Sermon: October 5, 2008

20 10 2008

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 watchtower. 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.



                                                            Matthew 21:33–46




                  You know, I remember when I first arrived here at Zion almost 20 years ago, one of the first things that I had to adjust to was the church going computer.  Before that we just had typewriters.  I was comfortable with a typewriter.  I knew where the paper went.  I knew how to make it work.  I knew how to make corrections.  Life was good.  Life was simple.  And then someone got the idea that things would be so much better if only we all had computers.  Well, I got to tell you at the beginning I thought that that was a great idea.  I love getting new things.  I love gadgets.  I am a typical “guy.”  It is like they always say – “The only difference between a man and a boy is the cost of the toy.”  I love toys.  I loved the idea of getting a computer.  But then I had to attend classes.  I had to learn how to make the computer work.  I can still remember how Martha Bollinger set up training time for us at Rubbermaid.  On a Saturday morning I and the entire staff had to go up to the Rubbermaid Offices.  We were greeted at the door, by the way, by Stan Gault.  That was the first time that I met him.  We were then ushered down to a room filled with funny looking key pads and TV’s which I later learned were actually called monitors.  And there I sat with the rest of the staff of Zion trying to learn computer.  How to make the page appear.  How to capitalize.  How to indent.  How to save.  How to delete.  There was so much to remember.   I was overwhelmed by all the stuff that they were throwing at us.  And when I walked out of the building that day, I was convinced that I was going back to my IBM Typewriter.  The rest of the staff could go computer.  Me.  I was sticking with the old way – the things I knew.

                  Change is never easy.  And the older that I get the harder it is for me to change.  I like things the way they are.  I want things to stay the same.  That’s what this lesson is all about.  The Pharisees that Jesus was talking to didn’t want to change.  They wanted things to stay the same.  They were comfortable in their roles at the temple – what they knew – what they did.  Jesus came in and basically told them that everything was going to change.  Everything was going to be different.  God was changing everything.  God was making everything new.  They resisted it.  They fought against it.  They eventually had the change agent arrested and killed.  They wanted everything to stay the way it was, and they thought that once they got rid of Jesus then everything would stay the same.  Problem solved.

                  Well, you know we are all like that.  I don’t like change.  But, you know, several months ago I lead the Church Council in a book study.  By the way, it is the same book study that I am now doing on Sunday Morning at 10am in the Chapel – The Present Future.  The book tells us some sobering facts.  Today only about 26% of the people in America go to church.  That means that on an average Sunday 74% of the people in this country are sitting home.  It also tells us that younger people have stopped coming.  People who were born before 1946 – 65% of them come to church.  But for those who were born between 1946 and 1964, it drops to 35%; for those who were born between 1965 and 1976, it drops to 15%; and for those between 1976 and 1994, it drops to 4%.  And yet surveys are showing that people are more spiritual than ever before.  People are more interested in spiritual truths than ever before.  People are seeking God as never before.  So what is that telling us?  It is telling us, I think, that we have to find new ways to tell the old, old story.  Because the old ones aren’t working.  We have to find new ways to reach people with the Good News of Jesus.  You see, I think that what the church has – what we have is pretty wonderful.  The story of God’s love as it is found in Jesus Christ.  That is something pretty wonderful.  It is the one thing that gives us hope in this world that at times seems to have gone completely mad.  The economic mess that we are in which is threatening the life savings of millions of Americans – causing seniors to worry about the future – but also making many Americans wonder if they will have jobs tomorrow – will their companies even exist tomorrow.  Will they have homes?  Is the American dream dead?

                  Every time we turn around there seems to be more and more threats to world peace.  Crazy dictators and terrorists getting their hands on the bomb.  New places where we see genocide and war.

                  And in the midst of this it seems to me that there is only one thing that  brings any kind of sanity to this insane world and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is the Good News of God’s love for us and for all who live in this world.  And yet I see less and less people coming to hear this Good News in spite of the fact that they are out there searching for answers.  So we have got to go to them.  We have got to find new ways.  We, as a church need to find new ways to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is the only hope for this world.  And yet I got to tell you there are times when I feel completely lost.  When I just don’t have a clue as to what to do.  But I know that we have to keep trying.  We have got to keep struggling with these questions.  We have got to keep looking for answers.  We have got to be willing to change.  We have got to turn to our Lord as never before for answers.  Together we need to find the way.  Together.  You.  Me.  And Him.  What we have is so precious.  So wonderful.  It is the hope of the world.  Together we need to pray for God to show us the way.  But then we have got to walk the walk.  He is the cornerstone.  He is the Rock.  He is our Hope for all of our tomorrows.  Not only for us.  But for all our children.






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