Sunday, January 31, 2016

I'm Talking About Fruit

• Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Matthew 21:33-46
with Nehemiah 8:1-10  @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• This parable makes me ask questions. One beauty of a parable is how you are drawn in, you don’t just file it away, but you interact with it, you ponder its flavors. I invited the congregation to discuss the answers with people seated near them.
What is the rental agreement?
Did tenant farmers violate rental agreement?
How might this situation apply to you…
(think of the door to a teenager’s room… “private territory”…
but what exactly is ‘ownership’ when you’re a minor?)

à God is owner, creator, original farmer…
God entrusts people but we do not become lord
People remain stewards. Servants. Renters. Workers.
We are not the owners.

What do we know about the tenants? (not much, and nothing good. Violent greedy schemers. Murderous.)
What do we know about the owner?
(worker, farmer, traveler. NOT MURDEROUS. WANTS FRUIT)
• By the way, have you heard a similar scenario, of a landowner planting a vineyard?
It’s in Isaiah 5. Familiar to Jesus’ hearers. What happened then?
(I will take away its hedge and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland… I will command the clouds not to rain on it… The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel…)
What happens in Jesus’ parable? Not destruction of the house but the invitation to new workers. Because why? Because God wants FRUIT
Why did God create at all? For fruit. For relationship. To bring God joy.

What for fruit does God want?
• James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
• Back to Matthew, verse 43: the kingdom will be given to a people who produce its fruit.
Consider the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23: love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control. THESE are the things God wants people to produce in the world. & equips people to do, if we will acknowledge that God is God and we are not…

• I started out saying this parable makes me ask questions,
and I leave you with these questions:
- Where in this parable do you see yourself?
an earlier tenant? A future tenant?
- Are you putting yourself in a position to produce fruit?
or are you hoping somehow to be found faithful?
• Hymn 385 Let Us Plead For Faith Alone

Matthew 21:33-46
33 “Listen to another parable,” [Jesus said to the chief priests and Pharisees.]
“There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 34 When it was time for harvest, he sent his servants to the tenant farmers to collect his fruit. 35 But the tenant farmers grabbed his servants. They beat some of them, and some of them they killed. Some of them they stoned to death.
36 “Again the landowner sent other servants, more than the first group. They treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come on, let’s kill him and we’ll have his inheritance.’ 39 They grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40 “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenant farmers?” [Jesus asked the chief priests and Pharisees].
41 They replied, “He will totally destroy those wicked farmers and rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give him the fruit when it’s ready.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the scriptures, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes? [Psalm 118:22-23] 43 Therefore, I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruit. 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be crushed. And the stone will crush the person it falls on.”

45 Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard the parable, they knew Jesus was talking about them. 46 They were trying to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, who thought he was a prophet.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Following the Leader

First Sunday after the Epiphany
Baptism of the Lord Sunday
with Matthew 3:1-17    @FirstUMCBville     @kerrfunk  

• We’ve spent most of the last 2 yrs in the gospel of Matthew,
pretty much started around this point in 2014.
Interesting to re-examine first adult appearance of Jesus.
Also if it seems a long time, consider it was three years from baptism to crucifixion…
• Look at John the Baptist’s appeal, a warning to legalists:
action is worthless without spirit. Lukewarm water to be spit out.
Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives!”
So with faith practice today: disciples produce…

• JtB speaks of the one who is to come, God’s holy one.
Warning! to non-producers.
Paints a fearful picture of the Christ. Baptize with fire.
Shovel, sift, thresh… don’t mess with this one!
• And the very next scene Jesus comes to be baptized.
Why? Repentance? Changed heart? Changed life?
John resists. Jesus’ answer is muted in Common English
(This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness).
NRSV: “it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness”
This is how it is to be done: you and me together.
• Whoever would be my disciple, this is where it starts.
Yes, repentance, yes, produce fruit.
And come through the door that I go through.
We go together. Both  follow me and hand in hand.
• And when Jesus receives baptism there is immediate divine affirmation in the descent of a dove – a living sign of peace (contrast with the shovel, sift, thresh, fire image) and voice of God
• God speaks “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” And the original hearers of Matthew would say Where did I hear that before? Isaiah 42:1: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.
Jesus’ adult life begins with divine affirmation from Isaiah 42… nine chapters later Matthew presents the longest quotation from the OT in the gospel, the next three verses from Isa 42, reaffirming the identity of Jesus as the chosen servant of God, filled with the Spirit, infused with gentleness and with good news, hope for a hurt people.
• In season of campaigns it’d be nice to have a dove descend, and a voice proclaim This is the one. Heck, it’d be nice to have a candidate with the humility of JtB!
However. Partner with Jesus. Live graciously. Do what you can with what you have where you are to produce attractive fruit for kingdom. Get in line.

• Prayer at BOTL 253, Hymn 117 O God Our Help in Ages Past

Matthew 3:1-12        (Common English Bible)                              1/10/16
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing,
“Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”
He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
        “Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.[Isaiah 40:3]
John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist.
He ate locusts and wild honey.
People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him.
As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father.
I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn.
But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”
13 At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him.
14 John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”
15 Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”

So John agreed to baptize Jesus. 16 When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him. 17 A voice from heaven said,
“This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”