This Crazy Story

This can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Year A  28th Sunday of Ordinary Time,

Psalm              Psalm 106:1-6,19-23                                                              
First Reading:                 Exodus 32:1-14                                           
Second Reading: Phil 4:1-9                                                   
Gospel:                Matthew 22:1-14                                       

What I want to say:
I want to explore how the three stories Jesus tells in answer to the question “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” are not separate unrelated stories, but build on each other. When we read them in this way they offer us another way of hearing todays story as a critique of a common way of understanding the kingdom of heaven. It all goes back to how we end the story about the vineyard

What I want to happen:

People to reflect on the ending where the landowner forgives the tenants rather than punishing them.

The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

Last week at gym –
video of song on – no idea what song about think different song playing
video about bully at school – cutting off pony tail, pushing over boy with arm sling, kissing boy front of his girl
wondered how this would end
at end band comes out of a  class room
            humiliate her – leave her crushed as they walk on
I think I was supposed to cheer
but I felt so sad – there was no difference between what they did and what she was doing.
the bully was bad and yet…. was that the right ending to the story?

       2.     Jesus’ conversation with Chief Priests and leading Pharisees

In our gospel reading we are at the end of a conversation between Jesus and the Chief Priests and leading Pharisees
     è Jesus is in the temple
     è Chief Priests and leading Pharisees come to him and ask
“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
In reply Jesus asked what they thought about John’s baptism
which was essentially asking
“By what authority did John baptise, and who gave him this authority?”
unwilling to answer because they feared the crowd
so he says – and I am not going to answer your question
and then he tells three stories
todays was the third of those stories
Usually read them as three separate unrelated stories
often treated that way in commentaries
but I think that understand them we have to read them together
they are related
each one comes out of the previous story
the first was about 2 sons – asked to help on the farm
one says no and then does
one says yes and then doesn’t
to which Jesus asks
31Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
you are like the second son – you say the right things but you do not act on what you say
-         your actions betray you
so to show what he means he uses Isaiah 5 and tells the story about a man who obtains a vineyard and puts in tenants
this is not an make believe story
he is talking to landowners, and people around listening are once landowners who are now tenants and say labourers
            Chief Priests and leading families of Jerusalem had become huge landowners – acquiring land from families unable pay Roman and temple tax
in Jesus story – about landowners and tenants
when time for the rent to be paid sends his slaves to collect
            tenants don’t want to pay so beat up, stone or kill slaves
sends more slaves and same thing happens
sends his son
            they kill the son
Jesus then asks what the land owner will do when he arrives
they answer – “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.”
“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
he then talks about the building block that was rejected now being the cornerstone that people like chief priests and leading Pharisees will stumble on
tells third story
this story is not stand alone
it is told in response to their answer
similar story as one told in Luke
darker version
although we often read the opening as “the kingdom of heaven is like”
Greek is in the passive and can also be translated as “the kingdom of heaven is likened to”….
Jesus isn’t saying that this is what the kingdom of heaven is like – when he is doing that the Greek is different
this is more a critique of how the kingdom is described by people like the chief priests and leading Pharisees
and it comes out of their ending to the story about the vineyard
that’s the important hinge in all this

       3.     That Ending

last week I asked what other endings we could come up with
many of us struggled
tenants – no matter what the provocation did bad things
and deserve punishment
 might not be keen on miserable death – but surely some kind of punishment is warranted
like the music video and how that ended
we like punishment
is that really the best ending to the story
I want to suggest another ending
that ending is that the landowner forgives the tenants
what happens next is entirely up to the tenants
how do you feel about that?
where do I get such ideas from?
from what Jesus teaches elsewhere, and what he does
from our liturgies – all through our liturgies
            we say this every week
feels crazy when put like that doesn’t it
who might that include
everyone – even the worst people you can think of
people think least deserve it
don’t you have to do something to earn that forgiveness?
no – there is nothing we can do
it is already given
what happens next is up to us
are we able to see that we are forgiven
            are we able to see that we need forgiveness
            are we able to live out that forgiveness for others

       4.     Baptism

today we baptise Gin into the story
into this way of seeing the world
we don’t do this because she or her parents have done anything special
we do it because God loves her
because God has forgiven her
God welcomes her into the people of God
we do this in the hope that she will grow up knowing she is loved
            and that she is forgiven
that she needs that forgiveness
that she will live out that love for all people
we do this in the hope that one day she will know that what happens next is up to her
and she will join us in offering the world a different end to the story.