous love to us in the past. He has given his only Son to take away our sins. He has given us blessing after blessing in his Word and Sacraments. He forgives our sins, cares for us, and promises us a future with him in heaven. Don’t reject God’s Son! Instead welcome him joyfully as God’s gift to you and return to him the devotion he deserves.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” – Luke 15:11-21
Could you imagine what this man’s neighbors might have said? “Parents just don’t raise their kids like they used to. First the boy runs off with the inheritance, and now dad’s running out to welcome him? I tell ya, if that were my kid it would be a whole different story. He’d have to come crawling back on his knees. I’d tell him quite frankly, ‘You blew it! The shame you have brought on this family, you don’t even deserve to stand on my doorstep.’ Maybe, just maybe, if he straightened his life out, stopped partying, and showed up for work every day, I’d think about letting him live in the old shack down by the gate. But to welcome him back like that? Never!”
The love of this father goes far beyond what we would expect. It is reckless, maybe even foolish. But that’s how God loves us. He loved us even though we were dead in our transgressions and sins. He sent his one and only Son to die for us while we were still sinners. Why? Because he was filled with compassion for us. His love goes far beyond anything we could expect or imagine.
This reminds us that we can always return to our heavenly Father. Whether we have been living in open rebellion like the lost son, or we have been rebelling with secret sins that lurk deep within our hearts, we can always say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” and be confident that God in his grace will run to us with his arms wide open.