Why Baptism Matters

Sermon delivered on Trinity Last A, Sunday, October 25, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary text: Romans 6.1-11.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Father Wylie was supposed to preach this morning but he called me Friday and left me holding the bag as usual. Something about not feeling like he wanted to preach, that he was too important for St. Augustine’s to be spending any time here. Well, actually he might have been exposed to COVID and so I told him to stay at home but I like my story a lot better than reality. Don’t we all? Today we celebrate another big day in the life of our parish family. We will be baptizing our young friend and beloved in Christ, Izro, into the body of Christ and I want to direct my sermon primarily to him. Of course the rest of you ragamuffins are welcome to soak up the great wisdom I will impart along the way.

Izro, you have made the wisest and best decision of your young life. You have decided to reject what St. Paul called the first Adam—the old man living in you despite your young age—and put on the second Adam, Jesus Christ himself. What does that mean? It means that you have decided you no longer want to be a slave to the power of Sin, that you have chosen life over death and no longer want to live your life in ways that demonstrate you are hostile to God by acting in ways that are contrary to his will for you as his image-bearing creature. Instead, you are declaring that you choose to follow Christ and be where he is because you believe him to be God incarnate, the only true reality and Source of life, and you want to live with God forever, starting right now. In biblical terms we call this repentance: you are turning from a life lived for yourself to a life lived for God. You are choosing to kill off in you all that makes you hostile and alienated from God, or as St. Paul puts it, you are crucifying your sinful nature (a lifelong practice), but you realize you cannot do this in your own power or strength. In choosing to be baptized you are declaring that you realize you must rely on the power of God working in your life in and through the Holy Spirit to help heal your sin sickness so that you can live as a fully human being and that your life orientation will point to something (or more precisely Someone) greater than yourself. You are also declaring that you realize this is a free gift from God despite your unworthiness to receive it, but receive it you will because it pleases God the Father to give it to you out of his great love for you. Hear what St. Paul has to say about all this in Romans 6:

[S]hould we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6.1-11).

NLT

Now if you are like me and want to please God, you may find the first thing St. Paul says here to be puzzling. He asks rhetorically if we should “keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace,” developing an argument he began in Romans 5. Of course not, he roars in reply! We’ve died to sin. How can we keep on living in it?? I confess that’s a head scratcher for me, the power of God at work in me notwithstanding. Perhaps you want to say to him with me, “St. Paul, are you crazy? I still sin. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. How can you say I’ve died to sin?” To which St. Paul would reply, “It’s not about you Izro, it’s about the power of God at work in you.” That’s the key. The power of God working in you, invisible to our senses but there nonetheless. Your baptism is a visible and tangible sign of that power. That’s why we call it a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible reality.

St. Paul knew very well that being united with Christ does not make one a sinless person. But that is not what St. Paul is talking about. He is echoing what he wrote to the Colossians when he said that “[The Father] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom [from the power of Sin] and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1.13-14). This is the power of God at work in us to rescue us from sin and death and bring us into the kingdom of his promised new creation that one day will come in full at Christ’s return. God did this for us out of his great love for us. We did nothing to deserve this gift nor can we earn it. In our own right we are utterly broken, unworthy and incapable of living as God’s true image-bearers. This is what the power of Sin has done to us. But God loves us too much to let us go the way of eternal death and so God has acted decisively in Christ to break Sin’s power over us on the cross and transfer us into his new world via Christ’s resurrection. This is what grace looks like and your baptism signals, in part, your acceptance of that grace. We can’t earn God’s grace nor do we deserve a lick of it, but it is ours for the taking because of the power and love of God. What God wants, God gets and nothing, not even the power of Sin or the dark powers, can overcome God’s power made known and available to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s a done deal, even if it may not feel like that to us. 

But Christ’s death and resurrection were not feelings. They were and are the objective reality. They made known supremely the power of God to intervene in our lives on our behalf to rescue us from ourselves, our foolishness, our folly, and our slavery to the power of Sin and Death. That is why St. Paul tells us to consider or reckon ourselves dead to sin. By this he meant for us to do the math, so to speak. When we do the math, we discover the sum of what is already there. For example, when we count the cash in the register, we learn what was there already. We don’t create a new reality; rather we affirm the existing reality. Christ has died for us and been raised from the dead to proclaim God’s victory over Sin and Death, and when we are united with Christ in a living relationship with him, St. Paul promises here that we too share in Christ’s reality, whether it feels like we do or not. Again, notice nothing is required of us except an informed (or reckoned) faith. We look at the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection and calculate it to be true so that we learn to trust the promise that has not yet been fulfilled is also true. 

