Sermons 2008
The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 22A 2008                                            Matthew 21:33-46


            There’s a story about a man who was planning a visit to Japan.  It would be his first visit, and he was a little anxious because he couldn’t speak a word of Japanese.  How would he communicate with the people with whom he came in contact?

            Since most Japanese taxi drivers do not speak English, someone suggested that he carry with him something bearing the name of the hotel at which he would be staying written in Japanese.  So as soon as he arrived in Japan he picked up a box of matches with the name and address of his hotel on it.  Then he went sight-seeing.

            Afterwards he got into a taxi and took the box of matches out of his pocket to show the driver where he wanted to go.  There were a few awkward moments before the driver understood.  Finally his face lit up.  Quickly they sped away.  Half an hour later, the taxi came to a screeching halt. The driver turned, beamed at his passenger, and pointed out the window. There was only one problem. They had stopped at a match factory!  (1)


            We are coming to the close of our time with the Gospel according to Saint Matthew.  Beginning with last Sunday’s gospel lection, Jesus has already arrived in Jerusalem to visit the Temple and to celebrate the Passover with the last supper with his disciples.   His fame has preceded him; the crowds that have followed him and gathered around him wherever he went on his journey toward Jerusalem and his crucifixion are still with him.  They are always in the background, influencing what is happening and how it happens.


            Jesus’ time in Jerusalem and in the Temple is not one of quiet celebration and worship.  He has put the city in an uproar with his triumphal entry parade into the city, p[alms waving and cloaks spread in front of his donkey.  He enters the Temple and immediately lashes out at the money changers with words and whip, turning over their tables and chasing them out.  And almost at once his authority to do these things and as a teacher and preacher is challenged by the chief priests and the Pharisees.  Fierce and serious argument and disputation erupt between Jesus and his antagonists.  They try to destroy his reputation by asking a series of trick questions.  Jesus does not answer them directly.  He answers them with questions of his own designed to turn the tables on them.  And he presents them with a series of parables as context to his questioning.  Jesus’ parables present a difficulty to his listeners and questioners of whatever time.  At their simplest, parables are picturesque figures of language in which an analogy refers to a similar but different reality.  So it is with our two most recent parables on laboring and laborers in the field. (2) 


            Part of the difficulty is that Jesus used parables to illustrate and clarify – and also to confound, confuse, and conceal.  But part of the difficulty also is that, in parables, there is no sharp distinction between simile and allegory and metaphor and parables themselves. And although Jesus’ parables were drawn from daily life, they do not necessarily portray normal every day actions. (2)  The parable of the wicked tenants in today’s gospel lection is among the difficult ones, with its scenes of defiance, violence, and murder. 


The classic homiletical way to interpret this parable is by analogy.  The vineyard is the Creation, the owner is God, the slaves are the prophets, the son is Jesus, and the wicked tenants are humanity  -- some Christians over the centuries take the tenants to be the Hebrew people only, culminating after centuries of persecution of the Jews to the Holocaust.  That really makes us the wicked tenants.  Or in the context of Jesus in the Temple, the vineyard is all Israel, and the tenants are the Pharisees and chief priests.  And we can just leave it that way.  But it also leaves us with an unsettling feeling that this too easy, trite almost.


Like all of Jesus parables, this one speaks to each one of us differently.   How to you?


            Now as to the rock:  A well known legend in Jesus time about building the temple.  Most stones were the same size and shape.  But one was too large and was rolled into the valley below.  When the temple foundation was almost finished the builders sent to the stonecutters for the chief cornerstone so the building could go on. The cutters replied that they had sent the stone years before.  Then someone remembered the stone that was larger than the rest and realized that they had rejected the cornerstone.  Finally they found it under vines and debris.  With difficulty they rolled it up and put it in place so the temple could be finished. (3)



            1.  Adapted from King Duncan, ‘Rebellion in the Vineyard’,  ESermons Illustrations for October 5th, 2008 (APR22) Matthew 21:33-46.

2.  “parables”, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, pp. 567-570.

3.  Adapted from King Duncan, “From Rejection to Rejoicing”, op. cit.