The Gospel text that is the basis of the sermon is a continuation of the scene from last week. The result of last week’s questions and parable is that the Priests have been clearly understood as illegitimate authority. The question that gets answered with this weeks parable is what happens under such illegitimate authority, along with what does legitimate authority look like in the current vineyard – the current people of God.
Legitimate authority is only authority that is built on the cornerstone which is Christ. Of course the church constantly experiences “wretched leaseholders” – those that want to build their own towers of babel instead of building on Christ. What happens in these cases? The answer that Jesus puts forward I believe is two fold. First, the vineyard – the people of God – remain fruitful. A bad leader might “withhold the fruits”, but the people of God remain fruitful. Second, the LORD will come and put an end to all such schemes in the proper time. And that proper time is not excessively long because the fruits will be turned in “in their seasons.”
The larger spiritual reality is that we all labor under such a bad leaseholder – Satan, the powers and principalities. They have been given their notice to vacate. And the the LORD will make it so. But today, the vineyard remains fruitful building on Christ. And the fruits will not be lost.
Parables are strange little things. Everyone loves a good parable. If there is a part of the bible that remains common knowledge it is probably some of the parables, like the Sower and the Soils. But what makes them strange is that while the crowds might remember them, they don’t really hear them. If you are hearing the parables alone, it is because your ears aren’t working. The understanding, the explanation, only comes by faith. And that understanding is often at great odds with the surface friendliness.
In the case of the Sower and the soils, them point is not really to identify soils which is what we so often do. The point is to recognize the overwhelming grace of the sower. And to understand that you are good soil. You who have heard and accepted the Word, you are good soil and will be made fruitful. Because the Word of God does what it intends.
Biblical Texts: Acts 17:16-31, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21
I gave myself a bit more freedom today. It is hard to describe exactly what I mean. The best I can do is compare proclamation and application. Proclamation is the announcement of what God has to say to sinners. Application is then the “what shall be do” question. I tend to be much more on the proclamation side. That proclamation includes the law – the 10 commandments. My application tends to be big broad strokes or examples. I hope that the Spirit is working in my listeners to bring the seeds planted to fruitfulness. Today though, I felt compelled to talk a bit more about an application. The proclamation is the resurrection life in Christ. The application is how we as Christians approach suffering and risk of suffering in this world. I think we are taking too many of our cues from the world. And we should change that.
Jesus’ saying “I am the true and vine my Father is the vinedresser” is one of those sayings that is immediately accessible but almost limitless in imagination. This sermon starts out with a contemporary example of the negative, cutting oneself off from the vine. It then explores from the text what it means to stay connected. There are two things to staying connected that come from Christ, call them the life circulating in the vine and branches, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Then there are two things that are part of the sanctified life, trials or pruning in this context and prayer. We might focus on that pruning as the big asymmetry of the Christian life, but I think that is simply life in a fallen world. If anything knowing that the Father is going to make use of them is a benefit. They could just be bad luck. The big asymmetry to me is in the time frames considered. Those branches that remove themselves wither and are burned while those that stay connected have a perpetual growing season – eternal life.
The text is a continuation from last weeks Gospel reading which has Jesus declare “I am the true vine”, but here Jesus drops the metaphors and talks very plainly. The Christian life starts at a very simple point – God loves you. It has as its goal something likewise simple – fruitful living. Jesus ties these things together here. The Gospel, God’s love for us, take precedence as we are declared his friends. We are no longer slaves to the law, but friends. Love first. But it is directed love. A love directed toward fruitfulness which is defined by the commandments. What does love look like? When a friend gives his life for another. The Christian life has a cruciform shape. But it is a life of invitation into communion with God. It is a call to a life of prayer and a life of love.
Moses preaches the Gospel/Circumcised Hearts & The nearness of the Word
Moses’ allowance for uncircumcised hearts, divorce
The normative nature of marriage & even Jesus’ acknowledgement of its toughness