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Sunday 4th October

posted 2 Oct 2020, 02:32 by Church Office   [ updated 4 Oct 2020, 13:39 by CHS Info ]

Who loves grape juice? This week in Pram service we will be exploring growing, picking and eating grapes and how much fun it is to share.


Sunday 4th October 2020

 Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

 


The vineyard was often used as a metaphor for God’s people, something he cherishes, cares for and looks after.  The purpose of God’s people, like the vineyard, is to bear good fruit, in this case social justice.

In Isaiah’s vision the vineyard that does not bear fruit will be destroyed and pulled down.  But Jesus’ vision for the future of the vineyard is different.

Here the tenants in the vineyard keep all the fruit for themselves and attack those for whom the fruit is intended.  When he asks his hearers how the owner of the vineyard will react, they assume that he will exact vengeance but Jesus replies “the stone that the builders had rejected has become the corner stone”.

God’s people are indeed failing to be fruitful but their greed and violence will not be answered with destruction.  God will do something radically different: he will build up a new community around the very people that the tenants have sought to destroy.

How they react to this creative and merciful act of God will be up to them.  They may be unable to embrace this new future that God offers because it involves embracing that which they rejected.

 

Readings

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

 

Matthew 21:33-46

33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come; he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you; the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Sermon

Good news everyone! Medics may disagree about whether wine is good or bad but the advice from the Bible is clear: “Bless the Lord, who brings forth wine to gladden the hearts of the people.”

Rejoice! Alcohol is God ordained.

Wine signals joy and celebration, community and concord. It is something to share, something best enjoyed in the company of others.

And so the vineyard (the place where vines are grown and nurtured, grapes are picked and pressed) is a central symbol of the community, the people of God, who work together to produce fruit for all to enjoy.

Today we are told the story of two vineyards: Isaiah’s vineyard is not producing good fruit and in response God promises to tear the whole place down. In Jesus’ re-telling, the problem is not that the vineyard is not producing fruit but that the fruit is not being shared. Here the vineyard is not destroyed but it is taken away and given to others.

The problem lies with a confusion about who stuff belongs to: first the tenant farmers don’t give the fruit to the servants who come to receive it, then they plan to not only keep the fruit but the whole vineyard for themselves.

They act as if everything belongs to them.

We are not so different.

This week I was reading about a young athlete who has just won the 800m championship. When asked about his success, Daniel Rowden said this:

“Most of my athletic performance is down to my genetics, which I have no control over. Then there are the opportunities that I was given as a kid, to have a running club down the road with good coaches and training partners - none of that was under my control. If other people had the same skillset and opportunities, they may even run better than I do. I can pat myself on the back but, a lot of the time, it is not down to me. At the end of the day, God is in control. I live my life to please him.”

I was touched that someone so young and so successful could understand that his privileges were just that, a gift, not a right, that he had done nothing to earn them and so they were not for his own glory.

Whatever efforts we make in life we know that if we had been born a different person, in a different place, with different circumstances, we would not have the same outcome. All that we have is a gift.

But more than this all that we ARE is a gift also.

Or maybe not so much a gift, as a loan. But maybe even loan is the wrong metaphor, what we have and what we are is a tool given to us to use not for ourselves but for others.

Today is the feast of St Francis of Assisi. One of my favourite contemporary Franciscans believes that we need to learn (and usually learn the hard way) the following lessons in life:

1. Life is hard

2. We are not that important

3. Our life is not about us

4. We are not in control

5. We are all gonna die.

Realising this may, of course, make us turn to that bottle of wine that God had ordained to gladden our hearts but, it too, is good news. Liberating news, energising news.

Your life may sometimes be hard, things will happen that you cannot control, it will be short, possibly glorious but short, but the thing is, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

Your life is not about you.

You are a beautiful and unique manifestation of something altogether bigger and more significant.

Life, life in all its fullness, abundant life, eternal life, the energy and power and creativity of God, is lived in and through you.

When we grasp this truth: not just that the fruit of our lives does not belong to us, but that we do not belong to ourselves; then we stop asking what is rightly ours and what we should give or what we should share. It becomes obvious that it’s all meant for sharing; that is the point of a good bottle of wine and that is the point of humanity.

Rejoice and be glad, wine is for sharing and so are we.


Prayer

Almighty God,

you have made us for yourself,

and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:

pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,

and so bring us at last to your heavenly city

where we shall see you face to face;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen

Ċ
Church Office,
2 Oct 2020, 02:32