20th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A - Lutheran Worship Readings)
Saturday, October 5, and Sunday, October 6, 2002
Once upon a time, there was a farmer. And you could hear that farmer whistling a love song as he worked out in his cornfield. Whistling He wasn’t just whistling while he worked; he was whistling to the field, serenading it, telling the field that he loved that land. The farmer whistled while he cleared that field of stones and stumps. He whistled while he tilled the soil, turned it over and over again, breaking up clumps, making it ready for planting. Then he planted the seeds and fertilized the field.
As the summer grew warmer, as the corn stalks began to grow, the farmer sprayed for bugs and weeds. He built a corn hopper so that he’d have a place to store his crop. He went out and rented machinery for the harvest. When the days got dry and there was no rain, the farmer watered the field. And so the corn kept growing. All the while the farmer whistled his love song to his field of corn.
And yet. . .and yet, the field only brought forth rotten corn. All of it, every ear of corn on every stalk was just plain rotten. Mushy kernels. Missing kernels. Rotten husks. A field of rotten corn.
So now, judge between the field and the farmer. What more could the farmer have done for his cornfield? When he worked so hard to care for his crop, why did it only bring forth rotten corn?
What can the farmer do but plow that field under? Who could blame him for tearing out every rotten stalk of corn? What keeps the farmer from just selling the whole field to make a Walmart?
We are the cornfield, and God is the farmer.
God has set us up as His children. He has been whistling His love song to us through His Word, telling us that He made us and loves us and cares for us and wants to have a relationship with Him. Like the farmer with his cornfield, God has done everything He can to care for us and create faith in our hearts. He sent His Holy Spirit to us. He watered us in Holy Baptism. He planted the seed of faith and helped that seed to grow. He fed us through His Word. He drove away the demons and servants of Satan that would’ve torn us apart. And all the while God whistled His love song to us.
And yet. . .and yet, this field only brought forth rotten corn. All of us, every one of us is just plain rotten. Sinful hearts intent on leaving God behind. Even when God has brought us into His faith, made us to be followers of His Son, even when God has put us here in the church, we still bring forth rotten corn, bad fruit, bad actions. We don’t live like children of God.
So now, judge between the field and the farmer, judge between God and us. What more could God do for us? While God works so hard to care for us, why do we keep sinning?
Wouldn’t God be right to plow us under, judge us to eternal death? To take away His protection and let us be destroyed by Satan. To walk away from us and stop giving us His Word, stop encouraging and building up our faith. To stop His Spirit from working in our hearts. Who could blame the farmer from not wanting to deal with a rotten field? Who could blame God for not wanting to deal with a rotten people?
Whistling – But this farmer keeps whistling a love song to his rotten field. No one could blame God if He just walked away from us sinful people, but God doesn’t. He doesn’t walk away. Even while He’s looking at all of our rotten deeds, our dismal, despicable, deadly, disease-filled deeds, even so, God sings a love song to you and me. And the name of His love song? “I Love Rotten Corn” And He does. He loves rotten corn. He loves bad fruit. He loves us. Despite the fact that we’re everything that goes against what He wanted, God still loves us.
If we turn to chapter 27 of Isaiah, we hear God singing His love song to rotten corn, His love song to the vineyard that He said He’d destroy. The Lord says, “Sing about a faithful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. I am not angry. I’ll battle against the evil briars and thorns that try to infest my vineyard. Better than that, let the briars and thorns make peace with me.”
In this love song, the owner looks out at a desolate vineyard and realizes that despite its bad fruit, that he will guard with his whole life. He will battle with thorns and briars, but his goal is to find a way to live in peace and bring forth good fruit.
So, too, God looks out over us, a sinful people, and He says that despite our bad actions, that He will guard with His whole life. He will battle the servants of Satan and the evil that try to infest our lives, that try to lead us astray. He will fight the battle against His enemies, those people who deny Him or reject Him or teach falsely about Him, but all the while He hopes to make peace those people, to help those people know about His love. He is saying that He loves rotten corn. He loves His corn no matter what it is like, and He will do everything in His power to save His field. He loves us His people no matter how sinful we are, and He has done everything in His power to save us from death.
