(sometimes I choose to preach from an outline rather than a manuscript… someday, maybe I’ll feel freer and can do it more often!)
1. Intro: talk about giving and receiving
- Apply that to our faith and we remember that we did not create these lives… God did. And we do not own these lives… God does. We owe everything to God. Everything that we are and everything that we have has been given to us, and like these tenant farmers, we are utterly dependent upon our Lord.
- But inherent in that relationship is a question: Are we going to joyfully return the fruits of our labor back to the Lord? are we going to work each and every single day for his glory?
- Or are we going to hoard our gifts and talents, our labor, our fruits, and only work for ourselves?
- In exchange for all that we have received… what are we willing to give back?
- Mercy is NOT getting what you deserve… being spared from judgment. At its roots, the word we translate into “mercy” is about compassion and pity. God sees our desperate need to cling to sin, God sees our utter inability to help ourselves and he shows pity upon us, he shows mercy upon us.
- This may not seem on the surface like a parable about mercy… but if we remember that these tenants received three chances, we recognize the patience and the kindness of this landowner.
- I have recently begun watching the new Doctor Who series. For those of you not familiar with the show, a time lord known only by the doctor travels through time and space in a blue box, or phone booth. As he travels, he helps peoples who are being invaded or oppressed or unable to defende themselves from hostile species. The tenth doctor, played by David Tennant, was known for showing mercy… by giving these monsters and enemies one chance to reform their ways.
“Would you declare war on us, Doctor? “I’m so old now, I used to have so much mercy. You get one warning. That was it.”
- One warning seems fair. Picture a landowner finding out that three of his men were killed trying to bring back the grain. Let me take that back. One warning seems more than fair enough. One warning is plenty of mercy shown. I would have carted those tenants off to the local authorities and thrown them in jail, or kicked them off the land.
- But our landowner sends back another group to receive the grain. And when everyone he has sent has been killed, he sends his son. His one and only son. Rather than bring armies down on top of these wicked tenants, he sends his son. His heir. This parable shows a lot more mercy than any of us would have.
- These wicked tenants had three chances to give back to the Lord what they owed him… how many chances have you been given?
- If mercy is about NOT getting what you deserve, we have to remember that grace is getting what you DON’T deserve. Grace is always a gift. It is a surprise. But the word we translate into grace also has roots in the idea of favor, of being loved and appreciated. In spite of our many failings, God abundantly bestows grace and life and love upon us. We may not deserve it, but because of the goodness of God, we have been blessed.
- You and I are sinners. Throughout our lives, in little and big ways, we have turned our backs upon God. We are only human, after all, and there are so many things in this world that tempt us.
- This parable has reminded us of the many times that we have not gotten what we deserve as a result of those failings… the many chances that we have had to reform our ways, but the end of this parable brings the reminder of judgment.
- As the people and the religious leaders hear the story, they know what the outcome should be. When asked what the owner should do, they quickly respond: He’ll kill them – those tenants are a rotten bunch. Good riddance! (the Message).
- And Jesus seems to lean this way as well. He quotes scripture, reminding them that the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He tells them that the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces. He says that if we refuse to produce fruit and give God his glory that the kingdom will be taken away from us. The hammer of justice is about to fall… that seems to be the message here.
- Yes, there will be judgment.
- Because when the Son of our Master comes to collect what we have promised to give… in our sinfulness, we refuse. In our pride, we take instead of receiving. In our anger, we kill him. And out of God’s justice, the kingdom is taken away.
- If the story ended there, we might consider it a fair ending. We get what we deserve. Probably less than what we deserved.
- But the story doesn’t end there… this parable continues to be told throughout the gospel, because you see, we know what happens when the Son of God is killed. It isn’t the end. It isn’t over.
- We stand today on the other side of the Resurrection.
- We know that our act of hatred was responded to with an act of absolute love.
- We know that in being rejected, Jesus Christ gave all the rejected a place to belong.
- We know that in giving up his life, Jesus Christ gave life to us all.
- And we see in this parable the greatest irony of all: we may have killed the Son hoping to take away his inheritance and keep it all for ourselves… but in his resurrection, he made us all brothers and sisters, children of God, and heirs of the Kingdom of God.
- You see, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus… the sending of the Son to the greedy tenants in the vineyard… was not a test, not a trap, not a plan to bring judgment, not a warning… it was grace. It was a gift. It was an act of love. Jesus sat down with his disciples on the night in which they betrayed him and he took bread, broke the bread and gave it to them saying: this is my body, broken for you. And he passed around the cup reminding them: this is my blood shed for you.