Sunday, October 8, 2017

"The Parable of the Tenants" - The Sermon for SUNDAY, October 8, 2017 - 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 21:33-46
"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.
~ Matthew 21:33-46

"The Parable of the Tenants"

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

Deep in our DNA is a propensity for self-centeredness. Selfishness is a dominate gene in the human race. Perhaps, in the past, self-centeredness was necessary for our survival. Now it is a characteristic that nullifies our witness of God's grace and love. It denies the truth that God truly is the provider of our daily bread, and it robs us of our experience of the abundant life. Finding something bigger than ourselves in which to believe--such as becoming a disciples of Jesus Christ--is essential for our happiness. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

Our Lord is experienced in dealing with self-centered people, though. Today's parable gives us a clear picture of how God intercedes in the lives of the egotistical, self-centered, selfish people.

Jesus and the chief priests (and other religious leaders) continue to be in a argument over Jesus' authority. Jesus tells the parable in that context.

There are several different perspectives from which to view this parable. Many in the crowd, who heard this parable, thought that the wicked tenants were obviously the religious and political leaders of the day. The chief priests placed themselves in the role of the landowner. (Many of them were absentee landlords). The Christians of the early church and we, ourselves, might think that we are the inheritors of the kingdom; once the landlord deals with the wicked tenants he will give the vineyard to us.

Nobody sees themselves as the wicked tenants. Jesus ends his conversation with the chief priests by accusing them of being the wicked tenants, who have killed the prophets and also killed the son. We can't turn our backs on this parable easily. If we make more than a passing glance at this Scripture passage we will see ourselves.

Our God has given us life itself. Yet, rather, than offer ourselves as living sacrifices, as Paul instructed the Roman Christians in his letter to them, we live our lives for ourselves. We do our own thing. We seek our own goals, set our own priorities, and chart our own course. We may not rough up those who advise us to change our ways, but we certainly yield to the temptation to ignore them.

In Genesis the Lord tells Abraham and Sarah that he has blessed them to be a blessing. In a consumer orientated society, we tend to keep our blessings to ourselves. We can't lend a deaf ear to the hundreds and thousands of advertisements that we see and hear each day. All of us have a list (some much longer than others) of what we want and feel we need in order for our lives to be happier, more comfortable, and more what we believe we are entitled to.

Though the concept of tithing is encouraged throughout the Scriptures, most of us can confess along with a majority of Christians that we do not practice tithing in our personal lives and finances.

In the first chapter of Genesis, God gives the world to manage and care for. Our response has been everything from pollution and global warming, to the elimination of animal species, to the hoarding of the earth's resources.

Like the wicked tenants, we stand judged and condemned.

When asked what they would do, if they were the landowner, the chief priests and other religious leaders cry out that they would take up arms, kill the tenants and give the vineyard over to other, better tenants.

That's not what God did. When faced with rebellious tenants he sent his son. There was no army. There was no judgment. There was only an act of love and redemption.

God didn't do the logical thing. The reasoning that the tenants would respect the son even after they had beaten up and killed those who had gone before him was a little faulty. God did the wild and crazy thing. He loved us and sacrificed all for us.

God continues to astound us by acting in a wild and crazy manner throughout our lives. Though we are doubtful, hesitant, rebellious and even unloving, God continues to call us his own. God infuses us with his Holy Spirit--so that we can be a part form him. God answers our prayers differently than what we ask for. God turns bad into good. The Spirit nudges us along paths that we had no idea were there and he blesses us in ways that are beyond our comprehension.

We may ask ourselves how we are to live our lives in light of this parable. This story certainly invites us to stand against the "wicked tenant" that is in all of us. It encourages to be open to forgiveness and expectant for God's wild and crazy movement in our lives.


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Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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