EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST – 10/8/17
LOVE SO DEEP SO BROAD SO HIGH!
LOVE BEYOND ALL THOUGHT AND FANTASY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
To all the Saints at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. AMEN. The Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Vineyard today, and the Parable of the Wedding Feast – the Gospel for next Sunday - go together. They reveal the God of the Old Testament as the God of the New Testament whose Kingdom is graciously and lovingly given through His Son!
Jesus spoke the Parable of the Two Sons in response to the challenge - “By what authority are you doing these things?” He identified the son who said “yes” but refused the Father’s bidding as the chief priests and elders. “John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. John’s preaching and John’s baptizing caused a division in Old Testament Israel between self-righteous confidence and repentant sinners receiving righteousness as a gift from God.
Then Jesus spoke the parable of this one-of-a-kind Landlord - rich with detail about the Kingdom of God. The Lord’s care for His Old Testament people was extraordinary – planting and digging and building and leasing. He rescued them from slavery. He cut a covenant with them and gave them His commandments. He gave them an altar and the Day of Atonement and the sacrifices for guilt and sins. He planted them in the Promised Land with victory over their enemies. He gave them Sabbath Day rest for refreshment in His Word. He gave them His temple and promised to be in their midst. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Then, in longsuffering love He continued to send them His prophets. 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.
From Moses to John the Baptizer, none of the men God sent fared very well in Israel. Moses endured constant complaint and attempted revolt. Elijah was persecuted after defeating the prophets of Baal and followed by only a remnant (a tiny fraction of Israel). Isaiah was ignored in favor of politics. Jeremiah was viewed as a mental case. He was beaten and imprisoned. In such manner God’s people treated His prophets. God’s searching and sending love was extraordinary! So also, was their rebellion and rejection of His word through the prophets. “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?”
He sent prophet after prophet crying out “O my people!” Yet Israel often went through the motions of worship – not trusting God’s gifts in the appointed sacrifices. They looked for help in government and in pagan idols of their day. They looked for meaning in earthly comfort and pursuits. They refused to give the owner of the vineyard His fruits of faith and love and trust. Time and time again He sent His prophets to call them back. “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?”
Much more in fact – for the parable also reveals the inscrutable sending of God’s Son. God is not like us! God’s love was not at an end! God is patient! God is gracious! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Last of all, in undeserved, un-measurable love – in an act beyond all thought and fantasy - He sent His Son! “They will respect my son” He said.
You know the rest of the story. You know what happened a few days after Jesus spoke this parable. They took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. We are moved to ask “Why?” With their track record how could God be so free with His sending and so reckless with His giving? Why would God send His dearest treasure to such rebels as these? This the parable also uncovers – making known the rejection of His Son and the resultant transfer of the Kingdom of God from Israel to a mysterious “nation” – a new vineyard people. When…the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” As God spoke through Isaiah, I will remove its hedge and it shall be devoured…I will break down its wall and it shall be trampled down. Forty years later Rome did break down even the physical walls of the old vineyard. I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
This astounding transfer of the kingdom to a new nation – to a different people - took place at the center of human history – on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. The vineyard has been given to a new people – a strange singular nation – the Church of Jesus Christ. This holy nation includes both Jewish and Gentile believers. Circumcision is now of the heart. Abraham is the father of all those who believe in Christ. The blood that determines the people of God is the shed blood of the Son of God. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
By God’s grace, the Extraordinary Landlord has given to you a place in His vineyard! Christ Jesus has made you His own. He has planted you in your baptism and built a wall around you! He is your watchtower, crying out the dangers of sin and protecting you from enemies by means of His Word.
Such protection is our constant need because the foolishness of the wicked vinedressers is not far removed from us. Their foolishness boiled down to two things! First, they rejected the rule of the Landowner through His sent ones – who proclaimed His Word and Will to them – calling them to repentance and faith. Second, they rejected God’s Son who came to give them the kingdom. God protect us from throwing stones at Old Testament Israel for such stones surely strike us also as the New Israel.
The Word that God’s pastors are sent to proclaim today is still easily rebelled against both by pastors and hearers. While St. Paul suffered the loss of all things – our sinful flesh does not want to lose even one thing. This is true whether it is ultimate confidence in our intellect and reason or comfortable compromise with our culture or control over others in matters that affect us. We count many fleeting things as very precious and not as rubbish in comparison to Christ. We are tempted to think, I do want the vineyard and its blessings – but I don’t want to be loved by God toot much – with love so rich as to guide and strengthen and cheer me in all my ways – with love so deep, so broad, so high.
We refuse to be loved so much and continue trying to take over as the owner of our own little vineyards. So our tongues get misused. Anxiety and worry divide our hearts and minds. The gift of daily prayer is too easily neglected. We may even think of weekly worship as something we do rather than as receiving the intimate love of Christ and the new wine of His kingdom.
