Monday, September 29, 2014

New Management

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:"Hear another parable.There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.When vintage time drew near,he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,'They will respect my son.'But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,'This is the heir.Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"They answered him,"He will put those wretched men to a wretched deathand lease his vineyard to other tenantswho will give him the produce at the proper times."
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures:The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone;by the Lord has this been done,and it is wonderful in our eyes?Therefore, I say to you,the kingdom of God will be taken away from youand given to a people that will produce its fruit."
This weeks gospel seems like it does not apply to us. I mean Jesus is pretty obviously talking to the leaders of the Old Testament covenant community, namely the priests of Israel. The Kingdom of God was going to be taken away from them and given to new leaders, namely the apostles. We know this event Jesus was warning about happened at Pentecost. So why do we care? What does the church give us this passage to focus on this week?

First of all, it shows us that there is such a thing as God-ordained leader of the New Testament covenant community. This is something that is disputed by Protestants. They see churches as merely human institutions. Anyone can start his own non-denominational church and it is all good. The notion that God has to do something major like take the Kingdom of God from one set of hands and move it to another is not really taken seriously. 

Yet Jesus took it seriously. These bad leaders continued to be the legitimate leaders even after committing some terrible sins. None of the prophets declared their leadership to be null and void. In fact, not even Jesus did so. He said it would happen soon but not yet. In fact, In Mat 23:2-3 He tells His followers to "do what they tell you but not what they do." 

Secondly, what we can take from this is that God is patient but not infinitely patient. God entrusts us with gifts. Likely not something as big as the spiritual leadership of God's chosen people. Still He gives us talents. He gives us possessions. He gives us people that look up to us. God expects the fruit of these things to be offered back to Him. He is the ultimate landowner. When things go well, when the crop is huge and we have an abundance of wine, that is when we can forget God. We can start to reject His messengers. We can even kill His only son. The pharisees literally did this but we are capable of just as much evil. People say power corrupts. Spiritual authority has a potential to go very wrong. 

Thirdly, we can see that God is patient not just with us but also with those who abuse us. We can see ourselves not just in the wicked servants but in the rejected messengers of God. God moves slow. It seems like He should intervene and not let the evil people win. He does but it can take a while. God's ultimate answer to the problem of evil is, "Wait!" He will make it all right. He will address every wrong. Nothing will be ignored on the last day. Yet that day is not today. We need to understand that sometimes the evil people will seem to be winning and it might seem that way for a long time, in this case it was many centuries. All those messengers who were beaten and saw their brothers and sisters kill must have had trouble believing that God had not forgotten them. We might have trouble as well. We need to have faith.

If you still can't see much in this gospel I would suggest trying the second reading. It is a classic from Philippians 4:

Brothers and sisters:Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,make your requests known to God.Then the peace of God that surpasses all understandingwill guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,whatever is true, whatever is honorable,whatever is just, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,if there is any excellenceand if there is anything worthy of praise,think about these things.Keep on doing what you have learned and receivedand heard and seen in me.Then the God of peace will be with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment