Are you and God on good terms

Göttingen sermons

Göttingen Sermons on the Internet ed. by U. Nembach

Sermon on Matthew 20: 1-16 written by Michael Plathow


1. Dear Congregation, a woman says in retrospect - even after severe strokes of fate -: "I was always somehow sure that everything would turn out well for me in life - and that's how it turned out" (ekibaintern 9, 2019, 16 )

According to the proverbial wisdom of life: "Man thinks, God directs" - according to the motto: "Everyone is the blacksmith of his own happiness". This woman was certain that God would write the grammars of life with the pseudonym “chance”, the falling, the grammars of life. “But God led it to the good”, on which the Joseph novella of the Old Testament focuses (Gen 50, 20).

This is how Jesus' parable tells of the kingdom of God: to all, especially those who come late, those who are prevented and disabled, those who have left and who have come short, Jesus promises a just reward:


A farmer recruits workers for his vineyard early in the morning; As an employer, he and the employees agree on a silver groschen as a daily wage. It is an acceptable merit that is commensurate with performance. At the third hour he hires more day laborers and comes to an agreement about what is right and fair. In the midday heat of the sixth hour he hires workers again on the same terms and then again at the ninth hour. And when he sees job seekers in the early evening at the eleventh hour, he recruits them to work in the vineyard.

At the end of the day, he pays everyone's wages through the steward. First came the workers whom the farmer had hired at the eleventh hour in the evening; everyone received a whole silver groschen. So also for the ninth, sixth and third hours. When the "first came, they said they would receive more". They grumbled when they received the agreed silver groschen as a reward. Hadn't they done the sweaty work all day long in the piercing midday sun? And now the same wages as the late comers? Is that supposed to be performance-based? One compares; one grumbles, is angry, indignant. The “curious look” of the “evil eye” causes envy to rise. Envy by comparing the one who has more often arouses the feeling of having missed out, a resentment that arouses hatred towards the one who seems to be preferred.

We know that in human coexistence. We experience this in social and political events nowadays in a time of extremes. It is not uncommon for envy to escalate into hatred through agitation; But hatred divides the private, the social and the political. Increased by the use of verbal and physical violence, life is hurt and the future is destroyed. Otto Dix's painting “The Seven Deadly Sins” in the Karlsruhe Kunsthalle shows this vividly.


2. And the farmer? Dear Congregation, he reminds the dissatisfied grumblers: “We have come to an agreement on a silver penny: a fair wage. Take and go. I want to give the same to those who come late, free because I am kind ”.

What contradicts human righteousness is God's freely rewarding goodness which gives blessings more than is due. That is the real gist. Wherever human standards balance: "Those who come too late are punished by life", God's goodness allows those who come later to get more than they deserve and are entitled to.

This “counter-world narrative” from Jesus' work life is not about the abstract calculation of “mercy and justice” or the legal principle of “grace before justice”. Paternalistic social structures that urgently need to be changed are not legalized here either.

Rather, Jesus' preaching about the kingdom of God tells of God's free goodness that turns human ideas off their hinges. People, fellow human beings and the world around them, live from God's unavailable goodness. You cannot give life to yourself; Life is given.


3. Dear Congregation, we live by God's free goodness. And more than we deserve is given. We are gift recipients; Fundamental gratitude can fill us for the small and big things of everyday life: the new day, well-being, the people for and with us, law and the rule of law, etc. It is blessings that make us feel grateful to “sing every day”: “Me thank God and I am as happy as a child for the Christmas present; that I am, that I am and that I have a beautiful face ”; and that I have hope that goes far beyond the everyday. We can look to perceive God's every day experienced, human arithmetic breaking goodness. This is shown by the gaze of faith. It enlightens, creates a perspective, opens up meaning: to see a new reality because it is looked at; to know because known by God's presence.

And with our parable of Jesus - as Dom Helder Camara once wrote - the believer can also say yes to “the surprises” that thwart his plans, destroy dreams, give the day a completely different direction - yes, perhaps through his life the more than is due to him. It is not a coincidence. "Let the heavenly Father the freedom to determine the course of your days himself" (Dom Helder Camara, Make a rainbow out of me, Munich-Zurich (Pendo-Verlag), 1981) and what is more than you - like the late workers in Parable of Jesus - due and what you deserve.


4. At the same time, dear community, faith is lived every day in the near and further references. Let us now look at the parable from the other workers who think they are falling short despite the agreed remuneration. Let us speak to you with the apostle Paul: 'Everyone will receive his wages after his work' (1 Cor 3: 8). But the parable turns out to be more than a bowl:

Faith turns out to be a life-shaping force, even in the face of the experience of social injustice in working life. Believers and the church are challenged to serve others in love and to be responsible for social justice. It is faith from the gift of God's righteousness that is there for the right and righteousness of others. It is faith that wants to lead to life with more social justice.

Again and again - unfortunately very late - Christians and churches allow themselves to be challenged by the victims of unjust social structures. One example is Johann H. Wichern (1808 - 1881), who called in Wittenberg on September 21, 1848 for concrete love service: "Love belongs to me like faith"; to Viktor Aimé Huber (1800 - 1860), who called for changes to social structures in the world of work (1865); to Christoph Blumhardt (1842 - 1919) - his death 100 years ago should be remembered in particular - who was convinced that “Christ must enter the world”. Much commitment by Christians and many declarations by the churches after the Second World War to this day stand up, also supporting trade union struggles, for the value of work, for the connection between work, capital and the human person. They denounce child labor, social grievances, a disproportionate range of pay in corporations and exploitative employment relationships in low-wage countries. They fight for regular working hours, for equal pay for equal work, for participation and recreational time - also in church. In view of dynamic changes in the industrial, agricultural and service sectors, they advocate further training and retraining of employees. This proves the belief that is lived responsibly for more social justice for those who come up short, who do not participate in profit and success, for the victims.


4. Dear Congregation, let us return through the bowl to the core of Jesus' parable: We too are "late comers", but not late comers. More than is due to us has been given to us and is given to us: Jesus Christ, Brother and Lord, is there, there for those who belong to him and for the whole world, for us. He gives himself. In him God's righteousness shows itself as compassionate love and forgiving-liberating goodness. He is the Kyrios, more powerful than anything that is contrary to God and God's will for love and justice.

And this basic, life-determining trust in God lets you experience the confidence of the story told at the beginning, in which the woman says: "I was always somehow certain that everything would turn out well for me in life - and that's how it turned out", just "that all things serve for the best for those who love God ..." (Rom 8:28).


Faith in Jesus Christ, our brother and Lord, may make us perceive anew every day God's free goodness, which gives more than we are entitled to. Amen.




EG 497, 1 - 6

EG 355, 1 - 3