Sermon Transcript - Click or tap to view

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  1. Not by birth
  2. Not by hard work
  3. But by grace
SERMON TEXT: Romans 9:6–16

Not all who are descended from Israel are really Israel, and not all who are descended from Abraham are really his children. On the contrary, “Your line of descent will be traced through Isaac.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are counted as his descendants. For this is what the promise said: “I will arrive at this set time, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah also had children by one man, our forefather, Isaac. Even before the twins were born or did anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might continue— not by works but because of him who calls us—it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What will we say then? Does this mean that God is unjust? Absolutely not! For God says to Moses: I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then, it does not depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

Grace mercy and peace from all to all of you from God our father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you see a few weeks ago the play that was put on by the chance theater group called Annie? It was performed down in Tustin. I got to see it in production because they practiced here in our fellowship hall. You remember the story of Annie who the hero is? A bald guy, right? Oliver Warbucks they call him Daddy Warbucks there is a real-life Daddy Warbucks. He lives in Boca Raton Florida and after hurricane, Irma devastated the Peninsula including the SOS children’s home Florida where 70 foster kids were displaced, a man by the name of Mark Bell and his wife Jennifer welcome to them all into their home. 70 foster kids. They thought it would be for a few hours but it turned out to be three whole days. Mark and Jennifer bought pizza and they said they’d never seen pizza disappear so quickly. You can imagine how much pizza 70 children can eat. They had to order more. They celebrated birthdays with the children. They played with them. They bought them games they did a lot of very fun things. I would imagine that Mark and Jennifer Bell had a lot of things after the hurricane the day needed to attend to; property damage and probably some business losses that they could have been spending their time fixing, but instead out of the goodness of their generous hearts they gave up their home to these children. I suppose that that is a very good picture of what God has done for us he has invited us into his family. He has adopted us as his children. Not because we did anything good or bad. Not because of who we are or where we belong, or what we have thought, or what we have desired, or what our potential is; none of that! God has chosen us to be his children only because he is a gracious and a good God.

1. Not By Birth

It is sometimes said you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family. Think about that, your parents you couldn’t choose who your parents would be. You can’t choose who your siblings are, or your aunts and uncles, or your nephews. You can’t choose your children that are born naturally to you, and you can decide in the private thoughts of your own mind if that’s good or bad in your case. We didn’t have any choice either when it came to being a part of God’s family. In fact, Jesus says very plainly, ”it is not that you chose me but I chose you I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last.” And so today as we talk about this reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 9:6B-16, we see that we are chosen to be God’s children and it’s not by birth. Are you a part of God’s family. I hope that all of you were able to answer-I didn’t hear anybody say it out loud-but I hope you are all able to answer in your heart yes, I am a member of God’s family. A follow-up question to that could be, well how do you know? How can you be sure? You can be sure because the Holy Spirit has called you to faith. If you believe that Jesus lived a perfect life for you. Died on the cross as a sacrificial payment for your sins. If you believe that Jesus rose again from the dead, and therefore is able to keep all of the promises that he made to you, then you are certainly a part of God’s family. What a beautiful picture that is. Sometimes we call our congregation, Grace Lutheran Church, we call it a church family. This is a Grace family and you have been chosen to be part of this family. In Romans 8 the apostle Paul had said that all of us are called according to God’s purpose, and that through that purpose God is working in everything that you experience, everything that you see, and everything that you do for your good, and it is by the spirit of the one that called you into his family that you can say Abba Father. Abba is a very familiar word that those who spoke Aramaic like Jesus would have known. Similar to our English papa or dad, or daddy. It means father, n but it expresses a familiarity with the father. A close family relationship. How did you become part of that family? Well, some of the people that the apostle Paul was writing this letter to, thought that it happened by birth. They figured they were entitled to be part of God’s family because of the family that they were born into. They were descendants of Abraham. So they looked with great pride upon their ancestor Abraham. They said he was a man of great faith. He was a man who did mighty things. He was a man who became the father of many nations, as numerous as the stars in the sky that you can see, or the sand on the seashore. If you could count those things then you would be able to count the descendants of Abraham. Those who were born into the Jewish family, the Jewish lineage, they said part of God’s family. I was born into it. The apostle Paul says not so fast. That doesn’t make it automatically so. See, there are many people who were born into the family of Abraham who ultimately rejected the promise that God gave to Abraham. Not everyone who is descended from Abraham, therefore, is truly part of God’s family. The ones who rejected the Savior that God promised through Abraham, well they rejected the salvation that the Savior brought. Some of them very smugly just rested on that status that they felt they had as children of Abraham, and they said everything, therefore, will be all right.

