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First the Good News!                                                                                                                                                                      February 13, 2017
 
We have a tendency to use our imaginations about God and then place those imaginations over Him, so we pray that God does not let those imaginations take hold of His Church.

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Exodus 17:1-7New International Version (NIV)

Water From the Rock

17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin,traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Footnotes:

  1. Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing.
  2. Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling.


1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5New International Version (NIV)

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Warnings From Israel’s History

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.



Matthew 20:1-16New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend.Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 20:2 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer.



[*]Footnotes by BibleGateway.com


LET NOT MAN PREVAIL


The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know your name put their trust in You, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.  For the needy shall not always be forgotten and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.  Arise, O LORD!  Let not man prevail.  Psalm 9:9-10; 18-19a

O LORD, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequence of our sin may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of Your name, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our LORD, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


IF you think the church's job is to make you feel warm and fuzzy, think again.  The sham smiles you might see in television "churches," as the camera pans the audience, are not real, neither do they reflect what is happening in the Master's Vineyard today.  In church we conduct eternal transactions.  We deal with matters of spiritual life and spiritual death, and there is nothing more solemn that that.

Does the church talk a lot about sin?  Yes, but only in the same way an oncologist talks about cancer; not because he likes it but because it is the enemy, and the church is not afraid to say the enemy's name out loud.

Who is the enemy?  The answer to that may surprise you.  In the words of the Gradual we prayed this morning, "Let not man prevail!" or to borrow the words of the famous Pogo comic strip, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

What a prayer that is!

Let not man prevail!

Anyone who prays that prayer is guilty of treason, of high crimes and misdemeanors.  He spits in the face of the proud culture.  He "disses" its church, its hymnal, its doctrine, its practice and its god.  It is sacrilege!  An intolerable offense against the human family that worships itself as the only true god.

Let not man prevail!  What does this mean?  For the answer we need look no farther than the day's propers.  The Collect is brutally honest, more than a person could tolerate except he be drenched in divine grace, except that in the church we know that the Good News always follows the bad and is magnitudes more good than the bad news is bad.  In this collect we learn that the things we suffer in life are the "just consequence of our own sin."

That is harsh, but in the church we must not "live in denial" as the timid culture does.  We are under no illusions, supposing that one day it will all be better, just as soon as we elect the right politicians and distribute the world's goods to all men equally.  The Christian version of utopia is just as sinister.  Just as soon as Christians really learn what their faith is all about and begin to live it, then the world will be a good and decent place.

Now it is true that the Bible exhorts the baptized to every virtuous work, but it also recognizes human limitation.  It knows that all people, believer as well as unbeliever, are compromised by sin, so that not only are our wrongs are exceedingly wrong, but even the good we do:  our prayers, our worship, our loftiest thoughts and greatest sacrifices are tainted by the sin that dwells in us (Rom 7:17)

Does that depress you?  It need not because Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  You are those sinners.  You, your father and mother, your kids and spouse, brothers and sisters, neighbors and rulers, your barista and your barber all alike.  This is why the church prays, "Let not man prevail," because however bad things are, how much worse would they be if men, who are turned in on themselves, driven by unquenchable desires as they are, were to have their way, instead of Christ?

Let not man prevail, but let God who is rich in mercy and who takes us in at the 11th hour, prevail; and let Jesus who is our Rock and who bore the burden of our sins and heat of their judgment, reign as King of Glory and Lord of all.

Let not man prevail!  We learn this in today's Old Testament lesson.  At Rephidim the people were dying of thirst.  They were tired, hungry, oppressed and at the end of their rope.  The "social contract " (which is tenuous in the best of times) was about to be dropped into the shredder.  They would have stoned Moses in a heartbeat and murdered one another in cold blood for a cup of cold water.  Let not man prevail!

The Lord answered their prayer by a stick and a rock.  Moses used the stick to strike the rock at God's command.  Water came out and the people were saved, once again at peace, but let us also connect the dots to Christ.  The stick Moses carried symbolized the cross.  It looked ahead 1,400 years to a hill far away, to Calvary, where He who is the righteous branch, by a branch prevailed over our sins and the infernal tyranny of the devil; and the water from the "rock that is Christ" prophesied baptism with dead accuracy, the sacrament by which we enter the kingdom of God and become heirs to every blessing.

Let not man prevail!

We find the same in today's Epistle lesson.  The founding members of the church in Corinth are remembered for the shame they brought on the Gospel.  They professed themselves Christians but lived like pagans, even as we too often do.  Repent!  Confess your sins and come to Calvary's holy mountain to be cleansed by the body and blood of Christ.

Let not man prevail!

We learn the same in today's Gospel.  All the workers contracted with the master to do so much work for so much pay.  End of story, until payday that is when they noted the master's strange way of doing business and they grew jealous and resentful.  Given the opportunity there's no telling to what lengths they might have gone, what property they might have looted, or what innocent blood they would have spilled in order to re-write the bargain in their favor.  Let not man prevail!

Yet if any man should prevail, let it be the Perfect Man, the "Man Christ Jesus" who is the only mediator between God and man.  Let Christ prevail, who like a lamb going to slaughter permitted evil men to prevail over Him, and bore every pain, every thorn due to us, so that neither death, devil nor sin should ever prevail over us.

Let God in Christ triumph!  He who gives you life with immortality, splendor with righteousness, truth with confidence, faith with assurance and self-control with holiness.  Let God arise, and his enemies be scattered.  Amen.

Rev. Dean Kavouras