Reflections: January 31, 2021
By Jacob Ehrhard
But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong." (Matthew 20:13a)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God's justice is strange. There are frequent calls for justice in our society, but people confuse justice with fairness. This idea is embedded in the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal," it reads. You can see it in the statue of Lady Justice, whose blindfold suggests that justice does not take appearance into account and whose evenly balanced scales suggest that wrongs are made right when things are made even.
But things work differently in God's kingdom than they do in the kingdoms of the world. Justice looks very different when you come before God.
The parable for Septuagesima features workers in a vineyard who get paid the same amount irrespective of the work they put in. The ones who worked the longest, who got paid the same as those who barely worked at all, complained that it wasn't fair. The master replied to one, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong." You might translate that more literally, "Friend, I am doing you no injustice."
God's justice is not equality. And that's Good News. If God were about getting even, we'd be in a world of hurt. But God doesn't offer rewards for good work and punishments for poor work. Instead, He offers His Son, whose good work earns Him the punishment for a world of sin. The death of Jesus was the most unfair thing the world has done, the greatest injustice according to the world's standards.
But in a miraculous reversal, the Cross of Jesus turns injustice into justification. When you hear the Absolution--"I forgive you all your sins"--also hear these words: "Friend, I am doing you no injustice. My Son makes all your wrongs right." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequence of our sin may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Septuagesima)
-Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church and School in Chicago, IL.
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