My sermon for this week was based on Matthew 21:33-46.
To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.
Like most preachers, I try to craft my sermons to make them relevant to things that are relevant to the congregation, obviously without mentioning names. So a few years ago, I had a very impatient parishioner to whom I will assign the pseudonym "Jim". Many members of the parish were finding it difficult to work with him, but he had somehow become involved with just about every committee at the church.
So when a Gospel passage came up that spoke of the virtues of patience and tolerance, I took the opportunity to extol those very same virtues in the hopes that Jim, among others in the parish, would seriously consider how they were treating their fellow brothers and sisters.
As I preached, I noticed Jim smiling and nodding sagely, and I thought, "Great! He is getting the point!"
At the end of the service, as I said goodbye to everyone, Jim came up to me and shook my hand. He said, "That was a terrific sermon. Boy, do I wish my wife had been here to hear that!"
Sometimes, the sermon is about you, not about the person sitting in the other pew.
Similarly, sometimes Jesus' parables are about us.
Actually, they are ALWAYS about us.
The Parable of the Landowner has often been promoted by Christianity as proof positive that God no longer favours Judaism, but favours Christianity instead. The idea being that God is the Landowner, the vineyard represents the Kingdom, and the tenants are the Jews.
But this is not even close to what Jesus meant. Jesus is issuing an indictment, but it is not against "the Jews"...after all, he was one.
He is issuing an indictment against the chief priests and scribes, though, because they had failed to take care of the greatest fruit of the Kingdom.
In the OT, a "vineyard" is often used a a metaphor for the people of Israel. Not for land, not for the Kingdom of God, but for people.
This should alter our perception and understanding of the parable. If the vineyard is a metaphor for people, then the indictment against the chief priests and scribes is not that they have squandered the wealth of God's Kingdom, the fruits of God's generosity, but that they had failed to care for that wealth and those fruits, and that wealth is people.
We are called to care for each other, to defend one another, to love, support, cherish and encourage one another.
The problem with the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees was that they were asked to tend to the people, and they failed to do that. They did not use their knowledge of the Law and their positions to elevate anyone but themselves.
The problem is that many of us are in positions of power and knowledge, whether we like it or not. Whether we are parents of children who need us, grown children with elderly parents who need us, whether we are in positions at work that place people under our supervision, whether we volunteer, are members of a church or support group, whether we have a friend in need, we have power and influence.
Do we use this to care for the vineyard, or to hoard the fruit for ourselves and trample the vines?