The Parable of the Wicked Tenants


This short act of worship has been prepared for you. I invite you to share in a few moments with God knowing that other people within Paulton, Trinity and Chew Stoke Methodist Churches are sharing this act of worship with you.

Revd Martin Slocombe

Grape Field


Psalm 19 - God’s Glory in Creation and the Law

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
   and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
   reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
   making wise the simple; 
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
   rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
   enlightening the eyes; 
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
   enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
   and righteous altogether. 
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
   even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
   and drippings of the honeycomb. 

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.


Hymn – God is love; let heaven adore him

   1      God is Love: let heaven adore him;
           God is Love: let earth rejoice;
           let creation sing before him,
           and exalt him with one voice.
           He who laid the earth’s foundation,
           he who spread the heavens above,
           he who breathes through all creation,
           he is Love, eternal Love.

   2      God is Love: and though with blindness
           sin afflicts each human soul,
           God’s eternal loving-kindness
           holds and guides and keeps them whole.
           Sin and death and hell shall never
           o’er us final triumph gain;
           God is Love, so Love for ever
           o’er the universe must reign.

Timothy Rees (1874–1939)  (alt.)


A prayer for God to break through in the life of our churches:

God of love, God for all, 
your purposes are more beautiful than we can possibly imagine. 
Fill us with your Holy Spirit. 
Help us let go of all that holds us back. 
Open our lives and our churches to new seasons of humility and faith, of change and growth. 
Shake us up with the Good News of Jesus and show us the way.  Amen

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

Lord God, we are all so different, each our own being; and yet you love and care for us all, you nurture and protect us. 
How can we not be thankful to you for all that the journey with you offers! 
We thank you that you guide us, in unexpected ways, to find the right way in life. 
We thank you that when we wander, you draw us back to you, give us new direction and encourage us to follow where you lead. 
We thank you that you know our individual needs and quirks, and yearn for us to be on the journey of life with you. 
We thank you that the pains of life can be overshadowed by the joy of walking with you. 
For all these blessings and more, we give you thanks and praise. 

A prayer of confession and forgiveness

God of the journey of life, the mystery of our very being, we confess that the journey we take 
gets disrupted and we get sidetracked.
We go off on wild goose chases that lead us nowhere, up blind alleys and into bad and barren places. 

But we know that we can always find our way back to you, with our heads bowed in sorrow for our failings and in penitence for our wanderings. 
And we are enriched by your welcome, relieved by your forgiveness and comforted by your all-embracing love. 

Thanks be to you, most glorious and merciful God.  Amen.


Reading - Matthew 21: 33-46

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

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 watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ 41They 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”? 
43Therefore 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. 44The 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. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.



Today’s Bible reading is an allegory – a story about one thing which is really about something else.  We have to bear in mind that Matthew is writing to the Jewish community in Jerusalem, so, what is he saying to them, and what does it mean for us today?

So to understand what Jesus is saying, we need to identify what each of the elements in the parable represents:-

  • The vineyard – this is Israel, the kingdom created by God within which his people receives his blessing
  • The Landowner – God, who provides for all the needs of his people
  • The tenants – the leaders of Jerusalem who are stewards of the vineyard
  • Rejection of the slaves – this reflects the rejection of the prophets who were sent by God
  • Sending and rejection of the son – the rejection of Jesus is the climax of Israel’s rebellion against God
  • New tenants – the church created by the rise of Christianity, who take over from the ways of the past

This passage brings to a head the result of the continued rejection of God’s word by Israel, and a warning of what will result.  A new people will be established, the Christians, who will take the place of Israel, who have failed to manage the vineyard in the way that God had instructed.  Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118.  The stone that has been rejected in the times of the Old Testament, when the Psalm was written, was the tribe of Israel.  But now, the new cornerstone is Jesus, the final messenger from God, who becomes the most important, and although rejected by Israel, is vindicated by God.

Is society in danger of also rejecting the teaching of Jesus, and thereby losing God’s blessing in the process?

It is tempting to try to lay the blame for the increasingly secular nature of today’s society at the feet of people who have failed to attend church, and who carry on their lives with no regard or recognition of the blessings that God has given them.  But if we do so, we ignore the critical part of this story.

The ones who rejected the slaves sent by the landowner, were not the people in the streets surrounding the vineyard, but were the tenants in whom the landowner had placed his trust to harvest his crop.  The tenants in Matthew’s day represented the leaders of Jerusalem, God’s holy city.  The tenants for today are us – the people in whom God’s word has been entrusted.

Are we in danger, not of rejecting Jesus, but of failing to cultivate and develop the Good News of Jesus to those outside of the vineyard?

I am reading more and more on social media of churches closing because the Coronavirus restrictions have forced them to acknowledge what they already knew, but didn’t want to accept.  Not that the church is failing, but that the church that they knew has been successful in it’s time, but that now, the time has come for a new way of being church in the community to develop.

Paulton and Chew Stoke have both supported the Methodist Centre in Bristol as part of their harvest thanksgiving.  I want to show you a short video clip that they have produced.  This is the reality of the church working in and for the community in that particular place in Bristol.

We have to accept that most people in society do not want to come to church in the way that we love to do.  That is the reality, however hard that is for us to hear.  But God is not finished with us.  Jesus does not only call us to meet together every Sunday and sing Wesley hymns, but calls us to be the eyes and ears, hands and feet of God in our communities.  To reach out, and not to keep looking in.

Perhaps this virus is teaching us that we must change our way of being the church, of finding new ways to harvest God’s crop.  Because if we don’t change, God may lease out the vineyard to new tenants.

