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Thieves in the Vineyard, Oct 8, 2023

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Isaiah 5.1-7, Matt 21.33-46

Pentecost 17A

Theme: Justice

Producing good and succulent grapes is not an easy task. Good vines are highly desired and jealously guarded. There are few vineyards which have the best of vines. Not only that but the best locations and soils are also rare.

But planting the vines in the proper locations is only the beginning. Each vine must be watched carefully. When a vine begins to produce grapes, each branch must be evaluated. If a branch produces good sweet and juicy grape bunches, they are allowed to grow and continue to produce fruit from season to season. However, branches which produce substandard fruit must be quickly pruned. The pruned branches must be burned.

Even branches which have produced well in the past must be evaluated every season as they will sometimes become corrupted and begin to produce substandard fruit. When this happens, that branch must be pruned.

Occasionally, an entire vine fails to produce well and those must be removed, roots and all, and burned. They cannot be allowed to cross pollinate the rest of the vineyard. The results of this cross pollination could corrupt all the plants. When something like that occurs, the entire vineyard must be destroyed as to not ruin other vineyards.

Wine production was often used by the Israelites to demonstrate the way their society must be governed. Jesus used caring for the vine plant as an analogy of the way the Kingdom of God is supervised. Jesus was once quoted as saying, ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” (John 15:1-4)

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus finds himself among some of the rulers of Jerusalem. He tells a parable of a King who leaves his country leaving his caretakers in charge of his vineyard. They were unfaithful and negligent in their duties failing to properly care for the vines. The king would occasionally send servants to examine his estate. Each time, the caretakers fearing an unfavorable report to their King killed his emissary. Failing to hear any reports he finally sent his son to see what was going on.

The son was also killed.

When the Jerusalem rulers heard this, they recognized the story as similar to one in the prophet Isaiah’s teachings. They recognized that Jesus was comparing them to the corrupt leaders of Isaiah’s time.

They then left Jesus alone.

Join us in one of our services at First Christian Church, Warrensburg, Missouri as we contemplate the challenge Jesus made to the rulers of his day, and the implications to our own times.


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