Because There Is Jesus, Part 2:
The Sweetness of God’s Love
October 2, 2011
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Today our first Bible reading is from Exodus, it is the Ten Commandments. This passage reminds me of a story that made me smile. A Sunday School teacher was talking to his class.
One of the students in the class said, “I decided to tweet messages from the Bible.”
The teacher said, “That is very interesting. When you tweet it means you will refine it down to just a couple of words, isn’t that right?”
“Yes, that’s right”, the student said.
“Wow, that’s going to be a hard task, what are you thinking of doing?” The teacher asked.
“I will tweet the Ten Commandments,” answered the student.
“That is going to be a very difficult task!” the teacher exclaimed.
The student said, “I can tweet the ten commandments in one word.”
The teacher asked doubtfully, “What is the word?”
The student answered, “Don’t.” (congregation laughs)
Today is Part 2 of our sermon
series, "Because There Is Jesus".
Jesus makes all the difference!
Because there is Jesus, this world is a better place - redeemed, strengthened, enlightened, and blessed!
Last week we talked about the fact that because there is Jesus, there is light instead of darkness. Because there is Jesus, there is light in our lives to lead us and guide us.
Because there is Jesus, we need not fear the dark - because there is Jesus, there is light, and the darkness cannot overcome His light.
Let's explore another wonderful thing about Jesus.
This week we are talking about the idea that because there is Jesus, we can know the sweetness of God’s love. We have powerful readings from the Bible today that I would like to closely examine with you.
The Gospel today is a difficult, thorny, but very important passage for us to study. It is clear from the tone of the story that His challengers were trying to put Jesus up against the wall. In His audience were Scribes and Pharisees whom He had upset at some point. He was in a state of great frustration as heard in this story.
Jesus said: "There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a winepress and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country."
Those listening to this parable knew that "the landowner" stood for God. In this parable Jesus is telling us several important things about His heavenly Father.
• The first thing is that God works in partnership with people. God doesn’t do it all Himself; and God doesn’t leave us alone. He works in partnership with people.
• Further, He gives us things to work with. God supplies. He planted the vineyard, He gave us the earth. He gives us material to work with!
Isn't that an interesting thought? Even our talents, and the ideas that spring up in our minds - they come from somewhere. God supplies. We are not acting alone.
The passage says that He put a fence around it. What kind of fence did he use? It was made from thorn bushes, they grew into very gnarly thorns. These thorns kept out the wild boars and other animals that liked to eat grapes. (a translation for the people of Belle Mead: "to keep the deer out". congregation laughs.) He also dug a winepress. The winepress was set up so that the grapes were poured into the top, a stone went round and the juice came out through the bottom. The dugout press helped the juice to flow through.
• The landowner trusted the stewards. This means that God doesn’t micromanage; He gives us a lot of freedom. Next in the parable, the Lord sent servants to gather the produce. This was standard operating procedure. The people who worked the land, gave part of what was earned back to the owner. This was understood as being the righteous way to do things. In the parable, the servants were beat up, because there was no fruit for them to gather. Then another group was sent to gather and they were also beat up and sent away. What does this tell us about God?
• God has patience. He gave the tenants another chance.
Aren't you glad God has patience? I sure appreciate God’s patience. I need all the patience that people can give me. I appreciate the opportunities for a second chance. God wants partnership and God has patience. God has so much patience that in the parable it says that the master sent his own son saying surely they will respect my son. Jesus was pointing to Himself, He was claiming to be the Messiah. Jesus was saying, “Yes, I am God’s son.” But the people would throw Him out and cause His death. Jesus was in touch with what was to come.
Here's an interesting detail - Jesus gives us His signature piece. Instead of spelling out what the master would do to the unfaithful stewards at that point, He said, “What do you think the master will do?” Friends, when you see a question by Jesus, it is like His signature. Questions were the way that Jesus characteristically taught people.
Jesus teaches us that God wants partnership with us. God trusts us. God is very patient. Most importantly, Jesus says that God has a purpose for us. This is the point that we want to shine the spotlight on. What is the purpose? The purpose is fruit. In the parable, the master of the vineyard sent his servants to look for fruit! That is the point of the parable! Jesus wants us to become fruit producing Christians. He wants us to bear the fruit of the kingdom that He did not find in the religion of His day.
What did He find in the religion of His day? He found fussing and fighting. But that is not what God wants; God wants fruit! The fruit that God wants is the demonstration of His love. That is the good, sweet fruit! Every time we demonstrate this fruit of God’s love, every time we make it real, we are His faithful servants.
Every time you see a cluster of grapes, please let it remind you of the fruit of the spirit, the demonstration of God’s love.
Want some grapes? (Pastor hands the congregation bowls of ripe, cold, freshly washed grapes to share.)
In ancient Israel, grapes are the symbol of joy and happiness. Grapes come to ripeness at the driest time of the year. All through the dry summer people are hot and thirsty - and then all of a sudden the sweet grapes are in abundance! That is what we are asked to do for the world. To a world starving for love and forgiveness, Jesus is asking us to be demonstrators of God’s love. When we do this, we are fruitful stewards.
• When you come to worship you are demonstrating God’s love.
• When we share the gifts on the altar of the Lord, we are demonstrating God’s love.
• When you participate in the Crop Walk, you are demonstrating God’s love.
• When you bring canned food to be shared with others, you are demonstrating God’s love.
• When you sing God’s praise, you are demonstrating God’s love and being a bearer of good fruit. This is what the Lord is asking, this is what He requires of us - to produce the evidence of His sweet fruit.
This is what it means to be "part of the vine!" This is what it means to be a faithful servant.
Jesus taught us what God's love is like. The Lord is not a cruel, exacting judge, but like the owner of a great vineyard which He has given us to tend.
Let us tend it in such a way that it will overflow with beautiful, ripe fruit.
When we are bearers of good fruit for the Lord, we can hear the Master’s voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your Master’s joy.”
God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski