Once more we head into difficult Biblical passages. I don’t k now what the people were thinking when they designed this lectionary cycle... after all, isn’t it supposed to be a restful season? Aren’t we supposed to be reassured and sent on our merry way?
After all, God loves us, right? And Jesus is tender meek and mild, right?
And they don’t... expect anything of us.... right?
Ah, but then there is the pesky vineyard images... I tell you, beware if anyone ever starts to tell you about a vineyard – they never go well... Way back in Isaiah we have the prophet asking a question – what would you do if you planted a vineyard and expected grapes and it went wild?
What would you do if you called a congregation together and they just got worse?
What would you do if someone said they were a Christian and jsut got more and more wild?
This is our philosophical starting place for the day – a reality check... God is not all love and kisses, kindness and warm fuzzies. God is God... and we are Gods, and there is a responsibility there – so what is it?
Building on the Promises
A but God keeps coming back – right? I don’t know if you have ever stopped and noticed this – but one of the first things we do in the Communion liturgy is to recite some sort of history of how God saved us over and over and over again.
There are different ones – built Noah and ark, gave Sarah and Abraham children, gave us kings and rulers to govern us like David and Solomon...
It is a very Jewish thing to do, part of our 6,000 year old heritage in which we recognize that despite ourselves, God is always there to save us. In fact, God keeps finding new and better ways to bring us closer – like Jesus, send a messenger who is so full of God’s spirit that we just have to get the point – that would work, right?
Well, again, most of us now, 2000 years later, have completely forgotten what Jesus was like. What we have to remember is that Jesus was the type of guy who got everyone mad at him... disciples, Romans, Jewish authorities; common people in Galilee... in the end, almost everyone had a reason to be against him.
Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that we all want the world to work a certain way – our way...
His original followers were so disappointed in him when he was not the type of Messiah they wanted; the one who would go and wage war and take power back by force from the Romans. Jesus disappointed them and some refused to follow him because of that, others betrayed him because of that.
Here is a question we never consider in the midst of that – what would Jesus feel like? What would God feel like when he saw this playing out?
Would the Real Jesus Please Stand Up
So here is where it gets interesting – you see? This is the Jesus who is fed up with what he sees all around him. He is tired of looking at the poverty, dried up and empty souls, people choosing sides just to be on the winning side instead of the side of justice. Fed up with the fighting and wars, powers of domination and control where people are not free to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
And so we hear a Jesus who tells the people around him that he has not come to bring peace. He has not come to just stand there and be silent and happy about a world where people don’t experience mercy, compassion, or justice.
No this Jesus, our Jesus did not come to be silent and let things continue the way they always have. This Jesus, our Jesus has come to bring relationships of mercy, compassion, justice, between God and humanity, and humanity itself.
And we all know that not everybody wants peace and harmony. It is bad for business. So is equality. So is justice for that matter.
Jesus never once said to anyone – you know what – this is perfect just the way it is... and he certainly would not be saying it today. He would not be saying it in the midst of the poverty we have all around us right here in Moncton; he would not be saying it in a country where there are still different “types” of people who get more and less respect. He would not be saying things are perfect when we as a country seem willing to turn back a boatload of refugees washed up on our West Coast.
He would not even say our church is perfect the way it is – would he?
You see, the gospel story is as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. It kind of sets us back on heels; and makes us ask, what is he saying and what does it mean to me??
Well it means the same today as it did then. Jesus told his disciples to go – baptise change people’s lives, help one another find freedom and new life. Follow his Way of life, his values, the values of God – values of the kingdom. Believe in him and follow.
In Jesus day to say you believe in something was to say “I subscribe to that”, I give my heart and my life for that. When we say we believe in Jesus are you prepared to be saying I would give my life for him by choosing to live and follow his Way? Are we willing to say that I will follow his teachings no matter the cost?
What has happened through history and distance from the Jesus who walked on this earth is that many of us have turned belief into a mental exercise saying – yes I believe in Jesus, I agree with what the bible says, he is God’s son etc. Well that is nice but what difference does that make in your life or in the life of anyone else. Jesus died following God’s way. Is it enough for us to say the words “I believe” or doesn’t his life and death mean more than that to us? Doesn’t his sacrifice mean more to us than simply saying I agree? He came to bring new life, freedom to all.
I believe that when challenged by the values of our society and the temptation to give into mass consumption, political efforts to win a debate, taking part in any system that harms the earth, harms the bodies or souls or neighbours, friends, or strangers, or even following what members of our family say in order to keep the peace – we have an obligation to stand for what we call the kingdom of God.
We, as Christians, are held accountable to the fact that we are meant to live a different set of values than those of our worlds.
I would love to see us get together and look at ways we can disentangle ourselves as individuals and Church from the structures and organizations that bind, control, and keep people from experiencing the freedom the Gospel offers.
I would love to be able to find the courage and strength, the conviction of faith to stand in the face of anything that denies mercy, compassion, love and justice and – speak against it, work against it, and live our lives as completely separate as possible from it.
Life is short, life us unpredictable. We need to help one another to embrace the gifts God has offered to us but they are not always easy to obtain. It takes effort, thought, and practice.
It also takes witness, and the retelling of stories of people who have followed Jesus Way despite the cost.
I would imagine that we all have people in our lives, that we have known or witnessed in history that we have seen stand against oppression and filled our lives with hope. Because we know that when we hear them speak and refuse to participate, or give their consent that they are right, we feel it in our gut and in our hearts. Jesus is one of many – there many teachers out there on how to stay faithful to the Way.
What would it be like if we would share those stories (about ourselves or those we admire), and encourage others to do the same. Wouldn’t we make a difference in this community and world?
We are told that Jesus said to go and baptize – go and make followers of me, he said. Go teach and encourage people to not give into the status quo but together in your communities of faith stand for what is right, work for what is compassionate and good and the entire world will know of the glory and goodness of God.