Year A Proper 22 Matthew 21 2011
Rebellion in the Vineyard
Matthew 21:33-46

A friend of journalist David Halberstam was planning a visit to Japan. It would be his first visit, and he was a little anxious because he couldn't speak Japanese. How would he communicate with the people he came in contact with?

Since most taxi drivers do not speak English, someone suggested that it might be a good idea to carry with him something bearing the name of the hotel at which he would be staying written in Japanese. That was exactly what he did. As soon as he arrived in Japan he picked up a box of matches bearing the name and address of his hotel. Then he went sight-seeing.

Afterwards he got into a taxi and did as the friend suggested, he took the box of matches out of his pocket to show the driver where he wanted to go. There were a few awkward moments before the driver understood. Finally his face lit up. Quickly they sped away. Half an hour later, the taxi came to a screeching halt. The driver turned and beamed at his passenger, pointing out the window. There was only one problem. They had stopped, not in front of a hotel, but a match factory!

Have you ever had an experience like that? Someone will say something and for whatever reason you do not understand. It's as if they were speaking a foreign language. You want to go back to the hotel and instead find yourself in front of a match factory.

There were times when Jesus tried to communicate profound truths to those around him and they acted as if he were from Mars. He would say something and he could watch their eyes glaze over. Particularly he had difficulty getting through to the religious officials of his day. They wanted nothing to do with him or his teachings. They condemned him without even listening to him. They were so sure of themselves and their standing in the community that they were impervious to everything he did or said.

What would you do in that situation? You are trying to communicate something important, but they just don't get it. You're not getting through. That was the situation Jesus found himself in. So he did what he often did, he told a story. He told a story of rebellion that communicates some key information about our role in His kingdom.

We are to remember that, though it is His kingdom, we have a responsibility. Because…

  1. There Is Rebellion in the Vineyard.
  2. We Are the Tenants.
  3. And He Calls Us to Good Stewardship.

The Bridge Over Every Troubled Waters
Philippians 3:4b-14

In every cliffhanger action movie, at some point in the chase scene an enormous chasm suddenly appears before the hero as he flees the bad guys. The only way across is an incredibly narrow, rickety, mostly-rotten bridge. The way forward looks terrible. But the way back is certain death. So, of course, our hero bravely steps or drives forward and steels himself to cross the abyss on the frail and shaky bridge.

"Cliffhangers" being appropriately named, the results are pretty predictable. Although the hero always manages to make it, the bridge itself collapses or is cut down by the bad guys, and the way across is lost for all time.

There is a reason bridges strike such fear into us at the thought of crossing over on them.

I have no problem driving a car across a bridge going 50-60-70 mph. Have you ever had a problem? When I'm going across I know there are huge drop-offs on either side of the bridge, but I never once have hugged the guard-rails or bumped into an iron barrier one on the way across. I'm never tempted to get close to the edge, and when a car edges me to the side, I negotiate the side of the bridge as if there were no safety rails.

But take away the scaffolding --- take away the guard rails, the concrete and steel side girders, the bumper-barricades on the bridge — and I'm now a different driver. I'm crawling across that bridge 5 or 10 mph at best. Without any protection to keep my car from driving right off the bridge, I'm not sure I could even make it 100 yards across any bridge.

We all need guard rails and barriers. They help us get across the chasms and abysms of life. But the guard rails and barriers work best when they aren't noticed, or celebrated, or even acknowledged. If they're there, you don't need them. If they're not there, you and I can't move, frozen in fear, or we risk going off the deep end.

Paul wrote his week's words to the Philippian Christians to warn them that they were worshiping the guardrails and safety guards rather than the bridge that was carrying them across... presents Leonard Sweet