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Plymouth United Church of Christ
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Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“God's Gifts”
Sermon, Year A, Proper 20, September 21, 2014
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16

God is a generous God. A God of giving. A God who is generous beyond what is sensible. In the benediction we will use the phrase “God’s strange generosity”. I used that in the Greetings today as well. God’s strange generosity. It is generosity at a level to which we often fear to trek. Which we are often afraid to achieve, or hesitant to strive for.

We hear about God’s generosity in this passage. I think we also hear Jesus talking subtly here about gratitude as well. But I am talking about gratitude today, but talking about God’s generosity. We read this parable last Lent when we had our Soup and Scripture series on Wednesday nights, when we were talking about parables of the Kingdom of Heaven (which is the phrase that the writer of Matthew’s Gospel uses), or Realm of God, Commonwealth of God, whatever you want to call it. So think of these parables as Jesus saying also, “This is what God is like. This is God’s vision of what a right and just way is of forming community. This is what a godly world looks like.”

In this one, it’s a community of generosity and abundance. Of enough for everyone. We live in a world of abundance. We often talk about scarcity and not enough resources, but it’s a world of abundance! There is enough for everyone. We just don’t distribute it as well as we could, or as well as we should. We live in a world of abundance because it is God’s world, and God is a God of abundance and generosity.

“I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.” There is abundance in that phrase. There is enough for everyone. But also in this is not a call for excess. Or that prosperity belief. I think there is in this parable a kick in the teeth to the prosperity gospel. God doesn’t just keep heaping riches and wealth upon us at the expense of other people, or because we please God. But we are in a world of abundance. This is also a kick in the teeth of our American capitalist Protestant work ethic that says “Work, work, work, earn, earn, earn”, but God works on a mantra of “No, it’s about give! Give, give, give, be generous, give.”

We see it in the Exodus story that we read as well. God provides the meat and the manna. Provides enough for everyone. And only enough. Just enough. God doesn’t allow people to take too much, and doesn’t allow people to take too little. Those who take too much end up with their excess being spoiled. We didn’t read that far into the story, but those with excess manna wake up the next day to find that the excess has spoiled. “Worms in the Bread.” Those who take too little find that their jars are filled until they have enough. And the employer in the parable here offering a day’s wages. That’s enough money to exist for a day. To eat and maintain life for one day. He pays that to all the workers whether they worked a full day or a partial day. He gives them a full day’s wages regardless of how much they worked. Because no matter how much they worked, for them to survive for that day, they need a day’s wages. So they deserve to live for that day. God’s world is one in which no one goes hungry, no one is homeless, no one goes without, no one suffers from lack of resources. This is the God who, on the night before we crucified him, said “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you.” That is not a god who withholds, but one who gives! Who gives far beyond what is sensible.

This generous God. God is a giving God. That’s God’s nature. Giving manna in the wilderness. Love and grace through Jesus. Giving us the Holy Spirit. And what God does in our daily lives. Making the corn, the wheat, the cranberries grow. Makes flowers grow and bloom and give us beauty. Makes the cattle give milk, and give birth to other cattle. All other animals giving birth. Giving children to us. All this generosity of God. And also in that generosity is that every 24 hours God gives us another gift: a new day. A brand new day. Morning has broken. It is a new day. A chance to start over. A new beginning. A new opportunity. The mistakes, failures, the pain of yesterday is all in the past. Let it go. God gives us a new day to become a new person. God gives us this gift of a new and fresh start with a chance to try something new or readjust our lives. We always have this new day. This new chance to embrace God’s gift of life. Abundant life. Grace and love.

And to know that God doesn’t care so much if we arrived very early and have put in a full day’s work and with our lives in order, living good and well. Or if we have come late to the field. Or even if we haven’t gotten that far yet. Wherever we are on our journey – came late, came early, haven’t started at all yet – God loves us all the same amount. God’s love for everyone is equal. God loves us equally. “I choose to give this last the same as I give to the first.”

It is a reward... well, let’s not say that. I don’t like the word “reward” because it implies that we’ve earned it, that we’ve done something to gain it... so let’s say, “God loves us equally, and that’s God’s gift. God’s gift.”

It is not our reward, it is God’s gift to us. That’s the radical nature of God’s love. God’s generous gift to us. God’s strange generosity is that we are loved as we are. Equally. And with all of creation. All that God has made, regardless of the awful things we have done, and also – and I think is the radical break with tradition that Jesus often makes, the bold step that Jesus makes – is also that God’s gift of love comes to us regardless of the wonderful things that we have done. Regardless of the awful things we’ve done, regardless of the wonderful things we’ve done, God loves us. Because God is generous. God’s love, manna from heaven, all that we have, the fruits and vegetables of the earth, the water that we drink, each new morning... is a gift! Not a reward, not a pay off, not a payment, not a salary, not a wage, not an enticement. Just... a gift. Because that’s who God is, and that’s how God is. God is generous, giving, loving.

A gift.

Today I woke up. What a gift! A chance to start over and let go of whatever pain we might have, or suffering, guilt, shame, whatever it is. Today, I woke up! What a gift.

Today is a new day. Morning has broken. Great it with hope. A tabula rasa, an empty page to begin again. “I choose to give to the last the same as I give to you.”


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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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