Worship Helps for Lent 5

Artwork: An extensive river landscape with the Parable of the Tenants and the Vineyard 
Artist: Philipp Uffenbach

Worship Theme: Jesus makes clear that he is the cornerstone of our faith. Those who believe in him will receive the blessings of which St. Paul speaks in the Second Lesson, telling us to put away the “former things” of this world. Sadly, those who continue to cling tightly to the rubbish of their own righteousness will be broken into pieces or have this “stone of Christ” fall on them and crush them. Let us instead look to the “new thing” of God, the deliverance won by our Savior Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.

Old Testament: Isaiah 43:16 This is what the LORD says-- he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. 22 "Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel. 23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. 24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.

1. What famous event is God talking about when he says he made a way through the sea, drew out the chariots and army, and extinguished them?

2. What “new thing” is God foretelling that will make the people forget what was their favorite story of rescue, the Exodus?

3. People talk about finding purpose for their lives. For what purpose(s) does the LORD say he formed us? (v. 21)

Epistle: Romans 11:11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! 13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

4. Paul's main analogy here is of an olive tree. Jewish people formed the root of the tree. Jewish unbelievers are like branches broken off from the tree. How do Gentile believers, wild olive shoots, become part of tree?

5. Paul warns Gentile believers not to be arrogant. We might expect him to tell us, therefore, to be humble. What does he say, instead? (See 11:20‒21.)

Gospel: Luke 20:9 He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.' 14 "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When the people heard this, they said, "May this never be!" 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

6. What does this parable teach us about Christ?

7. What does this parable teach us about men?

8. What does this parable teach us about God?

1. God is referring to Israel’s miraculous escape through the sea from slavery in Egypt. God’s rescue through Moses was ancient history by Isaiah’s day, yet was the most vivid example to that point in history that the LORD saves!

2. God says he will make a way in the desert, leading his people back from their coming captivity in Babylon. Then God will trump that rescue. He will send the Messiah, who will bring the water of life. Today as we tell people how great a deliverer God is, we tell the story of Jesus delivering from sin, death and the devil. The once-famous Exodus goes to the “back burner.”

3. The LORD formed his chosen people for himself. Our nature rebels at the thought that we do not exist to seek our own goals and interests. Also, we were formed to proclaim the LORD’s praise. Since we have pardon in Christ, our new self gladly adores God and tells others how marvelous he is.

4. Gentile believers become part of the tree by being grafted into it. (Note: Wild olive shoots don't graft themselves into trees.)

5. We learn that our sins do not nullify God’s grace.  “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).  God gladly receives and forgives every penitent sinner, no matter how many or how terrible our sins.

6. Jesus is the son sent as the last opportunity for the evil tenants. He is the heir and holds a unique place as the son. The other messengers came as servants. Christ identifies himself in this parable as the unique Son of God.

7. God’s chosen people were given a good land, but they mistreated his messengers (prophets) and were about to kill his own Son! God rightfully expects “fruit” from the people he puts in his vineyard, also today!

8. God is patient and merciful, like the owner giving the tenants many chances. But God’s patience can be exhausted; in his wrath, God treats hard-hearted rebels severely.

 Putting your faith into action
Christians often think of stewardship as being about what we give. In light of today’s reading, it’s interesting to consider that the word “steward” was originally used in English to describe the overseer of a house. We so often think of ourselves in the role of “owner,” or on our better days, perhaps “servant,” but in this passage, we see ourselves as nothing more than sharecroppers caring for the land of another. And oh, what poor caretakers we often are, so focused on our own plans and purposes, and not on the work that our Lord has called us to do. Our situation would be as hopeless as the tenants in this parable, but the same God who created us and who saved us from our sin also sanctifies us. God has placed us in our positions of stewardship so that we may gratefully perform the works of service he has prepared in advance for us. May he bless our work as we serve together in his name.

A reading from the Book of Concord for Lent 5
Remember the meaning of this commandment: We are to trust in God alone and look to Him and expect from Him nothing but good, as from one who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, all necessaries, and peace of both temporal and eternal things. He also preserves us from misfortune.  And if any evil befall us, He delivers and rescues us.  So it is God alone from whom we receive all good and by whom we are delivered from all evil.  So, I think, we Germans from ancient times name God (more elegantly and appropriately than any other language) from the word Good. It is as though He were an eternal fountain that gushes forth abundantly nothing but what is good.  And from that fountain flows forth all that is and is called good.
Even though we experience much good from other people, whatever we receive by God’s arrangement or command is all received from God.  For our parents and all rulers and everyone else, with respect to his neighbor, have received from God the command that they should do us all kinds of good.  So we receive these blessings not from them, but through them, from God.  For creatures are only the hands, channels, and means by which God gives all things.  So He gives to the mother breasts and milk to offer to her child, and He gives corn and all kinds of produce from the earth for nourishment.  None of these blessings could be produced by any creature of itself. – Large Catechism, First Commandment (paragraphs 24-26)

Hymns for this Sunday: 391; 110; 125; 127; 382

110  My Song Is Love Unknown
1  My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I That for my sake My Lord should take Frail flesh and die?

2  He came from his blest throne Salvation to bestow,
But such disdain! So few The longed-for Christ would know!
But oh, my friend, My friend indeed, Who at my need His life did spend!

3  Sometimes they strew his way And his sweet praises sing,
Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!” Is all their breath, And for his death They thirst and cry.

4  Why? What has my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run; He gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these Themselves displease And ’gainst him rise.

5  They rise and needs will have My dear Lord made away.
A murderer they save; The Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful he To suff’ring goes That he his foes From death might free.

6  In life no house, no home My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was his home But mine the tomb Wherein he lay.

7  Here might I stay and sing; No story so divine,
Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, In whose sweet praise I all my days Could gladly spend!

Text: Samuel Crossman, c. 1624–83, alt.


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