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The incorruptible crown

1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5

Pastor David Ernst

Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Feb 16, 2014 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, how do we reconcile our Epistle for today with the Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16)? They are talking about the same thing, but Paul says only one will win the prize while our Lord in the Gospel says all workers will receive the same payment. What is a common theme among these readings? Both speak of the promise of eternal life in Christ, which belongs to us, but in different ways, in different aspects.

St. Paul speaks of a comparison of the Christian life and athletic games. Right now there is much news from the Olympics, specifically the winter games in Russia. There is only one Venezuelan in those games, a skier. The Olympic Games originated in ancient Greece. The Greeks and Romans, like people today, were delighted with the beauty of the human body and were great athletes. In every city of the Roman Empire there were stadiums, racetracks, gaming, competitions, all sports were found. Evidently, Paul had seen these types of things, because he spoke of them in this epistle.

At that time the winners received crowns of leaves on their heads. Today the winners receive trophies or medals of gold, silver or bronze. So Paul says, all run, but only one wins the crown. What's the reward for us? Eternal life. We receive this promise in baptism. As Paul says, all believers in the Old Testament were baptized in the cloud and the sea, now all of us are baptized with water and the Word of God in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As children adopted into the family of God, we have eternal life now. The new spiritual life begins with baptism.

But for now, we are still here in this sinful world, because God has a purpose for us here. The promise is not completely fulfilled, we do not yet have the complete joy, we have the promise of complete joy with Christ after our departure from this world. Between the day of our baptism and the time appointed by God for our physical death, there will many afflictions, trials and difficulties to overcome.

Like athletes we must prepare for the fight, for the competition. Not against others, but against the devil and our own natures. There are different types of sports. There are sports that require a team such as baseball or football. In other sports, such as a foot race, the athlete works alone. There are others in the competition, but should not look to one side or the other hand, rather focus on the prize and the finish line.

So it is for us in the Christian life. Paul says athletes look for crowns of leaves that dry up, that do not last forever, but we run for an imperishable crown, which is eternal life. We must persevere in the faith. As the athlete prepares for competition with exercise, with practice, so do we. At the end of our lives, we can gain eternal life with Christ.

But, as our Lord says in the Gospel for today, eternal life is a gift from God. We should not talk about our merits, what we have done for the kingdom of God. Only by the mercy of God do we receive eternal life. And as for the laborers in the vineyard, the pay is equal for all. A denarius was very generous payment to a worker at the time. The first were hired for a denarius, but the owner of the vineyard also dealt generously with those who came later. No one should despise the generosity of a generous man. When we receive a gift from our parents, we do not ask for something better, something more expensive, we respond with gratitude and love to the love of our parents.

The gift of eternal life is a precious gift from our heavenly Father. Then we receive it with love and gratitude and not seek others with envy and say they do not deserve God's mercy. We all deserve eternal death, but because of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for us, we have the hope of eternal life. This is our hope in every moment of our lives, moments of success, in times of failure, discouraged moments, moments of joy. The highest happiness of all is the hope of eternal life and therefore have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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