How Are We Faithful?
By Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching text: Matthew 21:33-46
We must remember where, when, and to whom the words Jesus spoke in this week’s scripture lesson were spoken. The time frame is Tuesday during what many Christians call Holy Week, the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. So far this week, Jesus has made his ceremonial entry into Jerusalem; he has angrily cleared the Temple area in which the foreigners typically pray of the money changers and animal dealers. And now he has been teaching in the Temple for all to hear him. He has taught the importance of forgiveness, debated his authority, and told the parable about two sons (one who did the work asked of him and one who did not).
And now we come to the parable of the vineyard owner who hires workers to take care of his expertly constructed vineyard as he will be out of the country. The workers seek to gain complete control of the vineyard and take it for themselves. And so, when the owner sends messengers to collect what is rightly his, they are beaten and killed. The owner does this again with the same result. Finally, the owner sends his son, thinking they will give him what is due. But the son is killed as well. Finally, the owner himself returns, kicks these workers out, and gives the land to other who will care for it.
There is little doubt as to what the message is here. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not care for the vineyard and were taking what rightly belonged to God, the hearts of God’s people. This message is so direct that we can oftentimes leave it at that. Over the years, many people have used this text to stir up antisemitic sentiment. But Jesus was not condemning Judaism; he was condemning its leaders at the time. And to leave this as a message delivered only to those who held leadership offices in Jesus’ day is to miss the meaning for us today completely. Perhaps Jesus is speaking this word to us here and now. How are we being faithful in our time and place? How are we being faithful with the life God has given us? How are we being faithful with the time that we have? How are we being faithful with our financial resources or talents with which we have been blessed?
These are the crucial questions we must ask ourselves today. Jesus calls us to orient our lives outward to the needs of others, rather than inward to ourselves. Too often, we make this a “Me and Jesus” transaction. We fool ourselves into believing that my faith is for the benefit of my salvation and my place in the glories of heaven. But that is not what Jesus lived for! Throughout his life, Jesus kept his heart focused on others, and so should we.
How are we faithful…
- To those who sit next to you this morning in worship?
- To those who live down the street?
- To those with whom you work or see at school?
- To those who live on the other side of the tracks?
- To those who live on the other side of the world?
- To those who are hungry, thirsty, and in need of shelter?
- To those who are sick or in prison?
- To those who need a word of grace?
- To those who need to hear a word of forgiveness?
- To those who need encouragement?
Sounds like mission to me!