Posted on Sun, Oct 5, 2014
October 5, 2014
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Matthew 21:33-46 - "God's Work, Our Hands"
33 ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ 41 They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
42 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 amazing in our eyes”?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.* 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’*
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Old Testament Text: Isaiah 5:1-7 (It is actually a song!)
1 Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!
When you get up in the morning and smell the fresh air, or look at our blue sky or our green mountains, or the ever-changing and powerful ocean and just feel overwhelmed with the beauty of Hawaii? I know there are so many of you who are great at enjoying the beaches and reefs early in the morning, or take regular hikes or visit each island as each has their individual beauty and characteristics.
And this week I was helping a tourist couple find Hanauma Bay, and just as we were saying our good-byes, the just gushed out, “Do you know what the most beautiful part of Hawaii is?” In my mind I had a list a mile long, but I waited to hear their insight. They said, “It’s the people! The people here are like no place in the world!” It told them that I couldn't agree more, and they were off down Kalanianaole Highway to enjoy the bay.
And on Thursday morning while standing in line with some of the people coming to get food, of course there were some worried and stressed out faces, but a couple of the people looked at me and just burst out, “What a beautiful morning! Jus’ look at that sky and the trees!” Then, Bernie, Mac and I shared sweaty hugs… it was great. There was gratitude and joy, even in the middle of that long line of people sweating in the morning son, with the concerns like, “where will I/we sleep tonight? How long will this food last? I need a dentist or a foot doctor because I hurt. Who can fix the relationships in my family? How can I pay my rent?” and many, many more stresses behind those faces. But in the middle of these individual storms, for a few with eyes to see and ears to hear, there was gratitude. And Gratitude can change the entire way we approach life.
But behind those troubled faces, we were being The Church. There was food for all, clean cold water provided as people waited, legal aid services offered, clothing, some toiletries, and every now and then a child seat or a stroller. We were ‘being the Body of Christ in a hurting little part of the world. We can’t solve all the problems of the world, but neither did Jesus during his ministry. But this was God’s work and we were God’s hands! Like Jesus Mac, Bernie and all the volunteers were showing grace, mercy, protecting dignity, listening to those who just needed an ear to listen, AND NEVER WAS ANYONE JUDGED.
Life, with whatever problems we have, is what it is, and rather than asking “why did this happen,” we move on to the question, “how do we deal with OUR situation and all our problems?”
God has provided more than we will ever need; the question for the church is “how do we Do God’s work, and Be God’s hands?
Today’s Old Testament lesson is often mistaken for prophecy. It looks like a situation that may develop in the future, but it is actually talking about an event from the past. It is a very sad song about the relationship between God and Israel. It begins with someone singing the praises of his/her beloved God and God’s amazing generosity and abundance. The beginning of the song actually sounds just like words from the Song of Songs! The vineyard is Israel and God has abundantly blessed it with everything Israel needs to flourish as God’s people! God has completely blessed God’s People so that they can “yield delicious and wonderful fruit!” The writer isn’t talking about figs and grapes, even though the fruit people thought of in those days were huge luscious purple grapes, like Concord Grapes, or Japanese Kofu Grapes. But as this is a metaphor about God’s abundant blessings, the fruit is God’s people showing Grace, mercy and doing justice! God’s grace and mercy are made known to the world when the People of God, faithfully following God’s Commandments courageously, do justice, and show mercy to the Widow, Orphan and Stranger.
But it is clear, rather than justice, there was bloodshed, and instead of righteousness only a cry. THESE ARE THE RESULTS OF BAD DECISION MAKING ON THE PART OF THE LEADERS OF ISRAEL.
The song is not a prophecy about what may happen in the future, it is actually talking about what had happened in Israel’s past, more than once. The prophet is just making it clear to Israel, why they were dragged back into slavery even if they were totally blessed by God, and God promised to be with them always.
It is clear that for every decision we make, THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES. God sent the Law and the Prophets to Israel, but Israel didn’t listen to them, or ignored the Blessings of the Law… and there were very negative consequences; they were literally conquered and dragged into slavery.
Last week, when Jesus was in the temple teaching, it was the Chief Priests and Scribes who came to Jesus and questioned Jesus’ authority for his teachings and amazing works. Can you imagine being there, insert yourself into the text as a disciple who knows very well that Jesus is the Messiah the Song of God, yet you witness these supposedly educated men of the Torah, look right into Jesus’ face and not realize they were looking into the very eyes of God?! Not only that, they rejected the very cornerstone of their faith, their history and culture, and the very reason they even exist.
And there will be consequences for their blindness and hardness of heart. But this time, rather than all of Israel being dragged into slavery, again; God has another plan.
Out of their terrible blindness and fear, Jesus will give himself as the sacrificial lamb SO THAT, we can see God’s amazing Grace, Mercy and GOD’S JUSTICE through forgiveness in the risen Christ!!!! So that we can see who we are supposed to be as the Children of God!
Yes, we believe we are made new through the graciousness and faithfulness of our crucified and risen Lord, but the vineyard still needs tending. But I think the definition of “God’s Vineyard” has been expanded as Jesus gave his life for all people, including the soldiers that pounded the nails, and the criminals that were crucified with him.
The vineyard includes all people of the world; even our enemies and those we don’t understand or even can’t find common understanding.
It includes the planet and all the amazing wildlife God has blessed us with all over the world. And we must act fast, according to a recent article by Ivana Kottasova, the world has lost more than half of its wildlife in just 40 years. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/30/business/wild-life-decline-wwf/index.html?sr=sharebar_facebook
In the Northwest islands of Hawaii, at a depth of 280 feet, scientists are seeing bleached coral due to climate change! http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/20140930_Scientists_see_bleached_coral_in_northwest_Hawaii.html
Bleaching at such great depths means that the ocean is undergoing acidification at an alarming rate and there is a dire threat to the very base or beginning of the ocean food chain.
Then there is Ebola, the Middle East and global poverty. I know all these huge disaster and events have really weighed many of us down lately, myself included, but we can’t ever forget that as a People of God, our amazing God of abundant forgiveness and faith, promises to be with us, to give us patience and strength, wisdom and joy, so that we can still be thankful, and a Light to the World as we do God’s Work with Our Hands.
I see Jesus in our Angel Network volunteers and Stephen Ministers, I hear God in our prayers and I feel God in our worship, praise, and dance.
Jesus has promised to be with us, even to the end of the age, the question is, when Jesus says, “Follow Me,” will we go, or not… but we have to remember, no matter what decision we make, there will be consequences. As God has been faithful, forgiving and merciful, let us Follow Jesus wherever He leads.
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