2. Not by hard work

But there is another group of people also that the apostle Paul was writing to living in Rome. They weren’t born into the family of Abraham. We often call them Gentiles. I imagine that most of us here today are Gentiles. Some of us may have some ancestry that could trace back to Abraham, but I imagine most of us do not. So we’re Gentiles. The word itself means people from the other nations. People that are outsiders, foreigners, and aliens. Some who were not born into the family of Abraham still wanted to believe that they were part of God’s family, so what did they do? They tried really really hard. They did as many good works as they possibly could. They did everything according to the book according to all of the rights of the rituals that God inspired Moses to write down. They lived according to their faith. They put their best foot forward. They put 100% effort into this so that they would belong to the family of God. Did it work? No, the apostle Paul said not so fast. You are working and working and working well, you still don’t really belong. It would kind of like be if you were out and a homeless person followed you back to your house, and before you could close the door all the way, the homeless person barged in sat down at your table and said I’m so glad I’m part of your family. Then he offers to do the dishes. He finds the vacuum and he starts vacuuming the floors, and he sweeps out the cobwebs from the corner. He washes the dishes and he makes the bed. Well, what would you think about that kind of a situation? Would he really belong to your family no matter how hard he works? Well probably most of us would feel a little bit better about it if we had invited him in, right? If we had said please come in and have a meal, you’re welcome. Well, then he would belong in a certain sense. There were people that Paul is addressing in this letter who did not come into God’s family because of the invitation of grace. They were trying to come into God’s family by force. By obedience to the law. Paul said that just would not work. No matter how good your efforts are you still cannot be good enough to belong in God’s family. And just because you were born into God’s family, or the family of Abraham rather that does not mean that you were born into God’s family. What about you? Are you a Lutheran just because your parents were Lutheran? Are you a Christian just because your parents were Christian? Maybe some of you can go back in your family tree and you, like my family can trace our roots in America all the way back to 1839 when some of our ancestors came to the United States specifically, so that they could practice their Lutheran faith without interference from the Prussian government. Should we take great pride in that kind of a family relationship? No, rather we should take great pride in the fact that God has called us into his family by his grace in spite of our sinfulness, because no matter how many generations back you go in really good Lutheran stock No matter how many generations back you go as strong believing Christians, you are still as sinful as anybody else that you’ve ever met.

3. But by grace

The difference between a Christian and the non-Christian is not that Christians are better or act better, but Christians have found the place where they are forgiven. In the arms of their Savior Jesus. God in his word here tells us that we should get all of that self-righteous thinking out of our heads. It says it does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy another word for mercy, is love, or grace. God’s love for us even though we don’t deserve it. That’s why we’re part of God’s family and God doesn’t hall was any explanation for why he has allowed us to be part of his family are not. God simply says I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. God chose to make you a member of this family of faith purely because of his mercy.

