“Word for Today” – Luke 20 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

September 14, 2009 at 4:45 am 1 comment


Titanic 2One of my favorite scenes from James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic takes place shortly after the massive luxury liner hits an iceberg late on a Sunday night.  After sounding the ship with her designer, Thomas Andrews, Captain E.J. Smith summons his officers to the bridge to announce the unthinkable:  the Titanic is in grave peril.  Andrews explains that the hull of the Titanic is divided into a series of sixteen compartments using fifteen transverse bulkheads, four of which can be flooded and the ship will remain safely afloat.  However, the Titanic’s collision with the iceberg has flooded the first five compartments. As a result, as the ship’s hull is pulled down by the flooded compartments, the water from the first five compartments will spill over into the compartments farther aft until the whole ship will flood and sink.  “Titanic will founder,” Thomas Andrews somberly declares.  “It is a mathematical certainty.”  In slack jawed disbelief, the chairman of the shipping company which built the Titanic, Bruce Ismay, responds to Andrews, “But this ship can’t sink!”  But Andrews knows better.  He rebuts, “She’s made of iron.  I assure you, she can.”

In our reading for today from Luke 20, Jesus tells a parable about a man who plants a vineyard and entrusts it to some tenants.  While he is away, he sends some people to check on his vineyard, but the tenants respond to each of the master’s envoys with increasing levels of violence.  They beat the first two envoys and wound the third.  The master finally decides that he will send his son to attend to his vineyard.  “They will respect him,” the master says (verse 13).   But alas, they do not.  Instead, they brutally murder him.

The meaning of this parable was all too apparent to Jesus’ listeners.  A vineyard is a common symbol for Israel in the Old Testament:  “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7).  The tenants, then, are the people of Israel and the envoys are the Old Testament prophets.  The master’s son?  Well, that’s Jesus.  Jesus will die.

The people, understanding Jesus’ parable, respond in slack jawed disbelief:  “May this never be” (verse 16)!  Like Bruce Ismay on the foundering Titanic, they can’t believe their ears.  “This can’t happen!” they respond incredulously.  But Jesus rebuts, “I assure you, it can.”  Jesus says, “What is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’” (verse 17)?  Jesus, to explain the inevitability of his death, quotes Psalm 118:22 and says that he is the stone rejected by his own people.  And if it’s foretold in Scripture, it can happen.  Indeed, it will happen.  It is a prophetic certainty.

People often ask me why God doesn’t reveal more of his plan for our lives.  They want to know why they have had to endure a certain tragedy or what road they should take in their lives or when they should pursue a certain dream.  So they cry out to God, asking for some unmistakable word or sign, but then become disillusioned and angry when a clear word is not heard or a clear sign is not seen.  I sometimes wonder if the reason God does not always give us the words and signs we so desperately seek is because, even if he did, we wouldn’t believe him anyway.  Like the crowd who responds to Jesus’ parable with words of disbelief – “May this never be!” – I sometimes wonder if we too wouldn’t respond to a revelation from Jesus: “But this can’t be right!”

In the end, we are called to trust in whatever is revealed to us in God’s plan – whether that revelation be the death of his Son Jesus or a more incidental revelation like a certain path we should take in our lives.  We are to never respond, “May this never be!”  For when God declares it, it is a divine certainty.  We are simply called to believe and respond, “May it always be.”

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Luke 19 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Luke 21 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Gary d. Goetz SR  |  October 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Hi again, Pastor. I am writing as you requested because our nephew, Armando Trujillo wanted that Spanish-Hebrew Bible. Also, if you could pass on to me that passage I have been looking for regarding: “Blessed is the man who lays down for another. . .” Thank you, in advance for your help.

    Happy Sunday!

    Gary Goetz Sr

    Reply

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