O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Glory is in Rejection
Glory is in Rejection
Based on Luke 20:9-20
Preached on March 17, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, where do you find glory? Where is it? When do you finally have it? Is it when you own a big house and lots of cars? Is it when a lot of people know you? Is it when you simply say the word and things get done? Or is it when you are rejected on a cross in broad daylight, like a criminal?
Rejection is such a terrible thing it is hard to even use it in the same sentence as glory. Think about it. What does it feel like to be rejected? How does it feel to be cast out? Where does your heart run? What could possibly fill that emptiness that makes you feel so hollow inside? We've all felt it. We all fear it. We would all do anything to keep ourselves from experiencing it again. Glory is the farthest thing from rejection. They are flat out opposites. What could the painful rejection of God's Son possibly have to do with glory?
In our Gospel reading this morning, our Lord spoke a parable about rejection. There was a man who planted a vineyard and leased it out to tenants. When this man sent His servants to retrieve some of His fruit, the tenants rejected them, beat them, wounded them and treated them scandalously. Three times the man sent servants. And three times they were rejected, with an increasing amount of violence and disgrace each time.
To those who first heard this parable, the picture would have been crystal clear. They knew exactly what Jesus was saying. Over the years, God had sent prophets to speak to His people, but the religious leaders had rejected them. They had beaten them, wounded them and treated them shamefully. Church tradition holds that the prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a pit for weeks. The prophet Isaiah was put in a hollow log and sawed in half. The prophet Zechariah was stoned in between the altar and the temple. The people knew exactly what Jesus was saying.
But as Jesus continued the parable, it became apparent that despite their rejection, the LORD was very patient with His people. The more violent and abusive they became, the more graciously God gave to them. Finally, when they had rejected all His prophets He said to Himself, "What shall I do? Who else can I send? I shall send my beloved son; perhaps they will listen to Him." (slight pause) My Son, My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. These were the words the heavenly Father had used at Jesus' baptism. A baptism that the religious leaders had already rejected.
So even as Jesus was painting a perfect picture of what had already happened, He was claiming to be God's Son, lining Himself up with prophets and revealing what was about to take place. What He, the beloved Son, was about to endure at the hands of the religious leaders. For when the tenants saw Him, they said to themselves, "This is the heir; let us kill him, in order that the inheritance may become ours." And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Only days after He spoke this parable, our Lord was forced to carry His cross out the gates of Jerusalem and up onto the hill outside the city where they put Him to death.
What? That's it? Surely not! How could this be the plan? Where is the glory in this? We can't understand this Son. He had a big house and lots of cars. But He left it. He had a huge following and many close, close friends. But they left Him. Literally, all He had to do was say the Word and it happened. But He didn't. He gave in. He was rejected.
The question our Lord asked His baffled hearers two thousand years ago rings with the same relevance for us today, "What then is this that is written:
'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'?
God shows just how different He is from us by manifesting His glory in the rejection of His Son. For in Jesus the glory of God and rejection meet. Christ has consigned His glory to the depths of rejection. He has placed the unending heights of His eternal glory in the dregs of all rejection that you may find it there. That no matter how rejected you may feel. No matter how empty, how hollow things get. When your heart has nowhere else to run to escape the pain, He is with you. He will save you. He will raise you up with Him again. God wants you to be His glory, and the way He manifests it is in the rejection of His Son.
Think about what you are to God outside of Christ. Outside of Christ, all you are is sin. You are a total reject, a disease that threatens His perfect heaven. How can the glory of God be in you? How can He ever let you in? But He wants you in. He wants you, O rejected one! He wants you. So He sends His Son to put His glory in rejection. To bring His glory down to the lowest level of rejection in the bloody mess of His beloved Son. And there in the shame of His rejected blood He meets you. There He washes you. There He feeds you and restores the glory of God within you. Where is the glory in all of this? It is in you, for by His bloody death you are in Him. You are in Him. Rejection no longer waits for you at death's door, for Christ has already been through that door. His glory has filled it also. Death is now your door to glory - your ultimate rejection is now your entrance into glory. For the Father did not reject His Son's sacrifice. He accepted it. And raised Him from the dead in full glory.
This is the order. This is the way. Rejection then Glory. No, it doesn't follow the laws of physics, or chemistry, or trigonometry. This is the way of the cross. It is the way of the Gospel. And it is no different today for us Christians than it was for Christ. We face the same battle as our Lord everyday. The Evil One is constantly tempting you to get your glory now. He whispers, "You don't need to carry a cross. Why must you stumble through this life? Isn't God with you? Kill the Son and take his inheritance. Reach out and take the fruit for yourself. You will not surely die. Why should you have to wait?"
The world is constantly rejecting you and your faith in Christ. It wants you to feel left out. To chase after its glory, as if it had any. And when you don't take up the chase, it says "You are behind. You are missing out. This is once in a lifetime, and it's really important." Even when that "important" thing will have no glory in five years, let alone at the end of your life. What does your faith in Christ matter? Look at all the worldly glory.
The worst part is your old Adam, that sinful self that lurks within you, has an appetite for this glory. He wants to reach up and take the fruit for himself, just as he did in the garden. He thinks he can do it. That he can make it, and so you find yourself drawn to these fleeting fetishes of false glory.
Faith in Christ is a battle because everything around you and the old Adam inside of you reject this Jesus and your faith in Him. To these enemies of yours, you are a rejected old stone, broken and useful only to be thrown out of the city. But you will not be rejected by your heavenly Father, for His beloved Son is there with you in the dust. He has laid His Son firmly beneath you - a cornerstone chosen and precious. And He will lift you up and place you on His firm foundation: 'Whoever believes will not be in haste.' For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Where do you find glory? Where is it? When do you finally have it? It is in God's Son rejected and resurrected for you and for me. And worry not, you don't have to reach for it. You have it already, poured down upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism. But God will remind you of it again and strengthen you in it further when He pours it in your mouth in only a few moments from now. You are here to drink the blood of the man everyone rejected, the man God raised from the dead. You are here to proclaim His death until He comes. So come. Come forward, and taste the glory of God! In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr