Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord!
Esteemed members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod:
“SON, GO WORK TODAY IN MY VINEYARD,” Matt. 21,28, is not only a solemn command, but also a gracious invitation from our Lord to all members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, whether delegates or not, to our 48th annual convention.
The very fact that we are again permitted to gather together in Jesus’ name to discuss matters pertaining to the work of the Lord’s Vineyard is ample proof that the hand of God’s mercy has not been shortened over against us, but rather it is evidenced that His mercy abounds more and. more. While this brief word of our text would be adaptive to and ideally suited for many a spiritual gathering, whether a confirmation service, youth rally, mission service or a laymen’s meeting, it is also very much in order for this occasion, as we are gathered to discuss and to pass resolutions, which pertain to the most important business in the world, the work of the Lord’s Vineyard. This word of our text is designed to strike every spiritual nerve of the child of God, calling for self-examination and sincere repentance, calling for renewed consecration and dedication of our God-given gifts, calling for spiritual rejuvenation, so that the work of His Vineyard may progress more and more to His glory and remain a blessing to us and to others.
The child of God is thrilled in his innermost soul, when he considers the intimate and affectionate manner in which he is addressed by his Lord. With pride of possession in His voice, our Lord calls you and me sons. What a high and exquisite honor to be called sons and daughters of the Most High! This singular honor is described in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “But God, who. is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2,4–7.
Since we have received such undeserved honor and have been adopted as His sons and daughters, the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, has a triple claim upon our hearts, our lives and our service. Everything we are and everything we have is a free gift of God. The apostle asks: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” 1 Cor. 4,7.
Acknowledging that all gifts are freely given, we are not left in doubt as to the sphere of activity, in which we are to busy ourselves constantly. The Lord wants laborers in His Vineyard, in His Church. No form of agriculture is more laborious and strenuous than the work of the husbandman in the vineyard. Workers are summoned to be prepared for much toil, pain, sweat and care. He wants workers, not shirkers in His Church. For faithful labor He has promised rich and precious rewards of grace.
Since we live in such a materialistic and secularistic world — and we are not immune from it—we need to be reminded again and again of the real business of the Church, “to teach and to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name.” Luke 24,47. If the church is not busy with the saving Gospel, it must necessarily concern itself with something. In religious circles where the Gospel is looked upon as outdated or outmoded for such an “intellectual” age, the social problems of the day, desegregation, anti-poverty programs, humanitarian efforts of all sorts become the prime order of the day. While Christians are to be concerned about social ills, we know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is man’s greatest need and supplies the answer to that dire need. We also know that it is God’s will that we direct all our talents, energies and powers to further the glorious message of the Gospel.
Having heard so many times the Lord’s mandate, “Son, go work today in my vineyard”, how have we as individuals and as a Synod responded? We gratefully thank God for the many consecrated and dedicated men and women in our congregations, who employ their talents and powers to further the work of the Lord at home and for the Synod. Many have their Synod at heart; they love it. However, it is a sad fact that only about one third of the Synodical membership supports the work of Synod whole-heartedly. Another third gives but feeble token support. The other third acts as if the Synod does not exist.
Have we all done what we could have done to encourage young men and women to enter the active service of the vineyard? When so few enter the active service of the church, something is wrong and that is not good. Let us all hear again our Saviour’s plea and invitation: “Son, daughter, go work today in my vineyard.”
If every member of the Synod would fervently heed the Lord’s call to labor more zealously, just think of what a strong working force our Synod could and would be! Then the “desert would rejoice and blossom as the rose.” Is. 35,1. Placing our spiritual and material gifts at the disposal of our Lord, we would be able to raise the proposed budget and to expand the much needed facilities at our Bethany and to follow through with the many mission opportunities before us.
Furthermore, we must work and pull together in our work. We cannot afford the luxury of idolizing our own independence to such a degree that we ignore the many programs, upon which we have agreed to labor together. United in doctrine, let us also be united in zeal and in spirit.
May our gracious Lord, who has so graciously called us to labor and has equipped us with all the tools to carry it out, grant us the will, enthusiasm and energy to work today in His Vineyard before the time clock runs out. There may be no tomorrow and for that reason He speaks in the present tense. May He also grant us grace to work together, lest we fall separately. May He bless us in our resolves and help us to keep our eyes fixed on our real mission in this world, working in His Vineyard. As we labor to carry out His will, let us continue to sing with the hymn-writer, J. Heermann:
And grant me, Lord, to do,
With ready heart and willing,
Whate’er Thou shalt command,
My calling here fulfilling.
And do it when I ought,
With all my strength, and bless
The work I thus have wrought,
For Thou must give success.
J. Petersen, President