8 The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Landowner

The story is told that a man once encountered Abraham Lincoln walking down the street with his two young sons and both boys were howling. “What’s wrong with the boys Abe?” the man asked. “What’s wrong with the boys is what’s wrong with the world” Lincoln responded “I have three chestnuts and they both want two.”
Actually I think the president was wrong, I don’t think the main consideration for Tad and Willie was that they wanted more than their brother I think what they were more concerned about was whether or not their brother would have more than them.
It is one of the most common and least enviable traits that people exhibit. The fear that someone else is going to get something that you didn’t get. It’s really hard.
And it’s not the big difference, I really couldn’t care less that someone got a great deal on Rolls Royce, but if I bought a new Corolla and found out that you got yours for a thousand dollars less it would be tough for me to celebrate with you. Does that make me a bad person?
And if it was limited to material things it wouldn’t be so bad, but I think deep in the dark place that hides inside of all of us we might be able to agree with Gore Vidal who wrote “”whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.
So here we are, week nine into our series “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like. . .” Way back in June we started looking at the parables that Jesus began with those words. Parables were one of the teaching methods that Jesus used in his preaching. Not the only method but perhaps his favourite method. Parables are short stories that contain a moral, kind of like a fable but different. And some of them are fairly clear and some are a little less clear.
And so as Jesus taught his apostle what they could expect the Kingdom of Heaven to be like he used the everyday to illustrate the eternal, the secular to reveal the sacred.
“Look my kingdom will be like, a man working in a field, a fishing net being thrown into the sea, a mustard seed taking root on the side of the road, a wheat field or bread rising in a kitchen” Everyday things in their world that they would be familiar with . And so we began our series not with one of Jesus’ parables but instead with the statement “The Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk” Because really isn’t that the type of thing that Jesus would have used if he had of been teaching in Northern Canada instead of Palestine.
If Jesus had of been teaching the Inuit people in their language, which is Inuktitut, he wouldn’t have used wheat fields and vineyards as illustrations, instead he would have looked around the barren northern landscape and part of what he would have seen are the stone sententials that are so familiar in that area. And he would have said “The Kingdom of heaven is like an Inukshuk.”

 And if you’ve been here for some of the messages or perhaps you just really knowledgeable about inukshuks then you know that in Inuktitut Inukshuk means “likeness of a person” or in the larger definition “something which acts for or performs the function of a person.” Inuk meaning person and shuk meaning similar. And the Northern People saw the inukshuk as an integral part of their world, just as Christ followers, living out the commands of Christ should be an integral part of the world today.

 And in the same way that the inukshuk provided landmarks in a landscape that had very few natural landmarks we are to provide moral landmarks. And just as the inukshuk pointed the Inuit in the right direction as they travelled we are to provide a moral compass for our world, and just as the inukshuk was used sometime to warn people of potential danger the church is to warn people of the consequences of sin and of the horror of an eternity without God and his love.

 But Jesus was not teaching in Nunavut on this day, instead we are told that his travels had taken him east of the Jordan river and it was there as he taught that he told the story of the Landowner and the Vineyard. Matthew 20:1-2 “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
You know at least part of the story because Karen read it earlier, it was time for the harvest and so the man went out to hire people to pick his grapes. I love grapes don’t know if I would be the best person to send out to pick them. But the story tells us that the man went to the marketplace very early in the morning, in the original language we are told that is was at six a.m., and yes as surprising as it seems there are two six o’clocks in the day. And we are told that that work day would have continued until the next six o’clock, apparently back then you only had to work for a half day and it didn’t matter which 12 hours it was.
Culturally we are told that this would be a very common scene two thousand years ago as day workers gathered in the central square of a town or village looking for work, as a matter of fact it is a sight that is still seen in third world countries around the world. And we are told that these men wouldn’t have had much going for them, they survived by gosh and by golly. They had no permanent work and if they didn’t find work than at the end of the day they would have no pay, kind of like an ancient temp agency.
And the men who were hired were promised a denarius, which was a Greek coin, now we could get into how much a denarius represented two thousand years ago and what it would be worth in today’s money but that is irrelevant, what is relevant is that we are told that two thousand years ago it represented a day’s wage. And so they were promised a day’s pay for a day’s work, and not one of them would complain about that.

