5 Lent

The Rev. Mary Grambsch

Your word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path.  In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

Today is the last regular Sunday of Lent.  For many of us Lent feels as if it lasts a long, long time.  Ash Wednesday seems so long ago; and all those faithful promises we made to God and to ourselves about being more disciplined, giving up sweets or coffee or whatever for Lent, seem more difficult.  Maybe even forgotten.  I can tell you: It is never too late to begin keeping Lent!  Make the most of Lent that remains – even if you start today, be as faithful as you can.

These last weeks of Lent we have been hearing various parables from scripture; two weeks ago it was about the Fig Tree and last week it was The Prodigal Son.  Today’s gospel is the parable of The Wicked Tenants.  Remembering that parables are often simple sounding stories that can have many, many layers of meaning, let’s look at the parable of The Wicked Tenants.
The man, who planted the vineyard, leased it out to tenants to take care of and left them alone for a long, long time.  The owner has been away so long that the tenants began to think of the vineyard as their own property, and so would not give the owner his share of the grapes, beating and sending away the owners assistants.  Finally, the owner sends a family member, his own son, whom the tenants kill in an attempt to get the son’s inheritance.  The wicked tenants are now in very big trouble, because the owner is coming to destroy them for not keeping their end of the agreement and killing his son.

For once the people listening to Jesus understood the meaning of the parable.  The scribes and chief priests, the Jewish Authorities understood that they were the Wicked Tenants and that God was not happy with them.  For God, of course, is the owner of the vineyard, and the vineyard is all of creation, all of the good gifts and blessings that God created and has given to us.
The assistants who first came and were beaten and turned away are the Prophets who preached repentance and urged the people to give to God the worship, praise and obedience which is due to God.  In speaking about the Owner’s son, Jesus is referring to himself and the rejection he received at the hands of the Jewish Authorities.  He is also speaking of his own death at their hands.

The followers of Jesus and the scribes and chief priests do understand that the parable is about them and they respond, “God forbid” to the idea that God would destroy them for their unfaithfulness and rejection of Jesus.  It is one of the few times in scripture that the Authorities seem afraid of what may happen to them.  They reject the claim the Jesus is the Son of God, the long waited for Messiah, and yet they are afraid of the power that Jesus has.  Some part of them recognizes the truth of who Jesus is, but they are not willing to give up their powerful positions to follow his teaching and worship him.

Those followers of Jesus, like us, who do believe that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, are also put on notice.  Just as the Owner of the vineyard demanded his tenants produce fruit from the vineyard and give him his portion, God makes demands of us too.  This parable is not only for the Jewish Authorities who rejected Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone, but for the followers of Jesus as well.  We will also be judged by God on what kind of tenants we have been with the good gifts God has given us.
What does God demand of us – what does the Lord require of us?  The Prophet Micah says that the Lord requires us to “Do mercy, Love Justice and Walk humbly with your God”.  Jesus said that God has Two Commandments for us, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus himself commanded us to “Love one another.”

So, what do you think?  Are you a good tenant?  What do you believe God requires of you and how do you fulfill that requirement?
How do we love God?  Do we praise God everyday and give thanks for the fruitful vineyard he has given to us?  Do we try to share the love that God has given to us with other people?  Do we tell the Good News of Jesus, in words and actions?  Do we trust in God’s promises and remember that we are part of a covenant with God in baptism?  Are we faithful in reading and studying scripture?  How do you love God?

How do we “love one another?”  Are we patient and understanding with one another?  Do we forgive other people who have hurt us?  Do we truly listen with an open heart to each other?  Do we seek to be reconciled with people we disagree with and are separated from?  Are we generous with our time and blessings, sharing with those who have needs?  Are we careful to not take more than we need of the world’s goods and to use the things we have wisely?  Are we humble in how we exercise our power, not dominating or abusing other people?  Are we gentle with the elderly people and the children in our lives?  What is your list for loving other people?

God requires all these things, and more from us.  The best thing is that we don’t have to find the courage and strength to do all these things alone.  Jesus strengthens and sustains us, feeds us with his body and blood, so that we can fulfill all that God wants from us.  The Holy Spirit too prays within us when we are too hurt, or tired or lonely to pray, giving us guidance and power to do more and to be more than we ever could “ask or imagine.”   God never demands more than we can give and he gave us the power through Jesus to be his loving people n this world.

Lent is a special time to work on loving God and one another more and, as I said at the beginning of this sermon, it is never too late to start keeping Lent.  It is never too late to be more loving toward God and to one another.  AMEN.