Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Can’t make it to Church - Sunday 8 October 2017

Last week we had sour grapes and workers in the vineyard - this week Isaiah takes us into the vineyard with a song; a song that calls us to think about justice as something important.  So let’s take a few moments to consider this, “Song of the Vineyard,” and what it has to teach us.

Here we have a vineyard owner who, “Dug it up, cleared it of stones and planted choicet vines.”
He put security in place and got ready to press the grapes to make wine but instead of good grapes, he got only got bad! All that effort - blood, sweat and tears, the vineyard produced rubbish!

So the owner of the vineyard tells of how he is going to destroy the vineyard; which he can because it is, after all, his possession to do with as he wants. God puts it all into context as we are told that the vineyard is the nation of Israel and the vines are the people of Judah. God has invested in the people and they have yielded nothing good. They are a wicked and unfaithful bunch and so they will be plucked and cast into the bin! They are unjust and just plain wrong. This is a passage about justice and fruitfulness and God’s rightful response to the failure of those He invested much in.

“Be sure your sins will find you out,” is a phrase I often hear. This is what this passage is about: The effect of sin and the reward sinfulness brings. For those who assume, “Everyone gets in to heaven, regardless of their lifestyle and/or the fruit they yield,“ this is a wake up call.

It if doesn't produce good fruit - then it will be torn down
And Paul continues with sounding the alarm, this time with those might think that being a Jew would cover their sins. But this is not an anti-Jewish passage - it is a passage that seeks to remind us that it’s not the label we wear but the life we life and the relationship we have with God that brings salvation.

Whether you are Jew or Christian (or any other faith), it’s not the label that brings salvation but the lives we live, the fruit we produce, and the relationship with the one true God. Paul makes the point that when it comes to being a good Jew, he was at the top of the tree, and yet without Jesus and his salvific act, and faith in Him: It was worth nothing and won nothing for him!

In fact Paul goes on to say that clinging to our labels and trusting in our membership of a faith group can actually lose everything for us and we need to follow Jesu, the Christ, and live with and for Him, to make eternal life - the reward for faithful living and fruitfulness in Him - ours.

We are workers in the vineyard and as we learned last week, the payment we receive is the same for all - eternal life - and we receive this by acting rightly with justice, mercy and humility, putting our trust in the cross and not labels.

So what does the Gospel have to say to add to these two consistent and trustworthy passages I wonder?

Here we are again with another vineyard story and it resonates with the Isaiah reading in that, if we take God as the vineyard owner and the vineyard to once again be Israel, and the tennant farmers to be the the people of Judah, we find the final act of rejecting the vineyard owner is to be found in the putting to death of His Son. And of course that’s Jesus!

No wonder the chief priests and the Pharisees, hearing Jesus’ parable, got upset and started looking for a way to arrest him. Those who relied upon their position and the labels which they thought brought power and reward were exposed in this passage.

And the cherry on the cake comes in as Jesus is shown to be, “The stone that the builders rejected.” Those we honour God and render to the Son all that is right and fitting will come into their inheritance. Those who dont, well they will be rooted up and tossed into the bin.

The earth is indeed the Lord’s and we are merely tenants in this world and, if found to yield good fruit, inheritors of the next. Now there’s a warning and a promise in one breath.

Are we listening I wonder?

The Collect
Gracious God, you call us to fullness of life: deliver us from unbelief and banish our
anxieties with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Isaiah 5:1-7
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

“Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?
Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds not to rain on it.”

The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

Philippians 3:4-14
... though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

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.

Last. “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.

Post Communion Prayer
Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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