Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pentecost 17: Beware Who/What You Reject

 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

As soon as Jesus started telling this parable, His listeners,"the chief priests and the elders of the people", would have recognised that He was talking about them and the nation of Israel.
He says: Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit."

They would also immediately have been reminded of  Is 5:1-7

Listen while I sing you this song,
    a song of my friend and his vineyard:
My friend had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
 He dug the soil and cleared it of stones;
    he planted the finest vines.
He built a tower to guard them,
    dug a pit for treading the grapes.
He waited for the grapes to ripen,
    but every grape was sour.
So now my friend says, “You people who live in Jerusalem and Judah, judge between my vineyard and me. Is there anything I failed to do for it? Then why did it produce sour grapes and not the good grapes I expected?
“Here is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge around it, break down the wall that protects it, and let wild animals eat it and trample it down. I will let it be overgrown with weeds. I will not trim the vines or hoe the ground; instead, I will let briers and thorns cover it. I will even forbid the clouds to let rain fall on it.”
Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Almighty;
    the people of Judah are the vines he planted.
He expected them to do what was good,
    but instead they committed murder.
He expected them to do what was right,
    but their victims cried out for justice.

The people listening would have realised that Jesus, in His parable, was speaking a word of warning and judgement to them which God had spoken to them before through the prophet Isaiah.  Which is why by the end of the parable they wanted to arrest Jesus.
They realised He was speaking of a stubborn and rebellious people.....which was fine, until it dawned on them He was not speaking of a stubborn and rebellious people but to a stubborn and rebellious people.

And before we point fingers at these “terrible people”, let us remember that everything God spoke to the nation Israel, He now speaks to the Church, to you and to me, who are now descendents of Abraham.

  He waited for the grapes to ripen, but every grape was sour......

How do you feel as you hear that? Is God's Kingdom ripening in the fruit of the Spirit, which is very beautiful in taste, growing in you? On this confirmation Sunday as we, who were confirmed (long ago, or a year ago), welcome the one's to be confirmed this day, have we grown, ripened, matured into the likeness of Jesus...perhaps I should rather ask: Are we " " " "....because it is a lifelong process, isn't it? (Hydrangeas)

Back to Isaiah's poem, which Jesus is playing on:

 He expected them to do what was good,....  He expected them to do what was right.  

How do you feel as you hear those words… … is God speaking to someone else or to you?  These are God’s expectations of a Christian nation, of a Christian Church, by most important of all, its His expectation of Christian people, of you and of me.

Isaiah's poem speaks to us today, as much as it did to the people who first heard it and it conveys some important truths about God and the way He deals with His people:

Firstly:  It tells of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well-equipped with everything the tenants need.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants.  God likewise equips us and trusts us enough to give us freedom to run our lives as we choose……
Do you hear that: God equips you for that to which He calls you. He calls us to righteousness and He equips us for righteousness; and
                             God trusts the world we have to earn trust, but in the Kingdom we are entrusted with the treasures of the Kingdom (fruit of Spirit) when we say Yes to Jesus.

I thought I should end the sermon there, because that’s such incredibly good news.  God equips you, God trusts you.  He’s given you things, talents, abilities, possessions, family……and He trusts you, in the words of Isaiah, to do what is right.  And He gives us the freedom to choose what we will do with what He has entrusted to us.....that's grace, isn't it.

He hopes and longs for a sweet return, but in Israel’s case, the fruit was sour.  In their freedom they chose to do what was sour....and I would suggest, they still do. But, what about you and me?
What are you doing with your freedom?

So, firstly, Isaiah's poem speaks to us of God's generosity and trust.

Secondly: this parable tells us of God’s patience and this is Good News as well.  Not once, but many times He forgives the tenants their debts, their trespasses, but they continue to take advantage of His patience – and He forgives…and He sends new messengers…and they take advantage....and He forgives,...and He sends new messengers..... and they take advantage of them and of God's grace....and He forgives....

I don’t know if that sounds familiar.

Praise God for His patience, but don’t use your freedom to stretch His patience even further.  We dare not do this as individuals, as churches, as nations……history is full of individuals, churches and nations who have eventually had to come under the wrath of our gracious, loving, long-suffering this life. Beware of who and what you reject because sometimes you may well be rejecting Christ, His way and His Kingdom.....and you or I don't want to be guilty of that, because...

You see, this parable teaches us thirdly: God and His judgement and His justice will prevail. His will,will be done on earth as in Heaven....ask American slaves, ask communist Russia, ask apartheid South Africa...and ask countless millions who have cried out for justice in this life....but now we come full circle back to where we were earlier, pray for and bare the fruit of peace, patience, love etc., while you wait for the Lord to act.
Proud and arrogant Israel was brought down by the agent of God’s judgement, the wicked Nebuchadnezzar that God raised up for that purpose, when His patience ran out.

The proud and arrogant religious establishment of Jesus’ day was brought down and their Temple destroyed by God’s agent of judgement, the wicked Roman Empire.  And through the ages, God has continued to bring His judgement, often using wicked agents from the east, to destroy pride and arrogance and disobedience to the way of Christ.  He expects good fruit from people and nations that claim to be Christian.  He expects good fruit in you and me who have confirmed before others, our faith in God.  

The Lord blesses His people today with the gift of His Kingdom and He promises we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him (John 15:1-11.)  He entrusts His gifts and grace to each of us and He gives us work to do in His vineyard – the body of Christ.  He promises that our labour will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (Chantelle focused on this beautifully last week when she looked at 1 Corinthians 15:58.)  

We can expect trials and even persecution.  But in the end, we will see triumph.  Go out into the vineyard, your home, workplace, school, nation and using your God-given freedom, labour for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in His victory.

1 comment:

Linda Morris said...

Excellent! Thank you!