Lent 5c (March 17, 2013)

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

lent5c-2013

TITLE: “Rejected”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and The Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke, chapter twenty.

The point of the story is the patience of God.  Not once, not twice, not three times, but four times the landowner suffered rejection by His tenants.  He sends servants to speak His Word.  By word and action he demonstrates His care for His wayward tenants.  Time and time again He gives them another chance.  And time and time again they abuse him by abusing those whom he sent.

Finally, the landowner in our story sends his son, his “beloved” as he is called.  Surely they will listen to my son, he thinks.  But the violence goes from PG to R in short order.  In our story, the tenants look at the son coming and think, “Aha!  If we kill the son we will get the inheritance!”  Hatred odes not have to make sense.  As we read in Proverbs, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12 ESV)  Prejudice and anger follow their own rules.

But it does not end well for the tenants in our story.  Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Hatred is swallowing poison and hoping that your enemy dies.”  Eventually the landowner does come back.  Their hatred reaps its reward in the end.  He destroys the tenants and gives the land to others.  He does not do this willingly, but He does it in the end.

But do not lose the point of our parable.  God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He risks rejection in sending His only begotten Son.  And time and time again, Jesus is rejected by you and me, His wayward children.  There is no gift of God we cannot twist.  There is no mercy we cannot stretch and warp into our own sick purposes.  The tenants in our story have nothing on us.  You are those tenants apart from Christ.  Repent.

But something remarkable happens.  Jesus quotes the Psalmist who says “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  Now we don’t talk much about cornerstones today.  But in Jesus’ day, the cornerstone was everything.  If you didn’t have a good cornerstone in your building, everything would be off.  Your measurements, whether the building would be level, all of it depended upon a good cornerstone.

God sends the perfect cornerstone, the rock which is Christ Himself.  He is the very foundation of our life as God’s children.  St. Peter writes about it like this,

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”” (1Peter 2:4–6 ESV)

So what does this have to do with you and me and where we fit into this story of rejection and grace?  It works like this.  God, who is merciful and gracious and slow to anger, sends His Son to risk rejection and even death for us.  Jesus is cast out of the vineyard, rejected by the very ones whom He came to save.

But now this Son doesn’t reject you like you deserve.  No, He accepts you, and calls you His dear brother or sister.  He brings you back to the vineyard with Him, and His Father, your heavenly Father, now He gives you all things in His Son, Jesus Christ.  You will not be put to shame, for He was put to shame for you.

Our Lord’s rejection is a hard thing for us to hear and understand.  But God now accepts you because of Jesus Christ and His great work for you.  That is what Lent is all about.  That is what Holy Week and Good Friday is all about.  That is what Easter is all about.  It is all about God’s love for you, and how you are now accepted in His sight because of His Son.

At the end of the day, this is the most important thing in your life.  This is what St. Paul is talking about when He writes,

“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)

So come to the vineyard, dear brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.  Come into the vineyard of God.  You are welcome here.  He has given it to you.  It is your home.  Come and eat of His fruit and drink of His vintage.  All things are now yours.  God does not reject you.  He loves you and holds you to Him as a dear father clings to his dear children.  Come home, for all things are now yours.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understand, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting.  Amen.

With thanks to my friend, Chad.