Worship preview for 10/22
Our God patiently looks for fruits of faith, also called good works. What are good works in the sight of God? The catechism answers: “In the sight God good works are the works of faith which the Holy Spirit leads the Christian to do out of love, according to the Ten Commandments, for the glory of God, and for the welfare of his neighbor.”
As the Reformation so clearly emphasized, good works do not earn salvation. The Holy Spirit comes to us through Word and Sacraments to lead us to repentance and faith. Through those means of grace the Holy Spirit gives us new birth in Christ and then strengthens us in faith and good works.
Good works show on the outside what is the condition of the inside, and that is why they are also called “fruits” of faith. The grapes on the outside of the vine show the condition of the vine on the inside.
THE GOSPEL: MATTHEW 21:33–43
Jesus’ words in the Gospel highlight the patience of our God as he seeks fruits of faith. Could God have done anything more for Israel? The point here is the amazing patience the owner displays. What owner would continue to send servants when they were treated this way? Who would ever answer such barbarity by sending his only Son? The patience of God with Israel is without comparison. Even Jesus’ enemies had to agree that the only just end for such tenants was judgment.
The owner’s Son looked his enemies in the eye and proclaimed that opposing him was impossible. Killing the Son means defeat for his enemies and victory for God as prophesied in Psalm 118. God will lift his Son from death and use the stone rejected by men as his capstone.
Let Jesus’ enemies be warned. You can oppose the Son actively and you will find yourself on your face. You can ignore the Son at your peril and you will find yourself ground to powder.
Israel’s leaders refused to produce the fruits of repentance and faith. As a result, the kingdom of God will be ripped away and given to a different nation. The point is not that he will give the kingdom to Gentiles, but that God’s kingdom doesn’t belong to an ethnic group, but an ethical group: those who produce its fruit. The nation to whom is it given is the body of believers. Whether they are prostitutes (Matthew 21:32) or members of the Sanhedrin (John 19:39) or Gentiles who are of the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:16), the kingdom belongs to them by faith.
FIRST LESSON: ISAIAH 5:1–7
The details of grape cultivation were common knowledge in Israel. They understood the backbreaking work that went into establishing a vineyard. They knew the joy of harvesting its fruit. Did Isaiah share this message at the time of the grape harvest when every detail was fresh?
The song of the vineyard starts out as a beautiful love ballad. Israel is God’s own vineyard, and he gave her everything she needed.
After planting vines, a farmer normally had to wait two years for the first harvest. Isaiah tells us that God was not idle after planting. He built a tower, a press—this vineyard had everything needed. No expense was spared. What a surprise then, when God came to look for fruit and found only “stinking things.” When God speaks in verse 3, who could disagree with him?
Like the vineyard, Israel lacked nothing. God took her from Egypt and planted her in the Promised Land. He drove out her enemies and made her secure. She had the Law, the Temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the prophets. What more could God have done? Yet when he came to harvest, there was no fruit. In fact, God found the opposite of his intention! God looked for “justice” but found “bloodshed.” He looked for “righteousness” but found “cries of distress.” It had a beautiful beginning, but the song of the vineyard has a harrowing end: God himself will tear it down.
When God looks for fruits of faith in our life and finds them lacking, couldn’t he ask the same question of us, “What more could I have done for you? I planted you in baptism; I bought you with blood; I guarded you with angels.” This song leads God’s people of every generation to self-evaluation and self-condemnation. Such a song leads us to repent and cry, “Lord, have mercy!” Let us never receive God’s grace in vain, but pray that we might produce the fruits that our beloved seeks.
SECOND LESSON: PHILIPPIANS 3:12–21
This is the third of four consecutive readings from Philippians. Today’s lesson fits nicely with the theme of the Gospel: Paul encourages us to live up to what we have already attained. God has given us the kingdom of heaven by faith. We are the people he promised would produce its fruits. So let us do exactly that. Let us live drastically different lives than the people of this world who worship their stomach and their shame. Let us with free hearts do everything that pleases our Lord and Savior.
WELS Commission on Worship