Sunday, October 5, 2008

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

"Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons."

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear members of Living Waters Lutheran Church. In the Gospel parable today God is the master of the house who plants us tenants in a lovely vineyard, gives us a winepress to make wine for our enjoyment, he provides food that our bodies may be nourished, clothing for our backs, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, good weather, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

He makes us tenants, or stewards of His very creation. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, likewise were given the vineyard of Eden. They were also made tenants of God’s Holy Creation which he looked at on the seventh day, declaring that “it was good.” God breathed the breath of life into their lungs and man was asked to work the garden and keep it.

Even after sin entered the world, God continues to daily and richly provide for His dear creation – even if we are rebellious and ungrateful for these gifts. He daily and richly provides for you and I. We are given a home, food to eat, family and friends to care for us and countless blessings.

Yet somehow today we are aware that we are not perfectly content with that which God provides. We are not content and grateful for our homes and our belongings. We are not content with our daily bread. Our relationships with friends and family are strained by the effects of sin, selfishness, and lack of love.

In short we are not content with being mere tenants of the vineyard that God has so graciously given us. He has given us our unique place in life, a unique plot of land, a unique station. He has given us our own callings. Our vineyard may be defined by our responsibilities as being farmers, sales people, and nurses. Our vineyard involves being either a mother, a father, son, or daughter. My vineyard, my station in life is that of a son to my parents, a brother to a sister, an employee, and as a seminarian student.

In our respective life circumstances, no matter what we are, we are sinners. Sin clings to us without ceasing and the devil accuses us constantly of every sin imaginable. He reminds us even of sins commited in years past in which we cannot seem to find any escape. All the evil in the world is not capable to defeating Christ’s goodness and mercy. Satan wishes to keep sin in front of us because he does not want us to believe that we are capable of receiving God’s mercy.

Yet, the master’s servant, God’s Son Jesus Christ does not want us wallow in our sin – constantly feeling miserable and sorry. What we also have in common is that we are God’s creation, the crown of His creation, and we are called to be brothers and sisters to one another. God also demands that we be fruitful. He asked it of Adam and Eve at the dawn of creation and He asks it of us. God is not asking that we produce things for him, he does not demand work. He only asks that we have faith which is the eternal and blissful fruit. He asks that we have a childlike trust in his mercy.

But we are really not all that fruitful on our own. We do not delight at being mere creatures of God. We do not delight in our vineyard. We do not delight in the simple tools which he gives us to carry out his will. We are not faithful workers and stewards of his creation. We would rather be creator instead of the creature. We would rather be the CEO than a mere employee. Rather the Lord himself, instead of a faithful door keeper in the house of the Lord. We do not want God to be God and we do not want to be his obedient children.

Yet the Lord has mercy and does not leave us in our rebellion. God becomes incarnate of the Virgin Mary and becomes man. The Son of God comes to our vineyard, our callings, your calling in life and mine to be a servant. He comes to speak peace to you and to love you. He comes to forgive your sins and declare you righteous in his sight. And our Lord is not far away and distant in the clouds as some would suggest. The Kingdom of Heaven came to you through the servant Jesus Christ who baptized you into His church. He comes in the preaching of his gospel. He comes in His supper where he is truly present to feed and comfort you. He is here for you where we gather in his name, singing and praying with all Christians scattered around the planet.

Jesus is talking about himself in this parable when he announces that God finally sends his son to the vineyard. When the Son of the Master comes to the vineyard to dwell with his people they say “Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance. And they took him out of the vineyard, took him to a desolate place and killed him.”

The true Son of God, Jesus Christ likewise was taken from Jerusalem to the desolate place of Golgotha to be crucified – for he is the Master’s son in the parable. The great irony of the wicked tenants in the vineyard is that they cry out “let us kill him and have his inheritance!”

Jesus, in his great mercy for us indeed gave us his inheritance. In this great ironic twist of salvation history God uses wicked sinners in his very plan to save them. This is a mercy which defies comprehension, it is mercy that only God is capable of. For Jesus as he was suffering the pangs of death on the cross cried, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The crucifixion is itself how God makes his world anew. The cornerstone of Christ confounds all the wisdom of the world, as Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified – a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

Dear Christians, this has all been God’s plan from the beginning. This was the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. God’s glory is exalted on the cross and His love flows forth without ceasing to you and I.

Almighty and heavenly Father, You have called us into the work of our vineyard and lavished upon us your grace and all manner of spiritual and eternal gifts. We are sinful tenants but you nonetheless made us into your beloved children saving us from sin and death. Help us to live unto You in humility and patience, to hope in Your pure grace and faithfulness, to abide in Your house, and to praise and magnify you glorious grace forever; through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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