And the story continues, perhaps the landowner underestimated how many grapes had to be picked or overestimated how many grapes the men could pick but we are told that at 9 a.m. he returned to the market place and hired more men, and again at noon time and 3 in the afternoon.
From the story we are told that when he hired the first men he agreed to pay them a denarius, a day’s wage. But as he hired the subsequent men he told them Matthew 20:4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day.
And the story as you know if from our earlier reading ended with verses 6 & 7 Matthew 20:6-7 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
And we can understand that, it makes sense. And we would assume as did those who were hired that if those who were hired at 6 a.m. and worked the full day received a full day’s wage then those who were hired later in the day and worked less would receive less pay and that would be fair and just. And at the end of the day everyone would got home happy, or at least their expectations would have been met.
But had we continued with the reading we would have seen the story get interesting. Let’s pick the story up where we left off. Matthew 20:8-10 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage.”
And they were a little cranky. Now I know that we are all getting up on our spiritual high horse and silently protesting that we wouldn’t have been like that, that we would have been glad that they received as much as we did even though some of them only worked an hour. Oh stop it, hypocrisy doesn’t look good on you, you know very well that you would have been just as cranky as they were.
On January 24th 1989 Ted Bundy was executed after confessing to the murder of 30 people, media outlets all over the US requested interviews with Bundy that he turned down, but on the day before he was to be executed he requested an interview with Dr. James Dobson from Focus on the Family.
Bundy felt that there was a very real correlation between the escalation use of pornography in his life from the time he was a young teen and what he had ended up doing and he wanted to warn people about that. If you watch the interviews you come away knowing why they referred to him as the Gentlemen Killer.
But that is not what we are here to talk about here today. In a later interview, with Dobson not Bundy, Bundy was dead by then, James Dobson talked about how he felt that Ted Bundy had been truly remorseful about what he had done and in those final hours had asked Christ’s forgiveness and turned his life over to Jesus.
How does that make you feel? That Ted Bundy, a self-confessed killer, in the last hours of his life could have a death bed conversion? When you get to heaven he could be your neighbour. Bet that knocked you off your high horse.
This parable is abstract until it become personal. I wonder how the Christ followers who were gathered around at the foot of the cross felt when the thief next to Jesus said in
Luke 23:42-43 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I wonder if there were those who thought “Wait just a minute, we’ve spent the last three years following Jesus and obeying his commandment, how does this reprobate warrant a free pass?” and I wonder if anyone there connected the dots back to this story?
There are a couple of different views of what Jesus was trying to illustrate with this parable. There are some who tell us that it is about God’s covenant first with the Jews and then with the Gentiles. Matthew Henry writes “The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews.”

Guess that never dawned on me, but it certainly makes sense. The Jews having had a relationship with God since the promises made to Abraham and now the invitation being extended to the Gentiles as well. I can see that.
There are others who see the parable as a synopsis of how the Gospel began to spread, that those who were hired at 6:00 a.m. were the apostles, and then those at 9 a.m. were those converted at Pentecost and so on and so forth right up to those who will come to know Christ during the Great Tribulation. Guess that never dawned on me either, but that certainly makes sense.
Guess I am just a simple kind of guy because I always looked at this story as an illustration about where each of us personally met Jesus on our life’s journey. I have friends and family members who tell me that they made that decision to follow Christ as very young children. My daughter Deborah falls into that category. There were very aware of what Jesus was offering and took advantage of it.
Have read their bible almost since they were able to read, said goodnight to God just as naturally as they said good night to their parents or siblings and greeted him the same way in the morning, never wandered and never strayed. In the vernacular of the business world they were early adopters. And there is a lot to be said about people like that, and they will never have to carry the luggage that some of us carry because of some of our behaviour and choices that were made before we met Jesus.
And then there are those who made that decision as teens, or as young adults. If you fall into that category than you are the 9 a.m. people. I was 19 when I made the choice to become a Christ follower, and it seemed that I had lived my entire life without God, and I had. For others of you that decision was made in your twenties or thirties, would that be around noon time? And then there are some here who came to know Jesus at three o’clock.
So what do we learn from this story?
Matthew 20:8-12 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
For Some It was a Story of Greed. I really wasn’t sure what to call this first point, in one sense it was greed but not a normal type of greed, it was a nefarious type of greed. Because it wasn’t so much that they wanted more, they had in fact received what was fair, even they would agree to that. It wasn’t so much that they wanted more, they wanted the others to receive less.
I’m sure you remember the 10 Commandments, you can probably get most of them down pat, Don’t cuss, don’t have other gods, don’t build idols, remember the Sabbath, honour your parents, don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery. But do you remember the last one the one that sees so innocent compared to killing, lying, cheating and stealing.
Kind of like the Sunday School class that was studying the Ten Commandments. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what the last commandment was and a little girl raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, “Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbours’ wife.” Which is close it is actually Exodus 20:17 “You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”
And that commandment is there because God knew that would be the root that would eventually lead to murder, theft and adultery. Covetness is not simply wanting something like someone else has, it is wanting what they have or if that can’t happen than it’s wanting them not to have it.
That’s why way back in Genesis Cain killed Abel, because Abel had what Cain wanted, God’s blessing and if he couldn’t have it than Abel wouldn’t have it either.
It is why David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband.
It’s why the civil war began in Sierra Leone, the rebels never believed that they would be able to have all that the rich folks had, (and rich folks being defined as anyone who had more than them) they just didn’t want them to have it.
Earlier in the month there were protests in Dartmouth because some people were getting t take a short cut around a detour and others had to drive the long way around. And it was settled when the city locked the gate to the shortcut and nobody could take it. And the protesters were happy with the outcome because now somebody wasn’t getting a break that they weren’t.
And that is the reality of life, God offers you the free gift of eternal life and the reason the devil will do anything to keep you from accepting that offer is he is afraid you are going to get what he has already lost.
Matthew 20:13-15 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ But the main lesson here is that For All It was a Story of Grace In each case the worker was hired by the grace of the landowner. The Landowner had no obligation to hire any one specific worker. There was no seniority list, there was no contract, there was no union telling him who he had to hire. When he went into the village he could have offered his position to anyone but he offered it to them.
As far as we can tell he didn’t offer them work because of how many grapes they could pick or how few grapes they would eat, it was not based on education or experience it was an open invitation.
Those who were hired at six in the morning were no more qualified than those who were hired at five in the afternoon. And each one of those people who were offered employment in the vineyard had the same option, they could choice to work for the landowner or they could choice not to it was their decision.
Justice would be that the fewer hours a man worked the less he should have been paid, because justice is getting what you deserve, so eternal justice for us would be an eternity without God. That’s what we are told in God’s word in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the story doesn’t end there it continues to say but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
In our Christian experience we are each offered the opportunity to serve Christ, not because of who we are or what we have done but because God in his grace has extended that offer. In Revelation 22:17 Christ extends the invitation Revelation 22:17 . . . Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. In the KJV it says it this way Revelation 22:17 . . . And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. I love that word, whosoever. The invitation is open to all to drink from the spring of life, not because of who we are but because of who he is, not because of what we’ve done but because of what he has done John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. The offer is extended to the world, to whosoever will and everyone has the same option. We can choose to accept the offer or we can choose to not accept the offer but it is our choice.
But understand it doesn’t matter when the offer is made it is an offer of Grace, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. We can’t earn our salvation, no matter how long we serve God.
A couple of quick closing thoughts.
Matthew 20:6-7 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
It was a Story with a Warning
This is not a game. If you are sitting there thinking “well I’ll just wait until the last shift and enjoy all the world has to offer before I make a decision to follow Christ.”
Remember, the ones who had been hired at five o’clock had not been offered the position earlier in the day and turned it down. It doesn’t spell it out but I think that it would have been unlikely if at 6, 9, 12 and 3 they had turned the landowner down if they would have been given the opportunity at 5. Someone once said “A deathbed profession is burning the candle of your light for the devil and then blowing the smoke in the face of God.” Another person said “Many a man who was planning on coming to God at the eleventh hour died at 10:45.”
The word of God tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. Not next year or next month or even next week, today is the day of salvation.
And finally this entire story would have been for naught if all the workers had of embraced the truth of Romans 12:15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
It’s easy to do the second part, to weep with those who weep, but how good are you at rejoicing with those who rejoice?
So where are you at this morning?

