The Bible lesson for Paul’s letter to the Philippians can be found here. (…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.)
The Bible lesson for the Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard – Isaiah 5:1-7 can be found here.
The Bible lesson for Jesus parable of the Vineyard Tenants – Matthew 21: 33-46 can be found here.
Do you like Hidden Object puzzles? You know, where pictures of various objects are hidden in a larger picture. It can take a while to find the objects even when you know what you are looking for. But they are there. The objects blend in, but if you look carefully you can begin to identify them.
In some ways, I think seeing God at work in the world is like that. God is at work, but God’s work often blends in, even when you know what you are looking for. Have you seen God at work this week?
As you probably know we have been praying for David and Paula Trejo. David and Paula were in a bad motorcycle accident Labor Day weekend. Paula has had a number of surgeries and is recovering. David has been in and out of a coma and on and off a ventilator. But, this last week, David began responding to his family. He squeezed his brother’s hand and held on tightly and has maintained eye contact.
Certainly, the good care and expertise of the various medical professionals was an important part of his recovery. But, you can’t tell the Trejo family that this isn’t also evidence of the power of Jesus resurrection at work. For me, it’s an example of one a hidden object of God’s power and presence hidden in plain sight.
The news has been full of tragedy lately. Hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Caribbean, earthquakes in Mexico, wild fires in Montana, California and many western states, floods in Bangladesh and India. Then there is the constant drip, drip, drip of news that reminds us of the deep divisions between us. This last week we heard the news and saw the images of the incomprehensible mass shooting in Las Vegas. I’ve got to admit that it all leaves me weary.
But, if you know what you are looking for, it is possible to see the power of Jesus’ resurrection at work. In the midst of the darkness of the tragedies there are stories of acts of caring bringing light. There were stories of ordinary people rescuing people during the floods in Texas. There were similar stories of people helping people coming out of Florida, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Even in the midst of the unimaginable tragedy in Las Vegas there are hidden objects of God’s presence and power. Many of you have probably also heard stories like the one about twenty-eight year-old, Jonathan Smith. Jonathan is being called a hero in many news outlets. Jonathan was credited with saving the lives of some thirty people even as he himself was shot in the neck.
What helps you see God’s presence and power in the world? Left on my own I have trouble. I need help. I need all of you. That’s why I come Sunday after Sunday. I need the Bible readings, the songs and hymns, and the prayers. I need to preach it to myself before I share it with you.
In the bible, I find reminders of what to look for. Today Paul, writes, “…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” Paul has experienced first-hand the power of Christ’s resurrection.
You know his story. He was on his way to persecute the Christians in Damascus when the risen Jesus met him on the road. It was a wonder terrifying experience. He feel to the ground and heard Jesus ask him, “Why are you persecuting me?” When he got up he was blind. Going on to Damascus, Ananias lays hands on him and prays for him and his sight returns.
All the things that he and the people of his day considered important for their spiritual lives – Paul says are worthless compared to knowing Jesus and the power of his resurrection. It is a pretty amazing statement coming from Paul considering what’s going on with him when he writes it. Paul is in prison. Things are not looking good for him. But, his confidence in the power of Jesus resurrection motivates him to press on. He wants to give that confidence to the Philippians.
What would it take for you to know the power of Jesus resurrection as a lived reality – as something more than words? Paul and I want you to have that, but only God can give it.
In an interview, Jonathan Smith, the young twenty-eight year-old black man that is credited with saving the lives of over thirty people in the Las Vegas shooting talked about how he was helped by Officer Tom McGraff. Jonathan shared how officer McGraff, helped him to safety, put his finger in the bullet hole in his neck, stayed with him and reassured him he wasn’t going to die. He said it was something he will never forget. What Tom McGraff did had a tremendous impact on Jonathan.
He went on to say, that day there was no black or white. Race didn’t matter. Office Tom McGraff is white. The news has been full of the tensions between the police and the black community.
You can see the power of Christ’s resurrection at work if you know what you are looking for.
Jonathan goes on to say that many people are calling him a hero. But, he doesn’t consider himself a hero. He said, “I was just acting the ways we are supposed to act.”
That brings us to the lessons from Isaiah and Matthew for today. In both Bible readings we have parables about vineyards. In both parables, the essence of the parables is about producing fruit. In Isaiah everything possible is done to create a wonderful vineyard. But what happens? Instead of producing grapes, the vineyard produces wild grapes.
In Matthew we get a description of a vineyard the echoes Isaiah. The people of Jesus’ day would have known Isaiah. Isaiah’s parable would have been very familiar to them. They would have heard the echo. In Jesus parable they vineyard produce grapes, but the tenants refuse to share the fruits of the vineyard with the landlord.
Both parables are about producing the fruits of the kingdom. But, rather than producing fruit, it can be tempting to simply be content with soaking up God’s grace – to just – soak it up. Maybe there are times in our lives when we need to do that for a little while. But, the power of the resurrection is also intended to provide the motivation to press on.
Physical therapist and nurses tells me that, after a certain point in healing it is important that a patient gets up in move, despite the fact that it is more comfortable and pleasant to be waited on – to just soak up being cared for. What is true in our physical lives is also true in our spiritual lives.
Remember how Jonathan Smith said, “This is how we are supposed to act.” Isn’t there part of you that resonated with that? I see that the Holy Spirit at work within you. It is God’s “Yes.” to the world. It is our “yes” to the Spirit’s prompting us to participate in what God is doing.
I want to leave you with an invitation and a challenge. I want you to look for specific concrete examples of the Jesus’ resurrection at work in the world. And I want to find one way you can live out the Spirit’s prompting to step outside of your comfort zone and do something concrete to live as an instrument of Jesus’ resurrection. I want you to do it, not because you have to, but because the power of Christ’s resurrection has provided the motivation for you to press on. Amen.