Worship for Sunday, October 4, 2020

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
righteousness,
but heard a cry!

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 80:7-15

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted. Amen.

Philippians 3:4b-14

[Paul writes:] If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 21:33-46

[ Jesus said to the people:] ‘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.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

These are some really and truly strange times that we are all living through right now – aren’t they? Puzzling times . . . stressful times . . . exhausting times . . . frightening times.

It is awfully hard to wrap your mind around just how much our world has changed in such a short time.

People are doing all sorts of interesting things and having all sorts of intriguing responses to this Covid-19 world we are all living in.

Pursuing Will and Jack’s interest in snakes is certainly NOT how I would have thought I might spend a lengthy quarantine – but I am having a BLAST! 15 snakes and counting . . .

Some folks are doing absolutely crazy – downright freakishly bizarre things like cleaning out their garages and their basements and their closets. I have read that donations to places like Good Will are way – way up thanks to all of this cleaning out that folks are doing! Apparently this spring garbage removal companies couldn’t keep up with the increased demand for their services!

Cleaning isn’t for everyone – so other people are exercising more and trying to eat healthier these days. Still other folks have decided that now is the time to start reading more. Apparently – reading is cool again! (Finally something that I love to do is cool!)

Our way of healthy eating = organic gardening

Other people are finding time for hobbies that they hadn’t made time for in the past – like baking sourdough bread – canning and sewing.

Some folks are taking the time to reconnect with friends from their past and more distant family members. Folks are calling and zooming with people they haven’t spoken with in years and sometimes in decades!

It is intriguing to hear about all of the ways we are responding to this strange new world we are all living in.

This is more my speed. We hiked to the river and now I am knitting while watching the clouds and my sons explore.

But one theme that keeps coming up in the conversations that I have been having over the past several months – is that living through a global pandemic has a lot of us pausing to reflect on what is really and truly important to us.

These are times that might just cause a person to stop and do some serious thinking about life and the meaning of life. Or at the very least – perhaps some reevaluation of the way we are living our lives.

We are thinking about what matters the most to us and our loved ones . . .

And reconsidering what our priorities really should be . . .

We are pondering how we want to spend our time . . .

And thinking about what kind of people we want to be in this world . . .

Our William calls this sort of thinking – “Thinking – Big – Thinks.”

Mr. Big Thinks himself pursuing his favorite quarantine activity – snake harassment!

In his letter to the Philippians – Saint Paul is doing just that. Paul is “thinking big thinks” about the meaning and purpose of his life. Paul is thinking deeply about what really and truly matters in this one – brief earthly life we are all blessed to live. Paul is asking himself – “what really and truly matters in this life?” He is asking himself what he wants to focus his life on.

As he does this – Paul reviews his life. Paul assesses what he has accomplished so far. He goes over his rather impressive list of accomplishments. And by the standards of his day – Paul had quite the impressive resume. Paul was already a bit of a rock star long before he became known to us as Saint Paul.

Paul was totally rocking it in the “great man of the faith department.”

But Paul says – he has come to an incredibly important realization! What really and truly matters to him has changed dramatically. Paul wants to be different. It is time for a change. Actually it is time for a seriously – big change in his life!

For years and years of Paul’s life what mattered the most to him was being an awesome Pharisee and an upholder of the Old Testament laws. He was so incredibly devoted to his Jewish faith that he actually worked to destroy the early Christian church and he helped persecute and even kill Christians.

But now – well – now – Paul boldly declares he has changed. Paul says nothing he is or does or will ever do in this life could matter more than knowing Jesus Christ his Lord!!!

Think about that – imagine that!

Imagine making such a bold statement of faith!

Imagine sharing that with the world – with your family – with your friends – with your co-workers – with your neighbors – with your faith community?!? Imagine putting that out there on social media for the whole world to read . . .

Paul boldly declares that Jesus is what matters the most to him now. That his priorities have shifted and changed. Now his focus will be on Christ Jesus his Lord from this day forevermore!

What matters to you?

What do you choose to center your life around?

What gives your life purpose and meaning?

What goal are you straining toward in this life and beyond?

Is your goal Christ Jesus your Lord? Is it really? Really? (I ask myself this – all of the time?!?!)

There are so many things in this life. So many interesting pursuits. So many ways to spend our days. But like Paul – I believe that true joy and true happiness and true meaning in this life are found when we make our goal Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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