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I want you to think for a moment about shopping at the grocery story. Visualize now that you are in the produce section. You are looking for berries. You pick up a box and you check it out to make sure all of the berries in that package are not too ripe and not rotting out or anything. You may even shake or jiggle the box a little bit just to make sure. You find one that looks good and you put it in the cart. Next you are looking for grapes and you do the same thing; look and observe what you can to make sure you are getting the freshest fruit possible. Ok next you go to the avocados. You want to make sure you are not getting one too hard or too soft. So, you pick them up individually and you are looking at the color and you do a soft squeeze test. If it is too soft then it is over ripe and if it is too hard then it is not ready to be used yet. You finally find one that seems to be in the middle. You do the same thing with several other fruits and vegetables that you plan on buying. You go through the check out line, pay your bill, and then take your groceries home. You decide that you are going to make guacamole. You grab that perfect avocado that you have carefully selected and cut it open and find that it is all black. The Avocado is ruined. No guacamole for you. Ok so your plans for guac are ruined but you have a new plan. So, then you go to the berries and you plan to make a berry and yogurt parfait. You open up the package and find that there is a bug in the berries and there is some fuzzy mold starting to grow. The berries you so carefully chose are ruined. So, you now go to the only thing you have left, the grapes. You open the bag and take and few out and wash them. You pop one in your mouth and it is sour and bitter tasting. Your grapes now are no good either. What more could you have possibly done. You were sure that you checked every aspect of this fruit and you never have had such a problem before. It is as if all of your produce that you selected is bad regardless of how much time and effort you had spent. What more could you have done? It is just bad produce for you today.
Isaiah tells us a story of the Lord having a similar situation. Isaiah says that his beloved (the Lord), planted a vineyard. He cleared away the stones so that it would have fresh and fertile soil to grow in. He planted only the best choice of vines. He built a watchtower to keep watch and care of his vineyard. He even built a winepress to prepared for the best crop of grapes that there could be. However, when it came time to harvest what he found was not the best crop of grapes but instead he found that all of the grapes were bad. Something happened to them that turned them into wild grapes. What more could he have done to his vineyard. He gave it all the best chance and the very best of circumstances to become the best and yet they still became the worst. So, what shall he do with his vineyard now. The hedge of protection will be removed and the vineyard will be completely destroyed into a wasteland of briers and thorns. Isaiah now compares the vineyard of the Lord with the nation of Israel and Judah. The Lord delighted in these vines and he looked for justice and good but found only bloodshed between them. So just as with the vineyard the same blessing would be gone from Israel and Judah.
In our Gospel passage for today we find a similar story with a vineyard. This time the master of the vineyard leaves some farmers in charge to care for it. When it comes to the harvest time the master sends his servants to collect the fruits of the harvest. However, the workers he left in charge kick them out and even kill some of the servants. Finally, the vineyard owner sends his son believing that they would respect his son. But instead, they look at this as an opportunity to destroy the heir and take everything for themselves. Therefore, they do just that. What then shall the vineyard owner do when he returns. He will bring these wretched tenants to and end and then hire new ones who will respect him and give him his share of the crop. These are chief priests that Jesus is talking to mind you. So now Jesus reveals that the same will be done to them. The kingdom will be taken away from them and be given to another. People who will produce good fruit since all before had produced bad fruit. The Lord had entrusted his people to the leadership of the priests and keepers of the law and they just took for themselves and treated the people unfairly. As a result, justice will be given.
Paul was one who had all the right to boast about his status as a pharisee as he shares to his letter to the church in Philippi. He was a pharisee of pharisees. Born a pure blood in the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the 8th day as was to be done and learned from the best of scholars. He was zealous for the Lord doing everything he felt to be righteousness in the eyes of the Lord. Yet in comparison to that of his knew found relationship with Christ, he counts it all for loss. All of the status he had and all he had done supposedly for the Lord prior to his road to Damascus encounter was all for nothing. He was bad fruit but praise the Lord he was able to be transformed and produce good fruit.
The vineyard that the Lord is talking about today is within the church itself. The Church is his vineyard and this vineyard span through the entire world. Unfortunately, some of the vines in his vineyard have been producing bad produce. This is true in every church and every denomination and in all levels of leadership and influence. Not one denomination is perfect and not one church is perfect. Not one pastor or lay leader is perfect. In some way or another there are some who have become bad produce. In the past week social media has been used in as a means to shed light on some people that a certain individual believes is being bad produce within Eastern Michigan District. As a result, some have either been hurt and some may have been exposed. The results are really not in yet and only time can tell. However, praise be to God for making a pathway for the bad produce to repent and begin to produce good fruit. Let us all pray that if there is bad produce within the church and if there is in our own local church, that it will be exposed. Then let us pray that this bad produce will be transformed and be used to produce good fruit. Let us pray for healing and renewal after this crisis within the Church. We must acknowledge that not one of us is above reproach for any one of us could fall away or be lead astray. These events that have unfolded are a reminder of that very fact. But my prayer for this church is that we would be good produce and that during our round table later today that we will find new areas in which to cultivate new and good fruit. However, before we do that, we must honestly ask ourselves. Have we been good or bad produce for the Lord?