How to end the story?

Can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Year A  27th Sunday of Ordinary Time,

Psalm                          Psalm 19
First Reading:             Isaiah 5: 1-7
Second Reading:        Phil 3:4-14
Gospel:                        Matthew 21:33-46
What I want to say:
How comfortable are we with the ending the Chief Priests and Leading Pharisees offer to finish Jesus story about the vineyard? What does this reveal about how they and we see God? How might we finish the same story?

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on how they see God in the world and whether it is any different from anyone else?

The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

Another really well known story
Jesus is talking to some chief priests and leading Pharisees
and tells them this story about landowner plants out vineyard
kind of like Isaiah 5 we heard this morning
but with some differences
employs tenants look after it
sends some slaves to pick up the rent
the tenants beat up, stone and kill the slaves
sends some more – same thing
sends his son thinking he will be respected
but they think – if we kill him we will get the inheritance
            so they kill him.
and Jesus asks – what next?
Chief Priests and Pharisees say “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.”
Jesus then goes on quote psalm 117 and talks about rejected building block becoming the cornerstone which people stumble over and are crushed.

       2.     How do we traditionally understand this?

ask how we normally understand this?
landowner is God
vineyard in Israel
slaves – prophets
son is Jesus – who dies
tenants are Chief Priests and Judean elite
and they are going to get smashed

       3.     Any problems with this? (ask)

    a.     Jesus is still alive
    b.     picture of violent God
how does this fit with everything that Jesus does?

       4.     How else might this be read?

what happens when we put this back into both the gospel context and historical context.

       5.     Historical context

Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt
God saw this and brought them out into promised land
            not good news people already living there
here each family given land so that all could have enough to thrive on
and out surplus people God are to be generous to outsiders as God is generous to them
fast forward to time Jesus
most of families live in Judea and Galilee now lost their land
Chief Priest and leading Pharisees – Jerusalem elite, along with other wealthy people in Empire have acquired much land
families once owned and lived on land as small landholders are now tenants – at best
they are not much better than slaves in the land that once flowed with milk and honey.
something has gone wrong here.
hold that thought

       6.     Gospel context

Jesus is telling this story because the Chief Priest and leading Pharisees asked him – “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you teach here?”
to which Jesus asks about John’s authority
and Chief Priest and leading Pharisees have conversation
-         not about where John’s authority came from
-         but what answer best serve the preservation of their power
è can’t answer
so Jesus tells story about 2 sons – one of whom says no but does go work
            and one says yes but doesn’t do anything
then tells this story based on Isaiah 5
            landowner is God
vineyard in Israel
telling this story to absentee landowners who have had to deal with these kinds of issues
while around him are people who are both tenants and day labourers
held in poverty by these landowners
è end of his story he  asks another question about what next.
which if we stop and pay attention is asking
“Show us your credentials. Who authorized you?”
and they answer with their normal way operating
way of coercion, violence, death
that leaves people they are responsible for
living as virtual slaves and impoverished in land given by God  - land of milk and honey.
their credentials are abuse of power, enslavement, betrayal of their postion
their power comes from, well ultimately – Rome – most keen to preserve that
answer betrays that they have long since abandoned any authority given by God so that all God’s people might thrive.
which contrasts with credentials of Jesus authority – generosity, mercy, healing, restoration, hope.
             all of which show where Jesus authority comes from – God
            because Mathew is saying – that is nature of God

       7.     The Big Question?

how many of us are comfortable with their answer?
how many of us comfortable with this way of describing God?
we shouldn’t be
this image of God bears no resemblance to how Jesus lives out who God is?
how many of us can even think of another way of answering?
How would we finish it in a way that fits with everything Jesus
how do we offer that alternative to the world?


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