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As You Believe So You Have

October 5, 2014

Wicked Tenants in the Vineyard

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost                                           Trinity Lutheran Church

5 October 2014                                                                                  Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

St. Matthew 21:33-46

 

Vineyard planted. A wall set around it. A wine press dug. And then a tower to watch for thieves and mobsters. So far so good.

 

Then the Owner makes his first mistake. He lets it out to tenants. He’s asking for big trouble. He should keep the vineyard for Himself. Keep all the joy of the vineyard, grapes and wine for Himself. But the Owner is not like that. He loves to give. He loves to share. Giving of what is His and of His bounty!

 

But then the Owner makes another blunder. He decides to go off to another country. Take a trip. An extended vacation if you will. Idiot! Everyone knows that if you want things done right you have to do it yourself. You’d better watch over the tenant’s work otherwise they’ll take advantage of you.

 

What does this Owner expect? Is He crazy? Must be! After all, He expects the tenants to do their work well. Faithfully. To rejoice over the harvest. He expects them to generously give Him his portion of the grapes and then to enjoy the wine together in a blowout harvest party. You know, like a joyous wedding reception!

 

“No way in . . . !” is the tenants’ response. They will not share any of the harvest with the Owner. That means less for them. And why should they? Who’s going to make them? An Owner who takes vacations in another country isn’t able to do much about it.

 

And so the tenants “take his servants, skin one alive, murder another, and stone to death another.”

 

You’d think the Owner would get it by now. Nope. “He sends other servants, more than the first, and the tenants do the same all over again.”

 

And then the Owner makes the most lame-brained move of all time. “What is he thinking? DON’T DO IT MR. LANDOWNER! We warn you! It’s not going to be good! These tenants are ungrateful and wicked!”

 

Incredibly, recklessly, foolishly, “He sends his Son to them saying, ‘They will respect my Son.’”

 

Not these tenants! This is their big chance. An absentee Landowner is nobody to worry about. And if they get rid of the Son, then all their problems are solved. The vineyard will be theirs for keeps. So they do what they’ve always done. Been there. Done that. “They take the Son. They give Him the heave ho Him and murder him in cold blood!”

 

Then comes the big theological question. “When the Owner of the vineyard comes, what will He do to those tenants?”

 

What do you think? He’ll clobber them! He’ll pay them back! Wouldn’t you?

 

Many times in the New Testament Jesus categorically states this truth that is going on in the parable. It’s this: “As you believe, so you have.” In other words, if you treat God as one who is interested in getting things out of you, who deprives you of what you believe you have coming, who takes what is his, demands his rights and pays back evil for evil, then that is the God you have. If you treat God as one who can’t be trusted to care for your good, if you treat him as a threat, as an enemy, then that is the God you have.

 

The evil you think of God, you will receive from him. A man’s evil toward God returns upon him in judgment. There is nothing capricious about God’s judgment. It acknowledges what is the fact with a man and deals with him accordingly. “He will bring these wretches to a wretched end,” is the people’s answer. They expect God to act as they would. Selfishly. Tit for tat. Quid pro quo. As you believe so you have.

 

The crowds who hear the parable don’t get it. The chief priest and Pharisees do. So clearly they understand what Jesus is saying that they want to kill Him.

 

The Owner of course is God. He’s an outrageous and generous giver. His is an incredible again and again generosity. Giving His vineyard, that is, His kingdom over into your hands. His giving makes not less for you but more. So that you may share His delight in giving and sharing. So much so that He gives His Son Jesus Christ even if that means He goes into death.

 

Call it crazy. Call it reckless. But that’s God’s way with sinners. That’s what it takes to save you!

 

There is no reason why you should get what you deserve as a sinner — unless, of course, you insist on it. And that would be a hellish disaster.

 

Do you consider God to be your enemy? As if He’s only out to get you? As if He’s the big problem in your life? Well, the parable is very clear that if you treat God as a threat or as an enemy, then that is what He will be to you.

 

But I am here to tell you that that is not what God wants. He wants to share His vineyard, that is, His kingdom, grapes, wine, and the joy of the harvest which is your salvation. And that Good Friday-ly done for you.

 

On the cross God’s Son Jesus Christ took your sin in His Body. What you had coming, what you deserved for your sins, Jesus took in your place. Your sins can condemn you no more. You are forgiven. You are restored with Him at His table now and in the fullness of His Kingdom. God is not your enemy! He is God FOR YOU! God FOR YOU on the cross in your Baptism, in the absolution and in the Sacrament of the Altar!

 

So, today, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

 

Christ’s death. The ultimate horror of history – for your sin. For your salvation.

 

If you can face that, then there is nothing in this life you cannot face. There is no misery that goes deeper than the cross. The crucified Jesus is there and deeper down still. Everything that would destroy you Jesus has faced. It did not destroy Him. And so neither you who are His.

 

“Until he comes,” that is, when He will drink of the fruit of the vine in His Kingdom. And Jesus doesn’t like to drink alone. And so His words to the disciples and to you: “that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.”

 

So you in the vineyard. How goes the digging? The watering? The weeding? What of the harvest, the grapes, the wine?

 

Are you living in a vineyard or a penitentiary?

 

The answer is given when you confess who God is. When you say the Creed. Or how your life is lived.

 

Jesus didn’t fit the scribes and Pharisees idea of God. And so to preserve their idea of who God is, they plotted to kill Jesus. And they did it. They got it done!

 

They meant it for evil. God used that Friday for your good. Your salvation good. And now He gives you wine. And with the wine Christ’s Blood poured out on the cross for your sin. What joy! What vineyard / kingdom / harvest home joy!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

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