How does this happen? St. Paul doesn’t tell us how, only that it does happen beginning with our baptism. When we are baptized we share in Christ’s death and are buried with him so that Sin’s power over us is broken (not to be confused with living a sin-free life, something that is not mortally possible because as St. Paul reminds us in verses 6-7, we are not totally free from sin until death). We have died to sin and can no longer live in it because we have been transferred into a new reality, God’s new world that was inaugurated when God raised Christ from the dead. So in our baptism we begin our new life with Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5.17), flawed as that might look at times. What St. Paul is talking about here is a matter of will. In ch. 8, he will talk about the power and presence of the Spirit in our lives to help us live after the manner of our Lord. Here St. Paul simply tells us that we have been given a great gift in the death and resurrection of Christ and through our relational union with him. Where Christ is, there we will be with him. If this isn’t Good News, I don’t know what is.

So you have died with Christ and are raised with him. You have been delivered from the dark dominion of slavery to the dominion of freedom and life and light, the Father’s kingdom. Now what? Well, for starters it means you no longer need to be afraid. You have peace with God, real peace, a peace that was terribly costly to God, and you also have life that cannot be taken from you. Sure your mortal body will die, but that’s nothing more than a transition until the Lord returns and raises you from the dead and gives you a new body to live in his new world. As a baptized Christian you have no reason to fear death because you believe Christ is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11.25) and you know that where he is, there you will be with him by virtue of your baptism that signals his great love for you and his power to rescue you from Sin and Death! It means you reject living your life in the darkness of sin. It means you reject false realities and are willing to speak out boldly against them. It means you are willing to love even the most unloveable people (and believe me, we are seeing more and more of them every day), starting with yourself. It means you are willing to speak out against injustices of all kinds. It means you have compassion for people, realizing they are without a Good Shepherd who will love and heal them just like he is loving and healing you, and so you are willing to share your baptismal faith with them. There’s more to this reality, but certainly not less. 

Your baptism also means you are welcomed into and agree to become part of the family of God in Christ, hopefully here at St. Augustine’s, because you understand God created you for relationships and that you cannot live out your Christian faith in isolation because that is how the world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to pick Christians off and get them to reject God’s free gift of life won through Christ. The power of God living in you is often made known in and through other people, and just as we rely on family to help us navigate the rough waters of life, so too must you rely on your parish family to help you stay the course. That means you agree to worship with us, study Scripture with us, feed on our Lord’s body and blood each week to have Christ himself nourish you, weep with us, rejoice with us, and everything in between. Your baptism is a tangible reminder that God the Father has claimed you in and through God the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit to make you Christ’s own forever. Like any healthy relationship, Izro, God will never force you to love him and gives you the freedom to choose whom you will serve. Today you declare you are choosing to serve Life and not Death and all that that entails. Congratulations, my brother. I couldn’t be happier for you. Glory to him whose power working in you is more than you can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Father Philip Sang: Give to God What is God’s

Sermon delivered on Trinity 19A, Sunday, October 18, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no audio podcast for today’s sermon.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 33.12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10; St. Matthew 22.15-22.

It’s providential that we come to this passage this morning; just a few days before we are called upon to perform an important civic duty and vote.

We talk much about the duties that we are obligated to perform to our government. And it seems to me that, even if we don’t enjoy those duties, most of us recognize their importance and are very careful to keep them. We are careful to vote; and we are careful to respond when called upon to perform jury duty; and we’re careful to pay our taxes. And of course, we’re always grateful for those who rise up for our nation’s defense through the service of the military. We consider these to be among the most important obligations we can fulfill.

But what about our even greater obligations to God? Are we as careful to render to Him the things that we owe to Him as we are to render our obligations to our government? How careful are we to even know what it is that God says we owe Him? And what does it say about us when we are so concerned to carefully perform the duties that a temporal, human government obligates us to, while almost completely ignoring the even greater duties and obligations that the almighty God demands of us?

I believe that this morning’s passage touches on this whole matter. We should, of course, be very careful to perform our duties as citizens of the earthly government in which God has placed. But we should be even more careful to perform the greater duties and obligations we owe to the God of the universe—the God who made us for Himself, and who has absolute and complete Creatorship-rights over us.

