Thursday, October 6, 2011

Matthew 21:33-46

It all sounds strangely familiar. God planted a vineyard and said be fruitful and multiply.  “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And the Lord God planted a vineyard in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  Man and wife were naked and not ashamed. It was all very good.  But not for long.
Soon enough Cain killed Able.  And man rebelled against God from the very beginning, killing the prophets, and stoning the messengers.  Through sin and unbelief, the universe has been rent and torn asunder. 

If anything, today’s parable captures the absurd stupidity of sin.  The tenants cry out “This is the heir.  Come let us kill him and have his inheritance.”  You might say this is like finding Bill Gates Son and thinking that by knocking him off, you would receive his inheritance.  Sin is stupid and absurd.  It doesn’t make any sense. Eve believing that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was harmless, was stupid and foolish.  Adam failing to protect his wife from the attacks of the devil was foolish and stupid.  Thinking that money brings happiness is ridiculous.  Sleeping together before marriage is foolish.  Thinking that drunkenness makes you socially likeable is stupid, it always does the opposite.  Children, rebelling against your parents, simply because they care for you and look out for your good, is also stupid.   

Thinking that God’s Word is just some fictional stories to teach children some good morals is also foolish and stupid.  Thinking God’s perfect and holy law should change for our personal preferences and Twenty-first century cultural trends is stupid.  It is not enlightened, progressive, or smart.  It is unbelief.  Plain and simple.
Jesus calls us to repentance, we are not called to hunker down and give crafty explanations for our behavior – or why our sins should be excused.  Our parable today is about judgment: Jesus says “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”  When the Lord comes he will not seek explanations or stories from us, but repentance, faith, and holy living.

Today’s parable is all about love.  Oh love how deep, how broad, and how high.  The love of God for foolish and irrational sinners.  Even after the wicked tenants, had beaten, killed, and stoned His messengers – the owner of the Vineyard kept sending servants – until finally He decides to send His only begotten Son, saying “They will respect my Son.”  But the tenants saw the Son, and 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”

It was Jesus, the Son of the Vineyard Owner – the eternal Son of the eternal Father - who was cast outside the city walls of Jerusalem.  Killed and cut off from the land of the living.  Come let us kill him yelled the tenants.  Just as the crowds cried out “Crucify Him – Crucify Him.”  The fact is that it was our sin that brought about the death of God’s Son.  This is the reality that every Christian must know in his heart and believe.  

Peter preached his Pentecost sermon with these Words, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, YOU crucified and YOU killed by the hands of lawless men.”  It was our sins – each and every one – that was laid upon the back of God Himself – the suffering servant – the Holy Innocent Lamb of God – that takest away the sin of the world.

He took your sins and paid the penalty.  And by his stripes we are healed.  To the wicked tenants – to us poor miserable sinners – He prayed for us “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  And He gave up His spirit.  God raised him up, losing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.  He descended into hell to proclaim victory over sin, death, and every perverse evil – over Satan himself.    

Jesus is the vineyard and the winepress – He is the blessed drink – He is the servant and the priest.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  He brings life – the bread of immorality and the drink of salvation. The great ironic twist of the Parable is that the blood-thirsty cry of those evil tenants, turns out to be a prophecy that comes true.  They say “Let us kill him and have his inheritance.”  Ironically, it becomes true.  By the death of Jesus we become God’s heirs and receive His inheritance – We receive everything that belongs to him.     

Oh Love, how deep, How broad, how high.  What wondrous love is this?  As we sang in our hymn “For us by wickedness betrayed, For us, in crown of thorns arrayed, He bore the shameful cross and death; For us He gave his dying breath.

God is for you in every way because God, in the words of St. John “is love.”  God is love, a deep, broad, and high love.  Beyond all thought and fantasy.  He is nothing but love for you.  God has no wrath or anger left for you, because Jesus has intervened.  You are therefore blessed beyond measure and rich beyond your imagination.  You are a son – an heir of heaven – adorned with the loveliness and righteousness of Jesus.  You are faithful through the promise of your baptism – and receive the forgiveness of sins at this altar.      

I have been asked to say a few words about the LWML. So let us consider just a few women in the Bible. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, and Esther. There is Mary and Martha. Elizabeth, Dorcas or Tabitha – a kind a gentle woman who produced clothing for the poor and needy.  She dedicated her life to the Gospel and served the church and her community with acts of charity and mercy.Priscilla assisted Paul in his missionary journeys – serving as deaconess in the Corinthian Church, in Syria, and among the Ephesians.

And there is Mary, the mother of our Lord.  She and Mary Magdalene were the first people to the tomb. The women believed in the Resurrection.  They came to anoint the body of Christ – to anoint him with spices and oil.  In this way, women were the first altar guild.  They were preparing for the sacraments.  Throughout the Gospel women believed in Christ and loved to serve him.  And maybe more importantly they loved to be served by Him.

The church is the bride of Christ – feminine in the highest sense – receiving and being filled with the love of Jesus – her groom.  Being presented to Him as a spotless bride.  Absolutely beautiful!  For the blessed women at St. Paul, your labor is not in vain.

God highly favors you as he favored Mary.  She sang “My soul doth magnify the Lord and Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  For he hath done marvelous things to me.”  God has done marvelously for you, and your service at St. Paul in Wittenberg, causes the angels to rejoice in heaven. 

You have brought destruction to Satan’s kingdom, by serving on the altar guild, by visiting the sick, praying for the needy, assisting with funerals, writing letters of encouragement in the name of Christ.  Or simply by being a Christian friend.  For Lutheran ministries and missions around the world.  By supporting the seminaries, schools, and the work of God’s kingdom, by praying for your pastor and this whole congregation.  These are not small things.  Everything that You ask in His name He will give you. So know that you are appreciated.  And that you service is blessed.

And may God move us all to serve willingly in our community in the strong name of Christ.  And may we all be ready when he comes again, by being built on the rock of Christ – the chief cornerstone.  Amen.