The More the Merrier?

I don’t want to say, “I told you so. . .but!” Recently at a national convention, a committee of the Green Party of Canada, voted to send a motion to the full party for it to be debated and voted on. The motion will call for the decriminalization of . . . you waiting for it? Polygamy!
The motion has been brought forward by Trey Capnerhurst, a polyamorous (a person having more than one intimate relationship at one time. There used to be another name for that) Green Party candidate in Edmonton East.
Capnerhurst insists, “It’s a human rights issue”. And of course she is right. If the right to marry someone of the same sex is a human rights issue, how can the right to marry many people of either sex not be a human rights issue? The question though shouldn’t be; is it a matter of human rights? The question should be; is it right? Society has already gone down the road of ignoring what is right and what is wrong, and that happened long before the same sex marriage issue came up, but that doesn’t mean the church has to follow. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

7 The Kingdom of Heaven is like Wheat and Weeds

When I was in High School we did the musical “The Music Man” and in that play is the line by the lead character Professor Harold Hill, the Music Man himself, “what we have here is trouble, trouble right here in River City.” In the musical Hill tells the people the trouble “starts with a capital P and it rhymes with T and it stands for pool.”

 Well Jesus is now telling the people there will be trouble in the Kingdom of Heaven and it has nothing to do with pool.

 After a two week break we are now week 8 in our summer series the “Kingdom of Heaven is like. . .” and we have been looking at the various parables that Jesus told that began with the words, “The Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God is like. . .”

 If you’ve been with us from the beginning back in June we started with the premise “The Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk.” Just in case you were wondering about all the inuksuit around the property, on your bulletins, the window ledges and this wonderful creation on the platform. And the premise of course is that the Inukshuk was an integral part of the Inuit’s world acting as a landmark, a direction guide and a warning of danger. And that we as Christ followers are supposed to provide the same functions in our world.

 Because when you think about it the primary function of the Inukshuk is to make sure people don’t get lost and the grace of Jesus offers the same assurance, and that grace is to be revealed through his church. It is not much of a stretch that because the church performs these functions today Jesus can say “Now the people will know that I was here.”

 And so over the first seven parts of this series we have seen how Jesus looked across the country side looking for everyday events to illustrate the eternal nature of His Kingdom, a man working in a field, a net being thrown into the water, a woman kneading her bread.