To put it another way—a way that I’m sure you’ll recognize—we shouldn’t fail to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; but we should make even more certain that we render to God the things that are God’s.

That, I believe, is the main point of this morning’s passage. It’s a passage that teaches us many important things; but the main thing I believe it seeks to teach us is that above all other obligations we have in life, we are obliged first to render to God His rights over us.

Here is todays gospel reading

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way (Matthew 22:15-22).

I love this gospel for the less-than-noble reason: I love it whenever someone who is arrogant, and malicious, and crafty, gets knocked off their pedestal. I also love this passage for a good reason: it reveals the wisdom and authority of our wonderful Lord Jesus. No one ever made a fool of Him!

But this story isn’t given to us without a very good purpose. If the only lesson that there was to be learned from it was that no one should ever try to trap Jesus, that would certainly be profitable. But I believe there’s more for us to learn than just that.

The first thing we see in this question is that it was motivated by a desire to trap the Lord in His words. Matthew tells us, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk”. The word that Matthew uses—to “entangle”—is one that was used of the way a hunter trapped and ensnared an animal in order to take it captive. The means by which they intended to trap Him was through His own words; and the bate they proposed to use was this question. They had huddled together in order to craft the perfect question that would make it possible for them to bring Him before the authorities and discredit Him before the people—thus getting rid of Him without having to lay a hand on Him themselves.

And so, notice the trap they set for Him. They said, “Tell us, therefore, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Now; you can be sure that this was a question that they had already been wrestling with between themselves. Obviously, the Pharisees would have answered “no”. They had to pay the taxes, of course; otherwise they’d have the Roman soldiers down on their necks. But they deeply resented doing so. It bucked against them; because every time they paid the required tax to the Roman government, it was a vivid reminder that they were not a free people. Here they were—God’s special people; but they were under the thumb of a pagan nation. The Roman tax was a real thorn in their sandals! And yet, the Herodians would have answered “yes” to the same question.

But this question was specially crafted to discredit our Lord before all the people. Think of it; if He said yes—that it was legal to pay taxes to Caesar—then the Pharisees could accused Him before the people, and say that He was not conquering Messiah that they had expected. And if He said no—that it was not legal to pay taxes to Caesar—then the Herodians could immediately reported Him to the Roman governor. What a clever question! What a great trap! If He simply said “yes”, He would lose. And if He simply said “no”, He would still lose!

“Jesus perceived their wickedness . . .” He said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?”

And again; it would be a very bad move to miss the lesson here. We can very easily fool other people about what’s really in our hearts. Notice how Jesus puts the question back to them. He says, “Show Me the tax money”;

And Jesus held it up and asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

When they said the obvious—that it had Caesar’s image and inscription, then Jesus simply said, “Render, therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s . . .” It’s his coin. Give it back to him.

Now here’s where most people place the emphasis on this passage—in the first half of the Lord’s answer. I believe it’s absolutely legitimate to see in this the Christian’s duty to fulfill his or her proper obligations to the government under which God has called them to live. The Bible itself clearly teaches us this (Romans 13:1-7,and Peter 2:13-17)

Fulfilling our God-appointed obligations to the government, as good citizens, is a matter of bearing a good witness to our Lord before the world—to say nothing of it being a matter of obedience to our Lord Himself. I am, first, a citizen of My Father’s kingdom; but because I am a citizen of His eternal kingdom first, I am therefore obligated to be a good and faithful citizen of the temporal kingdom in which He has placed me—just as He has commanded me.

But it seems to me that we often put the greatest emphasis on that first part of our Lord’s answer; and fail to give proper attention to the greater issue expressed in the second part of His answer. In fact, the first part of His answer is there in order to serve as the object lesson of the second part of His answer—that we are to render “to God the things that are God’s”.

That second obligation, it seems to me, is what really brought the conviction down on those who were seeking to trap Him with their question. Matthew tells us that, when they heard His answer, “they marveled, and left Him and went their way.”

If they had given to God what first belonged to God, they would not only render to Caesar what was Caesar’s, but they would have also bowed down before the Lord Jesus Christ and pledged their first allegiance to Him.

So the question is: How careful are we to render to God the things that we owe to Him? This is a greater obligation than all others. How are we doing in terms of keeping it? Let me suggest a few ways that, I believe, state those obligations to us. This list is far from exhaustive; but it may be enough to get you thinking. Ask yourself, as I read these passages to you, how you are doing in rendering to God what belongs to God:

For one thing, you owe God honor. In Malachi 1:6, He says,

“A son honors his father, And a servant his master.

