Wednesday, September 21, 2011

God's Kingdom

What is God's kingdom like? What do we expect to find in God's kingdom? Jesus told his disciples in this parable in Matthew 20 that God's kingdom was like this estate manager who went to the labor center in town to hire laborers for his harvest.

Is that the way you think of God's kingdom? Jesus said that this estate manager was looking for those who would be willing to work for him to bring in the harvest. He began hiring as soon as the harvest was ready. As the day progressed he kept going back to recruit more laborers. Even when there was only one hour of daylight left he called all who were left and willing to work. How is that like God's kingdom?

Think of it this way. When did you answer the call to work for the Lord? Was it seventy years ago? Was it fifty years ago? Or was it 2 days ago? Do those who answered first receive more of a reward than those who answered yesterday?

Answer me this. What does God guarantee any of us if we give our hearts to him? Did he tell us that the first ones who came to him would receive greater rewards than those who came to him yesterday? Did he say anywhere that those who begin early to work for him and work really, really hard will be of a higher status that those who begin work later and maybe don't work as hard?

This is the Great Reversal Jesus talked about, “...many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” God has never done things the way we would do them and it just doesn't seem fair.
We think that if we give all of our time and all our labor working for God that we should be rewarded more than those who don't give as much time or don't work at all. Some think that way. We've been taught by the world that we get what we work for and we deserve it.

But God gives the same gift to the last as he gives to those first committed followers, eternal life in God's kingdom. That may not seem fair but grace and forgiveness are God's gifts to give and it's not up to us.

The Israelites traveling through the wilderness didn't think life was fair either. They wanted everything they had back in Egypt. They grumbled at Moses and Aaron. God heard their complaints and he fed them manna and quail.

Remember when God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. Remember when Moses asked him who should he tell the Israelites had sent him to lead them out of Egypt. He said, “I am who I am,” or as some translations put it, “I will be who I will be.”

For the Israelites in the wilderness he was their Bread. They didn't know what it was he was giving them and so they asked, “What is it?”

In Egypt God was their salvation; in the wilderness he was their sustenance, their Bread. For Paul He was the Good News and for the disciples of Jesus he was their Teacher. What will God be for us and is he calling us to labor in the harvest? How will we answer? What do we expect?

Paul was torn between staying here and working for the Lord and going to be with Jesus. He
decided if this was where God wanted him them he would continue his work.

He didn't expect anymore than what God provided him as he lived and worked for the Lord. Sometimes he lived in the lap of luxury and other times he had nothing. Wherever and whatever Paul lived for the Lord.

So, what are we to do with this Good News? God leaves the choice up to us. Will we answer his call to join the harvesters? Will we be willing to give everything to serve him? Will we suffer for him? Will we lovingly accept those who come to the harvest with nothing more than their love for Jesus, the homeless, the addicts, the unemployed, and the unloved? God does and will.

God's kingdom is like nothing we've ever seen or could ever imagine. It is filled with God's love and grace. He accepts all who answer the call. The first and the last receive the same pay, eternal life. It may not seem fair to us but it is God's gift to give.

Thanks be to God for his extravagant grace. Amen.

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