Continuing our theme of Parables of Jesus, we looked at the story of the man with two sons, who asked them both to go and work in the Vineyard.
Matthew 21:28-31: Now, what do you think? There was once a man who had two sons. He went to the older one and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’‘I don’t want to,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, but he did not go. Which one of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The older one,” they answered.
For this craft you will need green paper, pens, glue, magnets, and small purple pom-poms. Cut out leaf shapes and write your chosen verse on them (make sure you do this first, as the “grapes” get in the way afterwards!). Glue on the pom-poms – 10 will give you a nice cluster shape – and then glue flat fridge magnets to the back. We wrote on them “Working in God’s Vineyard”, but this is a really adaptable craft and can be used for many themes – for example, at the recent Community Fair where we had free craft making sessions, we did this for the Fruit of the Spirit instead.
As a bit of background to this story let me read you from a few verses beforehand:
Matthew 21:23-27:Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Jesus had just confronted some of the highest-ranking, most powerful and influential authorities of the time, and the tension is high. He criticizes them for not recognizing that the Ministry of John the Baptizer came from heaven – that is, was authorized and given from God. And He insinuates that these religious authorities are also failing to recognize the same authority and divinely ordained ministry in Him. He then goes on to tell the Parable of the two sons, which we have just heard.
So, is it a simple morality tale – do what you have committed to do; obey your Father; work hard? Or is it something more?
The Jewish authorities that Jesus has just confronted thought that they were doing what God had called them to do, but they got so distracted and pulled aside by nit picking adherence to the laws they had developed, that they lost sight of the true calling of God and were therefore no longer doing what He had called them to do. Worse, they were tying people up so much in made-made rules and regulations that they could not feel God’s presence in their lives for fear of offending the temple authorities who had control over their earthly fate.
We are all Children of God, so this Parable tells us that God asks all of us to work for Him. And some of us say “Yes!” with great eagerness and enthusiasm….but then the bills still need paying, there is the school run, the housework, catching up with friends, and I really need that time to relax. And so, not through malice or deliberate intent, the work of God gets sidelined for the work of me.
And some reject God’s word and call; God is nothing to do with them; they will not get pulled into all that superstition and nonsense! But God calls none-the-less. He continues to call. However far we turn away from Him, He does not turn away from us. And sometimes it is in spite of ourselves that the Light slips into our lives and everything becomes clear – and then we turn up in the vineyard and work and work for God’s purpose in this world.
If we fail to answer God’s call, it does not necessarily mean we are evil or worthless people. The religious authorities Jesus criticizes in the Gospels were not, either.
God calls us to work for him. He has called us in the past and sometimes we have done what he asked, and sometimes not. The really Good News is that He continues to call us, again and again. He does not give up on us.
What distracts us? What distracts you? Can we take some time to reflect on that.
Holy God, so many thoughts swirl in our heads. Ideas race. Worries and conflicting opinions invade our mind. Slow us down, Lord. In this moment, bring us to a sense of rest in you, to a sigh of relief, and with a deep breath we inhale your love.
Thank you God for the beautiful places we live in: Governors Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, Christchurch, and NZ. We ask that those who work at leading and taking care of these places are given the wisdom and conviction to do what is right.
We pray for those working with the rebuild of our homes and our community: including the Community Hall and our jetty, and for those working on the rebuild of our city. Please give them the insight, skills and resources to continue with this work.
We pray for the leaders of our country and those impacted by the decisions they make. We bring before you the soldiers and their families already serving overseas and those about to depart. Give them peace and protection as they face the unknown. We pray that your love be breathed into all places of conflict.
We pray for all those who work in your church, including Russell our Vicar, as they discern your will. For the people bringing your light to this world and its people through their ministries. We pray for individuals, waking each day and dedicating themselves to another day of faithfulness to you. Give them all a renewed sense of purpose, wisdom in their work and a new vision of your love for them.
We pray for all those who are in need of your love, your hope, your guidance and strength, your healing and your peace. We think of those we know, including ourselves, who need this right now.
Help us this week to grow in knowing more about you, in knowing what you want us to do, from what we should not do. Help us to be faithful and true to our word. Help us to step out and serve you in the vineyard you have placed us in.
It is in the name of Christ we pray. Amen