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Telling our stories

Todays reading from Exodus 20, is known as the Decalogue, of course Dec = Ten and Logue is to tell – the telling of the 10 commandments

Exodus 20: 1-4 reminds us that; The Lord, is our God. He brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt away from slavery and that we shall have no other gods, carved images or likeness.

Exodus 20: 7-9 tells us not to take the Lord God’s name in vain, to remember the Sabbath day, and to labor for six days to do all our work.

Exodus 20: 12 -20 tells us rules that are either acceptable or not acceptable behaviour, and many are written within our laws today;

 

12   to honor our parents,

13   not to murder,

14   not to commit adultery,

15   not to steal,

16   not to give false testimony against your neighbor,

17   not to covet your neighbor’s house, or wife, or male servant, nor female servant, or

       his ox, donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor

18   the people saw thunder & lightening and heard the sound of the horn, the mountain was

        smoking and the people were trembling with fear … and rightly they kept their distance!

19   the people told Moses, you speak to us and we will listen but don’t let God speak with us..

        We might die!

20   Moses told the people not to fear, God has come to test you, that the fear of him before you

       would be such, that you do not sin

 

As time progressed of course, the people grumbled and complained and didn’t remember not to steal, covet or kill.  In our reading from Matthew we hear of all those things happening.  Of course it is a parable, so there is more meaning to the story than just telling a good yarn!

The Parable of the Vineyard actually appears in three of the gospels Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19 with Matthew’s account being the most complete.

To get the context of what is happening, we need to look back to Matthew 21:23.  Early in the morning, Jesus goes to the temple courts to teach. While He is teaching, the chief priest and elders confront Him, wanting to know by what authority He is teaching.

Basically what Jesus told them is that John the Baptist and He received their authority from the same source.  Obviously, this exchange causes the leaders to become angry and puts them in opposition to Jesus.

Jesus then further frustrates the priests by telling two parables: the first one is the Parable of the Two Sons, and the second is the Parable of the Vineyard, known also as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

The first parable Jesus teaches tells the priests that they have claimed to accept the message from God but they have failed to live up to it by not being obedient. Outwardly, they are pious and appear to be people of God, but God knows their hearts, and there they have failed miserably.

The next parable (the Parable of the Vineyard) is like pouring salt on a wound. Just in case they didn’t fully understand (which they did), Jesus gives a much clearer picture of what He means. Obviously, this further infuriates the priests, but it also gives the others who were present an opportunity to hear Jesus fully explain the implications of the disobedience of the Jewish people throughout the ages.

There are 6 main characters in this parable:

1) the landowner—God,

2) the vineyard—Israel,

3) the tenants/farmers—the Jewish religious leadership,

4) the landowner’s servants—the prophets who remained obedient and preached God’s word to the people of Israel,

5) the son—Jesus, and

6) the other tenants—the Gentiles.

The farmer was away at the time of harvest and had rented the vineyard to the tenants as was customary of the times, and he could expect as much as half of the grapes as payment by the tenants for use of his land.  The landowner sent his servants to collect his portion of the harvest, and they were rejected by the tenants; some were beaten, stoned, and even killed. Then he sent even more the second time and they received the same treatment.

The servants sent represent the prophets that God had sent to His people/Israel and then were rejected and killed by the very people who were claiming to be of God and obedient to Him. Jeremiah was beaten, John the Baptist was killed and others were stoned.

In this parable Jesus is not only reminding the religious establishment what they were like, but He was putting in their minds a question: how could they claim obedience as God’s people and still reject His messengers?

The theme is God’s repeated appeal through His prophets to an unrepentant people. In next verses (37-39), the situation becomes even more critical. The landowner sends his own son, believing that they will surely respect him. But the tenants see an opportunity here; they believe that if they kill the son they will then receive his inheritance as law at the time provided that if there were no heirs then the property would pass to those in possession (possession is nine tenths of the law).

This amounts to conspiracy to commit murder by the Jewish leadership, and it is prophetic in the sense that Jesus is now telling them what they are going to do to Him.

Jesus now (vs.40-41) asks the question, what will the owner do to the evil tenants?  Jesus leaves open the question of what Israel’s leadership is going to do with the Messiah, the Son of God, whom He refers to as the “chief cornerstone” (vs 42).

Cornerstones and capstones are used symbolically in Scripture and picture Christ as the main piece of the foundation of the church and the head of the church, respectively.

Jesus is the beginning of and is foundational to the church. This verse makes clear prophetically how Jesus will be rejected by the religious establishment and ultimately be crucified.

The key to understanding this parable and what it says about the religious leaders is found in verse 43, where Jesus makes their lack of obedience personal. Jesus tells the leaders that because of their disobedience they will be left out of the kingdom of heaven (individually and as a people); that they have let their opportunity for the time being, slip away to be given to the Gentiles (see verse 41, “other tenants”).

This will be more than they can tolerate, as we will see in verses 45 and 46. He is saying that there will be a new people of God made up of all peoples who will temporarily replace the Jews so that Jesus can establish His church.

This will change the way God deals with man, from the old dispensation of the law to a new dispensation of God’s grace. It will usher in a period of time where man will no longer understand forgiveness of sins as man’s work through what he does or doesn’t do or by the sacrifices of animals on the altar, but by the work of Christ on the cross.

It will be a time where each individual can have a personal and saving relationship with the One and only God of the universe. The exciting part of the verse is the phrase “who will produce fruit”; this gives authority to the church to share the gospel of Christ to the lost of the world.

Up to this time, the Jews felt that they had automatic membership in God’s kingdom because of their relationship to Abraham; this is why they put so much emphasis on genealogies.

But the new people of God would truly have what God wanted for Israel all along: a personal and holy relationship that would be honored through the spreading of God’s word to all peoples (see Exodus 19:5-6).

The Tenants of the Vineyard failed miserably in their stewardship. A question for us is what are we doing in the stewardship of our own relationships with God, with our congregation, our Presbytery and our Church?

Last weekend discussions were held re our Church stewardship in Sydney at Synod for NSW/ACT. Ministers and lay members from across each presbytery met for 4 days.  The theme for Synod 2017 was Telling our story.

It began on Friday evening with the service for the Installation of the Rev. Simon Hansford as Moderator for the next 3 years. There was indeed a telling of stories of what has been happening across NSW/ACT.  There was the story of the stewardship of the outgoing Moderator; Rev. Myung Hwa Park, what an amazing, humble woman.  There were reports, holding up voting cards, prayers, discernment groups and we also saw the installation of the Rev Jane Fry as General Secretary. 

I feel that we do have good, strong but humble Christian leaders holding stewardship at Synod & Presbytery but we must personally take on being good tenants of our own faith and lives in Telling our own Stories.

Let us Pray

 

Gracious God, our Holy Friend, remind us each morning that we are trustees of everything we have. Remind us each evening of the love that can both bless the day’s achievements and forgive the misuse of your gifts. In success or failure, may we honour you by the cheerful way we accept your discipline and praise you by the loving way we trust your commandments. Through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen

Delia Quigley

Delia is an elder at TUC and a leader at the monthly Rainbow Christian Alliance. Delia is also a leader in the Kairos Outside ministry and in the Emmaus Walks.

Delia is a retired Federal Police officer and has served in several peacekeeping operations. Delia is a member of Presbytery Standing Committee.

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Wanniassa ACT 2903

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Erindale Centre ACT 2903 

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering and ministry.

We aim to help people have life to the full. We welcome people into a our Christian community where they can connect with God, with one another and with opportunities to make a difference in our changing world.

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