If then I am the Father, Where is My honor?

And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence?” (Mal. 1:6).

Or how about outside of the church building—and in the everyday business of life? You owe God a godly daily life. Micah 6:8 says,

With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God?

Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).

What about your wealth. Everything that you have is a gift from Him; and you owe Him the rights to the first and best share. In Malachi 3:8-10, He tells the people of Israel;

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).

What about your wealth. Everything that you have is a gift from Him; and you owe Him the rights to the first and best share. In Malachi 3:8-10, He tells the people of Israel;

“Will a man rob God?

Yet you have robbed Me!

But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8-10).

You owe Him your service to His kingdom agenda. When it comes to all of the other concerns of life, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33;

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

You owe Him your personal holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says;

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

He has a right to have you glorify Him with your whole being. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says;

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).

He has a right to your body. In Romans 12:1—after Paul’s long description of God’s work in saving us through faith in Christ—it says;

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy , acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service . . .” (Romans 12:1).

He has a right to your first love. In Matthew 22:37-40; Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment. And He said;

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

He even has the right to expect you to believe on His Son. In John 6:29, Jesus said,

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29).

Dear brothers and sisters, it’s our duty to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But let’s be even more sure that we do the greater duty—to faithfully render to God what is God’s.

In the name of God the Father the son and the Holy spirit

Father Jonathon Wylie: Rejoice in the Lord Always

Sermon delivered on Trinity 18A, Sunday, October 11, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie has been infected by the dreaded I-can’t-produce-a-sermon-transcript bug that has run rampant through the clergy types here at St. Augustine’s (only Fathers Madanu and Maney remain unafflicted). To listen to the audio podcast of his sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 32.1-14; Psalm 106.1-6, 19-23, Philippians 4.1-9; St. Matthew 22.1-14.

 

Wedding Sermon: Ribs Done Well

Sermon delivered in Toledo, OH. If you would prefer to hear the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Genesis 2.18-29; Ephesians 5.21-33; John 15.1-8.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Michael and Monica, I want to talk with you briefly this afternoon about what it will take for you to have a good marriage and so I’ve titled this sermon, Ribs (or Marriage) Done Well. If God really is our Creator as Genesis proclaims and our faith believes, who knows better than God what it takes for his human creatures to be happy and prosper in this foundational and most important of all relationships—marriage? A quick look at the relational history of humankind with all of its failed alternative solutions to God’s original intention for how men and women should live together as families shows us the wisdom of this. Is it just coincidental, for example, that in this country alone we have seen the breakdown of the God-given family structure and the rise of mass murder, addiction, alienation, and depression over the last 50 or so years? And so my hope and prayer for you, as well as the rest of us here, is that you will have the needed wisdom and humility to hear what God has to say about what you need to do to ensure that your marriage relationship remains healthy and strong over the years.

In our OT lesson we read the beautiful story of how God created man and woman in his own image. We are told that God saw it was not good for man to be alone so God formed woman out of the man’s rib to be his helper and the man immediately recognized that this was exactly what he needed to fulfill his most basic relational needs. Two things immediately jump out at us from this story. First we see one man and one woman coming together to form a lifelong relationship as husband and wife. God did not create multiple Eves nor did he create another Adam to be Adam’s companion and helper. God created Eve from Adam’s rib with the intention that the two should become one permanently in this life. In telling this story, the text proclaims that God ordained and blessed marriage as the foundational relationship for humans.

Second, the logic of the text suggests that only when man and woman come together as one do they become the complete image-bearers of God that God created us to be. When God told Adam that he would make a partner and helper for him, God did not intend this to mean that the woman was somehow inferior to the man or that her purpose in life was to toady after him. Her purpose was to be his equal partner so that together as a family they could be faithful in their task of being God’s wise stewards and rulers over God’s newly-created world.

It was from this created order that St. Paul would later write to the church at Ephesus about the structure and good order of Christian households that we read in our epistle lesson and here is where I want to speak to you both personally because this is what it takes to have ribs (marriage) done well. Let me start with you, Monica. In Ephesians, St. Paul tells us that wives should be subject to their husbands. It is right about now that the women here start giving me the stink eye and wonder where I am going with this. Let’s be honest. The notion of the wife being subject to the husband does not play well to our modern ears or sensibilities. But if we bow to our own hangups and prejudices, we do violence to the text and will miss completely St. Paul’s sound teaching about healthy marital relationships. So please hear me out.