 Through the pictures he has drawn his followers have seen the Kingdom planted and begin to grow and mature, having an impact on individuals and society as a whole. And there has been no hint of problems, everybody having a wonderful time. And sometimes that’s what we expect of church and life, just a meandering ride down a gentle flowing river. When I was a teenager we lived on the Hammond River, just outside of Saint John New Brunswick, and sometimes in the summer we would cart our big inner tubes upstream and drift down the river, just lying back in the sunshine.

 But that isn’t life and it certainly isn’t the reality of God’s Kingdom as long as there are people involved and as long as there are forces out there that oppose the kingdom of God. Through these parables Jesus was explaining what the Kingdom is really like not simply reinforcing how we would like to see the Kingdom.

 And so Jesus looks out across a wheat field gently swaying in the afternoon breeze and says look, Matthew 13:24-26 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

 In another one of Jesus’ parables he talks about a farmer sowing seed and how some of the seed fell on the path way and didn’t take root, and other seed fell on shallow soil and wasn’t able to survive and other seed feel into thorn bushes and was choked out, and finally how some seed landed in fertile soil and produced a flourishing crop.
In that parable Jesus was illustrating how his words and teaching would be received by the world, how it would not be productive in everyone’s life. And we understand that, we see it happen, but we kind of hope that when the seed finally begins to grow and reproduce that is the happy ending to the story, and everyone lived happily ever after.
But here we see the reality, the crop has been planted, the seed has taken root, the wheat begins to grow and then those tending the fields notice a problem, they discover that not all the plants are the same. That the majority of the plants are indeed the wheat that was planted but in amongst the good wheat are plants that look like wheat at first glance but upon closer examination are something completely different.
In the NLT we read Matthew 13:25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. But that doesn’t really say it all, because we aren’t really an agricultural society we don’t get the true meaning of Christ’s words. When we think of weeds we think of dandelions and thistles and other nasties that invade our lawns. And they are a nuisance and aren’t ascetically pleasing but not much beyond that. In the King James Version the verse reads this way Matthew 13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. Which means even less because nobody here really knows what a “tare” is. But if we were to go back into the original language the word that the NLT translates Weed and the KJV translates Tare is actually the Greek word ζιζάνιον, or zizanion (dziz-an’-ee-on) but you probably already knew that. And this story is the only place that this word is used in the Bible. And it doesn’t just mean weed it refers to a very specific type of weed.
Those is the know tell us the weed that is spoken of here was what is known today as Bearded Darnel, or false wheat and that when darnel is starting to grow that it looks like wheat, here is a picture. But the grain of the darnel was slightly poisonous. William Barclay describes it this way “It causes dizziness and sickness and is narcotic in its effects, and even a small amount has a bitter and unpleasant taste. In the end it was usually separated by hand.”
But what does it all mean? There’s the farmer and the enemy, the wheat and the weeds, people wanting to tear up the wheat and others saying wait not yet. Kind of confusing in a parable sort of way, but unlike most of the other parables Jesus took the time to explain this parable a little more. Apparently he wanted to make sure that they understood the ramifications of this one, it was important and he didn’t want any confusion.
And if it was that important to those who first heard it than it should be that important to us, so if you have your bibles turn with me to Matthew 13:37-43 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
So let’s take a look at the explanation.
First of all There Is One Field. Jesus tell us the “The field is the world”. And there is only one world, sometimes you will hear the media talk about the first world, or the third world or people will try to define various parts of the planet as the “Christian world” or the “Muslim world”. But there is only one world and that is a world that Jesus came to live in, to preach to and to die for.
We all know John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus didn’t come simply to reach a specific people group, while offering no hope for the rest of humanity. His sacrifice wasn’t simply for one slice of the population he came for the world.
And he expects his people to take his message of hope and grace to the entire world. The last command of Christ to his apostles if found in Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And for two thousand years Christ followers have been doing that. Within a generation of the resurrection of Jesus his message had been spread across the Middle East, into Asia and Europe and down to Africa. Before the first apostles died there were believers worshipping in India, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and beyond. They had reached the world as they knew it.
It was Wesley who said “The world is my parish.” But he was simply following the command of Jesus and the example of those who went before him. And it is why when the European nations started to colonize the “New Worlds” that they had “Discovered”, which is kind of like Newton discovering gravity, did things just float around before he made that discovery?
Sorry, a little bit of a tangent, when the New World was opened up the church was there with the message. Was it because they wanted to eradicate the culture of the aboriginal people? No, it was because they wanted to share the grace of Christ with them. They truly believed the words that Matthew quoted in relation to the coming of Christ, Matthew 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”
And that is why Cornerstone is actively ministering to people in Haiti and Ghana and Ukraine and Japan, because we are still obeying his command to spread the word of his grace to all people. Christ came for the whole world, not just our little corner of it and there are people of the Kingdom all over the world. The message is alive in them. If they are doing their part then we shouldn’t be asking “Well what about those who don’t know about Jesus?” Wherever there is a Christ Follower then people should know about the Christ they are following.
So, There Is One Field.
And There Are Two Sowers. In the parable Jesus tells us that the famer spread good seed and then his enemy came and spread bad seed. And then in the explanation of the parable Jesus tells us first in Matthew 13:37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. And most people would like the explanation to end with that statement. Most people that we know have no problem believing in Jesus, even if they never develop a personal relationship with him they have nice warm, fuzzy thoughts about him, the baby Jesus in the manger, Jesus feeding hungry people, Jesus holding a lamb. But Jesus continues in the story to tell us Matthew 13:39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil.
