Arnold Bush Homily 10/2/11

This is the homily entitled “Not Mine But Thine” that The Revd Arnold Bush delivered at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany on October 2, 2011. He based it on that day’s Gospel lesson.

Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “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 said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

`The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Theme: Like the tenants, we also behave like the tenants acting as if all is “ours”. Plus, we too reject Jesus by our indifference, but His divine spark of initiative is constant and can change us.

I Context and Themes of the Parable

Context: If this parable is treated as a allegory then there are many themes: Owner? Who?…Vineyard? …Fence/hedge?…Whom?…. Tenants/sharecroppers? Whom?…Slaves? Whom?…Son? Rejection “the stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone/cornerstone’”
v.43 “Taken away from you and given to a people that produce fruits of the kingdom.”

II Dramatizes the Rejection of Christ

In the parable the owner time and time again sends his servants then his son. God keeps coming to us. This is the GOOD NEWS. Grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved. (BOCP, 858)

The parable is not just about poor economics, but about showing God is willing to go at lengths sending reserves to reach us in forgiveness. Jesus is addressing the religious establishment surrounding the practices of the Jerusalem Temple.

EG: (A) John 1:11 “He comes to his own and his own received him not.”
(B) The Cross and Resurrection, “God coming into the middle of our lives.” After the resurrection, Jesus comes to the disciples who returned to their profession of fishing.
(C) Jesus’ prayer outside the Jerusalem walls, ”Jerusalem (2X) how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not.”

Any initial hearing of this parable, we would say to ourselves:” Why those tenants were so evil. They are so blunt. They are so criminal in their rejection of the Owner coming to receive his just due. Their rejection is extreme, but I suggest our rejection of God is more subtle, less violent, and less aggressive.

III Our non-aggressive or subtle rejection

Looking at the psychology of rejection we know feelings do surface when we feel rejected: As a child not being selected to a sports team; as an adult when friends neglect to invite to lunch or notice us. Most are civil enough do not say, “You are not welcome to come with us to this party or trip.” We do not wake up and say to God I am having nothing to do with you, I am rejecting you this week.”
Yes, you and I have subtle and less aggressive ways we reject Jesus as he comes to us in everyday activities. EG.
A. Lack of praying, talking to him, acknowledging him (Professor Margaret Gaughter’s, Practice of Prayer reminds us of our neglect in prayer).
B. Hoarding or keeping the love we have experienced to ourselves. In the Prayer of St. Francis, BOCP 833:“instruments of his love” “blockers of his love.”
C. Participation at Eucharist: We can find all kinds of ways why not to come. The competition to Church of the Epiphany is not the Baptist, Presbyterian, UMC, in Alabama. Here is the competition to Sunday Worship: the trips, TV, sporting events on Saturday night, Sunday paper, house guests, going to see relatives, sporting events on Sunday AM.
D. I suggest to open your hands and an outward expression of welcoming Christ into your life
Here is the applications questions: How do you welcome Jesus in to your life of a daily basis? Are there any actions in your life that may make Jesus unwelcome in your life?

IV “Not Mine But Thine”

V33 :”He leased the vineyard to tenants and went to another country.” They were entrusted to grow and protect the produce, but they practiced massive embezzling and drawing off funds which belonged to the owner. They were saying: The owner had made a big investment in the vineyard, a hedge/fence, a wine press, a watch tower. They said these are MINE. They claimed the grapes, the watch tower, the hedge, the wine press are MINE. Our possessions, our work environment, our responsibilities are the vineyards God has placed us in. As we survey our possessions and skills we often say THIS IS MINE.
We also claim our possessions! My automobile, my house and yard, my flat screen TV, my computer, my appliances, my skills. Our name may be on the titles. However, GOD HAS ENTURSTED US TO MANAGE THEM. GOD IS THE OWNER. The owner had entrusted the tenants to manage the vineyard. He trusted them to make sure the vineyard produced fruit.
EG: Here are some practices found in Crown Financial Ministry or Financial Peace University. In western thought, we tend to emphasize our accomplishments by human efforts and human ingenuity. These achievements enable us to have these possessions. But often we forget everything comes to us as a GIFT FROM GOD. We may say to someone “you are gifted”! But do we mean Sally is GIFTED BY GOD. Stewardship is based on God as the owner and we are the managers of our abilities, jobs, and possessions.
Note this Warning found in Deuteronomy 8: 7-18,:“Do not say to yourself: “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” Here is a helpful exercise I suggest you do three times this October. Do the first one this week. Walk through your home and yard, looking at the furniture in each room. books, pictures, awards, etc. As you walk say, “thank you Jesus for loaning me these things.”
The writer of Genesis 1:11 states God has given us dominion over our environments. We are to manage these areas. In the parable the owner gives the vineyard to others. We are to use those things with which God has gifted us. Ever heard “USE IT OR LOSE IT”? Yes, we have been given “gifts to manage.” If we do not use them appropriately we will lose them.

V God is the owner and he has given each of us a vineyard to manage.

The tenants acted as if these vines, this vineyard with a wine press, tower, and hedge are MINE. If deep down in our hearts, we know all our possessions, family, relationships, talents and abilities are THINE. What attitudes and behaviors may change?
For me, when I have those moments knowing God is the Owner, I am aware of my desire to honor and please him.
I am less possessive, if something breaks, thank you Lord for letting me use this thus far, I see what I can do to repair it or have it fixed. Wednesday, our mechanic replaced our brakes. Thank you Lord for letting us use this Toyota Highlander.

When I say these things within and around the house are THINE, I am more grateful, more appreciative, for His letting me use them. Are you appreciative of your computer, word processor, printer, social networking. He has loaned us many things to use.

VI Practice Hospitality Skills

The primary thrust of this parable is how God never gives up in coming to us. Grace is defined as God coming toward us. The incarnation is God coming to us in human flesh, in the material and visible world. Christ always quietly knocking on the door of our consciousness. Sometimes when Zoe and I are checking into a hotel, or entering a restaurant we feel welcomed by the small things they do. EG: “Welcome to Moes!” Come right in>
In your daily routines during the day, do you take a few moments to welcome Christ into your life? Is he the unseen guest at your meals? Is not the act of praying one way of opening yourself to Christ’s presence? Do you prayer for the Holy Spirit to make himself known to everyone as we worship in this sacred place?

VII Keeping focused on letting into our lives.

A real story from Barcelona, Spain, Olympic Stadium, about Derek Redmond and his father Jim Redmond from England.
In the Epistle Philippians 3:13-14 “ but this is one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly (upward) call of God in Christ.”
The Message, by Eugene Peterson, “but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.”

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