PENTECOST 18, A – October 8, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 5:1-7; Phil. 3:4-11; Matt. 21:33-46

    “My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes.” Isaiah 5

 

It would be nice to begin this sermon with a light-hearted, humorous joke or story. Well, it has not been a light-hearted week. It has been a terrible week, begun with a horrible mass murder in Las Vegas that has been the primary focus of the news all week. We are confronted with the question: why? Why did the gunman commit this horrible atrocity? The answer eludes investigators.

 There’s also the question: how could this happen? Are guns the problem? Is it a lack of mental health support? Was it lax security, or people not saying anything? Why?

 God in His Word today poses different, but related, questions: why do people not respond to Him as He desires? Why was Jesus rejected? Why do people still reject Him? Why?

 After all, it’s not as if God hasn’t showered us with His love or failed to tell us anything about Himself and His Son. How greatly God is active in our world! Jesus echoes the words of Isaiah on this. God digs, and clears, and plants, and builds.

Ø  I get a small taste of God’s hard work whenever my wife asks me to turn over the soil in her gardens. Rock after rock comes up. Boy, is it difficult!  And, Lorayne is constantly digging and removing weeds and stones.

God does so much for us! He has created and given to us this world and universe, and continues to direct and preserve it. In the beauty of a flower… the amazing development of a child in the womb… the majesty of a mountain range… the power of the ocean… and in so many other ways in this marvelous creation God not only reveals His power and majesty; He shows His giving nature. And in His Word, the Bible, He reveals most clearly that He is a God who “is good, whose steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 118). His love is most clearly seen in the giving of His Son. In Jesus we see how ridiculously extravagant God’s love is. Jesus tells us: “he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” What father would do this? God the Father! He sent His Son to bear the sins of all people and die for them that we might be saved from their judgment, and Jesus willingly came and did so. How greatly does God love us!

 He expects a return on that love. He expects fruit from His vineyard. What is the fruit that God is looking for? Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” Christ the vine, flowing into you that He might flow forth from you with His love for His Father and for all people, a love that puts others before self and serves others. That is the fruit God is looking for from you.

 Woe to those who bear wild grapes, who live for self and do not love God and His Son and live for others! God speaks in Isaiah of what He will do to the vineyard that produces wild grapes:

Ø  “I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.” Those who reject God and His Son will have no protection from Him, and so will be exposed to danger and evil, especially Satan and his evil spirits.

Ø  “I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up.” The empty things and beliefs of this selfish world will fill and choke them.

Ø  “I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” The life-producing rain of His Word and Spirit will not fall upon them and into their hearts.

This sounds like the man who killed and wounded so many in Las Vegas. We hear how he filled his life with gambling and his home with guns, but hear nothing about Christ. Empty of God, without His life and His hope, he sought death, and not life.

 Look at our Gospel reading today. Jesus retold the parable of Isaiah 5, but magnified it. Isaiah’s bad fruit of wild grapes became an attack upon the vineyard owner by killing his son. Jesus is telling us how He sees the wild grapes of sin. They are an assault on God. Certainly mass murder is, but so also are single assaults and murders, or even simply ignoring Christ’s teaching and rejecting His authority. They all go back to the original Garden, in Eden, and the original rejection of God by seeking and eating the fruit that He had forbidden. Adam and Eve ate and, when confronted by God, blamed Him. By doing so they attacked God and sought His death. This evil fruit has been in people’s hearts ever since. As Adam’s and Eve’s descendants, it resides in our hearts.

 But, how Christ changes everything! – and He indicates this by how He concludes His retelling of Isaiah’s parable. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” He says. He is the foundation upon which a new building arises. Yes, beginning with His own day there have been many who have rejected Him. Great are the sins that have been committed and the sorrows they bring! But by His death and resurrection Jesus has raised up millions upon millions of sinners into a new kingdom which will never end, and which no sin or evil can ever overcome.

 You who receive the forgiveness of your sins in Him and confess His name are members of that kingdom. Like the apostle Paul, a former persecutor of Christ, you are righteous, even holy before God – but not by your own obeying of God’s law. You have “a righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.” Christ’s eternal righteousness is stronger than any sin or evil, and is yours through faith alone; a faith given to you when He Baptized you and made you His own. How blessed you are!

 Now: do as Paul did and press on to make Christ and His righteousness your own. Don’t be content with having a Bible; read it and learn it by studying it with His people. Don’t be content with being a fairly good person. Yearn to be better, to more and more learn what Christ calls good and do it! Yearn to know Christ and the power of His death and resurrection, His victory over your sin, in your life! He will fill you and His goodness will flow forth from you, to the blessing of others and the honor of His name.

 And, as far as the sadness of this world and the horrible expressions of sin, the assaults upon God and His Christ, that you see: as you fill your heart and mind with God’s love in Christ, He will fill you with His peace and hope and joy. In Him we pray:

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days! (LSB 850 vs. 2)