Murmuring and Discontent

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ (MAT 20:13-15)

I.    We can think of many times when the children of Israel Murmured against the Lord
A.    As in the children’s talk where they were without water in the wilderness and they murmured against Moses until he struck the rock at Mt. Horeb.
B.    The story of the Prodigal son is familiar to all. The parable is wonderful in the way it il-lustrates the Lord’s mercy toward us when we sin, and the joy He feels when we turn away from evil. But more to the point in this discussion is the response of the brother who stayed at home.
1.    LUK 15:25-32 Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive, and was lost and is found.’ “
C.    Who of us believes that the brother was satisfied by that answer, was able to put aside his feelings and fully join into the celebration?
D.    Another familiar parable where the Lord is seen as the owner of a vineyard hiring la-bourers. The vineyard is the world, and the pay at the end of the day is the reward of eternal life in heaven. Some labour from down to dusk, some labour only half a day, and some only one hour, and yet all receive the same pay.
1.    MAT 20:8 So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they murmured against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
E.    While we can understand the lesson that those people who have lived in ignorance but who find the truth late in life can also be welcomed into heaven is a wonderful and merciful teaching, I cannot think of anyone who has heard this parable and who has not insisted that there is some-thing wrong with it, something unjust.
II.    Not Fair – He’s too nice
A.    I think that sometimes we feel a lot like the Pharisees.
1.    Here’s this person, who’s supposed to be the Messiah, and He is spending all his time with the wrong people!
2.    His disciples are common labourers and fishermen.
3.    He visits the home of publicans and sinners.
4.    He goes to parties and drinks wine.
a.    Shouldn’t the Messiah act with more dignity?
5.    And He teaches about how He loves the lost sheep more than the 99 who live ordinary, orderly lives!
6.    And He teaches that those who labour in His vineyard all their lives do not get a greater reward than those who stumble through a life of sin and decadence and only find the Word at the last minute.
B.    Sometimes we fall into thinking about our church like the Pharisees thought about theirs, that it is some kind of exclusive club for those who “follow the rules” where sinners are not welcome. Sometimes we feel like the prodigal son’s brother. We re-sent the fact that other people seem to be able to have their cake and eat it too:  they get to “enjoy” all the excitement of a life of crime, and they get to go to heaven too.
III.    Perhaps the pleasures of a disorderly life are overrated
A.    Drugs/alcohol
B.    Personal relationships
C.    Business problems
D.    Marital troubles
E.    Personal lives
F.    Effects on children, other members of the family
IV.    What is it that makes people in these disorders turn their lives around?
A.    LUK 15:14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
1.    Remember that his brother thought he was having fun.
2.    Where were all his friends on whom he had spend his inheritance? They had left him penniless, and then abandoned him.
3.    No one gave him anything.
4.    He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually alone. His life was worse than that of the swine he was tending.
V.    What turns people around is that they recognize that their lives have become a living hell.
A.    When we see someone who has had disor-der or tragedy in their life get a fresh start, the hells sense that they are about to suffer a defeat. They rush into our minds with thoughts that are unkind and unworthy. They make us question the clear teaching of the Word, both in its literal and internal sense. The hells wish to make us angry with our brother without cause.
B.    It is the devils in hell that want to make us think that people in disorder are having fun – when a moment’s reflection on our own states of disorder would remind us that states of disorder are brief moments of se-cret pleasure balanced by days and weeks of anger, self-loathing, and guilt. What’s to be jealous of in that?
VI.    What we are really looking for is forgiveness
A.    The Lord is genuinely forgiving
B.    HH 509 speaks of leaving deeds, both good and bad, behind in death.
1.    And yet no one in the other world suf-fers punishment on account of the evils that he had done in this world, but only on account of the evils that he then does.
2.    All the deeds of the body are left be-hind with the body. The foolish mis-takes are never again brought up — unless they are actually a part of the ruling love, in which case they will be acted out again in the spiritual world.
C.    But we do not forgive easily
1.    We remember the pain. We dwell on the hurts. We have a hard time letting go of the past and moving on.
a.    Even though we ourselves have need of forgiveness.
2.    In order to be forgiven the things that we ourselves have done, the Lord tells us that first we must be forgiving. We pray to the Lord that He will forgive us, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.
VII.    Let us look to our own relationships
A.    Let us search out the anger and resentment there. Let us see if we have been murmuring and complaining against others or even against the Lord. Let us recognize that anger and resentment for what it really is:  a symptom of a state of tempta-tion in our own lives. The problem is not in the Lord, or in His government of the world, but in us and our failure to rise above our own petty concerns to look for the eternal good in our neighbour, for it is the good that is the neighbour to be loved.

But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ AMEN.

First Lesson:  Mat 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. {2} “Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. {3} “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, {4} “and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. {5} “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. {6} “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ {7} “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ {8} “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ {9} “And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. {10} “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. {11} “And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, {12} “saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ {13} “But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? {14} ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. {15} ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ {16} “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” Amen.

Second Lesson:  HH 509
Every evil carries its punishment with it, the two making one; therefore whoever is in evil is also in the punishment of evil. And yet no one in the other world suffers punishment on account of the evils that he had done in this world, but only on account of the evils that he then does; although it amounts to the same and is the same thing whether it be said that men suffer punishment on account of their evils in the world or that they suffer punishment on account of the evils they do in the other life, since every one after death returns into his own life and thus into like evils; and the man continues the same as he had been in the life of the body. Amen.

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