A number of years ago I was in a conversation with a minster from a more liberal denomination who was talking about his time in Newfoundland and he said “You know they still believe in the Devil there?” Surveys show time and time again that the vast majority of North Americans believe there is a God, there are very few atheists in North America, they might live like there is no God but they believe there is one.
On the other had the number of people who believe that there is an actual Devil is considerably fewer. But Jesus had no doubts about the existence of Satan, nor does the bible.
Kind of like the two little boys who were talking about the Devil, and one little guy said, “I figure in the end he just like Santa Claus, it will turn out to be your dad in a red suit.”
Jesus best friend while he was on this earth wrote in 1 Peter 5:8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Did you catch that, “Your great enemy”. The Devil isn’t just some impersonal force, he is not just the personification of evil he is real and he is the enemy of those who serve God and he whispers in people’s ears, “there has to be more than one way”, “It doesn’t matter who you worship as long as you are sincere”, “You’re really not all that bad” and “A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell.” And all the time he is sowing seeds, seeds that take root.
Which leads us to the next point.
Matthew 13:38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one.
There Are 2 Crops There was the wheat and there was the weeds. And remember they looked very much alike but they were different very different, one was good and one was bad. And again most people don’t want to hear that there is such a clear delineation, they don’t want to see that line drawn that clearly in the sand. Most folks, outside the church and inside the church would like to see the line fuzzier, they would like to think there are those who serve God and then there are those who are at various places and levels and almost serve God and only kind of serve the Devil, or don’t serve God but don’t serve the Devil, they serve. . . well they are not sure who they serve.
But Jesus didn’t say there were 12 different crops, or 7 different crops not even 3 different crops, there were two. One represented those who chose to serve God, those who belong to the Kingdom and those who chose not to serve God, and then there were those who don’t belong to the Kingdom, they belong to the Devil. It goes back to the Bob Dylan song that says “You gotta serve somebody, it might be the devil or it might be the Lord but you got to serve somebody.”
And Paul gives us this insight in Ephesians 2:2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 2 thoughts here 1. If we are Christ followers, before we were Christ followers we were obeying the Devil but now we are obeying Christ. 2. If we are not Christ followers we are still obeying the Devil.
As much as we’d like to think that people who are good, nice, sincere people but don’t have a relationship with Jesus are going to be kind of ok, that isn’t what the word of God says. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Because if we could get to heaven by being good, nice sincere people than there would have been no reason for Christ to come and for Christ to die and for Christ to be raised from the dead, and instead of
John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Jesus would have said John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are good, nice sincere people, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
So we have one field, two sowers, two crops and then Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. There is 1 Harvest Remember when the servants discovered that the weeds had been sowed they wanted to rip them up but the farmer told them to wait. Matthew 13:29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.”
We need to protect our relationship with Christ, that’s important. And throughout the New Testament we see that we need to protect the local church from false teachers and false teachings, that’s important but from this parable it would seem that Kingdom of Heaven is capable of taking care of itself. That in the end it’s not our mandate to try and dig up the weeds too soon.
That’s why the inquisition was so wrong they were trying to tear up the weeds. And that is why the witch trials were so wrong they were trying to tear up the weeds, and we just aren’t qualified to make that decision and end up with situations like this (video clip about witches from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Any time we try to legislate morality or head down the path of our own private Jihad (holy war) against some particular behaviour in the world we end up doing more damage than good. I read one day that if God hates the same people that you hate then you can be pretty sure you’ve created God in your own image. In the end we need to let God sort it out.
So Jesus tells us that the weeds will be separated from the wheat at the appropriate time, and when is the appropriate time? Matthew 13:39 . . .The harvest is the end of the world . . . And there is no reason to get into great theological debates about when that is going to happen because it is enough to know that it is going to happen. It’s going to happen corporately, that is the world as we know has a best before date and we don’t know what that date is but someday this is all going to end. But personally there will be an “End of the Word” for each of us individually. That is that our existence in this world will end, and this is what the word of God tell us in Hebrews 9:27 . . . each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.
Every one of us share that in common, we are all going to die, that is the end of our world and we are all going to be judged. But that leaves us with the end of the parable, Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn. There are 2 Futures There used to be a time that the church preached that there was a Heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned but then somewhere we decided that we didn’t like the concept of hell and stopped preaching about it, but that didn’t make it any less real, it just meant that we were shirking our responsibility. In Jesus’ explanation of this parable this is how he spells it out. Matthew 13:41-43 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
When we tell people that Cornerstone exists to help depopulate hell we believe it. We believe that there will be people in heaven who would have been in hell if this church didn’t exist to tell people there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned.
Will hell be fire and brimstone, and demons with pointy tales poking people with their pitchforks? I don’t know. What I do know is that when it will be a separation from God and from love and from light and from all that is good and all that is pure.
I want to finish with one of my favourite stories and I know you’ve all heard it before but bear with me. The story is told that when Calvin Coolidge was Vice-President of the United States he was chairing a congressional meeting that was becoming very heated. During the meeting one Congressman stood up and told another, “Sir you can go straight to hell”. Well the victim was understandably upset and looked to the Vice President for support and saw that he was reading a book. “Mr. Coolidge” cried the victim “Did you hear what he told me to do?” “Yes” replied the Vice-President, “But I checked the rule book and you don’t have to go.”
Well friends I have checked the rule book and you don’t have to go. The word of God promises us in James 4:7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
So where you at? When the harvest comes, and it will come what will be your destination?

