Lent 5 – Year C

Are you better off today than you were five years ago? What about ten? Thirty? Fifty? Are you better off today because of President Bush? Or Clinton? Or Bush? Or Reagan? Or Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower?

This is an election year my friends – and questions like this one will be asked. Are you better off since the current “Master of the American Vineyard” was elected? Please – don’t tell me.

The only question I want you to answer in church is this: Are you better off since you became a Christian?

Are you better off today, now that you believe in the Lord of the Cosmic Vineyard? Has Jesus made any difference to you at all? Or God, or the Holy Spirit, or Paul, or David, or Luke?

Because this is an election moment – Lent – when you must again decide, “Who will you let be your Lord.” Who will be your Master. Who owns the life you are living?

If you think YOU own your life – than what are you doing here? Because Christianity means submission to the LORD of LIFE – and Lordship means ownership. If you think YOU own your life – than you have absolutely no obligation to be here any more. It’s nice to have you, you are welcome to come and watch – but if YOU own your own life you don’t need to be here. We’ve got nothing for owners here. Only renters.

For if you are the property of the Lord Jesus, the one who built this vineyard, the one we work for – then you know what I’m talking about. You know you don’t have a fixed mortgage but only a short lease on life. You are renting your life from the LORD, day by day.

Our LORD has given us a wonderful vineyard. And the rent’s not too bad. All we must give back is that tired old life that just ends up killing us anyway. In exchange for giving to the LORD our tired old ways, our tired old life, our tired old desires -–we get to live into a world of incarnate hope. We get to live in a world where our plans may fail – but our deepest spiritual hopes can come true. We get to be blessed by hopes in the flesh – and we no longer have to worry about serving those petty human desires that so often end up looking like a bunch of rubbish once we get them.

We’re not fully there yet, we know. Every time we lose a child, say goodbye to a friend, or see a faithful hope crushed by evil – we know there’s dark servants still here.

But, we Christians, we who belong to the Lord, we know we don’t own our lives. We know we don’t own our world. We get to live here and follow the call of God – we get to know peace – we get to heal from sorrow – we get to forgive our enemies – we get to learn how to love the way our hearts WANT to love. We get to see beauty, and truth, and wisdom. We get all this stuff, and all God wants is for us to pay him some rent. And the rent is fair. God says, “In my vineyard, my will is to bring you joy, and for you to bring joy to others.” God says if you will live in me, and I in you, in this vineyard I planted, then we will serve one another – worldly desire will vanish, and heavenly hope will take flesh.

For Jesus says, in the kingdom there is only blessing, the incarnation of godly hope. When hope gives birth to joy – we’ll have no more itches to scratch or holes to fill.

If you belong to the Lord, and you are paying your rent of service to and for the Lord, then you already know that you are better off than when you were out there on your own. If you belong to the Lord, then you already know how much better off you are than you were five years ago. Or thirty. Or fifty.

But, if you still think you OWN your own life – well, good luck. Because, you ain’t gonna have it forever.

If you want to give up chasing ever elusive desires, if you want to see your glass filled, the only way I can guarantee it, is if you give up ownership of your tired old life – and trade it in for a new lease on eternal life.

Friends, the older I get, the clearer it becomes. Cars are a bad investment. They depreciate from the minute you buy them and drive them around. Life in this world can be the same way. The body you own, the life you think you own – they are a depreciating asset if you’re holding the title to them all by yourself.

But, if you give up seeking to “control,” to “own,” to “possess,” your every desire – guess what, God offers you an infinite realm of free gifts. Those who work for the Lord, who pay him his humble rent, they are the ones who just seem to get better every year. They have stopped only wishing wishes of their own, and they have starting hoping the hopes God has for his children.

Friends, this is what God wants.

Give up your life my friends – before it is taken away. And try a new lease – with a new Lord – who is better than your old Lord ever was – no matter how good you thought you were doing.

Now, I’m going away soon. The Lord, Melanie and I believe, has called us to another country. A country called North Carolina. It is a good country, and the vineyard there awaits our labor. I’m not saying goodbye today, but I am saying what I pray for you all:

“If you belong to the Lord, and you are paying your rent, then you will go from blessing to blessing to blessing.”

Jesus paid his rent, and he saved the world. He paid his rent, and because he paid it, he secured your lease on eternal life. Let Jesus be your master. Let Jesus be your guide. Stop driving yourself mad – and let Jesus be your Lord.

This is my prayer for you, and I ask that it be your prayer for me as well.

Amen.

P.S. Good Friday is coming up, and the master wants you to stand by him. The master wants you with him at the cross. Will you pay him your respect in worship that day?