Sermons

"Taking Care of God's Business:" Sermon for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

"Taking Care of God

Oct 08, 2017

Passage:Matthew 21:33-46

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Pentecost

Category: Discipleship, Kingdom of God

Keywords: care, love, stewardship, tenant

Summary:

Jesus tells the parable of the "Wicked Tenants." But this parable also gives us a message about the kind of tenants we should strive to be. We are stewards (tenants) of God's Creation and we are called to care for God's people, especially in the midst of violence and loss and fear.

Detail:

       Here we are again.  Another Sunday where we’re grieving another national tragedy.  People gathered together to enjoy music and one another.  Some celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.  Some getting to see entertainers they’ve waited to see for years. 

People are singing and dancing...when the unthinkable happens.  Only this isn’t so unthinkable anymore, is it? 

We’re initially shocked.  We’re sad, troubled, angry about these events.  Then we go about our lives. We’ve seen it all before.  Too often, too many times. 

A little over 18 years ago, we were glued to our televisions for days.  We couldn’t get over the shock.  We couldn’t imagine that the tragedy at Columbine had really happened.  We talked about it.  We searched for answers.  We listened to interviews.  We mourned for those children and parents and teachers.  We mourned for our own sense of safety. 

But now, these events are occurring so frequently, that we’re starting to get numb.  We’re not so surprised anymore. 

And that horrifies me...that I’m not surprised anymore... that I want to turn away and not deal with it.  Yes, I cry and I pray for the souls who are lost, the loved ones who will try to carry on after them, the injured who are forever scarred by these events, and the gunman who, for whatever reason, felt driven to destroy so many lives. 

But I’m also sad that these events do not stop me in my tracks the way they did 18 years ago.  I’m still looking for answers.  I’m still wondering how we move forward, not in a way that ignores the magnitude of these tragedies, but one that doesn’t leave me so stuck in fear and despair.

In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus continues to tell parables to try to get the people in the temple to understand the nature of God and God’s kingdom. 

Although this parable initially sounds rather cryptic to us, its message was clear to those who heard it in Jesus’ day.  Jesus talks about a landowner who has planted a vineyard and arranged for its care.  That landowner is God, our Creator.  The one who created heaven and earth and all that is in it.

The Jewish leaders are the tenants.  Jesus illustrates how God entrusted these leaders to care for the people of Israel.  And how they have not lived up to that trust. 

As followers of Jesus, God has also made us tenants of God’s Creation...all of Creation.  God entrusts us to care for God’s people and God’s world.  No, we’re not the ones who are killing the landowner’s slaves and son.  We’re not the ones pulling the trigger.  Nonetheless, we are called by God to care for this world and its people in whatever condition we find it.

Jesus shows us the way forward in this parable.  He offers us an image of how the world looks when we don’t live up to our call to be caretakers of God’s Creation.

Amidst all the destruction and chaos, we’ve seen people all week on the news who stepped up and took care of God’s children.  They shielded loved ones, and sometimes even total strangers with their own bodies.  They showed people where to safely hide.  They stopped to care for those who were injured. 

They loaded complete strangers into their cars and into the backs of pickup trucks to rush them to the hospital.  People lined up for hours to give blood.  One man drove 2,000 miles to deliver wooden crosses that he had made to honor the dead. 

We are also the tenants in God’s world..  We’re reminded that as tenants, we’re not the owners.  We’re not the creators. We’re the ones called to take care of God’s world.  We honor that call by loving one another, stepping up when others are in need, nourishing one another in our faith, feeding those who are hungry, and building up Christ’s Church.  

We comfort those who are mourning.  We provide company to those who are alone.  We walk alongside those who are afraid.  We enjoy one another and treasure our time together.  We give our children the gift of faith that will sustain them in good times and bad throughout their lives.   We care for this magnificent worship space and our beautiful grounds.

Today is not only Oktoberfest, but it’s the first of our Stewardship Sundays.  I think that it’s important for us to consider Stewardship in the light of this parable.  And how fitting to have this parable to lead us forward in being “tenants” or “stewards” of this church, to those who worship with us and those who do not.

Jesus calls us to take care of God’s Creation.  And, after all, isn’t that what Stewardship is?  I know what you’re thinking...Stewardship.  It’s that time of year when we ask for money.  Well, yes, that’s true.  Money is a critical part of our stewardship.  Like it or not, money is one of the ways we get things done in this world. 

The many ministries, the care St. Andrew’s provides to its children, its youth, its parishioners, the community of Amarillo, and beyond our city limits.  These all require money.  And Stewardship is really a time of discernment about what God is calling us to do.  How do we care for others, not just with our money, but with our own energy and time?  How do we share our gifts and talents? 

St. Andrew’s is a loving, generous parish.  Those who were tenants of this church in the past planted a thriving and healthy vineyard.  They loved and cared for God’s people.  The foundation they built has resulted in a parish that responds to God’s call out of a sense of abundance, not a mindset of scarcity. 

We share in whatever form that abundance takes...friends, family, money, personal talents and experiences, but most importantly...love.  We share whatever we have because God’s love for us is abundant and we are called to care for all of God’s people.  Amen.