It’s what I said but it’s not what I meant.  Don’t you hate it when someone deliberately misrepresents your words?  I googled my name the other day. I know, I know I’m so vain.  Actually I do it occasionally to see who is quoting me in their sermon,. I know, I know, I’m so vain.   The other day was different though. My name showed up on a website promoting a book called: O’Habits: 40 Success Habits of Oprah Winfrey and the One Bad Habit She Needs to Drop!  On the page,”What people say about Oprah”, along with Roseanne Barr, and David Letterman was this:  Ordained Wesleyan Church minister Denn Guptill surmising what Jesus would say to Oprah: I think that Jesus would say, “Well done Oprah.”
And I did write those words in a message entitled, “What Would Jesus Say to Oprah?”, but they were just 9 words from a 2912 word message and they were 9 words taken out of context.
However, taking 9 words of Denn out of context doesn’t matter a great deal, but we need to be careful about taking portions of the word of God out of context because that can make an eternal difference.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like Yeast

For seven of the eight parables that Jesus began with the line “The Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God is like. . .” he used everyday events that were happening around those he was teaching, outside, but in one instance he took them out of the fields and vineyards, away from the sea and market place and returned them to the place they had grown up, their homes and specifically to the kitchen and a task that they had watched countless times throughout their lives.

Matthew 13:33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

We are now in week seven of our summer series “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like” and we’ve looked at treasure and fishing nets, mustard seeds and pearls. We’ve talked about faith, salvation, dreams and determination. We began in June with the premise “The Kingdom of Heaven is an Inukshuk” and we looked at how these amazing stone sculptures served the Inuit people in so many important ways, providing landmarks, guiding people in the right directions and warning them of potential dangers. All things that we as the church, the Kingdom of Heaven manifested today, are supposed to do in our world.

And so now Jesus uses an illustration that would have familiar to everyone who had ever watched their mothers or wives make bread. And that would have been an almost daily occurrence. Bread is one of those things that we tend to take for granted in 2010, and we have so much of it and so many different varieties. We have bagels and pita, tortilla’s muffins, rolls and baguettes, white bread, whole wheat bread, multi grain bread, raisin bread. But two thousand years ago in Palestine they would have had bread. And the bread would have been made daily. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer, right after Jesus taught us to pray that his will would be done on earth, do you remember what he taught us to pray. Matthew 6:11 Give us today the food we need. But do you remember the way you memorized the Lord’s prayer? Sure you do Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread. And in the original language the word used is very simply, bread.

But the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t like bread; it is like the ingredient that makes the bread rise. In the New Living Translation it is translated as Yeast but in the King James Version it is translated as Leaven. The reason is that yeast as we know it is a fairly recent innovation, commercial yeast has only been available for less than 200 years. And long before we were able to go to a store and buy yeast in an envelope or a bottle people have been eating bread that was not flat. And it was this rising agent, this leaven that Jesus uses to describe the Kingdom of Heaven, in the New King James Version it reads this way: Matthew 13:33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

Culturally we are told that bread was a staple in the time of Jesus, it was a very important part of their everyday diet. 2000 years ago they didn’t have the luxury of grocery stores and restaurants. Food was prepared at home and if you were going to be away from home your food was sent with you.

And bread was an essential part of that, when Jesus fed the five thousand with the little boy’s lunch it was fish and some bread. When Jesus instituted the last supper he used bread as a symbol for his body. In the book of Acts when Paul was being shipped to Rome to stand trial and the ship they were on ran aground they ate before they abandoned ship, and what did they eat? Acts 27:35-36 Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat—

Remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he had gone 40 days without food and the Devil appears and says Matthew 4:3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” Personally, for me anyway pizza or a burger would have been more tempting, but Satan used the familiar, the everyday for the temptation.

And so just as when Jesus directed their attention to the farmer in the field, or the mustard plant growing on the side of the road or the fishing net being cast into the sea Jesus uses the everyday as a simile for the eternal, he draws from the secular to describe the sacred.

