These are Pastor Bob’s notes for the sermon he will deliver this morning.
A sermon by Pastor Bob
October 2, 2011
Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Matthew 21:33-46: The Parable of the Tenants
“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
–For a number of years, I led a group from Northern California down into the Tijuana area to build houses for families who had very little.
–It was hard but rewarding work and after a few years, we became accustomed to building these extremely basic houses.
–We knew what day certain things had to happen, such as walls built, roofs put on, stucco applied.
–But before we could do any of that work, we had to first clear and level the area for our favorite day: “Cement Day.”
–Using no electricity, we would start early in the morning, hand-mixing, shoveling and smoothing the slab of cement upon which we would build not only a house in some poor area of the world, but a home.
–A home for a family that worked side-by-side with us.
–Whose kids we played soccer with in the street
–A family that fed us a feast on the last day of our work that they could little afford, yet we could not refuse.
–A home built in patience, in love, in faith.
–When I think of cornerstones, I think of “cement day,” and the slab that we would later stand on as we held hands in a circle, prayed, and in God’s name blessed a future held in God’s care.
–“the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”
–This is the stone that you base your entire building project upon.
–The alignment of the walls.
–The brunt of the weight as the walls are built upon it.
–It is not a stone you would want to stumble upon, let alone have it fall upon you.
–It is the stone upon which you want to build your life.
–It is the stone that aligns your values and beliefs
–It is the stone that is the beginning of a life with God.
–Not merely in sterile laws that confine and enclose.
–But a living word which sets the soul free to truly live in God.
–So how can this precious stone, the one upon which we care place our lives upon, how can it cause someone else to stumble?
–Or, the real question for us this morning, how can it cause each of us to stumble?
–As our gospel suggests, Jesus is in the heat of battle.
–He is at the Temple, the center of the Jewish universe, and he is surrounded by adoring crowds. Some regard him as a prophet: in hushed whispers, the Messiah.
–The chief priests and Pharisees have caught wind of these rumors and now they encircle Jesus, ready to pick his bones.
–The problem is that this is no imposter.
–Jesus is not like the others who have claimed to be the Messiah, others who have even been crucified.
–No. As we heard in last week’s gospel text, Jesus carries an authority that makes the religious leaders shake in self-righteous anger.
–And we can imagine their clenched fists and glares as Jesus shares yet another parable of the vineyard.
–But this vineyard parable is not about the first being last, or about the authority of Jesus.
–No, this one centers most directly upon himself, Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, the Son of God who has come into the world both under and with the authority of almighty God.
–This Messiah is not here to prop up the current government.
–This Messiah is not here to merely vanquish the Roman occupiers.
–This Messiah is here to die, so that a world might live.
–The stakes are as high as they could possibly be.
–And with words that must have shaken the foundation stones of the Temple itself, Jesus explains the place of each of those religious leaders with regard to the Kingdom of God.
–The vineyard owner, in a Genesis moment, purchases the land, establishes its ability to produce fruit, and leaves it for the tenants to take care of.
–And also like the pages of the first book of the Torah, the tenants forget who owns the land–who, literally, created it.
–They therefore mistreat and even kill the slaves that the landowner sends to collect the produce.
–After this happens a second time, the landowner sends his own beloved son.
–“Who would dare hurt my beloved son?” the landowner remarks to himself.
–Surely, no one in their right mind would harm the son of the landowner.
–The very flesh-and-blood of the true owner of the vineyard.
–Yet, the beloved son is treated like the slaves who have gone before him and he is killed.
–He is killed for his inheritance. He is killed for being the Son.
–Now, up to this point Jesus has been telling this vineyard parable to the Chief Priests and Pharisees,
–And like fish that hungrily catch the bait and find themselves caught, they respond to Jesus’ question of how the vineyard owner should respond to the wicked tenants.
–They say that the wicked tenants should be killed, and new tenants be given the land.
–You have to admire Jesus’ style. But how it must have hurt him to hear their words.
–For these same religious leaders would soon surround him along with most of the adoring crowd that day.
–In a fevered pitch they would surround Jesus, who had been beaten and stripped of his clothes, and they would shout, “Crucify, crucify him!”
–The whole point is that the Son may be the cornerstone of our faith, but he was made of flesh-and-blood, just like us.
–And he would die a horrific death, so that our own deaths would not be the last word.
–Friends, death is not the last word.
–In a resurrection, an open tomb and a Spirit that grips our community in this moment today, we can in faith declare that this cornerstone lives.
–And in doing so, we live as well.
–We are the new tenants of God’s vineyard.
–We are called to care for this creation.
–And we must never forget who is the real owner of this vineyard.
–That day, so long ago, on the steps of the Jewish Temple, Jesus told the Pharisees, the Chief priests, and you and I, that he was the cornerstone.
–And that “the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
–As much as we would like to distance ourselves from those religious leaders and hide among the crowd, we cannot in faith do so.
–For Jesus would later not simply die for one or two people as he hung on that wooden cross. He would die for all.
–He would die for the Pharisees, for the Chief Priests, for the elders, for the Sadducees, for the lawyers and scribes, the Romans and the Philistines, the Jews and the Gentiles. And, I would submit to you, for every last creature that God has ever made.
–At 20 years of age, I stumbled over this cornerstone.
–This impediment to the way I was living.
–I wasn’t a particularly bad person or even sad.
–Yet, only in retrospect can I say that I was not truly alive.
–That until I realized that this was real cornerstone of my very being, that I was missing something.
–And so I was baptized.
–Brothers and sisters in Christ, I beg you to stumble over this living cornerstone.
–I ask you to discover how Jesus in his own way touches your life and teaches you to fully live in him.
–And I implore you to embrace your community, to be fed by God’s word, and by the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
–This life of ours is truly a gift of faith, and one we dare not travel by ourselves.
–It is good to do it together.
Pastor Bob is a pastor in San Diego, California.