An act of worship at home
4th October 2020
Reading Matthew 21 vv 33-46
‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
In this story told by Jesus the owner of the vineyard is God who sent the first the prophets, then his own son to collect the harvest. It’s a story which offers a picture of God as deeply interested and concerned with us all, but who doesn’t interfere. A God who has put us in charge of the vineyard, but won’t take away that authority even to prevent war and violence and suffering.
God allows the weeds to grow up with the corn, simply sending his messengers again and again and again to offer countless opportunities for us to change the way things are. Our God is a God of grace. A God who showers his love on all. A God who welcomes every human being, but who refuses to force anyone into accepting his gifts.
And so he continues to send individuals to reveal his love and to suggest ways in which we can experience that love more. But he simply places the facts before us, making no attempt to persuade us into turning towards him. He has given us free will, and no matter what we do God refuses to interfere with that free will. But, we’re told, God will collect his harvest.
None of us know when the harvest time is for God but he will come, because the owner of the vineyard loves us and wants the harvest.
What is our part in all this? We are the tenant farmers. We are the ones to whom the owner of the vineyard will look when he comes to collect his harvest. So it’s up to us to show our world that there’s a better way than violence and the worship of money and the abuse of the world.
It’s up to us to find a way of telling our world about God’s love so that the world can actually hear what we say. And it’s up to us to deepen our own relationship with God so that we can’t help but display the fruits of his spirit in our own lives.
And when the owner of the vineyard comes how good it will be to hear him say, “Well done, you good and faithful servants.” Amen.
Creator God, we pray that we may bear your fruit; the fruit of justice, compassion and peace that will make this world your kingdom.
We pray for the world, for those places where there is violence, between nations, between communities, and between individuals.
Saviour God, we pray that we may bear your fruit; the fruit of life made new in you: the fruit of self-giving and unconditional love that bears witness to your message of salvation.
We pray for those finding life hard, for those without enough food to live, for those without enough confidence to live, for those without enough love in their life.
Indwelling God, we pray that we may bear your fruit; the fruit of your life in us: the fruit of unity, faith and joy that suffuses our life together.
We pray for the church, for this part of the family of your church, and we bring to mind all those other members of the One Church who are worshipping you at this moment, all our sister churches in the Circuit and throughout the world.
Christ is the true Vine. We are the branches. Source of all life, keep us growing in you that we may bear fruit to Christ’s glory.
Now thank we all our God,
with hearts and hands and voices;
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mother’s arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven,
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be ever more.
Go into this week, blessed by the liberating grace of God, filled with the selfless love of Jesus Christ, inspired by the limitless power of the Holy Spirit. Go and may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you this day and forever more. Amen.