Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Septuagesima Sunday 1/31/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Septuagesima Bulletin

The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for Septuagesima Sunday, click here


We understand; we get it; at least we ought to: that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone.

Our good works do not merit forgiveness. The amount of time we have been Christians earns us nothing. The Master chooses to give to the last as He has given to the first. To those who have been Christians all their lives, and to those who got in at the very last minute, God gives life and salvation equally.

But, like I said, we get it. We have sung every single stanza of “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” so many times, we have celebrated the Reformation year after year, and we have heard this Parable again and again, so much so that it has ceased to shock us or surprise us.

When it comes to the question of salvation, we have the answer. This is why, last year, I ended the sermon on this text with a question:

Now that you know the character of your Master;

now that you know He gives freely to the first and the last;

now that you know again that you are not working on commission;

now that you know that everything comes by grace and as gift:

What happens tomorrow?

Septuagesima sermon February 9, 2020

You knew full well to avoid the sort of self-righteousness shown by the first worker. But perhaps you forgot that this is not the only way to be self-righteous. Have you been satisfied with your own humility? Have you been sinfully boastful of the fact that you have pure doctrine, as if you figured it all out yourself, and didn’t receive it as God’s gracious gift? Have you seen the vanity of seeking righteousness through good works, and decided instead to do nothing at all except receive a day’s wages?

Have you imagined that all your motives are pure? Have you compared your relative modesty to the sickening madness of the world, and praised God for not making you like other men? Is there any good thing that you have been unable to twist and warp?

The intentions of your neighbors? The noble efforts of your brothers and sisters in Christ? The pious vocabulary of your prayers? The rugged simplicity of your prayers?

You are here only because the Master has sought you, found you, and brought you here. You are here by the grace of God alone, which is in Jesus Christ alone; given to you lasts and you firsts.

It’s very simple: Jesus, your Master is good. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. And He can do as He likes with what is His.

If Jesus chooses to mount the cross and actually take upon Himself the sins of the whole world, and He does: then so be it. If Jesus wants to suffer and die for abortionists and pornographers; if He wills to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted for the President, for pedophiles, and those whose doctrines are confused and corrupted; if He wants to die for them, if He wants to pour out His righteousness on them, if He wants to work faith at the very last second in the most repulsive of mankind, if He wants to crown them with the glory and honor equal to the most heroic saints and martyrs, what is that to you?

Is He not free to do what He wishes with what belongs to Him? Can the Master not do what He wants?

The descent from the Mount of Transfiguration has begun. And with every step, as we approach the cross, Jesus is showing us exactly what He wants: He wants to reconcile everyone to the Father. He wants to pay the price Himself, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

And then He wants to give it away for free; not just to those who sin as if it is a sort of contest to see who can offend God more, but also, to you. Jesus loves that first worker, misguided as he was. Jesus calls Him “friend.” And if that friend still insists on what is fair, then he can leave the vineyard. But five trips to the market does suggest that the Master wants His vineyard to be full. He loves the early risers and the late comers. He loves the Pharisees, and He loves you.

See how He loved the children of Israel. Though they had received grace upon grace; though they had been delivered through the Red Sea, though they had been fed with manna from heaven, they did not believe their God was so gracious as to provide something as essential as water.

They were ready with rocks to strike Moses; but by God’s grace and mercy, Moses was instead made to strike the rock. And they all drank and were satisfied.

This rock points us to Christ. We have struck Him with our sins and our grumblings and our self-righteousness. And out from His side poured not water only, like the rock at Horeb, but also His Blood.

Ambrose of Milan writes this:

For them water flowed from the rock, for you Blood flowed from Christ;

water satisfied them for a time, the Blood satiates you for eternity…

You, after drinking, will be beyond the power of thirsting;

that was in a shadow, this is in truth. (NPNF2 10:323)

Friends, do not take what is yours and go. Do not begrudge the Lord’s generosity, whether it is His generosity towards you or His generosity towards others.

The invitation to remain in the vineyard bestows upon you a new status. You are not day-laborers. You are not sent back where you came from. By the Word proclaimed to you; by the Water poured out on you in Holy Baptism, by the Blood poured into you at this Holy Supper, receive what is His and stay. You are His family now.


First Lutheran Church Sermon Archive

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