Do you like my garden so green?
You may live in this garden if you keep my people free
And I’ll return in the cool of the day
Now is the cool of the day
And He walks in the cool of the day.


Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof)

Sunday, October 4th 2020.


Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, the people of God, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? I expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!


Together, gathered by our Loving God, we worship the God of Jesus Christ to be the vineyard that yields justice and righteousness as God intends of us. We are his vineyard born out of his love and care. So as we worship, may we be weeded and pruned that we yield fruit that reflects the love with which God tends to us – nothing less than the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I invite you now to a time of prayerful reflection.

Prayerful Reflection:

Music: In the cool of the day by Daniel Martin Moore

Do you like my garden so green?
You may live in this garden if you keep my people free
And I’ll return in the cool of the day
Now is the cool of the day
This earth is a garden, the garden of my Lord
And He walks in the cool of the day.


Song:                          ‘In the Bulb There Is A Flower’

Welcome and Notices:

Praying the Psalm:

We will pray a psalm together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. This psalm is a lament. It is a prayer of deep grief. Poetically, the psalm decries the neglect and abuse the people have become subjected to. It reminisces how there was once hope and promise. There was once growth and even flourishing. God had labored and toiled tending to it with care and love. Yet now it lays ravaged and wasted. Why is this the case?

Where do you see neglect and abuse in our community, in our nation, in our world, where there once was hope and promise? Are there relationships that grieves you? Are there buildings neglected and run down that grieves you that symbolizes a cause, purpose, once thrived? Where do you see God’s garden neglected? Let us pray this psalm together to seek God with our grief and implore God to restore us again. For it is God’s garden, and only God can restore it.

Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 80:7-15

Restore us, O God of hosts;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
 it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.

Turn again, O God;
    look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted.

Prayer for others:

[Now we will be led in a prayer for others]

We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together [offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]:

Offering and Dedication Prayer:

Song:                          ‘All Good Gifts’

Scripture: Matthew 21:33-46

33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Sermon reflection:  I remember once going past a run down house. Its paint was faint and peeling. Garden….. well, was wild to say the least. It showed all the signs that no one was living in it. But most obviously, it was fenced up. The sense of neglect and emptiness was accentuated by the houses next door with kept gardens, brighter coat of paint, signs of comings and goings of cars, and most obviously no fence to stop comings and goings of people.

I wonder whether you had an experience of seeing a run down house or a building. What did you feel? How did you find yourself reacting? Will you turn to the people around you to share. If you came with children, turn to your children to ask them too.

There would be many different responses. On one level there could be an immediate reaction of “what an eye sore!” That will bring down the price of our neighbourhood. Or on a slightly different note we may start to blame the owner. Shame on them. How can they leave it like this. Don’t they have any sense of responsibility towards others? I do wonder though whether after taking time to reflect we may have a different response.

Whether it is a house or not, a building that’s neglected and run down has a sense of sadness attached to it. Who lived there once? Who used it for what purpose? Imagine those memories of families and friends, the laughs, the parties, barbeques, the comings and goings of love which are merely the things of the past now. Imagine the people who would have gardened over the years bringing delight to passerbys and visitors. Now overrun with weeds, fenced up. How disappointed and sad the owners would be. It was never built for it’s own sake. It was never built just to become an eyesore. It was built for purpose, for people to live, to make memories, to bring joy to one another, to bring fruit.

We began our worship, with God’s lament over the state of the people of God, God’s vineyard. It was planted on the choicest of soils with hope. For hope and love’s sake with great expectation for the vineyard to be the best it can be, to flourish, God dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines. He built a watchtower in the midst of it to protect it from things that come to harm. God hewed out a vat for making wine for celebrations with others. Yet it yielded wild grapes unable to be made into wine of joy. God has spent energy and time over it and spent his heart over it only to find that it turns sour.

We feel this sadness too. As in the psalm we prayed, we look upon the work of promise, work of hope, which has once thrived and flourished become neglected and run down, we lament. We grieve not only because we had spent so much of our energy over it but because equally we have spent our hearts over it. We have given our heart to it. Though we had hoped for a fruit of love and joy, sweet and refreshing, for all, it soured into contention and division.


