11-22-15, Christ the King Sunday (PR) Traditional,

CHRIST THE KING                                                     MARK 12:1-3

PETER’S LUTHERAN – NEFFSVILLE                 Psalm 72

NOVEMBER 22, 2015                                                 Isaiah 5:-17, 11:1-5

(The following sermon was offered somewhat extemporaneously away from the pulpit, so these notes represent a general structure for the sermon, along with some particular sources.  It is not a text of exactly what was preached.)

The late Abraham Joshua Heschel was a polish born Jewish rabbi, who was known for his unique view of Jewish mysticism, and the way it shaped his view of God and humanity.  Martin Marty, is arguably our most prominent American Lutheran historian.  A few years before Heschel’s death in the early 1970’s, he and Marty were discussing the topic of “hope” from their respective Jewish and Christian traditions.  As Martin Marty remembers the exchange, Heschel said to him, “Martin … you wake up in the morning, look out the window, and say ‘The world IS redeemed’.  I wake up in the morning, look out the window, and say, ‘The world WILL BE redeemed.’  And those are vastly different world views.”  That theme of “redemption” is our theme for today’s festival of Christ the King.  Who has redeemed us? … who will redeem us?

Let’s take a look at our lesson.  Open your bulletins to Page 8 and our Isaiah passage.  Take a look at the first 3 ½ lines.

What vineyard is Isaiah talking about do you think?  Any ideas?

  • Sure … but might we consider going a little farther back?
  • Eden – exactly – where we hear of God’s first love for God’s children.
  • And how do God’s first children respond?  Poorly.
  • In Eden and in Israel

Read a little farther now … is God the problem?  Did God not do enough?

  • No, of course not.  We’re talking God, right?
  • Who’s the problem?  God’s children.
  • Adam & Eve … Israel … you and me … doesn’t matter.
  • We all end up disobedient, right?

Let’s read just a little more – a couple of lines down from where we left off.

  • And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.  I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.  I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

So … have you been pruned lately?  It’s our preaching question for the day.

  • So have you? … have you been pruned?
  • I’ll break the ice – I was pruned last week – by a member – graciously, thankfully – she reminded me of a person I hadn’t visited – I was embarrassed & humbled – I’ll see her this week.
  • Pruning helped
  • So have you ever been pruned?   Anyone willing to share a moment of pruning in your life?  Parent … boss … spouse … friend … pastor …
  • Pruning is a good thing.  It creates growth and health.

And so God’s decision NOT to prune the people of Israel, is a sign that there is no life in them.

  • Eventually they will find themselves exiled from the Promised Land
  • Captives in Babylon to a foreign ruler.
  • Historically, the Exile in Babylon happened more than 100 years after Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.
  • But in God’s eyes, they were already dead … they simply didn’t know it.

But being a wasteland does not last forever.

  • If you take one more look at our lesson.
  • Look for the exclamation point.
  • Would someone be willing to read the three sentences that follow that exclamation point starting with “a shoot”.

Who is that shoot from the stump of Jesse?

  • David (for the Jews)
  • And how about for us as Christians?  (JESUS)
  • Yes, in the face of barrenness and desolation, God takes things into God’s own hands.
  • God brings healing that we cannot achieve ourselves.
  • God promises redemption, in ways that we can neither control or direct.

Some days, it feels like there are lots of wastelands in our world, doesn’t it.

  • Places where hope for redemption resist growth.
  • Places like Paris and Mali and anywhere that terrorism strikes.
  • And the accompanying refugee resettlement challenges of trying to balance safety with humane compassion for persons who are legitimately displaced from their homelands.
  • You might think that a political system that seriously entertains someone like Donald Trump as a presidential candidate suggests a wasteland.
  • And some people look at the institutional Christian Church, and wonder if barrenness awaits all of us who still gather on Sunday mornings in brick and mortar buildings.

I don’t have magic fertility pills for these cultural wastelands … nor do you.

  • But on Christ the King Sunday, God suggests that we look to the one who has real power in our world.
  • Jesus, that one whom we call King.

And we do not only look to Christ’s coming at the end of the ages

  • We look to his Kingship here and now.
  • We experience Christ when we pray
  • We embrace Christ when we honor his teachings
  • We see Christ in moments when God chooses to bring redemption.

Maybe our Hymn of the day offers the best advice.

  • Ponder these words when we sing in a moment.
  • God, when human bonds are broken

and we lack the love or skill

to restore the hope of healing,

give us grace and make us still.


Send us, God of new beginnings,

humbly hopeful into life.

Use us as a means of blessing:

make us stronger, give us faith.

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Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.