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Generous with God's Good Gifts

St. Matthew 21.33-46


Pentecost 16, Proper 22, series A
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Oct 2, 2011 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 In the gospel for today, Jesus tells a story.  A householder plants a vineyard, and provides his people with everything they need so that they and the vineyard will flourish: a wall for protection, a winepress for their sustenance, and a tower for their guidance.  Then the owner of the vineyard goes away.  When it comes time for the harvest, he sends servants to retrieve a portion of the harvest for himself.  And then, everything goes wrong.  The people who have worked the vineyard beat, kill, and stone the servants the master sends.  And worst of all, when the master finally sends his son, the workers murder him in an attempt to steal his inheritance.

2 With this parable, Jesus calls to mind the words of the prophet Isaiah.

[Isaiah 5.1-2]

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.  My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

3 Instead of good, the vineyard and its workers brought forth wildness, evil.  Instead of respect and gratitude for what they'd been given, they only brought forth greed.  As Jesus tells his parable, we see what greed does to people.  Greed blinds us to the truth.  Greed blinds us to the fact that everything we have comes from God above.  Greed blinds us to the truth that God is generous and giving, and blinds us to the reality that we are called to offer back to God the firstfruits of what he has given us.  Blind greed leads to hate, avarice, and murder.

4 Jesus directs this parable to the chief priest and Pharisees, but we do well to heed these words ourselves, for their sin is also ours, if perhaps to a lesser degree.  The chief priests and Pharisees had been given the responsibility of nurturing the people of God in their faith and leading them to lives of thanks and praise to God for all he'd given them.  Instead they were blinded by their own greed for power and influence and in the end they killed the Son of God.  We may not be called to the same vocation as the chief priests and Pharisees, but we run the same risk of falling victim to sins of greed and avarice ourselves.  Do you find it hard to part with your hard earned money in order to give the first portion of your earnings back to God as an offering of thanks?  Do you find it hard to part with your money in order to provide for someone other than yourself?  Is it a struggle to part with any of your money at all?  Is your goal in life to build up more and more wealth for yourself in order to be safe?  That's greed.  And it's sin.

5 Do not be fooled.  Such greed will lead to death.  First it will blind you to the fact that God has given you everything you have.  Then it will lead you to despise of God's prophets, just as it did for the chief priests and Pharisees.  It may even lead to murder, if not with your hands, then certainly in your heart, as you begrudge others the good gifts God gives them, and envy even God himself.  Ultimately greed leads to the rejection of the Son of God, the greatest gift God has ever given.  When greed takes hold of you, it only leads further and further into sin.  And in the end, if left unrepented, greed will lead you right out of the kingdom of God, and into the hands of the devil himself.  Hear our Lord explain this parable once more:

[St. Matthew 21.42-44]

Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lords' doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?  Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.  And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomseover it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

6 God the Father sent his Son, Jesus to Christ to us, and we killed him, plain and simple.  We have been so blinded by the sin of greed, we have spilled his blood.  But there is yet hope.  Christ told this parable to those who would slay him in order to bring them to repentance.  He told this story to make them see their sinful greed, and have them turn from that greed and embrace him as the Son of God.  Today, he tells us this parable for the very same reason.  To call us to repentance for our greed and move us to embrace him as the Son of God and the Savior of our souls, and thereby produce the fruits of faith.

7 Yes, because of our sin we are guilty of Christ's blood.  But by his mercy and grace we are also the beneficiaries, those who benefit from his bloody death.  When God the Father sent him to us, Christ knew he had come to die.  And though he died because of our sin, he also died for our redemption.  By his blood we are cleansed from our greed.  By his blood we are forgiven our avarice and desire for riches above all else.  By Christ's blood we are brought once again into the kingdom of God and promised once more the protection, sustenance and guidance of our Lord.

8 As we confess our sinful greed to God, we fall upon the stone the builders rejected.  We fall upon Christ.  And there, upon Christ our Rock, our greed and avarice are broken, so that God can bind us up, once more whole and holy.  Thus forgiven, we bear the fruits of our salvation, and in loving generosity, give from our abundance for the benefit of others.  So do not fear to give generously from the material wealth that God has given you.  By God's grace fight against the greed that tempts us all.  And by the working of the Holy Spirit receive and embrace God's Son, our Lord and Savior Christ who has come to us, that we may live forever in the Kingdom of God.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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