Should not the owner remove the hedge, break down the wall, and command no rain to fall on us? Should He not put us wretches to a miserable death? Yes – as we confessed in this very service! Yes – if our reason for confidence is in our flesh and our performance! Wild grapes do grow – if we say we have no sin the truth is not in us! God wants us to see that!
Yet Jesus said, “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 marvelous in our eyes’?” How can rejection be marvelous? Because God’s glory is revealed in the rejection of His Son! Jesus is the perfect picture of reversal! He is the stone that if anyone falls on He will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.
Dear Christians - everyone is broken or crushed! Not one person will come out of this world as a rock unto themselves! Upon unbelievers comes the crushing blow of judgment. Those who believe are those who fall in the brokenness of repentance and are raised again as new beings, living stones in Christ! This falling and being raised – this repentance is daily and lifelong! The vineyard of Christ is made up of those who know they are branches who bear good fruit only in Christ (John 15:5).
They will respect my son, He said. By God’s gift of faith you do respect Jesus! You did not come here today to reject His unfailing love for you but to receive it and to respond to it. You place your hope on His great love and nothing else. You believe that God sent His Son not because He is foolish but because He is forgiving! While the renters were scheming to kill the Son and illegitimately claim the inheritance, God was planning to sacrifice his Son and lovingly give them and you the inheritance. The Son came not to cast the former tenants out of the vineyard, but to gather others into the vineyard – including you!
The Son knew that it was only in the killing of the heir that you could have the inheritance. God the Father removed the hedge around His Son, breaking down the wall between life and death for Him who is the Creator of all life! He was put to a miserable death – for us! This is how we know what love is (1 John 3:16) that Christ laid down His life for us - and today’s Isaiah text begins with a love song that turns the beloved into a vineyard. In God’s love song for you He is the one who clears and who digs and who plants and who builds and hews out the wine vat. God knows what a vineyard is for! He brings forth wine to gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). Jesus knows what wine is for and the risen Lord is not one to drink by Himself.
At Cana – you know the astounding bounty of His wedding gift – fine wine overflowing - the very first of His signs! In the Upper Room – you know the astounding blessing of His dying gift – the very last of His signs before stepping out into the night and darkness of betrayal and death. This sign is also overflowing with wine and with the love of God! Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:27-29).
Beloved of God, Calvary is a very fertile hill. Jesus has hewn a winepress for you there and at His open tomb. He fills it with the happy new wine of His Holy Supper. Death and grave could not hold Him! With His forgiving blood Jesus credits His fruit fully to you! You are found in Christ not having a righteousness of your own, that comes from the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. In Him you have an extraordinary Landlord! In Him you are an extraordinary tenant! .
He has taken hold of you and He is preparing you for His eternal feast – the marriage feast of the Lamb which has no end! Oh love, how deep, how broad, how high – beyond all thought and fantasy! In His kingdom the vineyard and the marriage feast go together!
This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Almighty and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace. Implant Your Word in us that, with good and honest hearts, we may keep it and bring forth the fruits of faith.
We humbly implore You to rule and govern Your Church throughout the world. Bless all those who proclaim Your truth that we may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word and that faith in You may be strengthened, love toward others increased, and Your kingdom extended. Send forth laborers into Your harvest, and sustain those whom You have sent that the Word of reconciliation may be proclaimed to all people and the Gospel preached in all the world. Bless this congregation in preparing for the calling of a pastor – with trust in You – and love for one another.
Grant health and prosperity to all that are in authority, especially to the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this state, and to all those who make, administer, and judge our laws. Grant them grace to rule according to Your good pleasure for the maintenance of righteousness and the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
According to Your good pleasure turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their hostilities and walk with us in meekness and in peace.
Comfort with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity. Grant Your blessing to Russel for whom death seems near – strengthening him and his family in the certain trust that nothing can separate him from Your love in Christ Jesus. Continue to bestow your merciful healing and help on Rufus in hospital care. Take all in pain and sickness into Your tender care giving their hearts rest in You.
Grant courage and steadfastness, especially to those who suffer for Your name’s sake that they may receive and accept their afflictions in the confidence that You will acknowledge them as Your own.
Although we have deserved Your righteous wrath and punishment, yet, we ask You, O most merciful Father not to remember the sins of our youth nor our many transgressions. Out of Your unspeakable goodness and mercy defend us from all harm and danger to body and soul. Preserve us from false doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Your mercy, and from an evil death. In every time of trouble show Yourself a very present help, the Savior of all, especially to those who believe.
Cause all needful fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young, to all lawful occupations on land, sea, and air, and to all pure arts and useful knowledge; and crowning them you’re your blessing. Bless those engaged to be married, especially Emmet and Jaimie and Mark and Kimberlyn that they may look forward to their wedding day with holy joy and experience there a foretaste of that blessing You have prepared for all your saints at the marriage feast of the Lord in His kingdom which has no end.
Receive, O God, our bodies and souls and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring before You, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us to be Your own, that we may live under Him in His kingdom.
These and whatsoever other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant us for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.