THE 18TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
 What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
 And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
 I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
but behold, an outcry!
though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
"Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.  When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit.  And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.  Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them.  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 have his inheritance.'  And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  When therefore 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 let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons."
 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 marvelous in our eyes'?
 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.  And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."
 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.  And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
Enough is enough. Yes, there are a number of people feeling that way these days, whether it’s those who believe that government is going too far in all of its restrictions and mask wearing demands, or it’s those who are fed up with people refusing to follow health guidelines and putting the rest of us at risk of Covid 19.
I’m not going to weigh in on either side of that whole debate, because I’m not a medical expert nor am I a legal one. God has not called me to be either of those things, no, He’s called me to be a pastor, which means that I’m called to speak the Lord’s Word in Christ’s stead to you - calling you to repentance for your sins and delivering Christ’s forgiveness to you in His gifts.
All I can tell you about the debate over such things is that God expects you to follow the law of the land, yes, even if it means wearing a mask and staying two meters away from people, as long as that law does not contradict a clear command of the Lord. I can also say that as our government rules us in God’s place, they are not to Lord their authority over us or test us beyond what we can bear.
Yes, enough is enough, a lot of people are feeling that way these days, perhaps with good reason (in their own eyes anyway) as Covid 19 continues to ravage so much of the world and threaten us, as it rears its ugly head again here at home. People are fed up with rules and people are fed up with people. Yes, there is a point, no matter how patient and long suffering you might be when, you’ve just had it, and enough is enough.
The funny thing is though, that as much as we can get to that point, sometimes pretty quickly, and we can get that other people can get there too, when it comes to God, people, including you and me at times, think that God shouldn’t ever get to that point. Like the tenants in the parable we keep pushing the limits of His patience until we push Him too far, and then, we’re surprised and even taken aback when He puts His divine foot down.
Jesus is pretty clear in His parable that you can push God too far. He was speaking of Israel when He first preached the parable, and the Chief Priests and Pharisees were right to take it personally, because it was meant to be. For centuries Israel had pushed God to the limit, by refusing to give Him the right worship that they owed Him. They had rejected and killed prophet after prophet, and now, they were about to push Him too far by killing His Son.
And so God took away His Kingdom from them and gave it to the gentiles, that, if you don’t know it, is people like you and me. When the people of Israel put God’s Son outside of Jerusalem’s walls and crucify Him, God takes His Kingdom away from them and creates a new people for Himself in the Church. On Golgatha God has His “enough is enough” moment and takes away His vineyard from Israel and gives it to others.
There is an important Word for us here, beloved, as St. Paul points out in His letter to the Romans. If God had an “enough is enough" moment with Israel, He can and will certainly have one with us as well, if we follow in their way. If we reject the Word of the prophets and crucify His Son anew by casting Him and His Word out of our lives, then yes, all that has been given to us, can and will, just as easily be taken away from us and given to others.
Taken away. Yes, a lot has been taken away from us in these last months since Covid 19 has come upon us. For weeks the pews in this place were empty, when the government shut our Churches down. Yes, there might just be a Word of repentance for us there, beloved, about the times when we have chosen to leave those pews empty on our own for other more important things. Our song has also been taken from us, perhaps there’s a word for us there too, about times we weren’t here physically or spiritually to raise our voices in it?
Taken away. Yes, a lot has been taken away, like those close moments with family and friends, that perhaps we haven’t always valued as much as we should have, as we allowed the many things of life to get in the way of them. Yes, beloved there’s lots to think about in how we have ordered our lives, when all things were free to us and we could come and go as we pleased and do as we wanted. With all that we lose there is a call from God, beloved, not to excuse or justify what we have or haven’t done, but to thoughtfully ponder, whether or not we have rightly received what was given and done what we were called to do with it.
Yes, beloved, there is a call to repentance - a call to return to the Lord, in the Lord’s parable for us this morning, as it lays out the life and end of God’s Kingdom for the people of Israel. As there is a gracious call to repentance for each one of us in this pandemic, whether it is in all that we have had taken away from us, or in what we fear it might take away, like those that we love, or our own lives. It all reminds us that God can and will have an “enough is enough” moment, when it comes to those who reject Him and His gifts.
Repentance, yes, there is a merciful call to repentance, because God does not want to take His kingdom from you. No, He wants you to live in that kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. It’s why He sent His Son to the very people who would reject Him and take Him outside the city wall to crucify Him. He sent Him to be taken away so that HE could suffer and die, so that you could be forgiven and not have His kingdom taken from you.
The stone that the builders rejected stands before you today, beloved, so that falling on Him you might be broken to pieces in repentance and be saved by His forgiveness from being crushed by Him on the last day, when He comes to judge the living and the dead. He allowed Himself to be rejected for you for all the times that you have not treasured Him as you should have, so that you could be forgiven and not rejected by Him on the last day.
“Return to me,” He calls out to you in His flesh and blood, “come with all your sins, all the ways you have failed God and others, and see here how I was broken and crushed to death on the cross to cover and pay for it all. Come to me and see in my hands and feet and side, that I have done enough to save you in that moment when enough will be enough with God. I am your only hope, my beloved ones, for this time and the end of time, but as you receive my body and blood this day, I want you to know and live in the truth that I am your hope and I will not fail you.” Amen.