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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.
Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.
The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.
Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled.”
The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!”
The employer said, “I’m sorry, but all the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his.” They weren’t listening… they weren’t listening to the message that was right in front of them the entire time.
Our parable today could be summed up in one phrase... “How many times do I have to tell you ____?” - Little Johnny got in trouble once by answering that question, “Once more might do the trick,” but we’ve all heard it or said it... “How many times do I have to tell you to turn off the lights?”... “How many times do I have to tell you to clean your room?”... “How many times do I have to tell you that chocolate and peppermint don’t go together?”... Maybe that one is just me.
In the parable, Jesus is talking to the Pharisee - the religious leaders… we have the owner of the vineyard who is God the Father, the vineyard represents the people, and the caretakers of the vineyards are the religious leaders. The parable tells us that God gave the care of the vineyard / his children into the hands of the caregivers / the religious leaders. He gave them freedom.. He entrusted the people’s spiritual well being to them, but over time, they religious leaders got it wrong, so God sent His prophets to bring correction, yet - like the applicants to the telegraph job – the religious leaders weren’t listening to the message that was right in front of them the entire time.. so time and time again they didn’t properly respond to that message. God says, “how many times do I have to tell you?” so He sends His one and only Son to say it again. But as we know.. the religious leaders will end up killing Him. So... what was this message that God kept trying to get across to His children? We heard it this morning in our Old Testament lesson... it was The Law... the Law given to Moses and written on the tablets of stone by the very finger of God. That was God’s message, but they did not hear it as it was intended.
Instead.. the religious leaders took the Law of God and interpreted it… For example.. we have the US Constitution – even with the amendments its not that long of a document – but all the various laws that come from the interpretation of the Constitution go on for volumes and volumes… The religious leaders of Jesus’ time and before did the same thing with the Law of Moses.. and instead of teaching it as God intended, they used it to enslave the people and get around the true intent of the Law… Today, Jesus spoke to the religious leaders using a parable to condemn them for their actions.. in two more chapters.. He is crystal clear... “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!... Woe to you blind guides!... You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”...
I can’t imagine the religious leaders intentionally unleashing this kind of wrath upon themselves, but it happened just the same. Why? Because they weren’t listening. Jesus said to them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written, ‘The people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. they worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”....“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” God says, How many times do I have to tell you, the Law is not about rules and regulations that can be numbered and written down in books... the Law is about justice.. mercy.. faithfulness... The Law is about the heart.... and that was what the religious leaders were not hearing.
Now what you will find very interesting is that I know what you are thinking... You are saying to yourself, “Well this is the religious leaders problem... this here is Fr. John’s issue - not mine. God will smite him if he goofs, but I’m off the hook.”... Well.. if you’re going to take that attitude, may I remind you that I am an imminent scholar and that your knowledge of Holy Scripture is a mere pimple on the backside of cow compared to mine.. so please allow me to retort.. 1 Peter chapter 2... “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... Peter goes on.. you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” - Can I get an “Amen.”
The things of God are not some arbitrary knowledge locked up in the heads of the priests... for as Luke says, “the
.. is within... you.” This is not just an issue for religious leaders… It is for God’s chosen people, His royal priesthood, His Holy Nation.. and His special possession… It is for you… and it is within you. The Gospel of Thomas has been classified as heretical by the church.. and perhaps by quoting from I make myself a heretic, but it would seem to contain some truth. There was one bit that surfaced in the movie Stigmata that is particularly beautiful... Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you, not in buildings and mansions of stone. When I am gone, split a piece of wood and I am there... lift a stone and you will find me.”... understanding the things of God is not some secret knowledge to anyone.. it is within the heart of every believer - you need only to listen. kingdom of God
It would seem that the Law of God was not originally intended for scholars and theologians.. for books and ivory towers -- the Law was for the heart. It was not about whether you could recite it verbatim.. but can you live it.... Paul said in the letter to the Philippians... “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection...”.. He wants to know Christ by listening to the things of God.. not up here - in his head - but here - in his heart. That boxing great Rocky Marciano reportedly once said, “Hit the heart and the head will follow”… he also said, “Why waltz with a guy for 10 rounds if you can knock him out in one?”… we can try all sorts of ways to know God, but the quickest way to this knowledge is to listen with our hearts.
Let’s close with part of a prayer attributed to
.. I encourage you to make his words your own... Let us pray...For your mercies' sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul: "I am your salvation." So speak that I may hear, O Lord; my heart is listening; open it that it may hear you, and say to my soul: "I am your salvation." After hearing this word, may I come in haste to take hold of you. Amen. St. Augustine