Incidentally, this works really well with Joan Jett’s song from the 80’s, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” “I Love Rotten Corn.”
God stays with us. God stays in this rotten field and keeps trying, keeps trying to bring forth good fruit from a bad crop. God stays with us and says that one day He’ll make us completely new again, He’ll plant us again to live for eternity and we’ll serve Him and bring forth good corn, sweet corn. God loves us and gives us a new spiritual life, a new spiritual life that comes through His Son.
And that takes us to the parable that Jesus tells, and you know how this parable works, right? It’s even worse than the first one. The owner of vineyard sends his servants to collect the rent from some farmers renting his land. But the renters don’t feel like paying their rent, so they kill the servants. Well, the owner of the vineyard decides that if he sends his own son, surely, the renters will listen to him. The son comes to ask for the rent money, and the farmers take the son and kill him.
God sent His Son Jesus to us, but the world rejected Him, the world killed Him, put Him to death on the cross. That makes this a field of blood, and just because it happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean that we’re innocent. We’re sinful too. We’re turned away from God. We’re a bad crop in a field of blood.
Whistling - And yet, somehow through all of that, God’s still whistling a love song. Even though God saw the people He created turn out to be sinful. Even though God saw His own Son be killed by those sinful people. Even though God sees us turn on each other in ugly ways, sees us reject Him. Even though God has seen all of that, He still loves us.
The blood of Christ covers us, but instead of just marking us with guilt, God says that the blood of Christ washes away our sins. God takes this evil thing, this death, this sin, this killing, and He turns it into forgiveness, salvation, eternal life.
No one would blame God for putting us all to death because of our sinfulness, but God instead says that one death, the death of His Son, that will be enough. This one death will give everyone new life.
So indeed we are a field of blood. We are marked with the blood of Christ, but that blood gives us forgiveness for our sinfulness. That blood gives us new life. That blood is the promise that we will have life after death.
And yet, we’re still a field of rotten corn. Just because Jesus died for us, just because we’re marked with His blood, just because God has given us faith in Jesus, doesn’t mean that we are perfect. We’re still sinful. We still do things that God doesn’t like. We still do things to hurt other people. We still don’t produce the good corn, the good fruit, that God would expect.
He would have every right to plow us under, but He can’t bear to do it. He would have every right to walk away from us, but He can’t bear to do it. He stays with us, out in the field working to help us become healthy plants again. He stays with us, in our lives working to help us become loving, righteous people. He stays with us to tell us about His Son who once came into this field and was murdered here. God stays with us so that we’ll know why His Son died and how the death of Jesus gives us new life. God stays with us, because He knows that without Him we’d die on the vine, we’d rot on the stalk, we’d be dead forever in the cold, hard ground. God stays with us, because He loves rotten corn.
And so now, turn and sing this same love song to your neighbor. Tell the people around you, “I love rotten corn.” Tell your brothers and sisters in Christ, tell your family, tell your friends, tell strangers that you meet, tell them that you love them despite the fact that they do things to hurt you. God has shown us the depths of love, that He loves us despite how rotten we are. So God calls on us to go and love one another in that same way, to love each other despite our faults. Yes, you’re surrounded by rotten corn, but God loves that rotten corn around you. So say to one another, “I love rotten corn.” Say to one another, “I love you.”
Isaiah’s love song in chapter 5 turns out to be a song of destruction, God’s judgment on sinful people. But through God’s grace, the farmer kept whistling, God kept His love for us. Through Jesus Christ, we will not be plowed under. We will live again after death. We will have a new life. We will one day live where we will always bring forth good corn, sweet corn. For now, though, we have this assurance, God loves rotten corn, God loves you.