The question is why?

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear Jesus drawing upon this scriptural metaphor of a vineyard to draw our attention to the question of why. Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jewish people are in a conflict. In the midst of this conflict, Jesus tells them this parable of the tenants in the vineyard.

The landowner represents God. God “builds” Israel. God is the one who builds with great expectation and hope of growth and flourishing. The landowner’s absence in the story doesn’t have a bearing on the meaning of the parable. Because God cares for Israel to an extent that will be revealed later.

The tenants to whom the landowner leases the vineyard represent the religious leaders in whose care God has placed Israel. They are to nurture the people and return its “fruits” to God. So Israel is producing fruit worthy of God. Then what’s the problem?

The problem is that the so called religious leaders who should know better, who should be a model to the people, become the problem itself. Though God sends the slaves sent at harvest time representing the prophets God sent to the people yet rejected by the leaders. They hinder the return of the harvest of Israel to God. So what does the harvest represent? What is the fruit that ought to be returned to God rather than kept to themselves?


We are familiar with the concept of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is the fruit for which God build us up as a vineyard, the garden of love, the community of love. This is God’s intention that we are people of love, intended for love and to love. Other scriptural fruit could be our talents. God grants us talents in the form of our personality, and skills and we love by applying ourselves for the common good of one another. Just as Jesus taught and modelled for us and becomes for us, we are to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul, and to love and love our neighbour as ourselves. To return to God the fruit of the Spirit cultivated, nurtured, grown and harvested is to share our fruit of community with our neighbours.

Yet those tenants, to whom God has given the responsibility to care for the vineyard, who ought to know better to return the fruit to God, a God who builds and grows a community of love, they take them for themselves, for their own profit. We know what happens when we keep things for ourselves, when we look out for our interests only. When we become self-serving as individuals or as groups, we become fragmented. We become contentious and divisive. The first thing we ask is what’s in it for me rather than asking how we can work together to bring fruit worthy of God. Things sour, fit for nothing. When time and energy and heart is better spent on encouraging one another to flourish, it is spent on blaming. In this way we become those who hinder the harvest of fruit being returned to God, being shared for one another.

Of course, no real landowner would keep sending his slaves much less a son into harm’s way, when the harvest is withheld from him. He has the legal power backing him up to evict such tenants. Yet God is not like any landowner. This God is patient, very patient, and persistent with love reminding us of God’s love for his vineyard, of his people. So much so, that his one and only son would come to us even to die our death so that there may be a new beginning, a new life.


We may resist hearing these words of Jesus directed to us because we are not religious leaders. But I wonder whether Jesus will say actually it is for you and I to hear. Friends, are we not the people of God who have been graced by the love of God in Jesus gifted to us by his life, his sacrifice, his resurrection? Yes, we ought to know better. As the people of the gift, has God not intended for us to be the model of a life of love to those we meet, those who come and experience us? By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, have we not been called by our Lord to be Christ to one another, to be brother and sister to one another, reflecting grace, love and communion of Holy Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit? We are responsible for one another here gathered together and to those whom we meet, our community and neighbourhood in which we belong.

Where is the vineyard that God has tenanted to you? Who is the person, which community has God given you to harvest and return the fruit of love to God for the community? Will you listen to the one who toiled with love for this particular person and for this particular community lamenting the neglect? Where there is lack of love, will you sow love? Where there is lack of joy, will you sow joy? Where there is lack of peace, will you sow peace? Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is doubt, faith, where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy?

In fact, together, you and I, as St. Mark’s Church in Avonhead, this is the vineyard God has given us to bring to harvest for this season?

Song:                                      ‘All My Hope on God Is Founded’

Sharing the Peace of Christ: Peace of Christ be with you

Song of Sending:                 ‘Shalom’


The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The Love of God

The Communion of the Holy Spirit

Be with us all now and forever. Amen