05 October 2014

The Vineyard of the Lord of Hosts

The Lord has established His Church on earth, and He has done everything for her, His beloved Vineyard: He has planted her upon a fertile hill, and dug all around to remove the stones from her soil, and planted her with the choicest Vine.  He has built a wall around her and a tower in her midst, to guard and keep her from all harm and danger.  And He has made a wine press for her fruits in due season, because He cares for her; He removes the briars and brings forth good grapes.

So, too, in calling you to faith and life in Christ Jesus, the Lord of Hosts has made you a member of His Church, a planting in His Vineyard, a branch of the true Vine.  And He does everything for you, as well, to give you His own life, in body and soul, both now and forever in His Kingdom.

As a Christian, you are a part of the Vineyard, tended by the Lord and His servants.  And, as you are a servant of the Lord, yourself, you are also responsible for a portion of the Vineyard, that you should care for it and keep it, protect it from danger, and nurture it to be healthy and fruitful.

According to your vocation as a disciple of Christ Jesus, within your own particular place in life, you are to bear and bring forth good grapes to the glory of God.

As pastors and teachers of the Church are responsible for the administration of the Gospel–Word and Sacraments, so are you accountable for your stewardship of the offices and stations in life that God has given you: Whether husband or wife, parent or child, brother or sister, worker or student; whether you are young or old, married or unmarried; whether a musician or mechanic, a merchant or marine.  Whatever God has called you to be, you have your own place and purpose in life.

The Lord has determined, defined, and described the fruits of faith and love, of righteousness and justice, which you are to cultivate and produce in your own context and circumstances.  His Law, especially as summarized in His Ten Commandments, seeks to find those fruits in you: In much the same way that we’ve been hearing and learning from Leviticus concerning the first fruits of the harvest, which were to be returned to the Lord with thanksgiving for His bountiful goodness.

Therefore, hear and heed, honor and obey those commands of the Lord your God, and teach them also to your children.  Receive the Law of the Lord from the mouth of His servants, and return to Him the fruits that are His due.  He is not out to rob you, nor does He leave you destitute, but He daily and richly provides for you, entirely by His grace, with fatherly divine goodness and mercy.

Do not respond with ingratitude, nor resort to self-preservation.  And do not do violence to the commandments of God by disobeying them, by refusing to listen to them, or by performing only perfunctory, outward service with a grudging heart, out of selfish self-righteousness.

For the Vineyard is the Lord’s, and your place and purpose in His Kingdom are under His authority, dependent on His mercy.

Incredibly, and marvelously, the Lord in His mercy does not simply command and forbid you with His Law.  Nor does He quickly punish you as you deserve for your failure and refusal to bring forth the good grapes that are His due.

Rather, in long-suffering patience and steadfast love, He sends to you His own dearly beloved Son: in person, in the flesh.  He comes to you, not merely to reiterate the Law and the Prophets, but as their perfect fulfillment.  He comes to obtain the fruits of righteousness in you by calling you to repentance and faith in His forgiveness of all your sins.

He justifies you with His own righteousness, and raises you from death to life in His Resurrection.  Indeed, He makes all things brand new in His own Body.  So are all things possible in Him.

Honor Him, serve and obey Him, love and cherish Him.  Respect Him with the reverence that is due the very Son of God, who is the Lord of Hosts, Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of the Vineyard.

Do not do violence to this dear Lord Jesus Christ by refusing to receive Him, by taking His gifts for granted and continuing to sin, or by presuming upon Him, as though He were your slave to order and command according to your own whims.

What madness! To suppose that by seizing the Son of God and violating Him, you should storm the Kingdom of heaven and take it for yourself by force!

What shall the Lord your God do to such a wretch?  Do you imagine that He is powerless to act?

But, then again, what greater madness is this at work?  That God the Lord, the Almighty, should willingly send His beloved Son and hand Him over to the violence of sinful men?  And that He, the Son, should voluntarily suffer such violence, shame, and death, for the sake of His Vineyard?

Then it first of all appears that all has been lost; as though the Vineyard Owner has lost His mind, forfeited His honor and His reputation, and relinquished His Vineyard and His Son to the wicked.

But, no, that is not the case.  Nothing is as it appears.

This very Stone rejected by men is established by God as the Head of the corner.  The Cross and Passion of the Christ have become foundational and definitive for His Holy Christian Church.

For He is the choice Vine that is planted by death, so that in His Resurrection the Vineyard is reborn, enlivened, and fruitful: Justified by His Blood, redeemed and reconciled to God, alive and sanctified by His Holy Spirit, and all of this by His grace alone.

His Vineyard shall not be taken from Him.  Yet, He gives it freely to disciples of all nations, to as many as He shall call to Himself by the Gospel of His Cross, who shall then also bear the fruits of His Cross in their own lives, by faith in Christ the Crucified.

Now, therefore, you shall not escape His Cross.  You will be broken into pieces by it.  Indeed, you must be broken.  But, what then?  Shall you be scattered like the dust?  Or, will you be gathered unto God the Father in heaven through the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead?

Take heart, dear child of God.  It is that old serpent, the devil, not you, who is crushed under the heal of the Crucified One.  You are crucified and broken by the Cross, that is true, but for life, and not for death; in order that you should be raised up and healed in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus.  You are united with Him in His Cross and Passion, in order to receive and participate with Him in the power of His Resurrection and His Life.

By your Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection, you are grafted into this true Vine, in whom you have the life everlasting of God in your own flesh and blood, heart and mind, body and soul.

And He who has redeemed you, purchased and won you for His own, by His holy and precious Blood, by His innocent suffering and death — He also bears good fruits in you after His own kind: fruits of repentance, of faith and love, of righteousness and justice; the good grapes of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for those who trespass against you, as God in Christ forgives you.

Only hear and heed His Word to you.  Not only His Word of the Law, which commands you, but His life-giving Gospel of Peace, which rescues you from every evil and keeps you safe with God.

Instead of striving to seize what has not been given, receive from His hand the gifts of His grace.

There is nothing lacking in Him.  Whatever else you may have wanted to have, relied upon and counted upon, or striven for — all of that is merely rubbish.  But Christ is your everything.

Here, then, eat the Fruit of this Vineyard, which is the Body of Christ Jesus.  And drink the Blood of this true Vine.  As He pours Himself out for you, and as He gives Himself into your body, so does He bear and bring forth good fruits in you at the proper times and seasons.

This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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