A Sermon based on Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 4:6-9 & Matthew 21:33-43
Two of today’s readings seem to be making social and political statements that could be read as very strong indictments of ancient Israel’s leadership. In Isaiah we hear the Prophet loud and clear about specific offenses by the rulers of Israel – he does not mince words as he lays his charges at their feet – and in Matthew’s Gospel we hear Jesus poignantly speaking in such a way that his words can be applied to the leaders of Israel 2000 years ago and also apply to the current leaders and wannabe leaders of our Nation today.
While it isn’t always good to include politically charged issues in a sermon there are times when the words of Scripture and specifically those of Jesus Himself do have direct bearing on our society today. I don’t think I am presenting anything profound or new here but I am simply filtering current events through the lens of the Scriptures. Obviously we don’t live in ancient Israel but there are many comparisons that can be made and it seems to me that this is one time when it is quite appropriate to do just that, in fact I think it would be wrong to ignore the implications.
Some of you already know my views and about my involvement locally as an activist regarding LGBT issues, faith issues and human rights and have heard me tell of my experiences as a transgender woman possessed of a strong Christian faith. You know that my motives are always to show the love of Christ and make it relevant in today’s crazy world, especially to folks who have been hurt horribly by people claiming to be godly and then beyond that to try and build up a community to which all of God’s lovingly diverse people can feel that they belong, whether they recognize God or not or whether they view God in the same way I do or not. It is within this context that I speak today and I hope you can find some strength and hope in my words.
Here we have Jesus giving us a parable that obviously has Isaiah’s words at the heart but I believe the application can be made to our own country. I see the USA as the tenant of this amazingly lush and productive land yet in spite of this our national leaders, elected and appointed along with the bulk of banking and large corporate interests seem to be completely blind to the needs of anyone but themselves – certainly there is very little consideration of the poor and the infirm in our once great land, many of whom feel abused and trodden down if not simply left for dead. I am dismayed at the extent of greed and selfishness. I am dismayed that lying seems to be the national and corporate language. When was the last time you heard on the news about a politician being honest? When did you last hear of a big corporation stepping forward on their own to own up to disasters they caused and compensating us fairly for the damage? When was the last time you heard of a large bank or insurance company dealing honestly with someone? When was the last time some government agency told us the plain truth about a situation? We are in one truly sad state of affairs in this nation.
Now take a look at the state of religion in our land – especially those groups that make the most noise and are spending the most money on politically charged issues. These are the people who claim to have our spiritual best interests at heart, who would tell us how to be saved and have sanctified marriages and who should know what the word righteous is since they throw it in our faces so much. These are the very people who tell us that God works miracles yet the minute He does they scream “abomination”! I don’t know if you are sick of hearing their tired old rhetoric about how LGBT people are trying to teach other children to be gay or transgender, or hearing about their efforts to deny us our rights as citizens of this nation and even to deny us the dignity of equality or acceptance, but I am sick of it – and I feel righteously indignant about it. These are the people that would beat the messengers and kill the very Son Himself and would try to co-opt the vineyard all for their own benefit. I am very tired of these types being the tenants and leaders of this land and I believe that God is too. I can really relate to what Mt. 21:41 says, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end”…“and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
I think it is time to decry from the pulpit leaders who act just like children and treat the country like it was a toy. In Ecclesiastes 10:16 (NKJV) we are told,
”Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!”
I hope and pray for leaders to arise who will consider and care for the poor and the sick and the cast-offs of society, lawmakers and decision makers who love their neighbors as themselves, and for corporate executives who listen to Jesus when He tells us in Luke 12:48,
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they ask the more.”
I get very depressed when I focus on the condition of this Country, seeing the depths to which we have already sunk. I’m very afraid for the future if things keep degenerating. I also get really worked up over all the abuse of LGBT and other folks by the religious “right” and their ignorant followers but I also have learned that if I act and speak out of the hurt I have experienced or the anger and upset I feel then I am doing just as much of a disservice to all of you as they are.
So what, you might ask, is the way to deal with both the social/political situation and the harmful religious attitudes, without getting all caught up in an emotional firestorm? How does one keep from being overwhelmed? Well, let’s look at our Second Reading again – Philippians 4:6-9 in the New International Version:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This is exactly how I hold on to hope and how I pick myself up out of depression and anxiety: I seek God, I think about things that are wholesome – I read the Scriptures and I remember the kindnesses people have done for me and the times that godly people have encouraged me, I think about the times that God has delivered me out of harm’s way and know I’ll be OK. I experience the peace of God which transcends my own understanding. And then, like Paul I channel my passion and anger into pro-active action.
For any of you who are still in doubt that God loves you or that you can find this peace I speak of I am living proof that this is dependable truth. I know beyond a doubt that the love of God is right at hand, just for the believing and accepting even if there are those who wrongfully say people like you or I have no place in God’s family. Think on this: God did not make you the person you are only to turn around and condemn you for being this way. God welcomes you with open arms just as you are! If you have questions or simply wish to discuss this please seek the Pastor or myself out after the service.
May God richly bless you, Amen.