“Heavenly or Human” Let’s pray… Rev. Stuart C. Buisch

Mark 11:27-12:11


Did you ever notice that some people ask questions because they have the answer. It’s not even like they are checking their test to see that they got it right. Perhaps it is keeping the controlling interest in the conversation. We could be pleased that the religious leaders actually came to Jesus, they didn’t have a camel lot conversation or sit at the local café and complain.


Authority is an interesting topic. In the Presbyterian tradition there has been a long history of education and calling having significant roles in determining the authority or lack in the pastor. Individuals that wanted to serve the church needed to show by examinations that they understood the basic truths that Presbyterian Christians adhere to and they needed to make it through the committee system of the Presbytery and local church in order to be called to be a pastor. As time has gone on there are less strenuous ways to become a leader of a local church and the decision can rest in the ruling body of the local church - the session. Even these have a process and there is some rigor involved. In Jesus day this group of chief priests, legal experts and elders had different credentials. Priests were from one line of ancestry. Pharisees, not mentioned here but often part of that group, were a portion of Jewish community that adhered to a set of rules, norms and lifestyle decisions that kept them in good standing. Legal experts, certainly could have been the scribes who copied the scrolls, kept them clean, and because of their continuous work with words and ideas were authorities on the meaning, usually textual meaning of the texts.


So really the question they were asking was, ‘who says you can do this?’ A marvelous question when you are referring to the miracles that individuals on the streets saw happen and were the beneficiaries of the good of those miracles. Jesus pulls their question out into a bigger context. Jesus asks about origins. Moving the question out of training and experience he asks the prophetic question, Is God at work? For his example he talks about John the Baptist, another problem figure in the recent past. Even if they went out to see John or be baptized by John, John had not been kind to them, he called them snakes and asked why they were there. It is very easy in any faith tradition to become an expert on the words and ideas of faith and pathetic in the believing and practice of those ideas. The prodigal son is an example of this. When the prodigal returns, he doesn’t seek to be a son, only a servant. When his father has him dressed in new shoes, robe and ring the young man says nothing, does not proclaim a change. Meanwhile the older brother, who has followed the rules, at least his definition, displays no forgiveness toward his brother, no understanding of his father’s position and probably has never accepted forgiveness for himself. There was no need, he always did the right thing even if sometimes for the wrong reason. Beyond this reconciliation between the two brothers seems a distant reality if ever.


What Jesus is really wanting us to ask in our souls is what is at work in you? Are you amazing and kind and generous because you are human? Is heaven functioning in you at all?


The parable pushes these ideas further. We are indeed the recipients of a trust of property. Sure we all believe that we purchased our homes, properties, established our vocation and earn our own money. But in the final analysis – the reality of faith none of those assets go with us. Our health, an accident, an incident can change all those details to memories on a piece of paper.


The landowner established a winery and left town thinking he has entrusted his property to trustworthy tenants. There is no evidence from the story that the landowner was a problem, he didn’t tell the tenants how to do things, he didn’t check in every Wednesday to annoy them. All he did was send a servant back to get his portion. All those who went including the son were hurt, killed or at the least treated shamefully. The landowner, will remove them and try again with better tenants.


This is a call to the church today. We have been entrusted with precious grapes – the gospel of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins and compassion that walks beside those in trauma and tragedy. The Lord of Creation checks in on us to see how the community we are as church is doing producing this ministry.


Let us take heed that those who heard this the first time, didn’t heed but rather planned to get rid of the landowner next. As believers in the risen Lord Jesus we have at our finger tips the truth of grace and mercy. What is at work in our souls, human forces or heavenly compassion? In the name of the Creator of all, the Redeemer of all and the sustainer of all, amen.


Holy Lord of the Universe, you made us with a ministry…

Sin-bearing Christ, you see us as forgiven…

Ever present Spirit of God, you never stop your work in and through us…