He sent Noah to build a boat and Noah was laughed at.
He sent prophets who were ignored or got angry when asked to speak to those they didn’t like.
He sent kings when asked and they were led people astray.
Crazy love. A love we have a hard time understanding and yet we see it in…
A tired mother who won’t give up looking for her runaway daughter.
A son who mows his mother’s grass each week as she watches from her wheelchair.
A husband who holds his wife’s hair as the chemicals treating her cancer have her praying to the porcelain gods.
A daughter who reads stories to the father she is no longer sure knows her.
A first responder running into a burning building.
A tired doctor leaving the hospital who stops at an accident scene.
Each of these people love the best way they know how and yet….
While their love is an incredible gift, somehow it isn’t quite the same as this God who loves us with this wild, reckless, crazy love. This God we come to worship today.
In the reading from Philippians we are reminded about a man who once persecuted Christians. He acted with hate and vengeance for a reason we will never know or understand. A man transformed on a dirt road by a God who loves so big. A man who gives up all he is and all he has to share God with others.
In the gospel we hear Jesus tell a story about a landowner and some farmers who lease his land. The landowner has done all the work. He plants a vineyard, puts up a fence, digs a winepress, and even builds a watch tower to guard against theft. All is ready and then he leaves entrusting all to the farmers. The farmers are to tend the crop and upon its harvest provide the landowner with a share. It is a win, win situation.
Yet for some reason the farmers forget that it is not their land. We want to read into the story that they were mistreated by the owner in some way, but that just is not there. No, instead the farmers want it all. This land they have been contracted to care for somehow in their eyes begins to belong to them. They forget that they have been entrusted with it, but don’t own it. They are unwilling to give to the landowner what is due.
The landowner sends his servants to get his share of the harvest. Some are beaten, others killed. Not willing to give up, the landowner sends others. The same thing happens a second time. At this point in the story most of us would give up or call the law or perhaps even hire an army.
But not the landowner. No instead he shows that crazy God love. He sends his son. His beloved son. How crazy is that? We want the farmers to have a change of heart. It doesn’t happen that way. They say to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” The farmers even kill the son for land and crops that are not theirs to begin with.
At this point, Jesus asks the chief priests and the elders what should happen next in this story. And not understanding this crazy love, they reply, "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."
Jesus then reminds them of this scripture from the Psalms: `The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'.
In his subtle way Jesus is letting them know that if they fail to produce fruit, this immense gift of crazy love will be taken from them. Surprise, surprise. They don’t want to things to change and begin to plot how to get rid of this “prophet” who speaks about this crazy love. Perhaps because this kind of love is terrifying. It changes everything.
Or was it that they thought because of their status and religious leadership they were granted the right to all that belonged to God? That they need not give all to God?
We often fall into the same trap. We think we have a right to own what God has entrusted to us because we call ourselves Christians and go to church. We forget that God looks at our heart, at our willingness to love in this way God loves us.
Our response to that love is often to turn away. That type of love is frightening. It changes everything and rather than embrace it we run. It is easy to push it away and pretend we are in control and all that we have, all that we are is ours and not God’s.
Jesus is reminding us that we are tenants not owners of this world. While we will be cared for, the world is not ours to own. We are charged with taking good care of all that has been entrusted to us during our time here, but we are just tenants. We are the tenants, the stewards, we are not God. Yet we often forget that, acting as though we own all that we have been entrusted with.
We are being asked not only to care for all God has given us but to respond to this crazy love by giving all that we are to God. All.
That changes everything and that is scary.
Even crazier…we can say no to God and God will still love us.