There are so many beautiful images of peace in today’s reading. Did you have a favorite? Again, Isaiah’s prophecy is pointing toward the Messiah. “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” The “Branch” will be Jesus fulfilling the promise that our eternal king is from the line of David.
While our text translation doesn’t say “Jesse” directly, Jesse was David’s father, and I have seen other references to the stump of Jesse. In fact, when I was Children’s Ministry Director, we had a family event during Advent called “Jesse’s Tree.” It was designed for families to set aside intentional time during Advent (the preparation before Christmas in our tradition) to decorate a small tree with ornaments. Each ornament was chosen to tell a part of God’s story. This included prophecies of Jesus as well as symbols of the birth like a star, a shepherd, etc. There was a devotional guide that families would use as they placed each ornament on the tree. It was great fun setting up for the event, and then using the tokens to help prepare our hearts for Christmas each year thereafter.
Do you prefer to receive gifts or give gifts? The older I get the more I enjoy giving. But aside from gifts, I love to give my time and experiences that will make a lasting memory. For gifts are often set aside and ignored. I can remember many a Christmas morning when the children would spend hours playing with new toys only to several days later see those same toys left abandoned in the corner.
Paul is warning us to be careful not to ignore God’s gift to us. God’s kindness, to me, is referring to his grace, mercy, and unfailing love for us. We don’t deserve such splendid gifts. We are sinners. We are selfish beings focused on instant gratification and being served. Many will take for granted this beautiful gift. Have we left it abandoned in the corner?
We’re pretty excited because we have a wedding in our family coming up next Spring. The “Save the Date” notices have gone out. That’s an old tradition that has been catching on again in recent years. I’m guessing that’s what was happening in today’s reading. The wedding feast day had arrived, and those who had received the “save the date” notices had decided other things were more important. Life happens and sometimes gets in the way of our plans. Their decision to ignore the invitation resulted in their not being worthy or deserving of the honor any longer.
Because Jesus is using this as an illustration of the Kingdom of God, we should take note to understand. Especially if we want to have an invitation to that wedding feast ourselves. Are we going to respond with indifference figuring our attendance doesn’t really make any difference, or are we going to be ready to drop everything at the last minute and dress up in our finest clothes and be ready?
Today’s parable is also told in two of the other gospels: Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19. You can read the other accounts and my reflections. Matthew’s version is the most complete, however there are other details in the other gospels that will help you understand the whole story. When we look at this story in Matthew’s context, we see that it is the second of two parables Jesus uses that day in the temple.
The religious leaders are already put out with Jesus and his non-compliance to their questions. In our reading from yesterday, Jesus has all but told them that while they claim to be believers and teachers of the law, they are acting disobediently. God can see their hearts. They are failing miserably. Now, Jesus talks of the wicked tenants to the vineyard.
We are branches. How glorious that we have been grafted in as part of God’s family. It’s an honor we often take for granted I think. We are now able to receive the nourishment God intended for Abraham’s descendants. It’s still waiting for them, but it is available to us who are connected now.
One thing is certain, we shouldn’t take this gift for granted. We should not flaunt it in an unhealthy way. If we live our lives in reverence to God, trusting him, and striving to become more like Jesus, people will notice. We don’t need to “brag” about our inheritance. That’s not being attractive. Instead, we live our faith.