Track 1: The Stone that the Builders Rejected
Today we celebrate God giving the Law to Moses. Reading from today’s Old Testament scripture:
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before[a] me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-17)
God wrote his commandments on stone tablets by his own hand. The stone meant that his commandments were permanent. They were to be perpetuated down through the ages. They would never be erased. They cannot be ignored or overlooked by humankind.
But Israel failed in keeping God’s commandments, just as we have failed. Our failure does not mean that his commandments have failed. We have dimply reject4ed God’s word and his requirements. Jesus spoke of this rejection:
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” (Matthew 21:42-44)
The psalmist wrote:
The law of the Lord is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.
The statutes of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:7-8)
The law is perfect, but who has kept the law of God perfectly? This is a vital question, because if we brake any part of God’s law we have broken it all. The Apostle Paul tells us that no one has done this:
It is written,
“No one is right with God, no one at all.
No one understands.
No one trusts in God.
All of them have turned away.
They have all become worthless.
No one does anything good,
no one at all.” (Romans 3:11-12)
Jesus is the only one who kept the law without fail. He, in fact, has fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law by his life, death on the cross, and resurrection. He is the very embodiment of the law of God. He is the cornerstone of our church and of our lives.
If we have chosen Jesus as our rock, then we must stand on him. The Apostle Paul wrote:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own;[e] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[f] call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3::10-14)
Whom do we stand on today? Do we know him as Lord and savior? Or have we rejected him? Jesus give us this warning:
And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Matthew 21:44)
Track 2: The Vineyard of the Lord
God provided for Israel. We read throughout the Old Testament how he nurtured them, fought for them, delivered them from bondage, provided a land with rich resources, and established a way for the people to receive his forgiveness and restoration.
Despite all of God’s faithfulness to his people, Israel proved unfaithful to God over and over again. God spoke through the Prophet:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:1-2)
God called Israel his vineyard numerous times in scripture:
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry! (Isaiah 5:7)
In todays’ Gospel Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard:
Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” (Matthew 21:33-41)
We also are Israel. We are the engrafted branches through the blood of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root[f] of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. (:17-20)
Will are the branches if te vineyard, just as Israel. Jesus says to us:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)
God wants to display his glory through us. We read in Isaiah:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Jesus was referring to himself and he was taking about us. We are God’s tender plants. We we allow God to prune us, to nurture us? Jesus reminds us:
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing