Building a Church Without Walls

The Holy Gospel: Matthew 21: 33-46
Sermon, Preached at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church:
Sunday, October 8, 2017

Audio for Sermon: Listen Here

The parable we hear this morning is the parable that follows immediately after the one we heard last week in Matthew’s Gospel. This morning, Jesus is still sitting in the temple in Jerusalem teaching without the authority to do so. So, today is something of a part two.

Last week, in part one, we talked about how Jesus is sitting in the temple demonstrating to the chief priests and elders that his power and authority comes from God and God alone.

We talked about how we, as the created of our Creator, have that power and authority within us, woven into our existence. We talked about how that power comes from the basic fact that we were created by God, that our authority lies in that signature that God has inscribed on all of our hearts.

We also talked about how the world around us is trying to tell us otherwise. Society seeks to tell us the story that there are authorities and powers that define us. These human powers and authorities seek to tell us whether or not we are worthy, they attempt to define our value as they seek power. They seek to own these definitions of power, of who is in and who is out.

We see Jesus teaching in the temple, without the permission or authority to do so, because Jesus is doing more than teaching in parables and loving the marginalized. He’s demonstrating that God alone is our source of power, that all of creation belongs to God….That we are already precious, already perfect, already powerful.

And so, this morning, we receive a second parable from Jesus, and it’s a tough one. In fact this second parable is one of the last straws for the chief priests and elders in that temple in Jerusalem.

This scene in the temple, with Jesus teaching these parables, is what set in motion the events that led to Jesus being crucified on the cross. This scene is the last scene before the Passion narrative begins, just before the last supper takes place.  

Jesus knew what he was doing, saw that cross in his immediate future and he didn’t let off the gas at all. Instead he gave more parables, each one critiquing and criticizing the way the chief priests and elders, the institution, was seeking power and control over the faith.

In this second parable from this morning’s Gospel we hear Jesus tell the story of a property owner who had planted a vineyard and prepared the vineyard with all that was needed to tend to it.

The landowner then leased the land out to tenant farmers, and left. When it was vintage time, time for the harvest, to make the wine from the fruits grown on the land, the landowner sent more farmers to help those tenant farmers. But those original tenant farmers beat, even killed, the new farmers who had come to help. Then the landowner sent more help, and those helpers were also beaten and killed.

Then the landowner sent his son, his heir, thinking that surely these tenant farmers would respect his heir… … but no. They, instead, killed that son. The tenant farmers did not want to share, they, and they alone, wanted to own the land and its fruits.

At this point, Jesus looks into the eyes of the Chief priests and elders in the temple and says, “That’s why I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to people who will bear its fruit.”

Jesus has just unloaded another blow on the institution, the powers that be, the chief priests and elders. Having just demonstrated his authority comes from no institution but from God, Jesus then tells the institution they have the wrong idea about how to keep the faith.

He is telling them, in a very direct way, that they have it all wrong. Instead of welcoming, loving and opening their faith to others they have bound it up with rules, regulations and authority figures.

Instead of sharing the wealth, the fruits, they have kept it for themselves. And this, Jesus warns, will crush them. Their desire to have power and control, to regulate and institutionalize the faith, will crush them.

Instead, Jesus says, that which they reject, those whom they cast aside, the marginalized, they will be the building blocks, the foundation on which God will build the Kingdom.

This parable in this scene in Matthew is about stewardship. Jesus is trying to show the difference between true stewardship, and poor stewardship. Jesus is trying to show what it means to have faith in God and how it is that we ought to be stewards of that faith.

A good steward, a true steward, is one who takes care of something that was entrusted to them. A true steward does not seek to possess that which has been entrusted to them, does not seek to own, does not put a fence around that which has been entrusted to them.

A true steward does not beat and kill those who seek to help or take part, does not take up arms in fear of outsiders, does not seek to enact violence on those who come to partake in the beauty of that which has been entrusted.

A true steward shares, collaborates and opens themselves up to others who might have the ability to help care for that which has been entrusted.

A true steward knows that they can not do this alone, instead they get help and work with others knowing that creativity in caring and tending comes with numbers, not with power, authority or possession. A true steward invites everyone and anyone to come and be a part of the beauty and the wonder of that which has been entrusted.

We have been entrusted with something precious. That signature on our hearts is the written permission given by our God to love the un-loveable, help the helpless, raise up the downtrodden, bring in the outcasts.  

When God molded us, signed off on our hearts, breathed that holy breath of life into our bodies, God gave us, entrusted us with the power to love as God loves, to give as God gives, to welcome all to the table of God’s holy Kingdom.

When God gave us this power God entrusted us with the difficult and precarious task of making manifest the unconditional love that created us. We have been given the responsibility of tending that garden of unconditional love which saves us.

Last week we discussed how it’s easy to forget God’s signature on our hearts. How it’s easy to forget that power within us with all the false powers and authorities of our society telling us who is in and who is out, who is right, wrong, valuable and who is not. And last week we reminded ourselves that we have the table.

The table is our reminder of our original power, our original truth: that we are already perfect and already holy having been created by God, by our God who would sacrifice everything to show us this truth.

And this week we remember that the other part of our power is the responsibility we carry as one of God’s created. Today, we are reminded that we are stewards of this truth, that all are created by God, that all are loved by God.

Today we are reminded that it is our responsibility, as true stewards of the faith, to make sure that all are welcome to the table; our responsibility to remind the world that all belong to God, that all are created and loved by the Creator.   

We at Good Samaritan are practicing true stewardship. Not just because this table remains open, but because of what that openness represents about who we are as followers of Jesus.

“We are followers of Jesus, with open minds and hearts to serve” the world around us. We are collaborators in our community, working within the community to enhance the efforts being done to help those in need.

We seek to share God’s unconditional love with those who have been told God does not love or accept them.  

We welcome any and all who want to worship with us and we welcome any and all who want to learn and explore what it means to be human with us.

We believe that we are better with more diversity, in culture, age, race, or gender and in diversity of mind and opinion.

Over the last five weeks we have been practicing true stewardship by collaborating with one another to understand this precious gift with which we have been entrusted.

In our Cottage Conversations over the last month we discussed our visions, our hopes and dreams for this precious gift, and we did it together. We did not rely on an authority figure to do this for us. We did not look to some institutional power to tell us what to do next. We did this work by sharing ideas, opening up the circle, and daring to explore and collaborate together.

We did this because we know and believe that we, as stewards of God’s gifts, are responsible for sharing this work together.

We may be a church without walls, but our cornerstone has been put in place and we have already started building. As true stewards we are placing the bricks of service to others next to the bricks of collaboration and inclusivity on top of the bricks of gratitude, generosity and creativity…. and we are making it all hold together with the adhesive of God’s unconditional love.  

We are followers of Jesus with open minds and hearts to serve the world.

And together we are building the Kingdom.



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