Rev. Rosemary Webb
5th October 2014
Our Greatest Need is Prayer

I think most parents will agree that if not the first words a child learns, certainly among the earliest is ‘it’s mine!’ There is something in us which makes us very possessive, and tragically if we are truthful people can so often become worse with age.

Jesus tells this parable in a way which we can all understand, in doing so he is, I believe challenging us all to look at the way we lead our lives.

We know the story well, we have this man who buys some land, built a wall round it and created a vineyard. He even built a watchtower so that his crop will be protected, and indeed the crop was good. Everything should be going totally to plan, except that the landowner had leased the vineyard to some tenants and went away – not because he had lost interest but because he wanted to give the tenants freedom to grow, to use their own initiative, to succeed.

The plan was, let’s face it, quite simple the farmers are to tend to the crop and the land, and when it is time, give back to the farmer his share of the harvest, and the tenants get what they have earned and what’s more they have been given all they need to succeed

It seems quite fair, they should have understood what would happen, there is no mention of distrust, until, of course, when the landowner sent his servant to collect what was due to him. Not just the first time he sent someone, but every time, every time he sent someone to collect what was due to him the tenants rebelled, some servants they killed, some they just attacked, but each time the landowner sent someone to his land the tenants were having none of it.

Like the baby I mentioned at the beginning, there was only one thought it their mind that that was ‘it’s mine’. They were greedy, they were not prepared to listen, to attempt to understand, all that mattered was what they regarded as their rights.

So Jesus tells the crowds this parable – the landowner is God, our loving Father who created this beautiful world for us, but because he trusted us from the beginning he also gave us freedom of choice, freedom to make our own decisions, the freedom to ignore all that he has given us.
Jesus is recalling the history of the world, how God sent his prophets and messengers to earth to help us to understand and, finally, in perhaps in what was near desperation, sent his own son. God thought surely they will respect him.

However Jesus was telling them that they also rejected the Son, Jesus himself, the Jewish people still thought they knew best, so they crucified him.

This parable is the history of humanity, and somewhere in the story we will find ourselves, for it is ongoing, nothing has changed, we still regard the world as ours, not as a gift from God to be nurtured not just for today’s people but for future generations. We do not own the world we are the tenant farmers. And over and over again another bully comes on the scene to shatter people’s lives. Perhaps particularly when we were at school we might read part of the Old Testament and think how barbaric they were, but are we any different today?

It is easy to think Oh it’s nothing to do with me, but I’m not so sure for surely as long as we live in a world where such things happen we are guilty, for we all have a voice we all have the power to shout loudly, and most importantly we can all pray for peace . Things do change so very slowly and it seems as if one thing is overcome, something else occurs to challenge us. I stood overlooking the Berlin Wall in 1988 remarking this is here for ever, well it wasn’t it came down the next year, but no sooner was it down then other bullies began shouting ‘that’s not yours, it’s mine’.

So how should we respond, not I believe through violence but through prayer. Prayer costs nothing, it is something all people, and I mean all people, not just Christians can do for free. People say they are rising up against oppression but look what violence does, look at the waste of money, buildings razed to the ground only to have to be rebuilt that’s not alleviating oppression. The world doesn’t have money to waste, and at a time when millions of people in Africa are at risk of the Ebola virus, that surely should be where money should be being spent.

Yes, we need to create a world where prayer is seen as the most important gift we can pass to future generations. Not as seems so often today an embarrassing subject no one wishes to talk about. We need to ensure that we and all people recognise that this world belongs to God and God alone. Yes we can benefit in our lives, but we must ensure that it is fit for future generations

The Jews, who had spent centuries waiting for the Messiah, killed him because they thought they knew what he would be like, they couldn’t believe God’s son would like people they despised but he did. They didn’t believe that God would call them to pray for all people, to love their enemies, but that was what he was calling them to do, he did then and he still does.

God calls us to turn to him, to follow Christ with all our hearts and to love all our neighbours as ourselves.

Let us pray
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Matthew: 21:33-46