Here in Paulton, we have sufficient funds in the bank, that we haven’t had to worry too much about the effect of the loss of rental income from all the groups that usually meet here.  We are richly blessed by our financial position, but I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable that we have such funds just sat in the bank.  I don’t think that it is acceptable to keep saying it is there for a rainy day, or that it will keep us going for another 20 years.  Is that not exactly what the tenants were doing by rejecting the Landlord’s slaves and keeping the harvest for themselves? We need to use all that God has given us to help us to change to meet the needs of today’s society.

Jesus warns his audience, 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”. 

The time has come for us to reinvest in the vineyard, before it is taken from us.  I hope that some of you will want to work with me over the next three years to do this.  Pray hard.  Then come and speak with me if you are ready for the challenge.



Intercessions & Lords Prayer

Response - God of all, we pray for them. 

God of one and God of all, this morning, we pray for: 
those who don’t know who they are, or who you are; who can’t understand themselves or their place in society and have nobody to turn to
God of all, we pray for them. 
we pray for those who don’t ‘fit in’; those who are, or seem to be different
God of all, we pray for them. 

we pray for those who don’t know where they come from, their heritage or home, their family or bloodline
God of all, we pray for them. 
we pray for those who feel lost and isolated, confused and afraid, rudderless or homeless, strangers in a strange land
God of all, we pray for them. 
and finally we pray for ourselves, as we ask for your inspiration and direction to guide us into the way of serving you, and those we are praying for. God of all, we pray for them. 
and we pray for our families and friends, and for all those in need at this present time

and for the churches in our Circuit, this week for Horizon and the Southdown Project, and their ministers, Jan Tate and Annie Trembling

God of all, we pray for them. 

In your great mercy, Lord, hear our prayers. 

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory

for ever and ever.



Blessing of the offering


Hymn – Here is bread

Here is bread that speaks of love
Your body broken for a guilty world
For a guilty world
Hungry, we come to feed on You
Manna from heaven, giving strength anew
Giving strength anew

Lord, by Your cross and resurrection You have freed us
And now we know that You're the Saviour of the world
Open our eyes to see You here with us and burn within our hearts
Risen Lord, risen Lord

Here is wine that tells of grace
Your blood outpoured to cover all our shame
To cover all our shame
Thirsty, we come to drink from You
Fountain of life, our souls You will renew
Our souls You will renew

Lord, by Your cross and resurrection You have freed us
And now we know that You're the Saviour of the world
Open our eyes to see You here with us and burn within our hearts
Risen Lord, risen Lord

Grace, such grace
Here, we find grace
Grace, such grace
Here, we find grace

Lord, by Your cross and resurrection You have freed us
And now we know that You're the Saviour of the world
Open our eyes to see You here with us and burn within our hearts
Risen Lord, risen Lord

Here we are, Your body, Lord
Given that all the world might be restored
The world might be restored
Offering now the lives we live
Freely You gave and freely we will give
Freely we will give

Mark Bradford

Holy Communion 

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Father, almighty and everliving God,

it is right to give you thanks and praise

at all times and in all places.

With angels and archangels

and with all your people on earth and in heaven,

we proclaim your glorious name,

evermore praising you and saying:  


Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessèd is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.


Holy and blessèd God,

you have created all things

and made us in your own image.

When we had fallen into sin

you gave your only Son Jesus Christ

to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption,

making there the one perfect sacrifice

for the sins of the whole world.


On the night that he was betrayed he took bread;

and when he had given you thanks,

he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,

‘Take, eat.  This is my body which is given for you.

Do this in remembrance of me.’


In the same way, after supper, he took the cup;

and when he had given you thanks,

he gave it to them, saying,

‘Drink this, all of you.

This is my blood of the new covenant

which is shed for you and for many

for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this, as often as you drink it,

in remembrance of me.’


Therefore, Father,

we do as Christ your Son commanded;

we remember his passion and death,

we celebrate his resurrection and ascension,

and we look for the coming of his kingdom.


Accept through him

this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving;

and grant that by the power of your life-giving Spirit,

we who eat and drink these holy gifts

may share in the body and blood of Christ

and be united with all your people

on earth and in heaven;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,

by whom, and with whom,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

all honour and glory are yours,

almighty Father,

for ever and ever.  Amen.

We say together:

Lord, we come to your table, trusting in your mercy and not in any goodness of our own.

We are not worthy even to gather up the crumbs under your table, but it is your nature always to have mercy, and on that we depend.

So feed us with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your Son, that we may for ever live in him and he in us.  Amen.

The bread we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.

The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

Distribution of the elements


Lord our God,

you have strengthened us for our journey

with Christ, the Living Bread.

Bring us to be with you in glory

that with angels and archangels

and all the company of heaven

we may praise you for ever.  Amen.

Hymn – In Christ alone

   1      In Christ alone my hope is found,
           he is my light, my strength, my song;
           this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
           firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
           What heights of love, what depths of peace,
           when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
           My Comforter, my All in All,
           here in the love of Christ I stand.

   2      In Christ alone!  — who took on flesh,
           fullness of God in helpless babe!
           This gift of love and righteousness,
           scorned by the ones he came to save:
           till on that cross as Jesus died,
           the wrath of God was satisfied
           for every sin on him was laid;
           here in the death of Christ I live.

   3      There in the ground his body lay,
           light of the world by darkness slain:
           then bursting forth in glorious Day
           up from the grave he rose again!
           And as he stands in victory,
           sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
           for I am his and he is mine —
           bought with the precious blood of Christ.

   4      No guilt in life, no fear in death,
           this is the power of Christ in me;
           from life's first cry to final breath,
           Jesus commands my destiny.
           No power of hell, no scheme of man,
           can ever pluck me from his hand;
           till he returns or calls me home,
           here in the power of Christ I'll stand!

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Stuart Townend (b. 1963)


The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord;

and the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, remain with you always. Amen.



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