Musical Heresy

Originally preached on 10/4/2020

Message Title: Musical Heresy
Theme: Heretics & Holy Prophets
Main Text: Isaiah 5:1-7
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:33-46
RCL Scripture: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:7-15; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46
Focus: Israel did not stay faithful to the message God gave their ancestors.
Function: To hold our love of history/tradition in balance with our attention to the active Spirit of God.
Other Notes: COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 21:33-46 33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 34 When it was time for harvest, he sent his servants to the tenant farmers to collect his fruit. 35 But the tenant farmers grabbed his servants. They beat some of them, and some of them they killed. Some of them they stoned to death. 36 “Again he sent other servants, more than the first group. They treated them in the same way.37 Finally he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38 “But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come on, let’s kill him and we’ll have his inheritance.’39 They grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenant farmers?” 41 They said, “He will totally destroy those wicked farmers and rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give him the fruit when it’s ready.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the scriptures, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?[e] 43 Therefore, I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruit. 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be crushed. And the stone will crush the person it falls on.” 45 Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard the parable, they knew Jesus was talking about them. 46 They were trying to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, who thought he was a prophet.


INTRODUCTION TO SERIES: Heretics & Holy People

Over the next three weeks we will skim the surface of the book of Isaiah. Three weeks and 66 chapters of Isaiah means that we will leave many things out. I encourage you to crack open your Old Testament and explore the book more on your own. During our brief series, we will explore the words of the prophet Isaiah, a holy man, and contrast his words with “heresies” from the Christian family tree.

Picture of the family tree. Originally Christianity was all unified, whole, connected, or catholic. In 1054 the whole church split in two over unreconcilable disagreements. The church became “catholic” and “orthodox.” In 1517 things changed again with the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

Zoomed in picture: Today, we’re going to peek into the story of one of the reformers: Ulrich or Huldrych Zwingli.

HERETIC: Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli & the Zwingli Reformation

  1. Christian family Tree
    1. Catholic & Orthodox Split in 1054 AD
    2. Catholic/Protestant (Lutheran Reformation) Split 1517
    3. Protestant splinters off of Lutheran
      1. Zwingli Reformation (Reformed theology)
  2. Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli: was a reformer in Switzerland. His ideas developed simultaneously and separately from Martin Luther, though their thoughts appear to build on each other. Ironically enough, Zwingli and the other reformers didn’t get along. They got together at one point to compare their problems with the Catholic church and concluded they could not reach a consensus between the group of them. Their reformations birthed different denominations.
    1. Zwingli’s perspective boils down to this: if it isn’t literally in scripture, we shouldn’t have it.
      1. Zwingli believed that scripture held the highest authority, and human interpretation added things to our tradition that God did not intend. Zwingli, like Luther, did not agree with the way the Church had developed and the corruption he saw in priests, bishops, and the traditions they developed like fasting during lent and celibacy of priests.
      2. There is darkness within the reformation stories, including Christians killing Christians, but for now we will focus on a more light-hearted aspect.
    2. One Particular Extreme View: He wanted to do away with any traditions or teachings that the church held that were not directly from scripture. One particularly extreme view he had was that musical instruments were about human worship and not worship of God.
      1. He ordered the removal and destruction of all things that were focusing on human efforts/talents rather than God’s glory. Sometimes, individuals poured cement or concrete into organs to prevent the use of them. This was an extreme act for a conviction!

TRANSITION: We won’t be destroying any organs today, but we will hear a weird song that speaks of destruction. Could hope grow out of the ashes of judgement? Could these sad words mean something positive?

SCRIPTURE &: Isaiah 5:1-7

INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH: Isaiah is a book of 66 chapters, and it spans over 150 years of history. This large time span leads to questions about who finished the book after Isaiah’s death. Christians don’t agree on the solution to this question. This book’s major themes include justice for the poor and judgment for the disobedient. However, the story doesn’t stay focused on destruction. But we’ll leave the end of the story for another week.

