Summary: God wants us to welcome his Son, serve him faithfully, and return to him the fruit of our lives and labor.
Title: What God Wants (A Communion Meditation)
Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Thesis: God wants us to welcome his Son, serve him faithfully, and return to him the fruit of our lives and our labor.
This story reminded me of my agrarian roots where it was customary for absentee landowners to rent their land to farmers. The arrangement was a bit more sophisticated than the old image of sharecrop farmers, but the idea is the same.
Some owners rented their land on a crop share basis… the formula was often that the owner would receive 1/3 of the crop and the renter would keep 2/3 of the crop. There were variables in the agreements re if the landowner shared proportionately in the expenses of raising the crop or if the bulk of the expenses and the labor rested wholly on the farmer renting the land.
Some were more canny in their contractural arrangements… some landowners were unwilling to take the risk of receiving a share of the crop, so they would require a cash rent per acre up front, thereby insuring themselves of an income regardless of the fate of the farmer.
In our story there is a landowner who has rented his vineyard to farmers on a share of the crop basis… he did not demand payment up front. But he did expect that he would receive his rent from those to whom he had entrusted his land at the time of the harvest.
This is a parable… a parable is a short fictional story that makes a point. In the most simple terms, a parable is an earthly story w/a heavenly meaning. The elements of a story told as a parable contribute to the story but are not necessarily points in an of themselves.
It is also an allegory. An allegory is also a fictional story with a point, but the particular elements of the story have meaning and are necessary to understanding the point. The elements of the story are pointed and necessary to understanding the story.
The Elements In the Parable of the Evil Farmers make specific inferences.
• The Landowner is God.
• The Vineyard is the Kingdom of God on earth and the place we serve God (43).
• The Tenant Farmers are the Jewish religious leaders (45).
• The Harvest is the fruit born by the good done in the Kingdom.
• The Rent is what God expects in return from those to whom he has entrusted his vineyard.
• The Servants are the prophets God sent to his people.
• The Son is Jesus Christ.
• And the Other Nation is the Gentiles and ultimately the Church of Jesus Christ.
The meaning(s) of the Parable of the Evil Farmers expand our understanding of the story.
• God has given us the opportunity to work in his kingdom here on earth.
• God has given us everything we need to produce fruit in his vineyard.
• God has expectations of us… he expects that we will be fruitful.
• God has demonstrated patience with us but he continues to expect that we will produce fruit for him.
• God has sent his Son whom we may either receive or reject.
• God has promised to bless those who receive his Son and give him the fruit of their lives and to remove and destroy those who reject his Son and who refuse to give him the fruit of their lives.
The Application of the Parable of the Evil Servants brings us to The Lord’s Table and a personal response.
• This morning God has sent his Son to us in the elements of the Lord’s Table…
• This morning we have the opportunity as evil farmers who have not served God faithfully, to repent of our sins, receive the Son of God, and commit ourselves to giving our lives and labors to God.
• This morning we have the opportunity as faithful farmers to welcome the Son once again and offer him our lives, love, and faithful service.
I am reminded of the story of a ER nurse as told by Scott McKnight in his book, A Community Called Atonement. She told of how one Sunday she and her faith community concluded the service and left singing as they went, “Lord give us hearts as servants….” She arrived at the ER for her second 12 hour weekend shift… it was a brutal weekend punctuated by the sounds of ambulance sirens and the whump, whumping of the Flight for Life Helicopter blades.
Toward the end of her shift the charge nurse shouted to her asking that she lock-down room 15… two security guards stood outside the room. Masked medics arrived with a patient strapped and restrained on their cart. The hallway cleared as the cart passed… the man’s feet hung over the edge of the cart. They were covered with plastic bags and tightly taped around the ankles. The smell was horrific as they uncovered swollen, mold-encrusted feet. The ER doctor ordered a shower, lab work, a betadine foot scrub, antibiotic ointment, and non-adherent wraps.