“The period of Pre-Lent is, so to say, the narthex in which we Christians pause for three Sundays before we begin our spiritual pilgrimage to Calvary in the great 40 days of Lent. It comprises the Sundays Septuagesima (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquagesima (50). These number-names do not designate exact periods of time until Easter but are rather to be considered only as general markers like the milestones of antiquity on the roads that led to Rome, in this case marking the general number of days we are from the Easter goal toward which we are traveling. From Septuagesima until the Saturday evening after Easter—on which the Easter octave in its strictest sense ends—there are 70 days.” (Ralph Gehrke, Planning the Service, 42)For those who follow the Lutheran Service Book One-Year Lectionary, today begins the season of Pre-Lent--otherwise known as the "Gesimas." It also provides a great opportunity for a homiletical mini-series as we prepare for the great 40-day season of Lent. For this "narthex" to the season of Lent, one could easily and reasonably preach on "Grace Alone" (Septuagesima), "Word Alone" (Sexagesima), and "Faith Alone" (Quinquagesima)--and I have done just that in past years.
"Generous Grace." (Next week, we'll focus on "Sufficient Grace," and the following week, we'll focus on our Lord's "Sacrificial Grace.") The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard most certainly shows our Lord's "Generous Grace" as He gives the "day's wage" of eternal life to all, regardless of when we enter His vineyard--the Christian Church--in order to labor. However, as we hear in this parable, our Lord operates His vineyard completely by His "Generous Grace," not by our works to negotiate a "fair wage."
To listen to "Generous Grace," click here and download the audio file.