Sunday Sermon 4th October – Don’t let it happen!

Don’t let it happen!

Isaiah 5: 1-7 and Matthew 21: 33-46

There is a warning on a packet of cigarettes that if you smoke there is a danger to your health in the future. There are warning signs on gambling adverts that “when the fun stops stop” and if you don’t stop, you don’t know what it will do to your future.There are warning signs “not to drink and drive” and if you do there is no knowing how many lives might be ruined in the future.

There are warning signs everywhere about washing hands, making space and covering face and if we ignore them we don’t know what might happen to our future or the lives of others!

A lot of good people do foolish things and when they look back wish they hadn’t done what they did, but by then the damage is done. The warnings are to help us have a better tomorrow, but we live for today!

Making the most out of today for ourselves seems to be more important than making the best for tomorrow for future generations, but if we take what we can from today there won’t be anything left tomorrow!

The two readings from Isaiah and Matthew’s gospel capture scripture in poetry, parable and prophesy and as I read it today I recognise again the need for people to step out of the crowd and campaign with the prophet! I love the poetry and finding meaning from parable, but am I guilty of dismissing prophesy?

The religious leaders were afraid of the crowd because the people thought Jesus was a prophet, but the question for then, and for us today, is whether we are frightened enough of the prophesy to do anything about it.

Jesus knew the chief priests and the Pharisees would find a way and a time to arrest him. He told everyone it would happen, but, in truth, people were more frightened of the authorities than they were of the prophesy. People didn’t stand up for what they believed because they were living for today, not tomorrow.

What is hidden in parables is a story for us to try and understand in the context of our time and place and a prophesy is a warning of what will happen if we don’t do something about it. Love will die if we don’t keep it alive. Justice will be silenced if we don’t give it a voice. Peace will be lost if we don’t keep hold of it and hope will fall asleep if we don’t keep it awake.

If you are part of a crowd who believe in a prophet listen to the prophesy and do something about it so the will of God can be done and the kingdom come. If the faithful crowd stick together we can keep love alive, justice singing, peace shining and hope growing.

I worry that we are being divided by our personal interests rather than united in the greater good that will bring heaven to earth in this wonderful new kingdom. Sadly, these divisions are happening in Church as well as society in general so the fabric of our faith is being eaten away like moths on our clothing.

At least the chief priests and the Pharisees knew that Jesus was talking about them rather than characters from the past, but do we recognise in the poetry and parables of scripture a prophesy today for our future. We are not going to start getting things right if we neglect the warnings — and I know that Jesus is talking about us.

If we know Jesus is talking about us, then let’s listen up and sort ourselves out. If we are among the crowd who believe Jesus is a prophet, and more, then let’s act together to stop the prophesy happening. Either way, Jesus is speaking to us.

Jesus is remembering the poetry of Isaiah through parable and presents a story of the Father he loves — “my loved one”. The parable tells us how God does not give up and is determined to see justice done so sends people into the mission field to collect the good fruit, but there is a high price to pay for the harvest. The bad fruit attitude of greed makes it hard to collect the good fruit harvest of love!

One of my favourite gospel readings is John 15 1-17 where Jesus says he is the true vine and His Father is the gardener. If we are rooted in the love of Christ we will produce good fruit and what I find so encouraging is that the Gardener keeps pruning so that the branches become more fruitful. I see the church as the branches and the fruit as the people and our Father is the Gardener who is constantly pruning our faith through poetry, parable and prophesy. Go and bear good fruit that will last and do it with love!

Having said that Jesus then warns that if you don’t follow the expectations of the world you will face persecution and hatred ‘cause love and justice don’t earn power and wealth. It’s all happening in this parable that comes from Isaiah’s poetry and provides a stark prophesy for OUR future. A warning of what will happen if we don’t stop it happening!

People will go to collect good fruit at harvest time for God, but are we going to be among them? People will be sent so the will of God is done. God isn’t going to give up on what can be because some people won’t give up what they’ve got! People will sacrifice their lives so the harvest can be shared.

Jesus wants people to remember the poetry, understand the parable and STOP the prophesy. Campaign with the prophet and don’t let it happen. Don’t be afraid of the crowd, but listen to the prophesy and change the future. Welcome the servants who come to collect the good fruit so God can distribute it among the nations who will then come together as people of the one kingdom.

God sent many prophets in the past to warn people of the future they were creating for the generations to come, but they were bullied, abused, persecuted and killed as people tried to defend what they had. Then God sent his Son and we know what happened. The parable tells us!

One of my friends will argue that God must be so cruel to keep on sending people to suffer so much. They are beaten, killed, stoned, yet still they go knowing what to expect. I will argue that it’s not God’s will for them, or us, to suffer, but we suffer in doing the will of God. The heart of God is broken long before the life of his Son is broken on the cross, but our Father does not give up and his love will bear fruit — fruit that will last.

The servants keep on going into the mission field because they understand the master’s business and they love him like a friend for whom they are prepared to die. We are like children who have been brought up by our Father to understand that we can’t abandon justice; deny peace or betray love because they are the very foundations on which hope is built.

When the voice of the Lord is heard to ask, “Who shall we send? Who will go for us?” it is the reply of a knowing child who says, “here I am. Send me!” (Isaiah 6: 8-9) We want to campaign with the prophet and stop the prophesy from happening. We want to work with Jesus to save the world that God loves, but there aren’t enough workers committed to gathering in the harvest.

Who shall we send? Who will go for us?” We can be part of the crowd who hear the prophesy so how many of us will stick together and say, “here I am. Send me!”?

O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end, to be a lamb among the wolves, to share your peace and heal the sick and help your kingdom come. We are sent out because we want to go and whoever listens to us listens to Jesus, anyone who rejects us, rejects Jesus but those who reject Jesus reject the one who sent him. (Luke 10: 16) Don’t be put off by the rejection. God isn’t!

Jesus hasn’t come to condemn us, but to warn us and encourage us to be among the people who will produce the fruit. Don’t miss that prophesy of good news hidden in the words of Jesus in verse 44: The Kingdom of God WILL produce its fruit!

The tenants in the parable ARE children of God and, as in the story of the Prodigal son, the Father doesn’t give up on any child. The chief priests and the Pharisees ARE children of God, as are the crowd, as are we, and Jesus is sent to encourage us to return home.

God doesn’t reject anyone, but we reject our Father as we abandon his Son, deny knowing him or betray him and after all that we are forgiven because we don’t know what we are doing. Jesus is warning us about what we are doing and teaching us what to do so listen to the poetry, understand the parable and hear the prophesy….and stop it happening!