Sermon + Instant Karma’s Gonna Get Ya

Pastor Brian Campbell’s sermon from the October 4 Covenant Church at Home service, the third in the “Parables and Stories of the Kin-dom” sermon series.

He used the Gospel lesson (Matthew 21.33-46, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants) and the Hebrew Bible text (Isaiah 5.1-7, the Song of the Vineyard) as the bases for his message about following our role in the continuance of the Abrahamic Covenant; we have been blessed in order to be a blessing to those in need of being blessed. He warned of the joy of Instant Karma, and the joy of seeing others get what they had coming, because we too are subject to judgment, and our behinds have amble room for teethmarks.

Pastor Brian Campbell’s October 4 Sermon + Instant Karma from Church At Home
Pastor Brian Campbell’s October 4 Sermon + Instant Karma from Redeemer

May we learn from God’s words & stories, working to bring the Kin-dom here to Earth. AMEN.

  • This is not an easy parable to interpret and preach on during normal times.
    • As we are all aware, these are not normal times, and this week has been a doozy.
    • But that may mean this is an ideal time to look at the challenge Jesus is presenting.
  • Jesus is in the Temple in Jerusalem on the Monday or Tuesday of Holy Week.
    • The Temple leaders, the chief priests and elder, have come to challenge him on the power and authority upon which he has based his ministry and his actions.
      • Jesus responds by challenging them on the same concerns as well.
      • In the lesson from last week’s Gospel, Jesus told a parable.
    • We hear a disturbing parable today, but the parable Jesus tells references another story that would have been familiar to his audience
      • The Song of the Vineyard is one of the more famous passages from the prophet Isaiah.
        • Isaiah tells about the Beloved, which is God, creating a vineyard, preparing the soil, removing rocks and planting vines. God also builds a watchtower and a wine vat, and setting it aside with hedges and border walls..
        • Everything the vineyard could need is there.
        • Then the very grapes rebel, turn wild and unusable.
        • The song turns from a love song to a call for judgement.
          • Who is to blame, God, the builder of the vineyard or Israel, the grapes God planted?
          • God, knowing Israel has sinned, having not taken advantage of the blessing of the vineyard God has given it, tells of what God will do.
          • All of the blessings and buildings God gave the vineyard will be torn down and allowed to fall into disrepair. God won’t just destroy the vineyard, but will cause it to fall into ruin.
          • Finally, the prophet reveals that the nation of Israel was the vineyard, and the people were the grapes that ran wild.
            • God gave them the land promised to their ancestor Abraham, and gave them all of the blessings and protections of the vineyard so they could be a blessing to others. They were blessed so that the world could be blessed through them and their actions.
            • He expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! [A]
            • The people rejected God, and so God removed their blessings.
  • The people who heard Jesus begin a parable by saying, There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower, [B]  would have known the reference to Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard.
    • Jesus tells a parable of rebellion, but by the tenants of the vineyard and not the grapes themselves.
    • The tenants seem to believe they can ignore the landowner and the payments owed to the landowner.
    • This parable is also recorded in Mark and Luke’s Gospel; all of them in the same setting, Jesus being challenged by the religious leaders of Israel, those who will arrange for him to be arrested in the next few days.
      • The key difference comes in judging what should happen to tenants.
      • Here, Jesus asks what the owner of the vineyard should do to the 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.” [C]
  • Both vineyard parable are allegories. It is clear, or clearly stated, who the characters are in each story.
    • God is the landowner who is rebelled against or defied.
    • The people or the leaders of Israel reject the blessings of God, whether as grapes gone wild or as tenants run amok. For their rebellion, Israel shall face judgement.
      • This parable would have been a reassurance for the early church to hear, especially for the church to hear after 70 C.E., when Rome destroyed the city and the Temple in response to an attempted rebellion.
      • The early Christians would have thought the wicked tenants, led by the Chief Priests and elders, who rejected and betrayed the Son of the Vineyard Owner, and had him executed, would finally received their justice, and God would lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.
  • The danger of the two vineyard stories is in taking righteous joy in the downfall of those who had not only failed to do what they should have, but that they tried to change the rules to suit only them.
    • That is a danger of following the news as well.
    • It is easy to look at the vineyard stories, and the news and be reminded of the words of a song by a rock and roll prophet.
      • Instant Karma’s gonna get you, Gonna knock you right on the head
        You better get yourself together, Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead.
        What in the world you thinking of laughing in the face of love?
        What on earth you tryin’ to do? It’s up to you, yeah you.
        How in the world you gonna see, laughin’ at fools like me?
        Who in the hell d’you think you are, a super star?
    • It brings a satisfaction to see the problems that one has created come around to bite them right in their behind, but we should remember that our backsides have room for teeth marks as well.
      • As basic decent human beings, and as those who follow Christ, we have to have empathy for those who we feel have received their just desserts.
        • Because we have to ask ourselves if we want to be judged as well?
      • The description of what will happen to those who don’t use the blessings of the vineyard is violent, and brutal and just.
        • But is it coming for us as well?
      • While the chief priests and elders were describing a fate that was waiting for them, 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.
      • We are those other tenants.
        • Have we given God the produce of the harvest time?
        • Have we been a blessing to those in need with the blessings we have received?
  • Well we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.
    Well we all shine on, Ev’ryone come on
    Instant Karma’s gonna get you, gonna knock you off your feet.
    Better recognize your brothers in ev’ryone you meet
    Why in the world are we here surely not to live in pain and fear. [E]
    • We do all shine on. We shine with the reflected love of God as shown in God’s Son choosing to die at the hands of rebellious tenants and occupying forces.
    • We are called to recognize our brothers in everyone we meet and to share and shine that reflective love on them, blessing them with what God has blessed us with, making sure they are not living in pain and fear.
      • Why else in the world are we here?
      • We are here to make proper use of the God’s vineyard, to tend to the blood poured out for you and for all peoples, for the forgiveness of sin.
      • That’s the work God calls us to do. And if we don’t do it, then
        • Instant Karma’s gonna get you, Gonna look you right in the face
          Better get yourself together darlin’, and join the human race.
          Well we all shine on; Ev’ryone come on. [F]


[A]    Isaiah 5.7.

[B]     Matthew 21.33.

[C]    Matthew 21.41.

[D]    Lennon, John, Instant Karma, 1970.

[E]     Ibid

[F]     Ibid.

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