Let me sing for my loved one a love song for his vineyard. My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2He dug it, cleared away its stones, planted it with excellent vines, built a tower inside it, and dug out a wine vat in it. He expected it to grow good grapes—but it grew rotten grapes. 3So now, you who live in Jerusalem, you people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I haven’t done for it? When I expected it to grow good grapes, why did it grow rotten grapes? 5Now let me tell you what I’m doing to my vineyard. I’m removing its hedge, so it will be destroyed. I’m breaking down its walls, so it will be trampled. 6I’ll turn it into a ruin; it won’t be pruned or hoed, and thorns and thistles will grow up. I will command the clouds not to rain on it. 7The vineyard of the Lord of heavenly forces is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the plantings in which God delighted. God expected justice, but there was bloodshed; righteousness, but there was a cry of distress!


  1. “My loved one”—As the passage opens up, you may wonder who the speaker is and who is the intended audience. Notice the voice shifts in verse 3 from a person who loves the vineyard owner to the vineyard owner’s words. This is a prophecy, meaning God is speaking through Isaiah to a group of people.
    1. The 12 tribes have split into two kingdoms after Solomon died: the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel falls during this same time period. Isaiah focuses its message on the Kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.
  2. My loved one had a vineyard”
    1. Tended to the vineyard but it grew rotten grapes
      1. The people of Judah.
  3. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I haven’t done for it?”
    1. Here, I hear a God who wants what is best for creation but creation doesn’t listen.
      1. Have you forgotten who I am?
      2. Have you forgotten what I’ve done for you?
      3. What more could I do that I haven’t already done?
  4. Key verse: 7The vineyard of the Lord of heavenly forces is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the plantings in which God delighted. God expected justice, but there was bloodshed; righteousness, but there was a cry of distress!
    1. God explains this weird song in verse seven.
    2. God expects God’s people to live a holier life than the rest of the world. God is going to teach them with God’s next actions.
      1. Judah will hear for many more chapters that exile is coming but it will not actually come for years.

APPLICATION: To hold our love of history/tradition in balance with our attention to the active Spirit of God.

  1. We are super excited to be back in our sanctuary. Our goal is to be extra cautious and if things continue to look positive, we will lighten the restrictions on service and the building.
    1. I ask you to celebrate our reunion with this building.
    2. Our goal is to be faithful in whatever God calls us to do; for now, that means worshiping in this building. We will continue to be attentive to God’s guidance as the weather gets colder and flu season ramps up.
    3. I pray that we center our hearts on loving God and loving others rather than doing what is familiar.
  2. HERETIC: Zwingli pushed back on traditions that had been established in the Catholic faith for centuries. Though I don’t recommend filling organs with cement or burning pianos, I think it is important for us to understand WHY we do what we do in church.
    1. Zwingli died in opposition to the Catholic church. He died in a battle with Catholics as they attacked Zwingli’s town. (WIKI)
    2. Though considered a “heretic” by the Catholic faith, Zwingli’s teachings continue today as an accepted form of Christianity. Zwingli and John Calvin were two fathers of the Reformed tradition in the Christian family tree.

COMMUNION: Communion is one practice we do at Liberty. We take part in Communion on first Sundays (and sometimes on special occasions).

  1. Communion has shifted forms over the centuries, especially with the Reformations and splits in the Church.
    1. Baptists believe Communion is a symbol. We are not literally eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking Jesus’ blood. The bread and juice point to Jesus. At its core, this practice is a reminder of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Communion reminds us of our eternal life that we receive through Jesus. We need not fear death because Jesus has conquered death.
    2. This is ONE Christian perspective out of thousands of denominations.
  2. At Liberty, we invite anyone who believes in Jesus to take part in Communion. Even if you’ve only started thinking about that today.
    1. Our Covid-Communion is weird but still sacred. We’ve got individual bags for quarantine groups that include crackers and grape juice and small cups.  If you need any of the elements just raise your hand and a deacon can help.
  3. Pray over the elements
    1. Invite people to receive Communion.

CONCLUSION: Our goal is to balance our connection to our Christian family tree with being actively guided by God’s Spirit. I believe that God gave us the gift of inquisitive minds to enrich our faith. It is acceptable to ask questions about why we hold certain traditions or elements of service.

BENEDICITON: May we be people that doesn’t accept the status quo but is constantly turning to God’s Spirit for guidance.

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