Sun 4/10/20

Broadcast and Live-streamed Opportunities for Worship
8.10 am  Radio 4 Sunday Worship 
10.00 am Chester Cathedral are livestreaming the Cathedral Eucharist at:
10.45 A modern-style of service will be livestreamed from Christ Church Gipsy Hill available at:
The Prayer Book Society have not updated their website to reflect that limited public worship is now taking place in some churches, but their website appears to continue to offer a wide range of services from the Book of Common Prayer available at:

A Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity
Isaiah 5: 1 – 7; Matthew 21: 33 – 46

We’ve all been in there.  Everyone around us thinks something is very funny, yet we can’t see the joke because we don’t know the background to it.  Of course, it isn’t only jokes which need the hearer to understand the background.  The same can be true for serious stories and items of news.

The parable of the Wicked Tenants is almost incomprehensible to us, but the Jewish Leaders who heard it first knew the background all too well.  The vineyard is used as a symbol for Israel on a number of occasions in the Old Testament.  The Song of the Vineyard which we heard from Isaiah is a parable about a landowner who buys a vineyard and tends it carefully.  Despite the care given, the vines yield only wild grapes.  The Jewish religious leaders know this scripture well.  When they heard Jesus’ parable of the Wicked Tenants, they understood the imagery Jesus used all too well.

We cannot read all of Jesus’ parables in the same way.  Reading the parable of the Unmerciful Servant a few weeks ago as an allegory, with a meaning attached to every detail of the parable didn’t help.  Yet, to understand the Parable of the Wicked Tenants we must know what each character and detail stands for.

As in the Old Testament, the Vineyard stands for Israel.  The Landowner Is God.  The tenants stand for the religious hierarchy; the chief priests and the elders to whom the parable is told.  The servants represent the Prophets who spoke the word of God, only to be constantly rejected by the religious elite of their day.  Finally, the son who is killed stands for Jesus.

Already we can see why the chief priests and the elders reacted so strongly to this parable.  But there is more.  The parable does not reinforce the point Isaiah made in the Song of the Vineyard.  For Isaiah, the vineyard was wrong and produced rotten grapes.  Judgement was upon Israel.  In the Parable of the Wicked Tenants it is the tenants who do wrong.  This parable doesn’t judge Israel; it judges the religious leaders of Israel.  No wonder the chief priests and the elders want to arrest Jesus...

This brings us to the final bit of background we need to understand the Parable of the Tenants.  Matthew reports this parable in the final week of Jesus’ life.  Palm Sunday and the cleansing of the Temple have already taken place.  Within days the religious leaders of Israel will condemn Jesus to death.

In the parable of the two sons which we heard last week, Jesus gave the religious leaders a final opportunity to follow him.  They refused the offer.  Jesus knows what must happen now.  He has nothing to lose and tells it straight to the religious leaders.  They have been lousy tenants of God’s people.  They have not produced a harvest.  Since no landlord would ever hand over the vineyard to tenants who have killed his son, the vineyard will be given to new tenants.  Tenants who will care for it and produce a harvest; namely those who  have followed Jesus: including the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the outcasts.

And there is more.  Jesus knows what must follow, including the resurrection.  Not only will the people most rejected by the Jewish religious leaders inherit the vineyard.  Their crucified leader, will be exalted; the cornerstone of the whole enterprise.

Knowing the context and understanding the Parable of the Tenants as allegory, we now understand the reaction of the chief priests and the elders.  

We could leave it there.  Perhaps Matthew included this parable in his Gospel to help us appreciate the gathering darkness which will climax in Jesus’ crucifixion.  If so, it merely reassures us that we are among the new tenants who will produce a bountiful harvest from the vineyard....

If it was that simple, todays sermon would be easy to write and deliver.  But such a simple conclusion is inadequate.  The group of parables at the end of Matthew’s Gospel remain as challenging to us as they were to the people who first heard them.

Just imagine... What if we hear this parable as if Jesus was telling it to us?  What harvest is there for the landlord to collect?  What kind of harvest can we offer the Landlord?  What excuses do we have for a poor harvest?  How does this sound?

“We can’t agree about the best method of harvest, so we can’t possibly work together till we’ve worked that out.”  In other words we can’t agree with other Christians, so we can’t work together till we sort that out.

“I’m afraid you will have to wait for the next 20 years until we’ve sold enough grapes to pay for the maintenance of the watchtower.  After that you can have your produce.”  Roughly translated: “When we’ve got the church building sorted out, then we’ll think about mission...”

Or how about “We’re terribly sorry.  We couldn’t get anyone to help with the harvest, so the grapes have rotted on the vine.  Could you send us a few more helpers?”  

Challenging thoughts indeed.  Might there be a need for new tenants for the vineyard in our time also?  

S Anne Lawson
1 October 2020

Prayers for the 22nd Sunday After Trinity
4 October 2020

The Collect 

Almighty God,

you have made us for yourself

and our hearts are restless 

till they find their rest in you:

pour your love into our hearts

and draw us to yourself,

and so bring us at last to your heavenly city

where we shall see you face to face;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen.

The Post Communion Prayer 

Lord, we pray that your grace

may always precede and follow us,

and make us continually to be given to all good works:

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, you have called us to know you,

you have called us to love you,

you have called us to serve you.

Make us worthy of our calling.

May we proclaim your power and your peace.

May we rejoice in your light and in your love;

through Christ the living Lord.  Amen.

We pray for the church that is under persecution,

the church at work in dangerous and dark places.

We pray for churches that have lost their vision;

for all who seek to bring the light of Christ to others,

that we all may grow in holiness and in outreach.

That we may know Christ

and the power of his resurrection.

We pray for all who are struggling for survival, 

especially as a result of the pandemic.

We pray for those whose lives have collapsed around them.

We remember those who have lost loved ones, 

possessions, homes or work this week,

all who have been robbed or stripped of their dignity,

those sleeping on the streets,

all who have lost hope or will-power.

That they may know Christ

and the power of his resurrection

We pray that our homes may be places of peace and light,

that our relationships may reflect joy and love,

that our faith may fill our homes and our actions,

that we may work for peace and goodwill.

That we may know Christ

and the power of his resurrection.

We pray for all who are brought low by disease or sickness,

for those who have been taken into care this week,

for all who are terminally ill.

We pray for the hospice movement

and for all who care for the dying.

We remember all who have lost loved ones this week.

We pray that we may be strong in our faith to the last.

That we may know Christ

and the power of his resurrection.

We give thanks for all who have died in faith,

who know Christ and the power of the resurrection,

for all who now share in his victory over the grave.

May we live as those who believe and trust

in the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

and the resurrection to life everlasting.

That we may know Christ

and the power of his resurrection.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Christ is made the sure foundation

In Christ alone

My song is love unknown

Christ triumphant