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“Hear another parable: there was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country….” Matthew 21:33-46 (Cf. Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)

This parable of Jesus was spoken as a warning to the religious leaders of the Jews. The people of Israel were God’s planting, His vineyard. God had redeemed them and made them His own people. The chief priests, scribes and elders were like the wicked vinedressers in this parable.

They were entrusted with the task of caring for God’s people by teaching them from the Word of God and leading them in worship and in service to God. But when God sent His servants, the prophets, to call the people to repentance, the prophets and their message were rejected. Some were even mistreated and killed. God sent John the Baptist to prepare His people for the coming of their Messiah. John called upon all to repent and be baptized that they might receive forgiveness from the Lord God, but the religious leaders of the Jews rejected John and his baptism (cf. Luke 3:1ff.; 7:29-30; Mark 1:1ff.).

Finally, God sent His own beloved Son; but He and His Word were rejected of them too. Their Christ they handed over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified. The religious leaders of the Jews were to be building the kingdom of God by rightly teaching the Word of God and preparing the people for the coming of their Messiah and Savior; but they laid aside and rejected the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Psalm 118:22). Instead of pointing people to their Savior, they rejected and killed the very Son of God!

Unless they repented, they faced eternal destruction and torment in hell for their rejection of Christ Jesus (cf. John 3:18,36; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Because these leaders of God’s people rejected Christ, God put others in charge of His flock, faithful shepherds who would feed God’s flock with the pure Word of God (cf. Jeremiah 23:1-4).

Pastors today can take admonition from this parable of Jesus as well! They are to faithfully proclaim the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets – the true Word of God – and they are to faithfully hold up Christ Jesus and His redemptive work as the central teaching and cornerstone of the Christian Faith. Christian congregations, too, must take great care to build upon Christ and His Word, lest they forsake the only true foundation and set aside the Chief Cornerstone, which is Christ their Savior.

Bring those into Thy fold who still to Thee are strangers; guard those who are within against offense and dangers. Press onward with Thy Word till pastor and his fold through faith in Thee, O Christ, Thy glory shall behold. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #485, Verse 7)

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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For those who missed today’s worship service, a video of the service may be watched by clicking on the link below. The sermon theme was “Turn and Live.” It was based on Ezekiel 18, especially verses 30-32. Will you be condemned for turning away from the Lord and disobeying His Word, or will you repent, trust in Christ and walk in His ways?

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“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” Ezekiel 18:30-32 (Read Ezekiel 18)

Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet, sent by God during the years of the exile to call upon God’s people to repent of their wicked ways and look to God for mercy at a time when the judgment of God was falling upon His people for their turning aside from true worship and service to God into idolatry and disobedience. He warned of and illustrated the judgment of God which was coming upon the people for their evil doings – a judgment they would not escape unless they repented and returned to the Lord God!

So also, in chapter 18 of Ezekiel, he warns a people who considered God unfair in His judgments, saying they were suffering for the sins of their fathers and not for their own rebelliousness and sin. They accused God of injustice rather than acknowledging their own wickedness and sin.

Ezekiel’s message? “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). The father who rebels against the Lord and lives in disobedience and sin will die for his sin. So also the son. But those who repent of their wicked ways, whether father or son, will be pardoned and live!

And these words certainly apply to us today. Every one of us will be judged by God according to our ways. If we turn aside from the Lord God and His Word, we will die in our sins and be judged of God. Even if we have lived good Christian lives all our days but then turn aside and live in sin and disobedience, we will die in our sins. All the good we have done will be forgotten! If, on the other hand, we see the error of our ways and the sin and disobedience in our lives and turn unto the Lord God for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus and then, as a fruit of faith, seek to live for Him, all our sins will be forgiven of God and we will be counted righteous and holy in God’s eyes for Jesus’ sake.

Therefore, God also calls out to us, warning us that God will judge each of us according to our ways and there will be no escaping His judgment. But God also tells us: “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”

God does not desire to condemn us to eternal death and suffering in hell. Rather, He desires that we repent of our sinful and rebellious ways and look to Him for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world! God grant that we heed His voice!

You are holy and just, O God. We have sinned and gone astray. Forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and move us to walk in Your way. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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For those who missed today’s worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rogers, a link to the worship video is included below.

The sermon was about the parable of the laborers in the vineyard from Matthew 20:1-16 and asks the question: “What is Fair?”

Martin Jackson was the preacher.

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