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Hope for Creation in Christ Isaiah 5.1-7, Matthew 21.33-end

Every now and then something happens which gives you a completely new perspective on life. It may be an experience – from the wonder of falling in love to the pain of dealing with bereavement, or it may be a new concept or idea. Sometimes a scientific discovery is made which changes how we see everything. Imagine how threatening it was when Copernicus realised that the earth was not the centre of the universe but that it – and all the other planets - revolved around the sun!

Today we are at one of those moments. As a global community we need to change completely the way we see planet earth and our place upon it. As Christians, we also need to change how we see the ‘Gospel’ and our ‘mission’. In both cases we have been guilty of putting ourselves as humanity right at the centre, of seeing everything revolving around us. We have seen the earth simply as resources for our consumption. We have seen the Gospel as simply the story of God and people. In both cases, we are beginning to realise we’ve been wrong and need to change.

God’s Big Picture
For the third week running, our Gospel reading is one of Jesus’ parables about a vineyard. This is often described as ‘the Parable of the Tenants’. That’s our first example of misreading God’s story. Calling it ‘the Parable of the Tenants’ puts us as people right at the centre of it. It’s actually the story of God’s vineyard. The vineyard is not simply the stage on which we act out our drama – it is a vital part of God’s – the landowner’s – purposes. In fact you could say that the landowner is really more interested in the fate of the vineyard than he is in the fate of the tenants!

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people were meant to be an example to the nations around them, to the rest of the world, of how to relate to God and how to live within the land. Isaiah 5 reminds us that the Jews were very familiar with vineyards, and for centuries had seen themselves and their land, as God’s special vineyard. However, God is not best pleased with the way they have treated his land – they have only produced sour grapes and so God has allowed their vineyard to become abandoned and overgrown. Jesus in his story goes even further and warns the people, in verse 43, that ”The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

The big picture of God’s purposes that we glean from Matthew 21 is in many ways a summary of the central story of the Christian Gospel. Today it is valid for us to see the vineyard as the whole of God’s creation. It is the world and all that is in it – it’s the environment. This vineyard, this earth, is something God as owner cares for and wishes to see fruitful – he has put a wall around it and made a watchtower to protect it. He has dug a winepress in anticipation that it will be fruitful.

Then God lends – rents out – his world to us as human beings. We are tenant farmers within God’s vineyard. All God expects from us is that we recognise that all the fruits of creation are his, not ours, that we offer them back to him in gratitude for him to bless before we use what we need. Yet instead we have acted as if we own the vineyard, and its produce belongs to us to use and abuse. We have ignored the warnings and signs. Finally, the owner sent his own son, and he too was killed by the tenants. The parable ends at this point. It is a pre-resurrection story.

Hope for creation in Christ
However, looking at this story from the other side of Easter, we believe God will redeem the whole universe. Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of that new life, the fresh grass growing through the concrete of corruption and decay in the old world. God’s big picture is that in Jesus we have hope for transformed people, but also for a transformed creation. The Kingdom of God has broken into this world and the resurrection makes possible our hope that all things can be renewed in Christ Jesus.

Copyright © Rev Paul Smith



God, our light and our salvation:
illuminate our lives,
that we may see your goodness in the land of the living,
and looking on your beauty
may be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.