St. Paul wisely understands that every social structure needs a good leader, and he appeals to the created order (man first, then woman) when he tells the wife to be subject to her husband. St. Paul does not mean that the wife should become a doormat for her husband or that somehow she is inferior or unequal to her husband. That would do violence to the creation narratives as we’ve just seen, and St. Paul knew his scripture too well to do that. What he means is that the wife should recognize her husband’s God-given leadership role in the family and allow him to lead. This is further tempered by the fact that St. Paul recognized Christ as the ultimate head of every family. More about that anon. But for right now, Monica, as you enter into marriage with Michael, I encourage you to allow him to lead in the manner of Christ and to correct Michael when he fails to do so. Of course you both will have to work out what this leadership looks like on the ground in the context of your married life. But if you have the wisdom and humility to do this, and if Michael has the wisdom/humility to lead in a godly manner, your marriage will thrive.

Now to you, Michael. If Monica allows you to lead in a godly manner, your charge is far more difficult. In Ephesians St. Paul tells us that the husband’s job is to love his wife. When scripture talks about love, it does not have in mind some kind of sappy, sentimental emotion or the kind of love that attempts to fulfill all the beloved’s desires, even if those desires are disordered or unhealthy. To be sure, scripture validates and celebrates romantic love as the Song of Solomon powerfully attests. But in Ephesians, St. Paul is talking about always acting in the light of God’s truth for the best interest of the beloved. So when St. Paul talks about the husband’s leadership role (not headship) in the family he doesn’t have in mind the husband running roughshod over his wife or barking out orders for her to fetch his slippers, bring him a beer, or cater to his every need. That is not loving your wife; that is loving yourself.

In other words, the kind of leadership St. Paul has in mind is the servant leadership that was exemplified by Christ himself, who died for us while we were still God’s enemies so that we could be reconciled to the Source of all life, and who tells us not to lord it over others but rather to lead by becoming like slaves who serve (Mk 10.35-45). This does not come to us naturally or easily and that is why you have the far more difficult task as husband in your marriage. Your job is to love Monica and care for her more than you care for yourself. Of course, Monica, you are called to love Michael in the same manner by supporting his godly leadership. If you both can do this, you will demonstrate by your actions that Jesus really is your Lord and the true head of your household, that you are part of his vine, and you can therefore confidently trust his promise to be your rock-solid foundation on which your marriage will be able to withstand even the most terrible storms of life (Mt 7.24-27). Our Lord did not tell us we would be immune to those storms, only that when we submit to his Lordship and order our lives as God intends, we will have a power that is greater than ours to help us withstand any evil that besets us.

To help you love each other in the way Christ intends, I want to suggest a good exercise for you both, but especially for you, Michael, because you are given the task of leading your family. Memorize and recite excerpts from 1 Corinthians 13 and substitute your name in places where you read love so that it reads, e.g., Michael is patient, Michael is kind. Michael does not insist on his own way. Michael is not irritable or resentful, etc. If you both can rehearse passages like this on a daily or regular basis you will discover that it will have a profoundly wonderful effect on you, that your relationship is strengthened and blessed, and that you will find joy and purpose in living together that you never dreamed possible.

I do not suggest that any of this is easy or automatic. You have to work hard at it and you have to work hard at cultivating your relationship with Jesus so that you allow him to be Lord of your individual and married lives. To do this, you will need to pray together, read scripture together, and be part of a community of faith who will love and support you, in addition to your families and friends, because there are many forces out there who are opposed to your married life and want to destroy it and you. But if you are wise enough and humble enough to do these things together and as part of the greater family of Christ, you will find that you will bear much fruit as Christ promises in our gospel lesson and so have the necessary power to live your life and marriage as God intends for you. May God bless and enable you to have a marriage that is done well.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Father Santosh Madanu: The Parable of Wicked Servants

Sermon delivered on Trinity 17A, Sunday, October 4, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no audio podcast for today’s sermon. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 20.1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3.4b-14; Matthew 21.33-46.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you said I am the vine and you are the braches, apart from me you cannot bear fruits.  Thank you Jesus for your grace and love.  Bless us with your Holy Spirit to be obedient to you, to be faithful to you. Never to reject your warnings against sin. And bless us to witness and proclaim that you are only the promised messiah. In Jesus name we pray.

