Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.
Lent 5c, (March 13, 2016)
TITLE: “The Vineyard”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter twenty.
What are you willing to give up for those you love? What are you willing to sacrifice? Time? Money? Loss of reputation? Injury, even death itself? This is the question that the owner of the Vineyard is faced with in our parable this morning. Jesus had gotten to the point in His ministry and journey to the cross where He didn’t speak plainly too much anymore. He spoke in parables when He was in public, telling these stories so that those who wanted to hear could hear Him, while the crowds, the Pharisees and His enemies were left confused.
So what are you willing to give up for those whom you love? The man in our story leases out the vineyard, and after a long time sends one of his servants to come and check on the fruits of the vineyards, and ask for what they owed him. But the tenants did not want to give the owner what was his. They beat the servant and sent him away empty handed. The second servant they publicly shamed and sent away. The third they even wounded and sent him back to the owner with nothing.
The owner has been patient. The owner has been kind. Where we would go in guns blazing, He keeps looking for a way to receive the fruits of His own vineyard. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’” (Luke 20:13 ESV)
Now at first glance, that seems, well, that seems a little crazy. What made the owner think that they would treat His son any differently? Was there any reason, any hint in their behavior that would indicate they would have a change of heart?
Nope. It is almost as if this owner loves these tenants more than He loves his own son. Which is crazy, of course. But there it is. Will they respond? Will they see this as a last offer of grace and mercy, or will they continue on their path of self-destruction?
You know how the story ends. They kill the son, in a deluded attempt to gain the inheritance. In the end, the tenants are the ones that lose. They had it all, but they refused to bear fruits fitting for repentance. They refused to see themselves as part of something bigger. They couldn’t see the signs, and they couldn’t hear the words of the servants.
Now let’s get to the point of this whole thing. This story teaches that God had sent prophets to His people, Israel, for hundreds of years. Time and time again He had called them to repent, He had sent His servants to proclaim His Word of judgment and grace. Elijah. Daniel. Ezekiel. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Hosea. The list goes on. But Israel rejected them, even killed them.
And so God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. But His Son, too was killed, murdered by a hateful and murderous generation, of which we are all heirs. Like Israel in Jesus’ and before, God’s offers of grace and mercy often go unheeded. We do not show love and care to our neighbors. While we live in the Vineyard of the Lord, we treat it as our own personal kingdom. But it is not so. Repent.
So Jesus had to die. That is at the heart of this parable. Jesus was rejected by men, despised at every turn. He came into His own, and His own did not receive Him. And so He was rejected, even to the point of the shameful death on a cross. But something remarkable happens. Remember the words of Isaiah 43:
““Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18–19 ESV)
God is here to do a new thing. Jesus hints at it in our Gospel text by quoting Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Psalms 118:22 ESV) Jesus Christ us rejected, and by being rejected He becomes the very foundation and cornerstone of our salvation.
Now this is a bit hard to take and make sense of, because, well, it doesn’t make much sense. It is like this. It is in suffering that you see the character of a person. It is easy to look good and pious and perfect when everything is going great. But when things collapse and fall all around you, when you are broken and alone, when you are at a loss for answers and solutions, that is when things start to become clear. You learn what is important. You come to recognize where God’s mercy comes from. St. Paul talks about this at length in Philippians:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8–11 ESV)
Jesus has everything stripped away and is left alone, rejected by God and man. And yet still He loves you. And you this day share in His sufferings. Literally Saint Paul says you have Communion with His sufferings, which is a much better picture. In receiving our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, you receive and indeed become a part of our Lord’s sufferings. His suffering becomes yours so that now, when you look at the suffering you endure each day, you can rightly says that Jesus endures your suffering with you and for you, because that is what it means to be in communion with His suffering.
Come this day and receive the rejected one for your salvation. Come and rejoice! God rejoice in You, so come, rejoice with Him in the meal of His love that He has prepared for you.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn