Sunday, October 4, 2020 – Sermon by Art Taylor
In the parable we just read it doesn’t take much to appreciate what Jesus is saying: the landowner is God, the vineyard represents Israel, and the tenants are the religious Jewish leadership. What Jesus is saying is that God had sent the prophets to help guide them, but those prophets were mistreated and even killed. But now God had sent Jesus hoping that He’d get the respect that the prophets did not receive. Of course, we know the outcome.
In many ways, what we read in the parable seems like a revolution. A revolution of man against God. There is an order, which God established, and man rejects. Man’s rejection of God has been going on since the beginning of time and we continue to see this every day. But there is a difference between what we see in the parable and what we’ve seen in history.
I think of revolutions that have occurred throughout history. The Bolshevik Revolution in the late 19th century ended the Romanoff Dynasty in Russia. The French Revolution ended the rein of Louis the 16th, and here the American Revolution ended the British unjust control of the American colonies in the late 18th Century. We can argue as to whether these revolutions achieved their aims.
We might also argue that the ongoing establishment of America by the colonists is also unjust and a revolution is underway in America.
All of these revolutions took place purportedly to end injustices large masses of people were experiencing at the hands of unjust power structures. After the revolutions new power structures were created and in many ways we are back where we started. These revolutions did not achieve what the justice I believe Jesus wants for us.
The true revolution is found in Jesus’s birth, life, death and resurrection and it continues. In the parable, the religious leaders are the unjust and Jesus is sent to set to set them and us right. This revolution is to bring us closer to God by helping us deal with our internal inconsistencies that have us grasping to follow a set of rules to please ourselves, and those corrupt leaders that enforce them, but not living out the meaning of the rules. Jesus is revolting against those who use God’s rules for their own, rather than God’s pleasure. If Christ is a revolutionary, then those seeking Christ are in a sense Revolutionaries. Do you consider yourself a revolutionary?
We should not be surprised to hear Jesus say in Matthew 10:34-37 34“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- 36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
That’s a revolution. Revolutions are scary, costly, disruptive and not often peaceful.
When I place this parable contemporarily, I see Jesus, the revolutionary wielding the sword of justice. God remains the ultimate owner, who has blessed the world with enormous resources – more than enough, if managed well, to see to the needs of everyone. But corruption, greed and discrimination work vigilantly to usurp God’s authority and distort or ignore God’s good news. The message of love and concern for our neighbors and the least of these.
But clearly, something is happening around the world. We are feeling movement, painfully certainly, but spirits are being lifted toward change. People, everyday people, are rejecting the forces of evil and looking for greater equality and fairness. The pandemic is opening our eyes to longstanding problems that can no longer be ignored and we seem now ready to address. I feel God giving the unheard the courage and means to use their voices and I see more powerful and wealthy people beginning to understand that their power and wealth means nothing if its not used for good.
God is setting obstacles before us that can only be resolved when we come together. Global warming, the public health crisis and economic and political calamities require that we make sacrifices for the common good as Jesus did for us, that we love as Jesus loves us, that we believe as God believes in us. That we live the spirit of the rules. This may well be the time for all who are seeking God to join the revolution. To do that requires that we wrestle the conflicts that rage inside our souls. Perhaps through prayer, self-study and reflection we can gain greater understanding, seek to manage our fears, control unhealthy desires, give of ourselves and most of all trust in God to give us the vision to see the righteous path before us.