Matthew 13:33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

So what is it that we learn from Yeast or Leaven.

Leaven Has a History I had told you earlier that 2000 years ago they didn’t have yeast in packets and so you might be wondering where did this leaven come from? Anyone here ever do the sour dough starter thing? When I was a teenager we kept “Herman” in the fridge, Mom called it monster bread. You fed it and periodically you would split it, make incredible biscuits with it, and keep feeding the remainder.

And it really is quite simple to make, the recipes are everywhere, you start with a tablespoon of water and a table spoon of flour and mix them together in a container, in eight hours you add two tablespoons of water and two table spoons of flour and you wait, and in eight hours you double it again, and you wait. In a couple of days it looks like this. (YouTube clip of sour dough starter.) And that my friend is leaven. You keep it in your fridge in a sealed container and use it to start your sour dough bread, biscuits of pancakes. It is leaven.

2000 years ago it was very similar, when dough was prepared and had risen, before the bread was baked, a piece was torn off and it was wrapped and put aside. And it was that piece that was used in the flour for the next loaf that started the process again. That was leaven.

In my research I discovered that there are bakeries that have been using the same leaven for generations, it is the secret to their breads.

It’s kind of like people. Most of you know that our Grand Daughter was born a little over a month ago and she is part Deborah and part Stefan, but she is also part Denn and part Angela, and part Mark and part Karen and part my parents and part Angela’s parents and on and on it goes. And so there is some American and Canadian and Irish and Estonian, and English and native and Asian all mixed in there. She’s a little bit of a mutt and she has a history.

The Kingdom of Heaven did not just suddenly appear. Throughout the Gospels and the Book of Acts the history of the Kingdom is constantly referenced, they talk about Moses and Abraham, about Isaac and Jacob, stories are told from the Old Testament.

When Peter was preaching at the Day of Pentecost he reminds the Jews of the history of the Kingdom. Acts 3:13 For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this. This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him.

There is a great statement in Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

There is a trick here, whenever you come across the word therefore in the bible you need to go back and see what it’s therefore. In this case we go back to the beginning of the previous chapter, which has been called the “Faith Hall of Fame” and it starts with these words.

Hebrews 11:1-2 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

And for the next 39 verses the author regales us with story after story of the faith of those who went before and in verse 39 he writes Hebrews 11:39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith.

Which of course leads us to Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. So who is the huge crowd of witnesses? All those who have gone before us.

And we can add to that 2000 more years of history, we don’t stand alone we stand on the shoulders of believers and teachers, theologians and lovers of God. Each generation tears off a little piece of their dough and adds it to the next generation to help them rise and to keep it right.

And that’s why I warn people to beware when all of sudden someone has a new revelation and they want you to ignore the history that we have. They want you to ignore Augustine, and Calvin and Wesley and Tertelluen and thousands of others who have studied and taught the scriptures over the past two millennium. But we have a history, and we can’t be separated from the history any more than you can separate bread from the leaven that made it rise.

And sometimes the media and the world want you to think that our history is something to be ashamed of, they trot out the crusade and the inquisition and residential schools and wag their fingers at us. But they forget that the Crusades began because Christians and Jews were being killed by Muslims and thousands of men volunteered to leave their homes and families to go and defend people they had never met, but shared a common faith with. And yes there were excesses and yes did not end up being our finest moment but understand there is more to the story. And really, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

But our history includes the first hospitals, and the first schools for the blind and the deaf, the first orphanages, the fight to end child labour, and the end of Slavery in western, Christian cultures. The women’s rights movement had its birth in a Wesleyan Church in New York.

We can’t forget our history and we have to understand that we have an obligation to pass on what we have. And that’s why churches have to grow and reach people. Unless we do that we are not leaven we are simply bread, we are prepared and baked and served and then we are gone. And that is not the purpose of the Kingdom; it’s not only to provide a church for today it is to provide a church for tomorrow.

Leaven Has a Purpose The reason that leaven was added to the bread mixture was to make it rise, it wasn’t added to increase the flavour or change the colour. They didn’t add leaven so there would be more fibre in the bread, they added leaven so it would rise and become light and fluffy. And if the leaven functioned the way it was supposed to that’s exactly what it did. And because of that the bread tasted better, and had a nicer texture and was easier to eat.

There are bakers in the sour dough industry who claim their starter not only causes their sour dough to rise but that it adds a distinct flavour to the dough, and that may be the case but the primary function is to make the dough rise, the flavour it adds is a secondary benefit.

The church has a purpose as well and it’s spelled out in Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The churches purpose is to make disciples. And sometimes people forget that. They try and write grand vision statements about the church impacting their communities and making a difference. And that is not the purpose of the church. Seriously it’s not, you might think it is, you might be wondering if our purpose is not to impact our community and make a difference than what is the use of CIA, Cornerstone in Action? You might be wondering about Christ’s command for us to be salt and light. About all the good that can be accomplished by the local church. After all Bill Hybels the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church reminds us over and over again “The local church is the hope of the world.”

