Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible reading: Matthew 21:33-46
I love vineyards. They were great places as a kid to play hide and seek. They are not always easy to find someone in. They stretch away seemingly forever. Maybe not a great place to be if you are claustrophobic, but a good place to wander, to just be on your own.
But tucked away in your own row, out of sight, you think that you are the only one within miles. You get things a little out of perspective.
Not a bad analogy, then, for Jesus to use when talking about the kingdom of God. When you are hidden amongst the daily rows of work and life, there is also a danger of getting things a little out of perspective. At least, the Jewish people of his time did. They thought they were the only ones around, and that they had it made. But they forgot that the business of having a vineyard is to grow fruit. They forgot that God chose them to be his people, but they had to bear fruit in their lives, too.
When the owner (God) sent the prophets to ask these Jewish tenants why, they killed some, and mistreated others. So God the vineyard owner sent his own Son to see why they bore no fruit, and they even killed him. They wanted God’s inheritance, without wanting to do any work. They did not accord the son the respect due to him.
These tenants, these Jewish workers in God’s kingdom did not recognise the Son, and just like in the parable, on a hill on Good Friday, they killed him.
What this comes down to is recognition of who Jesus is. When you miss that, you lose everything. That is the sourness for the Jewish people. They missed who Jesus is. They did not recognise him, and still they refuse.
And so the vineyard was taken away from them and given to new tenants, who we call the church!
More than tenants, the murdered son has made us co-heirs with him. He has shared his inheritance with us. The very thing that he was killed for he gives as a free gift.
Because of our baptism into the death of Jesus Christ, come harvest time, )literally in Jesus’ own words, come “the time of the fruit”), we have been made a co-heir with Jesus Christ. We share the inheritance; we are part of the harvest. That is why it is so important that we bring our children up to know Jesus, to know our brother, so that we will not one day fail to recognise him and lose hold of our inheritance. If that happens, then for us the death of Jesus was for nothing. It was a total waste.
You good workers out there, with the dirt of the kingdom under your fingernails, you who know how good the boss is, help these little ones. Tell them. Tell them how good he has been for you. Tell all your children, your friends, your friends’ children. Tell them the stories of your faith, how he has never let you down. Don’t just think it goes without saying. Say it anyway!
The owner of this vineyard, of this kingdom, he is a great God. He is your God. He is my God. How could we turn our back on his Son anymore? His son is our friend. Isn’t he? Do you know Jesus as your friend? If not, where have you lost that? Have you known Jesus as your friend? What about him gave you comfort and peace?
For me, when I was growing up it was a painting of Jesus that I remember hanging in my room. He had a little black lamb over his shoulders, and the look on the face of that man I have never met was that of a man you could trust. It was the look of someone who I knew as I prayed and then fell asleep every night was watching over me, and he loved me. He was my friend, and as long as that Jesus was watching over me, I was safe. I don’t know where that painting is now. But it is in here. That safety, that security in a scary world is still right here.
Jesus might not look like that painting. But when I one day see him face to face and look into those eyes, I know that same look will be there, and I will be a little child resting again in the peace of being watched over by that friend. Do you ever feel like a lost little child when everything gets too much for you, and you just want someone to love you like that? Do you ever want someone to tell you that it’s all going to be alright, that you don’t have to be afraid anymore?
That rest, that peace, that falling asleep in the arms of our Lord and his loving care for us, that is our inheritance.
How long will we live? How will we die? I sometimes wonder about that, but we don’t have to be afraid. Because the inheritance we have been given through our baptism will one day be to fall asleep in the arms of that Jesus, who will look at us with those loving eyes and watch over us forever, when we will have to fear no more.
Parents give your children that love in their life. Don’t let them lose the inheritance God has given them. You all don’t let each other forget. Tell them of that man Jesus who goes out of his way to find that lost sheep. Tell them of the Son who was killed by the bad tenants so that God handed the vineyard, the kingdom, over to us. Show each other that love. Tell them what it means to you. It is too precious to be lost even to one more child.
We have a job to do. Don’t shirk it and leave it to someone else. Get in there and be a good tenant. Farm the soil of the young lives given to us, because it is a rich, receptive soil, and that bumper harvest is coming one day. Be part of it. Share the inheritance.
It is yours to give.
And the peace that passes all human understanding will also keep the hearts and minds of those we tell about him, safe in Christ Jesus our Lord.