This sermon addresses something that I think we all are falling into wrongly and that is judging people by group standing. With God there is no collective righteousness, neither is there collective damnation. The Lord says, “I will judge each of you according to his ways.” Unlike our natural ways, comparative and collective, God doesn’t engage in comparison. Your neighbor’s sins are nothing but a mirror that reflects our own unworthiness. Your neighbor’s righteousness can’t be transferred to you. What God is interested in is you. None of us will avoid the judgement. The question is will we be found fruitless or fruitful. Whether we are talking about the general providence of God the Father, or the saving grace of the God the son, we have been given our daily bread. We have been given the care and feeding needed to be fruitful, personally fruitful. That starts with repentance. This sermon develops these themes around the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard.
That title is Peter’s question that leads to the aphorism: the first will be last and the last first, and the parable of the vineyard. This sermon looks at in sequence:
a) the literal facts of the parable, that God provides our daily bread
b) what it reveals to us about God, that He is never less than just, but full of surprising grace
c) a moral teaching, that comparisons within the vineyard are dangerous and instead we keep our eyes on Christ
d) the end times hope, that in the regeneration/new world the heat of the day of the vineyard gives way to pure light.
“I am the true vine…remain in me.” That is the core of the text. As I say in the sermon reflecting on the seven I am saying of Jesus in John, I am the true vine and my Father is the vine dresser to me is the more complex or deepest. Unlike say the good shepherd which makes immediate intuitive sense, or the bread of life which also has a real referent, we know vines and vine dressers, but applying it to humans and the Christian life quickly gets tough.
What I try to do here is trace out a matrix of Biblical meaning and I throw it against an episode of my personal life. Writing and delivering sermons is a process of reading and proclaiming three different things. The biblical text is of primary importance. It has something to say that is for all people. But the congregation and the preacher also need to be read. A perfectly fine sermon for Saint John the Divine parish might be horribly wrong for Saint John the mundane. Likewise there can be perfectly orthodox sermons given by Pastor Emo that given by Pastor Study would be false. That is why we hold the Sermon to be God’s Word for the people of that time and place. It is also why the sermon is a spoken form.
I can’t really describe this one beyond saying I think you’d have to listen to it.