Sunday, October 5, 2008

You Are a Nation Bearing Fruit

Dearly beloved of God,

The Gospel for this 21st Sunday after Pentecost, which as the first Sunday in October is LWML Sunday, concludes with these words of our Lord:

"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. Matthew 21:43 nkj

These words of the Son of God, as ominous and threatening as they are for the chief priests and elders of the Jews, actually speak of a great gift for you –– for you are that nation bearing fruits of which Jesus speaks. We know this to be true because among you, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins is the center and cornerstone of Trinity Lutheran Church, the LWML, the LC-MS and the whole Christian Church on earth. And on this cornerstone the very kingdom of God is built.

But our Lord Jesus Himself warns us here that the kingdom of God will be taken from any who reject the Son and the means by which the Spirit of God bears Him into the world. That is the curse placed upon the unfaithful leaders gathered in the temple courts before the very Temple of God who is Jesus Christ. These leaders even recognize and rightly conclude what will happen to the vinedresser tenants.

Yet what they fail to recognize is that they are the evil tenants, who following in the footsteps of their fathers who beat one, killed one, and stoned another of God’s messenger servant’s, even as Jesus spoke were the ones of the parable

Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'

"But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"

They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."


This curse upon those unfaithful leaders of the Jews in Jesus’ day serves also as a warning to the new vinedressers of the vineyard – the Holy Christian Church, the baptized children of God, that is, you and me.

According to an oft used quote from Luther, “whenever a cathedral is built, the devil builds a chapel next door.” Worse yet, he seeks to establish a foothold within the very walls of the cathedral as we see in the case of the temple leaders of the Jews.

And it is no different today. The way the devil sneaks in and gains a foothold as he did with the Jewish leaders, is to make us tenants think the temple of our body, the vineyard of the church and the work done in and by them belong to us rather than to the Lord. There is no work of Pastor Hering. There is no work of Trinity Lutheran Church. There is no work of the LWML. There is no work of the LC-MS. There is no work even of the Holy Christian Church. Just as there was no work of chief priest and elders of Israel. There is only the work of the Lord.

“Even though we experience much good from other people, whatever we receive by God’s command or arrangement is all received from God. For our parents and all rulers and everyone else, with respect to his neighbor, have received from God the command that they should do us all kinds of good. So we receive these blessings not from them, but through them, from God. For creatures are only the hands, channels, and means by which God gives all things.” Luther’s LC, 1st Commandment

While God uses all people of the world to deliver earthly blessings such as food and clothing, shelter, civil order, it is you He uses to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the world.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ....Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Cor 12:12, 27 NKJ)

But woe to us if we ever think that it is we who are the givers rather than God using us as the members through which He distributes His blessings to a sinful world.

The chief priests and the Pharisees had been given the task of delivering the kingdom of God to His chosen people, Israel. It was the people of Israel to whom it was given to know the forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial system of the temple. By accepting the animal sacrifices brought by the people and offered by the priests, God revealed His presence among them was for the purpose of forgiving them, not destroying them. It was not the proper act of sacrifice by which the people gained God’s attention and won His favor, but it was God who was inviting His people to come into His presence and discover His all consuming love for them. But the love of God had been turned into the deeds of men – a special holy caste of men who alone knew how and were able to please an angry God who would otherwise bring vengeance upon them. The priests had become no different really than the pagan priests who offered up even human sacrifices to an angry God. And the Pharisees were no different than those spiritual coaches and guides today who would tell you what you need to do to give your heart to God and devote your life to Him in order to fulfill your purpose or guarantee the success of God’s mission.

It is true enough, God was and is angry over sin. But not because he wants to get even with those who have hurt and insulted Him. His anger over sin is that of a Father who knows and sees how that sin hurts His children and prevents them from receiving all of His blessings in time and eternity.

It is also true that God has a purpose for you and a desire to spread the reign and the joys of citizenship in His kingdom through you, the people of His nation. But this not because of the passion and efforts you add to His grace for the completion of His work, rather because of His passion and the work He has already completed for you in His Son Christ Jesus that springs forth from you like grapes from a well tended wine.

Today, since the eternal sacrifice has been given once and for all on Calvary in the bloody suffering and death of God’s one and only Son, and we know it has been received and accepted as sufficient by His glorious resurrection and ascension to the Father, God reveals Himself in love to us in a sacramental system. Rather than priests who alone came before the Lord to offer the sacrifices on behalf of the people and teachers who were to reveal what those sacrifices meant for the life of God’s people, God now sends pastors who are to deliver the forgiveness of sins through the preaching of the Word, Baptism, public and private absolution, and the Lord’s Supper – and teach you how these are the things in which God is actually present here and now to save you, and love you, and shower you with His eternal gifts.

There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.

What a blessing to be a tenant and vinedresser in the vineyard. We are planted in God’s vineyard, the holy Christian and apostolic church, where:
• We are hedged around by the heavenly hosts for our protection from the evil one.
• We are given a winepress with an unlimited supply of grapes for the harvest – the holy ministry that pours forth the means of grace by which God is truly present with us
• And the Lord Himself inhabits the tower in our midst as He rules over the heavenly nation He has gathered together to forgive all our sins and sends forth to make disciples of all nations...
in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

1 comment:

Raggedy Lamb said...

I just thought I'd pop in to say that whenever I read your sermons time stands still. ;-) I just finished creating my own lame blog, and thought I'd figure out how to do things right!
Becky