THE 5TH SUNDAY IN LENT AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
 who brings forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
 "Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
 The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
 the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
Philip. 3:8-14 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.
Luke 20:9-20 And he began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.  When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed.  And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out.  Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.'  But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.'  And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "Surely not!"  But he looked directly at them and said, "What then is this that is written:
" 'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone'?
 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."
 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.  So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
People should not profit from their crimes. No, they should not. The idea that they would is so repulsive, that we have laws to keep it from happening. No, the mass murderer should not make money off of writing a book about his crime or selling the movie rights to his “story”. Our sense of justice is outraged at the very idea.
I know that a number of my fellow students at Queen’s University felt this way, when we heard that Carla Homolka was taking courses for free at Queen’s, while we struggled to pay for our tuition. This woman, who had helped abuse, torture and brutally murder young girls before they could ever go to University themselves, was getting to take courses for free, because she was locked up for her crimes. No. It did not seem right, because it was not.
So what’s the matter with the people listening to Jesus parable today? How can they possibly take the side of the wicked tenants, who not only beat up all three servants that the vineyard owner sent, but murdered the owner’s son, when he sent him to collect the rent? How could they not be revolted at the thinking of the tenants, that if they killed the son, that the vineyard would come to them? That would be just so wrong.
Sure they take offence, but not at the actions or thinking of the tenants, but at the word of judgement that Jesus declares against them - that the owner of the vineyard would destroy those wicked tenants and give it to others. What really offends them is the idea, that others would get the vineyard. Why? Because every good Jew knew, that God was the vineyard owner and that Israel was the vineyard. Although Jesus was speaking this parable against the scribes and the chief priests, the people themselves can’t stand the thought, that God would take the kingdom from them and give it to others.
Their reaction shows you just how far they had come in presuming on God’s patience and grace. They are not moved to repentance by the parable, looking down at their own hands and crying out, “ O Lord, what have we done?!” No, they rebel against the judgement and the thought of it being carried out instead. No, that can’t be! God wouldn’t do that! Jesus couldn’t have made it any clearer just how much the Owner has put up with, how patient and merciful He has been, and yet, they still can’t see that there should be a point where enough was enough.
No, the people did not have the heart of faith of my dear friend, who has gone to be with the Lord for some years now, who when approached by some who wanted to protest the unfairness of his cancer would answer back, “I deserve much worse but God is gracious to me.” No, the people did not see the grace and mercy of the long suffering vineyard owner, because for so long they had presumed on God’s grace. And so, the word of final judgement does not drop them to their knees and put “Lord have mercy” on their lips. No, they stand there crying out instead,“Surely not!”
“Surely not!” Yes, there are plenty in our day who say that back to Jesus when it comes to His warning about the limits of God’s patience. Patient and merciful, yes, God is those things, patient and kind beyond all imagining, but holy, righteous and just as well, beloved, and His patience and mercy cannot and will not trespass on his holiness, righteousness and justice. God’s patience and mercy is greater than yours or mine will ever be, but they do have an enough is enough point, when they meet up with his holiness, righteousness and justice. So, yes there is a real hell and there are people who are really going to go there. As there are real consequences for sin in this life, that come upon real people - like you and me.
You need to know that forty short years after Jesus spoke this parable, the Romans marched in to Jerusalem and flattened it, killing thousands and leaving the temple in ruins. Jews continue wail at the western remnants of that temple’s foundation wall to this day. “Surely not!” Indeed! The mouth of the Lord spoke and the “Surely nots” of men failed. Big time. As they will until the end of time. I tremble, beloved, to think what judgement we are courting for ourselves in our day with the evils that we as a society have not only embraced but celebrate. The blood that flows freely from the hospitals and abortion clinics of our land cries out to heaven. And you can be sure the immorality that is practiced freely and celebrated under the sun does not escape heaven’s gaze.
Yes, as Lutherans we are big into God’s grace, as we should be, as it is the heart and core of Christianity, but we must not, no, we must not make the mistake of presuming upon it. No, beloved, because there is a big difference between counting on it and presuming upon it. Count on it? Yes, you must and should absolutely do that with every fibre of your being. It is precisely what God wants you to do. So that you could count on it is the very reason why He sent His Son into this world, as it is the reason why that Son willingly went out the city walls to suffer and die on the cross for your sins. So that you would count on it is also the reason why the Lord has poured out His Holy Spirit upon you.
Counting on God’s grace is what you do when God shows you your sin and crying out “Lord have mercy” you look up to the cross and count on the One who hangs there suffering and dying for it to save you from it. Presuming on God’s grace is when He shows you your sin and saying ‘Surely not!” to God’s judgement you carry on in it anyway. Counting on God’s grace is, when groaning under the wretchedness of your sinful flesh, you cry out to God for mercy when you keep falling down in the same ways, but cling to Christ’s death for you to save you from it all. Presuming on God’s grace embraces the will of your flesh against God’s warnings and expects Him to put up with it, being offended by the very idea that He might call you to account for it.
Counting on God’s grace ends in peace, joy and life. Presuming on it ends in destruction, death and hell. In these Lenten days, the Lord tells us His parable to get us to ponder the difference, beloved, and examine our hearts to see where we may have slipped over from a good Lutheran counting on grace to a sinful presuming upon it, so that coming to repentance for our presumptions we might count on God’s grace to save us from them. That you might count upon that grace even for your wicked sinful presumptions is made clear for you at the altar this morning, beloved, as the Lord Jesus comes in His body and blood to bring to remembrance his death to pay for them. I have died for this all He says to each of you today, as He says take and eat, take and drink.
People should not profit from their crimes. No, they should not. But you know, it was your sins and mine that crucified the Son sent by the Owner of the Vineyard, and because of that, the very gates of heaven have been thrown open before us this morning at the altar and the gift of eternal life is placed in each our mouths. Profit? Yes, there could be no greater profit then that! And that, beloved, should move each and every one of us to the deepest awe at the grace of God, so that while trembling at the the thought of ever presuming upon it, we joyfully take hold of it and count upon it for all we’re worth now and forever. Amen.