“The first will be
last and the last first.”

We usually hear these words as a joke.  When we have arrived late to the pot-luck and find ourselves last in line, “The first will be last and last first.”  These words are no joke though, and perhaps we ought not treat them as such.  Jesus is saying to you what he says to his disciples, “many of the first will be last and the last first.”  Jesus explains what he means.

The Reign of Heaven is like a householder who went out and hired workers for a set wage.  He hired early in the morning, in the
afternoon, and evening.  Then when it was late he told his Steward to gather the workers and pay them the wage.  He started with the last hired working toward the first and they all received equally, one denarius.  Those who labored through the heat of the day
grumbled against the householder.  And he answered them, “It is lawful for me to do with these things that are mine like
I want, isn’t it?”  In this way the last are first and first last.

There is the hard Word, “can’t I do what I want with what is mine.”  These are hard words to hear because YOU are the Lord’s.
That is right.  You are His Own.  Even Martin Luther reminds you in his catechism of this.  Does anyone remember the explanation to the 2nd article of the Apostles Creed?  “that I may be his own…”  Luther says.  You are God’s own possession.  You
were made his by your Baptism.  When water was poured over your head God took action.  He claimed you.  He sealed you in Faith and made you his own.  So, these are very hard words from Jesus.

They are hard words because you are used to being your own.  But now, God is butting in.  That is why I am here again
today.   God is exerting His rights over you, and your life and family, your thoughts and actions.  We hear a lot about rights these days.  We hear about citizens’ rights, women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, right to life, we even talk about the rights of the congregation to choose a pastor.  But here another voice cries out.  “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine?”  God’s rights.  The rights of the creator and Lord; the rights of YOUR creator and Lord!  This is why the first are last and the last are first.  God can do what he wants in His Kingdom with what is his, and the workers are His.  He has called them into the vineyard.  He has given them work.  He pays them in whatever order and all the same.  They all got the same!  You all get the same!  Radical!  Radical because it is new.

I do not have to tell you about the old ways and lies of this world.  You are bombarded with the language and ideas of “the bottom line” and “productivity” nearly everywhere you go.  The most productive are the most valued, best paid, most noticed.  If you show up late, you do not get paid and probably will get fired.  There is little to no generosity on behalf of employers and you are always in fear of termination, unemployment, and financial ruin.  So also in the church, we are led to think the first are first and the
last are out of luck.  The productivity of a person dictates worth and standing.  Think of the practices we employ here at St. John.  When a child is confirmed in this church what happens?  They are given voting rights, and offering envelopes, and they can take communion.  Does that seem strange?  What does that seem to confess about us?  I think it says we only want you to be a part
of this community when you are smart enough and productive enough to contribute in tangible ways.  This same attitude
extends to the handicapped and mentally retarded, those members who are chronically delinquent, even those shut in and unable to come.  But Jesus tells you today that in the Reign of Heaven the first are last and the last are first and that is because God can
do what He wants with what is his own. Isn’t that amazing?!

This Reign of Heaven is nothing like the reign of the World and you are caught up in THE KINGDOM!  Your Lord has made you His own.  And here again at this altar he will remind you of His decision for you.  He will again give you His Body and Blood.  What a proclamation from God!  “Here, you, this is my Body for you, and this is my blood for you! Take it and eat it and drink of it all of you!”  There is something new going on here.  A new covenant, a covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  It is a new Kingdom and a New Reign.  A Kingdom where the first are last and the last are first and we all get the same.  Isn’t that just Amazing!

Be careful though.  When you eat and drink this Body and Blood of Christ you are making a strong proclamation yourself.  You are declaring you are the Lord’s.  You are saying you are for the Vineyard.  You are saying you stand with all the workers of the vineyard together.  You are making confession that you side with the householder of the parable and not the grumbling workers.  You are declaring that in the Reign of Heaven God gets his way with his own things.  This is your declaration because it is the
Lord’s desire to have you here today, and it is his desire to feed you again today, and it is his desire for you to be one body, and here you will come to this rail, you will kneel and receive exactly what the Lord has to give, and you will all receive the same.
Forgiveness, Life, and Salvation.
Amazing!  Amen.

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