O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
"My vineyard" - adapted from a sermon by Rev. Tony Sikora
"My vineyard" - adapted from a sermon by Rev. Tony Sikora
Based on Matthew 21:33-46
Preached on October 5, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, Israel was a vine out of Egypt brought forth by her beloved and planted in the land promised to her fathers. She was planted in good land, land flowing with milk and honey, land tilled by the Lord Himself. The rocky soil was turned over, the gentiles with their false gods were cast out. There was nothing she lacked. Everything was provided. Her cities were built up. Her borders were expanded. Her God was in the midst of her sharing Himself through the temple. Her king possessed the favor of her God and all was good, right and salutary.
But Israel's vinedressers strayed. Her teachers sought after other gods. Her land was divided. Her kings were distressed. Her borders collapsed. Her people neglected their Lord. But the Lord did not forsake them. Love does not surrender His beloved so easily. Time after time He sent Word. Prophet after prophet brought to them His heart. "Return to the Lord your God!" was their cry. But she would not listen. She would not repent.
This is the parable of the wicked tenants who led Israel to such depravity. It is more than a story of her past it is a Word against them, against the Pharisees listening in, against the scribes taking notes, and against all those who refuse the Lord's heart sent to them in Jesus. It is told to them to condemn them. It is told to us to condemn us. For we are no different than these. Though we are separated by time and space we are united together by nature. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned in thought, word and deed. Old Adam lives within and we all know it, because we want more than God what has given us.
This is the core of our humanity, isn't it? In our fallenness we want more than what God has given us. Israel's leaders wanted more than what God had given them. You want more than what you have right now. And what you do have - you are slow to surrender on His behalf. Your time, your money, what you might offer, you wrongly believe you are suffering loss. What you have is not enough and if you give some away you'll have even less. O You of little faith. Hear the Master of the vineyard through the prophet Isaiah, "What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it?" In other words, what more could have been given? How much more do you need to be content with the Lord's heart toward you?
But humanity searches for more because humanity doesn't believe. Adam did not believe he had everything the Lord wanted him to have, so he took the fruit and ate of the wrong tree. You do not believe you have everything the Lord wants you to have. So you take the fruit of the wrong tree. What is sex outside of marriage if not taking what has not been given to you? What is looking at images on the screen that you should not see if not taking what has not been given to you? What is disobedience to parents and government and other authorities if not taking and assuming such authority for yourself though it has not been given to you? What is laziness if not taking rest when you should be working in your vocation? What is stealing if not seizing what is not yours? What is any sin, if not considering yourself equal to God?
Thus even in the church our discontentment thrives because we are encouraged by the culture around us. We are taught to go after what we want and "seize the day." But such lifestyles, alternative and traditional, leave the heart empty because our wanting and our grasping and our seizing and our taking has gotten us nothing. So when we come to Christ's Church we find ourselves wanting more than His Word, more than a splash of water, more than a bit of bread and sip of wine. So we chase away the prophets and we silence the messengers. We exchange what has been handed down through the centuries for the latest and greatest on the New York times best sellers list. Fads replace standards. Novelty subverts tradition. Excitement fuels covetousness. And all the while we exhaust ourselves impersonating the God we can never be. We want more. And we keep going because we don't feel right. What we fail to realize is that we don't feel right because we are not right. Our desire to be right or feel right is not satisfied with our works, our emotions, our songs, our acquisitions of more, our novelties or our innovations. We don't need more. We need to repent!
Jesus tells the parable so that the scribes and the Pharisees and you and me repent. God has not surrendered you so quickly. Love does not give up His beloved without a fight. The God of the Bible, the God who is Love, does not fight for His beloved as you and I would suppose. His fighting for us is manifested in the sending of His Son. To fight for us God sends His Son. His Son fights for us. And though you would think the Son would fight with all His strength to defeat our enemies, doing so would mean our own destruction. The enemies of our eternity are not outside of us, they are in the depths of our heart. So to save us and win the fight, the Son does not exalt Himself. He does not approach with fist and sword, with arms swinging and feet stomping. He does not do what we expect the Son of God to do. No, the Son humbles Himself. Jesus humbles Himself. He does not consider equality with God something to be stolen, taken, seized. No, Jesus submits to His Father in heaven. He obeys. He surrenders. He suffers. He gives Himself totally and completely into the hands of our enemies, into sin, death and hell. That's what Love does. He loves you first. He loves you into death even death on a cross.
And so Jesus is crucified because Jesus loves you. Jesus bleeds out His blood because Jesus loves you. Jesus gives up His life and bears the wrath of God in your place because Jesus Loves you.
Behold what great lengths the Lord goes to bring you back to His heart!
Behold the great depths of His heart given on your behalf!
There the savior fights for you.
There the Savior takes on your sins and wrestles them into the grave.
There Holy Blood is shed to cover your shame!
There are the holes to prove His devotion.
There is His riven side pouring forth His heart!
Rev. Cameron Schnarr