2017-10-08/18th Pentecost-A/Community Lutheran/Rev. Joseph M. Vought
Isaiah 5:1-7 Matthew 21:33-46
Our lessons tell us God plants a vineyard. With a labor of love God plants the vine, provides boundaries for the vineyard, a winepress and a watchtower. God planted his fair vine Israel just as God plants us. In return our Lord asks for nothing except his rightful share as the owner. Trouble begins when tenants beat one of the servants, kill another and stone another. Finally the owner sends his Son whom they kill. The reason they give for their violence is they hope to get the vineyard for themselves. Why would they ever get that idea? The only reason is to think the owner was so far away as to be no threat at all. So we may think: “God may have been here at creation and we know God was here in Jesus but come’on this is the 21st century, we have computers and cyberspace, shuttles and outer-space and we can manage anything we put our minds to. We haven’t harmed anyone and we’re all doing the best we can, aren’t we?” The parable is not just for the people of Isaiah’s day or the authorities who killed Jesus. The parable is for us who sometimes live as if there is no God at all. “When the cat’s away the mice will play.” Empires rise and fall; Holocausts and violence plague the human family; natural disasters test our compassion; political rivalry is rife as never before and the promise of the common good seems more elusive than ever.
But truth-telling is good for the soul, in confession we said: “We are captive to sin, we have squandered your bountiful gift, we have considered the blessings of the harvest our due.” Because we think we are owners we said, “God, we are in control now, drop dead. So we killed the Son for which we deserve judgment. And if this were the end of it we would be miserable wretches. But the Son has come into the Vineyard. Jesus lived, died and rose again to show us that this life we call our own is a gift from God. Where there was violence, now there is a feast of victory. Where there was judgment now there is forgiveness, where there was estrangement welcome, where there was a cross now there is a cup of salvation, the bread of heaven and a table for all. Our lives, our faith are not about owning and possessing but rather sharing and blessing. There is no better place to celebrate Christ’s risen life and to see what our lives are to be than in the sacrament of Holy Communion. We receive Christ’s forgiveness in bread and wine by serving each other as “little Christs,” as Luther said, to “go in peace to serve the Lord.”
Yes, the times we live in, the politics of the moment, the disasters and the threats which assault us can bring us down, close us off from one another and cause us to be afraid. I spoke to a woman this past week, “I can’t stop watching the news…it’s all so sad and I become fearful and start to panic.” The vineyard we inhabit has always been a blessed and a violent place. What is different is our connectivity to places around the globe, 24 hr. news access to everything. In the 19th c news took weeks to reach around the world. When we live out of fear and anxiety none of us do well because fear may cause us to look for enemies and cast blame. I told this woman, “Please be informed, watch news, read the papers, but take a sabbath. Put away your devices. Do something to make a difference in the life of your loved ones or community. Try to be a little like Jesus in the places and people you know.”
Because we are baptized and follow Jesus’ way of gratitude, generosity and forgiveness we will not be ruled by fear or victimized by the present. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must continually build walls of courage to hold back the tides and the flood of fear.” Find a way to make a difference for God’s sake in your community, in your little corner of the vineyard. We are having another block party in our cul-de-sac to meet our neighbors again. Settling my parent’s estate reminds me to think of giving a gift to the church in their honor. I know that before long my children will be settling mine. I love the way we are living up to our name here at Community. A banner proclaims, “No matter where you are from we are glad you’re our neighbor,” People tell us how wonderful that is. 70 Backpacks were given to the children of Meadowland School, An evening meal on Wednesday is here for anyone who wants to eat with their church family, there are opportunities for youth to be formed in the faith and a new worship service that welcomes people with disabilities. Christian Ed, Study groups help us to be disciples. Next Saturday we support our Children’s Choirs and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society as they gather to sing songs for Peace. Let’s come to cheer them on.
Our work, this life and ministry is not about us, it is to press on with Christ for the heavenly calling. How can we make our lives of stewardship joyful and fun rather than grumbling about it? How can we give our best gifts to our work, families, communities and this church while we are here? The saddest thing is a song that is never sung, a love never expressed, a gift that is never shared. Life in this Vineyard is God’s Gift to us. What we do with these gifts is our gift to God, returning thanks, expressing gratitude, serving with joy. Amen.