“Producing Fruits of the Kingdom”

Matthew 21:33-46

4 October 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 21:33-46

“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.”

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.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Prayer.

The high stakes, life or death, confrontation with the religious authorities continues for Jesus,

As he transitions from his first of three parables to this, his second.

Pharisees had circled in with the Chief Priests and elders of the people

Challenging Jesus’ authority

Right there on the Temple steps.

How dare he enter the city like royalty and overturn the money changing tables in the Temple?

Which is better, Jesus asked, a son who sins then does right?

Or, a son who makes promises but fails to keep them?

The answer, of course, is the one who sins, repents, and does right;

You know, kind of like a tax collector or prostitute who turn back on their former ways, stops the sin, and follows God.

But, whoa to those who are all talk and no substance;

You know, kind of like hypocritical, crooked religious authorities.

Either you’ve got a moral compass, or you don’t.

Either you are moving towards God, or you’re not.

In today’s second parable Jesus teaches about wicked tenants

Who woefully abuse the landowner’s servants,

Even killing the landowner’s son,

Abusing the extended authority of the landowner.

Jesus asks the religious authorities what should be done.

The Chief Priests, elders of the people, and Pharisees show their stripes

By their violence filled answer:

The landowner should kill the wicked tenants, they replied.

There you have it.

Kill ‘em. Kill them all.  

Not exactly a pro-life position.

High-five, however, for law and order.

Jesus holds high the essential truth he intends to teach with this parable:

Those who fail to produce,

Those who break apart and destroy,

Those who would kill the Son,

Those are the ones who will have the kingdom taken away.

Wicked tenants are like religious authorities who have no God,

Who perpetuate corruption for personal gain,

Who exert power, control, and authority,

Who publicly speak faith but privately practice otherwise.

Leadership matters.

Producing fruits of the kingdom matters.

It matters so much,

This parable about wicked tenants

Compels us to ask three important questions.

1. First, what does God loving, Jesus following, leadership look like?

Who will answer the call?

Who is going to step up and take responsibility?

Leadership should be on the mind of every Nominating committee headed into Church Conference season.

As we pray we listen and discern who will lead us with Spirit filled conviction in coming years.

Who has the talent to get the job done?

Who has the track record of getting work done?

Who is reliable, dependable, and lives by faith?

Likewise, leadership should be in the thoughts of every follower of Jesus.

What am I being called to do?

What is the Lord’s will and the best way for me to fulfill it?

Some are called to social action,

Others to missions,

Even others to preach the Word, maintain order, and celebrate the Sacraments.

Every follower of Jesus is called.

Do something.

Do something productive.

Cooperation with each other is essential for unity.

Communication must be clear, concise, and align with behavior.

Results strengthen the Body.

Results matter.

Results matter to God.  

Whatever your call to leadership looks like, or

Wherever your call to leadership takes you, or

With whoever the Lord is calling you to serve,

Produce good fruits for the Lord.

Accept nothing less from yourself

Than excellence.

2. Secondly, what are the fruits of God’s Kingdom?

We should not assume that people know,

Especially newer Christians.

The astute student of New Testament Greek will notice

The Greek word for “fruits”

Shares a common root with

The Greek word for “blessed.”

(KARpoud visa vi maKARioi, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament)

Jesus is pointing his finger back to his Sermon on the Mount,

The Beatitudes,

In the opening chapters of his teaching and ministry.

Those who have ears to hear

Know that Jesus is teaching us that the fruits of God’s Kingdom

Are blessings,

Blessing others.

Those who bless the poor, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful … are producing fruits of God’s Kingdom.

Those who bless the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and victims of persecution … are producing fruits of God’s Kingdom.

Those who dig into the work of ministry seasoned with salt, shining the light of Christ to the world, and who follow the Law and prophets … are producing fruits of God’s Kingdom.

Bless those discipline their anger,

Who reconcile with their estranged sister or brother.

Bless those who do not retaliate, who love and pray for their enemies.

Bless those who give to the poor, who pray and fast, and who serve only God.

Bless those who do not judge others, but leave judgment up to the Lord.

Bless those who seek after God, who do unto others the way you would have them do unto you.

Bless those who love God, love their neighbors, and have are known as Jesus followers because of their love.

Bless those who hear the words of Jesus and does them.

People that bless are people that produce.

These are the people producing fruits of God’s Kingdom.

3. Thirdly, what fruits of the Kingdom,

However large or small,

Are you tending right now?

As you contemplate your personal fruits of Kingdom production,

In tribute to my mother, Alice Goddard,

Who died in the Lord this past Tuesday,

I’ll witness to her fruits of the Kingdom.

As a pastor’s wife of 19 years

There wasn’t a church floor that she didn’t scrub,

… On her hands and knees.

She blessed God and fellow Christians with spic and span clean floors,

Reflecting a belief in a God of creation, beauty, and perfection.

She baked multiple apple pies a week, blessing members of the parish and the larger community with her love and witness.

A slice of apple would come with an invitation to come to church

And an invitation to follow Jesus.

She blessed my brothers, sister, and me with faith in Jesus Christ, that became for each of us the Light of the World.

Her blessings flowed with her habit of tithing, attending worship without fail, and actively working in United Methodist Women to reach out in mission to the world.

My mother produced a lot of fruit in her 95 years.

What fruits of God’s Kingdom

Are you tending right now?

How’s production?

I can not remember a previous time in my life

That has been more important to be laser focused on producing fruits for God’s Kingdom.

This despicable pandemic is wearing people down and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Headed into winter,

It is more important than ever to be

Disciplined, discerning, and determined to bear fruit,

To bring blessing, to produce results, to pronounce joy.

Discipline.

It is all about Christian maturity.

Discernment.

It is all about listening for God’s will.

Determination.

It is all about our willingness to act,

To follow through,

To get the job done.  

What does God loving, Jesus following, leadership look like?

It looks and sounds just like Jesus.

Who will answer the call?

The answer is you.

What are the fruits of God’s Kingdom?

Matthew, chapters 5-8.

Read them.

Comprehend them.

Live them.

Become the blessing.

What fruits of the Kingdom,

However large or small,

Are you tending right now?

Take stock.

Be determined to produce fruits

With strength and grit and discipline

Worthy of the Lord.

The Kingdom of God will be yours.

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s