What I Was Meant to Be

Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Date: Pentecost XXI (Proper 22) + 10/5/08
Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, Rochester Hills, MI

According to the Word of God we believe, teach and confess that each and every person is created by God. Oh, we know the human biological processes involved, and we cannot prove that there is some divine marker or evidence of God’s involvement. It is only because God Himself claims to be Creator that people who listen to God’s Word believe Him and claim that every individual, even those who deny it, or think it is somehow a matter of our “choice,” are, nevertheless, created by God.

Apart from God life can quickly be viewed as meaningless, a matter of chance or of only what you make it to be. But as soon as a person realizes God’s creative involvement, then comes the great question, “Why has God created me?” What is God’s purpose? What has God created you to be? And here we might think about vocation or our station in life whether that be as a child or a parent, a mother or father, a worker, a public servant, a physician, a musician…whatever. But underlying your vocation or station or situation in life is each and every person being a reflection of the glory of God. And so, regardless of our differences, every person is to reflect that relationship, as the catechism says it, of fear, love and trust in God above all things.

Now the reason we need to be told that is because none of us naturally fears, loves or trusts in God above all things. Something is broken, namely, our relationship with our Creator. Our inherited sin separates us from God from the beginning, from each other and even from health and life itself. The design, the love and the will of God is still there, however. And it is out of His great love even for His fallen creation that God took it upon Himself to save and restore us by sending His Son to break the chains of our slavery to sin and death, to reconcile us to God and to restore proper fear, love and trust in God by the forgiveness of our sins, making us, literally, a new creation by faith in Him. So as our very beginning and existence is due to God’s creative activity, so our rescue and restoration, our salvation is due to God’s gracious and loving work through Christ our Lord. Let’s say it clearly this way: as we had no role in our creation by God so have we no role in our salvation. Life, all of life, is gift of God.

Still, in this life we continue to struggle against sin, death and the devil. Today’s Old Testament reading is a scathing judgment against God’s people Israel as they are pictured as a vineyard of His own planting who were not producing the fruits of fear, love and trust in God. So the Lord threatens to destroy his rotten vineyard. The Gospel from Matthew is also concerning the vineyard, God’s people. There, too, are words of judgment. But here the words don’t seem to be as much against the vineyard itself as against the leadership, the “tenant farmers,” those who were called and “ordained” to care for God’s vineyard.

It’s still Monday of Holy Week in Jerusalem, just four days before Jesus was to die by crucifixion. As last Sunday, He is still speaking to the chief priests and elders in the Temple. They are those charged with the leadership and care of the people. With the parable of the man with two sons Jesus has just showed them that by their rejecting Him they were in mortal danger of being left out of God’s kingdom. Today he continues, saying, “Listen to another parable.” This parable warns that they’re not only in danger of being left out, but of being thrown out of the vineyard and a new leadership installed to take their place.

The parable is clear enough. In fact, in the verse immediately following this parable Matthew writes, “when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that He was speaking about them” (Mt. 21:45). They are the “tenants” of the vineyard who were expected to present the owner, God, with the fruits of His vineyard, namely, a people who belong to God and produce the fruits of faith, the fear, love and trust in God above all things. What’s even stranger and worse than an admitted atheist making a movie mocking all religion is a religious official or representative forgetting God’s original design and purpose of their “religion” in the first place!

The key to this parable is when the master sent His Son, saying, “They will respect my son.” This, after all, is what “fear, love and trust in God” is all about, what the leaders are supposed to do, namely, help the people of God respect the Father by means of respecting the Son. Instead, they had the Son arrested, thrown outside the city of Jerusalem and killed him on a hill called Golgotha.

The power of this parable, as with the last one, is that Jesus draws the judgment of His enemies out of their own mouths. He asks them, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants?” They answered, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Right! They hit the nail on the head! So Jesus says, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” The old leadership of chief priests and elders would be replaced by the Apostles and the apostolic ministry and the priesthood of all believers.

This parable, then, stands as a warning to us also against forgetting or losing God’s design and His love for His whole creation. But it also proclaims the Lord’s gracious, even miraculous doing by taking even our rejection of Him and turning it to serve as the very means of our redemption, the innocent death of His Son as the one and only sacrifice that covers and takes away sin and everything that would separate us from the love of God anymore.

What are you meant to be? You are the very creation of God. You are the very object of His care and love. God created you to reflect His glory in this way—that we should fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. We fear Him when we revere Him alone as the highest being, honor Him with our lives, and avoid what displeases Him. We love Him when we cling to Him alone as our God. We trust Him when we commit our lives completely to His care and keeping and rely on Him for help in every need. In short, we fear, love and trust in God above all things when we respect and believe His Son who came to free us from our sin at the price of His redeeming blood, to love us back into the kingdom of God.