That’s way it was with Abraham. Abraham was 75 years old when God told him that he would be the father of many nations. And for 10 long years, Abraham and his wife Sarah waited and waited and waited. Even at the age of 75 and 65, they hadn’t had any children yet and they were past the age where you would expect to have children. Now at the age of 85 and 75, they are told you are going to have a child. In the meantime, they’d grown impatient and Abraham became the father of a man by the name of Ishmael. He was born in a natural way not the child of promise. The child promise was Isaac. He was born at the appointed time exactly as the Lord had predicted. Wow, that God was able to bring forth an Isaac. Did God love Ishmael, of course, he did, but there was only one child of promise, only one that could carry the Savior in his descendants, and that was Isaac. Then God used another illustration. The very next generation it’s Isaac and Rebekah this time. There’s one father and mother of these twin boys. One is called Esau. One is called Isaac. Esau, he is the one with all the hairy legs and hairy arms on the bulletin cover. Isaac is the one with smooth skin. You can call her if you want if you brought your own crayons. God said that the older would serve the younger. Even before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, God said that Jacob was going to be the one to carry the promise, the birthright, the promise of the Savior. God said, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated. That doesn’t mean that God determined the Esau was going be cast out of his presence forever, but as it sometimes means in the Bible, to hate means to place someone second. Like when Jesus says that in comparison to God you should hate your parents, your children. God doesn’t mean that you should hate them and treat them badly, but in the sense that God wants to be number one. Everybody else of faraway number two. So Jacob was God’s number one and Esau was number two. The older would serve the younger. Jacob carried the promise. Esau I believe was saved because he believed in God’s promise that had been carried through Jacob, but Esau was not able to carry that promise. When God says that he has elected us to be his children, we should rejoice in God’s grace. We should rejoice to know that we are children of God. Not by our choosing, not by our efforts, and not because we were born into it, but only because of God’s mercy.

Martin Luther had a wise expression. He said we need to look at the word of God and not try to peer around the curtain to see what God has hidden. It’s a very hard question when people ask why are some chosen to be part of God’s family and others do not become part of God’s family. In our human mind would like to be able to answer that question, but the truth is we can’t. All we can say is that God, by his grace, has chosen you and he’s proven that by sending the Holy Spirit into your heart so that you believe in Jesus and hold on to him. Of those 70 orphans that were hosted by Mark and Jennifer Bell, they didn’t have anything to say about it. They were simply the recipients of his gracious hospitality. They didn’t really belong in the millionaire’s mansion, but he welcomed them and he cared for them when they were in need.

God has chosen you in Christ to be part of his family and have a place in his eternal heavenly mansion. Take pride in that. Take comfort in that., and know that you will rejoice with these brothers and sisters forever.

Amen

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  1. Not by birth
  2. Not by hard work
  3. But by grace

SERMON TEXT:  Romans 9:6–16

See 2nd Lesson Below


Bible Readings

FIRST LESSON:  Jonah 4:5-11

Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city. He made a shelter for himself there and sat under it in the shade, until he would see what would happen in the city. Then the Lord God provided a plant and made it grow up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. So Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, and it attacked the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” He said, “I am right to be angry—enough to die!” So the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant. You did not work for it or make it grow. It grew up in a night and perished in a night. Should I not be concerned for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than one hundred twenty thousand people who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left—and also many animals?”

SECOND LESSON:  Romans 9:6–16

Not all who are descended from Israel are really Israel, and not all who are descended from Abraham are really his children. On the contrary, “Your line of descent will be traced through Isaac.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are counted as his descendants. For this is what the promise said: “I will arrive at this set time, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah also had children by one man, our forefather, Isaac. Even before the twins were born or did anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might continue— not by works but because of him who calls us—it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What will we say then? Does this mean that God is unjust? Absolutely not! For God says to Moses: I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then, it does not depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.

VERSE OF THE DAY:  2 Corinthians 12:9a

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

GOSPEL: Matthew 20:1–16

“Indeed the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing to pay the workers a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. He also went out about the third hour and saw others standing unemployed in the marketplace. To these he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did the same thing. When he went out about the eleventh hour, he found others standing unemployed. He said to them, ‘Why have you stood here all day unemployed?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “He told them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last group and ending with the first.’ “When those who were hired around the eleventh hour came, they each received a denarius. When those who were hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But they each received a denarius too. After they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner: ‘Those who were last worked one hour, and you made them equal to us who have endured the burden of the day and the scorching heat!’ “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not make an agreement with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last one hired the same as I also gave to you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ In the same way, the last will be first, and the first, last.”

X