When a man who says SORRY, when he is wrong.  He is called honest. When a man says sorry, he is not sure about wrong. He is called wise.  And when a man says sorry even he is right, what do you call him?  Husband.

THE CONTEXT

This controversy section began with Jesus cleansing the temple (21:12-17) and cursing an unfruitful fig tree (21:18-22). The chief priests and elders asked Jesus, “By what authority do you do these things?” (“These things” meaning the cleansing of the temple). Jesus countered by asking, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” When his critics refused to answer him, Jesus refused to answer them. He then responded with three parables of judgment, where Chief Priests and Israelites should know that Jesus is promised messiah, the Only Son of God and going to come to judge.

• The Parable of the Two Sons (21:28-32) this we have seen previous Sunday.

• The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mt21:33-46) referring to Isiah 5:7 Isiah wrote the vineyard song in 700 BC and destruction took place in 500 BC. By Babylonians. In this parable Jesus Himself personally involved. It is about Himself.

• The Parable(s) of the Wedding Banquet (22:1-10) and the Wedding Garments (22:11-14). These are often counted as one parable because of their common setting, but verses 1-10 and verses 11-14 make different points, and may therefore be considered two parables.

MATTHEW 21:33-41. THE PARABLE OF THE TENANT FARMERS

Greek: kurios—Lord

Greek: karpous—fruits

 “Hear another parable” (v. 33a). This is one of only three parables to be found in all three Synoptic Gospels (see also Mark 12:1-13; Luke 20:9-19)—the other two being the Parable of the Sower (13:1-23) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32).

The Parable of the Tenants is an allegory—has a hidden or symbolic meaning:

• The landowner/Lord is God.

• The vineyard is the nation of Israel.

• The tenants are the people of Israel or its religious leaders.

• The servants/slaves are the prophets.

• The son is Jesus.

• The other tenants are gentiles, most likely followers of the Lord all over the world. The church outside Israel.(New Tenants.)

• God established a covenant with Israel (planted a vineyard).

• God sent the prophets (his servants/slaves) whom the tenants (the Israelites) killed (see 1 Kings 19:10, Prophet Elijah says… the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your alters, and put your servants to sword.

The Jews stoned    Habakkuk in Jerusalem.

The Jews stoned Jeremiah in Egypt, because he rebuked them for worshipping idols; and the Egyptians buried him by the side of Pharaoh’s palace.

Zechariah the son of Berachiah, the priest, was from Jerusalem. Joash the king slew this (prophet) between the stepsand the altar, and sprinkled his blood upon the horns of the altar, and the priests buried him. John the Baptist the last prophet was beheaded.

• God sent his Son (Jesus) whom the tenants (the Israelites) killed.

• God put the original tenants to death (pronounced judgment upon Israel). From Matthew’s perspective late in the first century, this means the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Romans, which took place several years prior to the writing of this Gospel.

Jesus himself lament over destruction of Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke 19:41-44 Jesus wept over Jerusalem for enemies encircle Jerusalem and destroy it.

• God leased the vineyard to other tenants (the church) who will “give him the fruit in its season” (v. 41).

“There was a man who was a master of a household, who planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower” (v. 33b). The people to whom Jesus was speaking would recognize the vineyard imagery from Isaiah 5:1-2 where the landowner planted a vineyard, built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine vat. Jesus uses each of these elements in his story:

This landowner must be wealthy. He spends money freely to make this an excellent vineyard.  This landowner, however, does everything right—everything! He spares no expense in making this a first-class vineyard—a vineyard that lends itself to efficient operation—a vineyard that gives the tenants every advantage.

• In Jesus’ story, the outcome is not the destruction of the vineyard but is instead its transfer to “other farmers, who will give him the fruit (karpous—fruits) in its season” (v. 41).

This means that God has done everything possible to give Israel every advantage. He has established an everlasting covenant with them—has led them through good times and bad—has given them the Promised Land as their inheritance—has given them the law and prophets to guide them.

 “When the season for the fruit drew near” (v. 34). The triple emphasis on “fruit” in these verses reflects the importance of the word throughout this Gospel (see also 3:8; 3:10; 7:17-18; 12:33; 13:23 and 21:19). For Matthew, fruit connotes the produce of one’s life. The Jewish leadership, which failed to produce good fruit, is being disenfranchised, and the vineyard is being given to the church, which will produce good fruit.

