“People that Produce”

Matthew 21:33-46

October 5, 2014 – World Communion Sunday

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

 

Matthew 21:33-46

“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 watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

 

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 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.” 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’? 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. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

 

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

 

Prayer.

 

When

being grilled by a bunch of religious authorities

you want to be careful what you say

or they might hold it against you

or lift you up on it

and crucify you.

 

Let me put it another way:

THERE WAS A LANDOWNER WHO PLANTED A VINEYARD

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

THE LANDOWNER PUT A FENCE AROUND IT

DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT

AND BUILT A WATCHTOWER

In seven days the Lord created

all that is in the world.

His creation produced abundantly.

Everything was very good.

After He created all

He still had time to rest.

THEN HE LEASED IT TO TENANTS

AND WENT TO ANOTHER COUNTRY.

God created man and woman in His image

and gave them stewardship over

all creation.

 

WHEN THE HARVEST TIME HAD COME

HE SENT HIS SLAVES TO COLLECT THE PRODUCE

In due time

God sent Abraham

made with Abraham a covenant

to be Abraham's God

to bless Abraham's ancestors

with the stewardship

of a chosen people.

In due time

God sent Moses

to lead God's people

to leave with them

the Law to follow,

that God’s beloved

might know true freedom.

In due time

God sent David

to rule with

righteousness

and justice;

to establish

a new kingdom

of peace

and prosperity.

 

BUT THE PEOPLE WOULD NOT LISTEN

THEY SEIZED HIS SLAVES

BEAT ONE

KILLED ANOTHER

AND STONED TO DEATH A THIRD.

They would not listen

and sold their brother Joseph

into Egyptian slavery.

They would not listen

They built and worshiped

a golden calf.

They would not listen

and the king

resorted to murder

and adultery.

The kingdom crumbled.

THE VINEYARD BECAME DESOLATE.

 

AGAIN THE LANDOWNER SENT OTHER SLAVES

MORE THAN THE FIRST

AND THEY WERE TREATED THE SAME WAY.

Jeremiah

gave due warning.

Isaiah

wore sack-cloth and ashes

walked half-naked through the streets

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord,”

he proclaimed.

He pronounced destruction

to king and commoner alike.

To neither would they listen.

 

Job went to the dogs.

Jonah wouldn't go to Nineveh

but found himself in the belly of a whale.

Daniel and Ezekiel

took us to images

of fire and judgment

to brimstone and banishment

- but the people

just wouldn't listen.

 

THEN THE DIVINE LANDLORD SAID,

“THEY WILL RESPECT MY SON;

I WILL SEND HIM.”

And the angel said to the shepherds

“Behold, I bring you great tidings of joy!

For unto you is born this day

in the city of David

a Savior

who is Christ the Lord.”

BUT THEY KILLED HIM

HOPING TO STEAL THE INHERITANCE.

And he was crucified

died

and was buried.

 

It is Jesus

who knows his passion

and death awaits -

It is Jesus

who points to the Psalms (118:22-23)

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the Lord's doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Three days later

he rose from the dead

ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God, Almighty.

 

To make a martyr

Kill a zealot.

To make a Savior

Reject God's son.

 

People that produce

work the vineyard

faithfully

tending the vines

stewards of the land

bringing in the harvest

which God provides.

 

People that produce

have an eye for

that which others

have thrown away;

tossed on the scrap pile of life.

 

In a universe where

energy is perfectly balanced

- nothing made, nothing lost -

there is no dump

no collection of lost souls

in God's kingdom.

Even priests and Pharisees,

Scribes and leaders of the church

Are rescued by the

Scandal of the cross

And the good work of

God’s faithful.

 

With a similar conservation

everything and everyone

is rehabilitated

and given new life.

The stone that was rejected?

It is the keystone!

 

The keystone holds

the kingdom together.

The adulteress who comes to draw from the well?

She is given a drink

of living water

that she will never thirst again!

 

The keystone holds

the kingdom together.

The condemned

who lived a life of misery

among the tombs of the dead?

The demon is cast out

hurled into a herd of swine

who promptly drown themselves.

The chains are broken.

the prisoner is set free.

 

The keystone holds

the kingdom together.

Old blind Bartimaeus

Living on the fringe

in the grey water swill of life

begging and crying out to Him for mercy?

The Lord hears his cry!

Sight is given.

New life is a gift.

Salvation has come!

 

The keystone holds

the kingdom together.

 

People that produce

rise each new day

committed to picking through

life's refuse pile,

searching for

the lost,

the vulnerable,

the throw-aways,

all those condemned,

dying,

and left for dead.

People that produce

Are in relentless search

Of the keystone.

 

People that produce

for the Divine landowner

are faithful stewards;

stewards who tend His vineyard

recycling lost souls

and are prepared

to welcome

each salvaged person home.

 

Work the vineyard.

Bring in the harvest.

Be a person that produces

On behalf of the Divine landowner,

The celestial creator,

Our human Savior.

The least of these has become the corner stone.

These are the prize,

The ripe,

The ready for harvest.

The least of these

Leads

The rest of us home.

Amen.