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The Lord's Anointed

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Click here to listen to this sermon. “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed” (Isaiah 45:1). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Cyrus was the king of Persia, who conquered the great Babylonian empire in 539 BC. It was a surprisingly easy victory considering the reputation the army of Babylon had for ruthlessness. As Cyrus’ army surrounded the city of Babylon, the priests of Marduk surrendered, declared him to be Marduk’s chosen new monarch, and then opened the city gates to allow him to enter peacefully. The Babylonians had been the ones who had destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and had deported the Jews from Judah and Jerusalem. The prophets had explained that this devastating work had been the judgment of God on His people for not obeying His Word and failing to worship Him faithfully. Scripture d…

Love Song of the Vineyard (Reprise)

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Click here to listen to this sermon. “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit” (Matthew 21:33-34). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Are you familiar with the term “reprise” when it is applied to a song? A song reprise is usually a repeat by the same artist of the same song with some improvements or change in style or music of that song—like “Let It Go” in the soundtrack for the recent Disney film Frozen. Or “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” on the Beatles album of the same name. You might call our Gospel text a “reprise.” Jesus essentially draws His parable from the song of the vineyard that God had sung through Isaiah seven centuries earlier. You just heard it in our Old Testament reading. The vine…

Three Sons

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! In the events that led up to the sermon text for today, a multitude followed Jesus. Some were true followers, that is, His disciples. Others there were people in desperate need of the Savior’s healing Word. It seems likely there were people in attendance from the previous day’s Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem. No doubt there were children whose lips had offered praise. There were also known sinners like tax-collectors and prostitutes. And there were the chief priests and elders who sought to discredit and rid themselves of Jesus by arresting Him. These chief priests and elders were examples of men who were inside the Church but outside the kingdom. They refused to receive the gift of repentance and they were hardening their own hearts. When they questioned Jesus’ authority in the temple, he turned the tables by asking them a question about John the Baptist, a question they feared a…

There Are No Firsts and Lasts in the Kingdom of Heaven

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[Jesus said:] “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). It’s a puzzling statement, to be sure. But the very fact that Jesus wrapped that statement around “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,” front and back, proves its seriousness. As a matter of fact, the parable itself is designed to explain this mysterious statement and we will look at that shortly. But before we delve into the parable, let’s first look at the preceding passage in Matthew to gain a better understanding of the context in which it was first made. The disciples had just witnessed the exchange between the rich young man and Jesus. It began when the man asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” The young man labored under the mistaken notion that he could somehow earn eternal life with good works and a…

The Difference Between Patience and Mercy

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So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt (Matthew 18:26-27). Peter gets forgiveness wrong. But this is a good thing for us, because we usually get it wrong, too, and we get to hear Jesus’ wonderful response. He asks Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter may feel he’s being exceptionally generous with the offer, given the way the world works. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Mess with me a third time, and I’m blocking your calls and unfriending you on Facebook. That’s how the world works; yet Peter generously makes the offer of forgiving the offender not just twice, but seven times. But life in the kingdom of heaven is not like life in this world. Jesus is quick to correct Peter’s line of thought, saying, “I d…

The Kingdoms of Power and Grace

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“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! “Ours is a world that is governed by the aggressive use of force.” That’s Rush Limbaugh’s Undeniable Truth of Life #6. In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky says power is derived from two sources—money and people. “Have-Nots” build power from masses of people, corporations and governments use cash.  Limbaugh and Alinsky, opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they agree on one thing: Kingdoms of this world are built and kept and defended by power. It’s true. Kingdoms are built by cruelty, coercion, and compulsion; by brawn, battle, and bloodshed. You must have an awful lot of muscle if you’re going to make a kingdom in this world. Furthermore, if you want to build a kingdom you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. You mus…