: The tenants agreed upon giving the produce. They know they supposed to pay lease rent. The Land belongs to the land owner.  Why should they attack the servants?  Don’t you think they are declaring the war?

 “The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first” (v. 35-36). 

Israel’s treatment of God’s prophets. They killed Zechariah by stoning him (2 Chronicles 24:21)—beat Jeremiah and placed him in the stocks (Jeremiah 20:2)—killed the prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26:21-23)—and “killed your (God’s) prophets that testified against them to turn them again to you (God)” (Nehemiah 9:26). (See also Matthew 5:12; 23:29-37).

“But afterward he sent to them his son, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (v. 37). The son, as the father’s heir and official representative, acts with the father’s authority and is entitled to the same respect as these tenants would show the father.

The author of Hebrews expresses the same thought, saying, “God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things”(Hebrews 1:1-2).

“But the farmers, when they saw the son, said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and seize his inheritance’” (v. 38). The tenants, however, see an opportunity to inherit the vineyard by killing the heir. 

Jesus is telling this story to make a point—that he is God’s son sent to redeem the world, and that the Jewish authorities are going to kill him.

 “When therefore the lord (kurios—Lord) of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” (v. 40). The landowner (oikodespotes—master of the house) of verse 33 becomes the Lord (kyrios

“They told him, “He will miserably destroy those miserable men, and will lease out the vineyard to other farmers, who will give him the fruit in its season” (v. 41). In this verse, the chief priests and elders pronounce judgment on themselves as they tell Jesus how unfaithful tenants should be treated. 

Because they did not produce the fruits- the righteousness, holiness, obedience and honor and glory God with the gift of Promise land, gift of life, gift of everything that they have.  They chose the judgement of God.  And God is just judge.

Matthew writes this Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and surely associates this judgment with that event as well as the call of the Gentiles.

However this parable serves as a warning to the new tenants – to all of us.

The Holy Spirit brings about the birth of new churches that, although they might seem unattractive to us, are nevertheless faithful and fruitful. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the old bones. 

MATTHEW 21:42-44. THE HEAD OF THE CORNER

42Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
the same was made the head of the corner.
This was from the Lord.
It is marvelous in our eyes?’

43“Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation bringing forth its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it will fall, it will scatter him as dust.”

“The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner” (v. 42). Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23. The rejected stone—the crucified Christ—will become the cornerstone (Greek: “head of the corner) of God’s new edifice. In a physical building the “head of the corner” could refer to a stone that supports two walls at a corner—or it could refer to the headstone in an arch or it could mean the cornerstone supports the whole building from falling down.

In Isaiah, God uses cornerstone metaphorically to assure Israel of her secure future (Isaiah 28:16).

In Ephesians, the author speaks of “the household of God” (the church) “being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19)

Where do we fit in this story?

We fit in the story as new tenants- new believers in Christ- all Christians. You and I are replacement of tenants.  We are given good news of salvation through precious blood of Christ Jesus.  Therefore God expects from us good produce of our life, our God given talents, God given wealth.  This is not our world.  The life does not belong to us God has given us freely as a gift.   Everything that we have gift from God the Almighty. If we don’t bear fruits of righteousness and honor God the vineyard (the kingdom of God) will be taken away from us and given to others.  The story continues.

What is the fair share of a gift?  How can we complain against God? Can you go against God and live?

What might happen if we fail to produce fruits of obedience and honor God?  God would treat us in the same way he treated Israelites.  We are dealing with God.

Never resist God’s warning, 

Never resist God’s voice/word never to mistake the grace of God.

We can never go away with the sins and unholy life. We cannot have kingdom of God without Jesus Christ death and resurrection.

God is looking for people who will bring forth fruit. What kind of fruit? Holy lives—lives lived in accord with God’s will. God won’t judge us based on the number of sermons we have preached or the number of people we have baptized. He will count us as fruitful if we have been faithful.

Verse 44 warns us that the cornerstone becomes a stumbling stone for the unfaithful. It has been said, “You can’t break God’s laws; you can only break yourself on them.” 

This should serve as a warning for us. The day will come when God will demand an accounting, and the stone, intended to provide us a strong foundation, will crush those have failed to position themselves in proper relationship to it.

Prayer: Father God our life is your vineyard.  This is your kind gift to us.  May we always take the keystone –Jesus Christ seriously and be grateful and faithful to Him for His sacrificial love that saved us.  Amen.