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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

They Will Respect My Son

They Will Respect My Son
Sunday, October 2, 2011
 
Matthew 21:33-46
 
Let’s read the parable for today with these understandings: The Lord of the vineyard is God. The tenants represent the leaders of rebellious Israel, who conspire to kill Jesus. Those to whom the kingdom is given are the renewed people of God, the new church of Jews and Gentiles who are called by God in place of unfaithful Israel. The vineyard itself represents the kingdom of God to which God is calling all peoples eventually. (Read Matthew 21:33-46)
 
Cheryl was a little 6 year old girl who had no language skills and engaged in frequent temper tantrums when she could not communicate her needs and desires. Her tantrums were so severe that she would literally scratch her face until she bled. We could see her frustration as her tantrums went from minor to severe all in the space of 5 minutes. We felt we needed to find a way to help her communicate her needs better, but all attempts to give her language failed. We felt she could learn to communicate but we had not helped her find the key to unlock language skills. We tried many things to get her to speak, the general consensus being that she was capable of doing so. It was when we watched her interest in the chalkboard that the key finally came. We drew a picture of a cat, then wrote the word under it and said, “Cat.” Clear as a bell the word came out of her, “cat” As we pointed to the picture. Excited about this turn of events we drew a picture of a dog, said “dog” and sure enough the second word she had ever spoken came out clearly and distinctly. It was from that simple chalkboard technique that we were able to graduate to pictures of real things and eventually the little girl developed a repertoire of words that enabled her to begin to ask for what she wanted. Her temper tantrums began to diminish and language began to flourish. It was the most remarkable event of my teaching career.
 
God had tried many things with the people he nurtured to become the light of the world, the people who would lead others to God. From Noah to Abraham to Moses to David and Solomon to Josiah and Hezekiah, God continually tried to lead his people back when they wandered from the faith given them. They had a hard time keeping faith. They were constantly chasing after other gods, killing prophets who spoke on God’s behalf, and distorting the basic code of law God gave in the ten commandments. The people seemed to constantly fail at producing the fruit God wanted to draw all nations to Himself. So He came up with yet one more way to get the people to see how he wanted them to respond to His love and nurturing. “OK I will send my Son to show them the way. If anyone is to be respected it will be him.” 
 
Well, we all know what happened. We see it in the reaction of the priests to Jesus’ words. They rejected the truth about Jesus. We could go into any number of reasons why they did that, loss of status quo, believing they knew better, desire to protect the way they had been doing things, etc. But the important point of the parable is that the vineyard owner was going to give the vineyard to others, those who could care for it better and give the fruits of the labor of that vineyard to its rightful owner, God.
 
God did give the kingdom to a new group that transcended the old distinctions. God gave the kingdom to those who accepted his Son, so that they would eventually draw all people, (including those who rejected Jesus) to God. The problem is that we must pay attention to the parable as well. We cannot assume that the kingdom is safely put in our hands. Unless we bear fruit, the vineyard again may be transferred. We are still capable of becoming like the scribes and Pharisees when we focus on our own interests and leave God out of the picture. But I don’t believe we have done that. Encouragement, nurture, concern, spirit of cooperation, passion for God are present among us in varying degrees, even when we seem to be at odds with each other. We are the body of Christ with all its imperfections and various understandings of what that means. It is as the body of Christ that we can give hope to the world that needs it. We have the opportunity to invite people into a sustaining and vital relationship with God, a relationship that will make a difference in lives and make a difference in the world.
 
This Sunday, designated World Communion Sunday, has been celebrated by Christians for 70 years. It began with a winter meeting of pastors who sought to supersede worldwide conflict and need with worldwide communion. They thought that inviting people to gather together around the One Table of Jesus Christ could be a healing leaven in the world. In 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, the Presbyterian Church saw a need to expand perspectives of its members to include neighbors overseas. They saw the great need for Christians in the U.S. to understand themselves to be a part of the world Church, and to begin to realize that “neighbors” are overseas as well as right next door. Exposure to other cultures, and first hand observation of the situation of Christians in other countries, led church leaders to want to bring the whole world to the Lord’s Table. By 1940, the Federal Council of Churches, a predecessor body to the National Council of Churches, endorsed the idea of a “World Wide Communion Sunday” for its constituents and invited churches in other nations to participate.
 
“In a world characterized by fear, suspicion, and apprehension, and cataclysmic change, we need to be grounded in our common communion, a sense of family that transcends borders, and languages, and ideologies, and economics. If followers of Christ are to be wise stewards and bear fruit in such a fearful world, we must first acknowledge that we are all in this together. Our oneness at the Table calls out of us a sense of gratitude and responsibility for the situation in which our world finds itself. We are part of the whole. We are called to bear fruit for the kingdom of God, to use our talents, our resources, our time and intentions to make a difference, to bear fruit for peace, justice, healing, reconciliation, and love. And all that can start at the Table.” (Stan Adamson, Lectionaid, Vol. 13, #4)
 
We continue to have work to do. As we gather at the Table this morning, let us not only be reminded of Jesus, but let us ponder what work we as a gathering of believers are being called to do and how we can continue to bear even greater fruit for the kingdom.
 

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