And those things are all wonderful but they really aren’t the purpose of the church. They are the purpose of the disciples that the church is supposed to make. And when the church loses its focus and sets it eyes on doing other things, rather than making disciples, no matter how noble those other things might be they are the wrong things.

Don’t get me wrong I think that the people of Cornerstone are supposed to make a difference in the world. And that happens because Cornerstone has made a difference in their lives.

The purpose of the church is to change society by changing people. I love the change that we see in people when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Paul writes to the believers in Corinth tell them 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Sounds like a bad bunch but listen to what Paul writes next, 1 Corinthians 6:11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

That is our task to see people changed, and then turn them loose to fulfil their purpose and that is to make an impact on the world. Which leads us to our next point.

Leaven has an impact There is a great story in the book of Acts chapter 17. Paul and his friends have arrived at Thessalonica and we read Acts 17:4 Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.

They were doing what the church is supposed to be doing, making disciples, but it wasn’t long before they were dragged before the authorities and I love the charges that were made against them. In the NKJV it reads this way, Acts 17:6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”

These who have turned the world upside down. Wow, I would say that Kingdom of Heaven was at work in those believers that they were having an impact on their world.
Wouldn’t it be great if people described the Christ Followers who make up Cornerstone as “These who have turned the world upside down.”

You see the Kingdom of Heaven is not Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, the Kingdom of Heaven is “You” and you are supposed to make an difference, you are to permeate the world. It’s not enough that Christianity made a difference 2000 years ago, it’s not enough that Christianity made a difference 200 year ago or 20 years ago, we need to be making a difference today.

Acts 13:36 . . . for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. It’s good that the church has a great history, that the Wesley and Calvin and Mother Theresa did the will of God in their own generation, but they have died, they were buried with their ancestors and they bodies have decayed and that was yesterday and this is today and we still need to be doing the will of God in our generation, still making an impact and still being leaven in our world.

William Barclay wrote in the Daily Study Bible, “The whole point of the parable lies in one thing–the transforming power of the leaven. Leaven changed the character of a whole baking. Unleavened bread is like a water biscuit, hard, dry, unappetizing and uninteresting; bread baked with leaven is soft and porous and spongy, tasty and good to eat. The introduction of the leaven causes a transformation in the dough; and the coming of the Kingdom causes a transformation in life.”

We aren’t just here to take up space, we have been left here to make a difference. Last week we spoke about the impact the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to have on individuals but now Christ reminds us that we are supposed to change our world as well.

Jesus left his followers here so we can have an impact locally and globally. And we are serving our purpose as Christ Followers when in his name we prepare meals for Ronald McDonald House, and collect food during Harvest for the Hungry, and when we reach out locally through CIA and when Emily ministered in Thailand, and when our teens travel to Guatemala in February and when we were able bless orphanages in Jamaica and Haiti. And all the things that you do that I don’t know about and don’t need to know about.

Leaven Needs Time to Work This is probably the toughest thing for me, waiting. I’m probably the only person here who struggles with patience, who wants things to happen right away. The rest of you probably have buckets of patience, but not me, I’d be a terrible buzzard, I’d be like “Forget waiting let’s go kill something.” But not everything happens right away, some things take time, and that’s tough for me, I want it to happen and I want it to happen now.

That’s why I hate golf, because I want to be good at it but I don’t want to practice, when I was in college I started playing around with guitar, but I wanted to be able to play it right away. I didn’t want to learn to play a G cord, I wanted to learn how to play the minuet in G.

But sometimes it takes time for leaven to work its way through the dough. That was the toughest part about starting Cornerstone was how long it seemed to take to get going, it was like watching bread rise. But if you interrupt bread making in the middle and say I can’t wait any longer and just put the bread in the oven it will be ruined.

In the summer of 2003 I’m not sure that many would have expressed much hope for this Church, we had been around for eight years and we just couldn’t seem to break through, and there were those who were actively lobbying for the church to be closed. And at that point there weren’t a lot of counter arguments. At a district board meeting around that time the district superintendent was heard to comment, “I don’t know if we need to rescue Bedford from Denn or Denn from Bedford.” But what would have happened if we had of pulled the plug back then? Well we would never have known what this church could have accomplished, never have seen the impact that would have been made.

Sometimes we get impatient with those we seek to have an impact on, we want to see the world change tomorrow, but it doesn’t always happen that way, any more than leaven works that way.

So this is probably a good place to bring in the obligatory motorcycle application.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like riding a motorcycle, we get on at the beginning of the journey and we know that at some point we will get off, but while we are on we need to keep moving and stay balanced. And it’s a lot easier to balance when you are moving with a bit of speed but it is even more critical to maintain your balance during those times that you aren’t moving very fast.

If you’ve been with us through this series then you understand that the Kingdom of Heaven is not like one single thing instead it is like a series of things, and the secret is in the balance.

So here is the question and we will ask it again before we finish this morning; How will you change the world?