Sermons

Isaiah 5:1-7;  Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

In his parable, Jesus makes a not-so-subtle comparison between the way the workers in the vineyard treat those who are sent to gather the harvest, the way the religious authorities have treated the prophets who came before him, and how they are now treating him.

In words that threatened and scared the leaders into seeking his execution, Jesus warns them that, though they reject him, his life and ministry will serve as the cornerstone of a building not yet built.

In yet another paradox God gives us, Jesus teaches his followers that the standards of the world are not the standards of God.  That which the world would disregard and reject, God uses to build up God’s dream for the world.

 

Perhaps you know this to be true.  When we think of how our hearts have been opened to God, it is often because someone at the margins has shown us something about God we never knew.

The poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the suffering, the ill, the aged, the very young – these are the messengers God has sent to me to teach me and lead me into the heart of God.

This parable from Jesus begs the question, “how do we treat the messengers God sends to us?” Who do we see as cornerstones, and who do we reject?  The paradox of God suggests that we ignore the messengers God sends us at our own peril.

All of what we call salvation history, the story of God’s relationship with God’s people, from Genesis to the Book of Revelation to today, is a constant effort by God to figure out what we need to understand God’s love for us.

It is a long cycle of God reaching out, humanity not quite getting it, and God reaching out again.  Over and over this cycle has repeated itself, and continues to even to this day.

Here is creation – the most loving act we might imagine.  But we don’t totally get it.

Here are Kings and Queens to show you what a Godly kingdom might look like.  But we didn’t get that quite right.

Here are prophets, that you might hear the call of God to live in justice and follow the path of mercy and love.  But the prophets did not fare too well.

And so finally, like the vineyard owner, God sends God’s son into the world to say, “Here.  This is what love looks like in human form.  Come and see, come and listen, come and break bread.”

And, like the vineyard owner’s son, God’s son is persecuted and he is executed.

Humanity keeps not getting it, and God’s response every time is to keep trying new things, to keep reaching out, to keep revealing God’s self in new ways that we might see; that we might hear; that we might, finally, give ourselves over to God’s message of love, justice, and mercy.

How do we treat the messengers God sends to us?  How do we listen to the voices we have learned to reject? What new ways is God trying to reach out to us?  To you?  How is God trying to show you what love looks like?

At a clergy gathering this past week, a colleague was talking about gratitude.  As she spoke of how she understood gratitude, she told us that, whenever her church has a baptism, she refers to the child about to be baptized as a “love letter from God.”

A love letter from God.  At first it sounded a bit saccharine for my taste, a little too “Precious Moments.”

But as she continued her talk about gratitude, I began to think about Milo, who we gather to baptize this morning. And I began to imagine him as a love letter from God. Now, I’m sure that’s how his family feels about him.  It is hardly a stretch for his parents, godparents, and grandparents to imagine Milo a hand-written love letter from God.

There have probably been nights when they wished God’s love wasn’t so loud at three o’clock in the morning, but it is hard not to look at a baby, any baby, and not see God’s handwriting.

Every child about to be baptized is a love letter from God.

Of course, this sweet little saying has profound implications.  For it means that if Milo is a love letter from God, then so were all the other children and adults we have baptized in this place.  So are all the children and adults we will baptize in the future.

If Milo is a love letter from God, then so were we when we were baptized. So are we today.

Suddenly, a love letter from God shifts from an adorable platitude for Milo, to a statement of identity and mission for each one of us.

We are love letters from God, each one of us.  We are to live our lives as though that were true.  What might living your life as a letter of love from God to the world look like?  What might need to be changed in your life for that to be true? 

And, of course, if we are love letters from God, so is everyone with whom we come in contact.  How might it change how you move through your world if you were to view the people you see throughout the course of your day as a letter of love from God? Each person with something to teach you about God’s love for you and for the world God has made?

There are people it might be easier to view as this love letter than others.  We know that some people live out their lives fully aware of God’s love for them and for the world.  And we know that some have long forgotten their beloved-ness before God and live their lives more like a stone that has been rejected and cast aside.

The bookends of this past week serve as an extreme and painful illustration of the wide spectrum that exists between knowing fully that we are embraced by God’s love, as Milo now knows, and feeling so broken off from God’s love, so severed from the rest of God’s creation, that someone could take the lives of 58 innocent concert-goers, and then take their own, as Stephen did last Sunday.

When did he forget he was a love letter from God?  When did he feel himself tossed aside, a rejected stone tossed on a heap to be discarded?

And so this week has been, for me, another brief chapter in salvation history, repeating the cycle of humanity’s separation from God, followed by God reaching into the world to remind us who we are, who we are meant to be, how we are to see one another and how we treat one another.

Once again, God reaches into the chaos of the world to remind us what love looks like.  This time, God does it for us with Milo.  What a gift, after the week we have had, to have this reminder of what life lived fully in the love of God looks like. 

What a gift to be reminded of who we all are, beloved children of God.  What a gift to be reminded that each person we meet, each person we see in our lives or on the news is a beloved child of God, too.  Some have forgotten that truth, and it is our job to remind them, as we will promise to do for Milo in just a few minutes.  Some of us have forgotten it’s true about us, and God keeps reaching out to us to remind us in new ways over and over again. 

Milo is another in a long line of messengers from God, sent to remind us who we are and who God longs for us to be.  This small child, unable even to care for himself, is our cornerstone this morning.

Milo is a love letter from God.  It is now our job to make sure he knows it. 

You are a love letter from God.  It is your job never to forget it.

AMEN.

© 2017 The Reverend Jeffrey W. Mello

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