Jutlus 4.02.2024 – Jesaja 5:1–7
Gustav Piir, koguduse õpetaja

Araablastel on vanasõna, et kui Jumal lõi maailma, lendas selle kohal ingel, kandes kummagi käe all kivikotti. Üle Palestiina lennates läks üks kott katki, nii et pooled maailma kividest on Palestiinas. See, kes on Pühal Maal reisinud, hindab seda tohutut tööd, mis on seotud põllu puhastamisega kividest. Aga samas on ka Püha Maa aladel viinamarjad, mis on tähelepanuväärsed nii oma suuruse kui ka kvaliteedi poolest. Kuid viinamäe rajamine, arendamine ja hoidmine nõuab palju vaeva ja füüsilist tööd, enne kui head saaki on võimalik nautida. Seda siis silmas pidades tuleme meie jutluse teksti juurde Vanast Testamendist, Jesaja 5 salmid 1 kuni 7, milles leiame laulu Issanda viinamäeistandusest.
Nagu meie koorilaulus teenistuse esimeses osas, laulab laulja oma sõbrale armulaulu, mis loob positiivse avalduse ootuse. Eeldame, et armulaul tähistab midagi positiivset prohveti sõbra kohta või sellega seonduvat, ning laul näib esialgu seda ootust ka kinnitavat. Prohvet laulab sellest, et tema sõbral on viinamarjaistandus. Ta laulab sellest, et viinamarjaistandus asub suurepärases kohas, kus oleks oodata tootlikkust. Lisaks laulab ta sellest, kuidas viinamarjaistanduse omanik astub vajalikke ja häid samme, et teha võimalikuks ja tõenäoliseks, et viinamarjaistandus annaks head vilja. Kuid istandus ei vasta omaniku ootustele. Lõpus võtab laul sõbra viinamarjaistandusest üllatavalt negatiivse ja dramaatilise pöörde. Omanik eeldab, et tema viinamarjaistandus toodab viinamarju, kuid selle asemel toodab see „kängunud kobaraid“.
Viinamarjaistandus mitte ainult ei vastanud sõbra ootustele, see andis oodatule vastupidiseid tulemusi – meie ees seisab pilt lausa koledusest. Laulja on laulnud oma sõbra viinamarja istandusest. Kuid nüüd, kui laulu sõnad lõppevad pettumust valmistava uudisega, et viinamarjaistandus on andnud halba vilja, hakkab sõber rääkima enda eest.
Ta kutsub „Jeruusalemma elanikke ja Juuda rahvast” üles mõistma kohut tema ja tema viinamäe vahel. See paneb inimesed olukorda, kus nad peavad otsustama, kas asjade kujunemises on süüdi viinamarjaistanduse omanik või istandus. Omanik võtab oma juhtumi kokku küsimusega, et mida ta oleks saanud viinamarjaistanduse heaks rohkem teha. Laulja oli üksikasjalikult kirjeldanud omaniku tegevust viinamarjaistanduse rajamisel. Omanik kahtleb, miks pärast kõike seda, mida ta on teinud viinamarjaistanduse heaks, on see nüüd andnud halbu viinamarju. Seejärel kuulutab viinamarjaistanduse omanik istanduse üle kohtuotsuse: ta eemaldab selle kaitse, et see oleks avatud, maha tallatav ja võsastunud.
Võime ette kujutada, kuidas Jeruusalemma ja Juuda elanikud kuulevad laulu viinamarjaistandusest ja viinamarjaistanduse omaniku hinnangut ning noogutavad pead, kinnitades, et omaniku otsus on õigustatud. Kuid nad ka kuulevad prohvetit kuulutamas, et neid ootab tõenäoliselt ees sama saatus nagu tähendamissõnas mainitud viinamarjaistandust. Seda seetõttu, et viinamarjaistandusel olid kõik võimalused hea vilja kandmiseks, aga selle asemel andis ta halba vilja. Inimestel on kõik võimalused õiglust ja õigust praktiseerida, kuid selle asemel praktiseeritakse vastupidist.
Prohvet esitab retoorilise küsimuse: mis oli jäetud tegemata? Kaudne vastus on, et Jumal poleks saanud enam midagi teha, et valmistada ette alust õigluseks ja õiguse õitsenguks. Jumal pole see, kes peaks rohkem tegema.
Armulugu ilma vastastikuse hoolitsuse ja eneseandmiseta toob kaasa katastroofi (5:6).
Olles saanud kõik õitsenguks vajamineva, kogus Juuda eliit hoopis rohkem, kui vaja, sundides oma naabreid majadest välja ja maalt minema. Ebapühadest isudest ajendatuna tarbivad nad üle ja langevad kõlvatusse (5:11-12). Näib, et sel ajal oli tõeline sotsiaalmajanduslik kriis käes. Nagu oleks sellest veel vähe, ütleb prohvet, et eliit ei kaota mitte ainult vara, mille nad on ülekohtuselt omaks võtnud, vaid lähevad ise otse surmavalda ehk „šeoli“ suhu (5:14). See on üks varasemaid vihjeid surmavallast Piiblis. Mida arvame me Jumalast kui hävitamise sõnadega kõnelejast? Esiteks, Jumal töötab ajalooliste mõjurite sees ja nende kaudu, kes „neelavad” ja „tallavad maha”. Teiseks, Jumal vahendab Iisraeli kurjusele loomulikke tagajärgi. Tagajärjed on teole omased, mitte Jumala poolt äsja kasutusele võetud. Samal ajal jääb Jumal ise Iisraelile truuks, armastatuks. See hävitamine, see häving, allakäik, ei ole lõplik, vaid puhastav tuli, mille Iisrael peab positiivse tuleviku võimaldamiseks läbima.
Mida meie siis tegema peaksime? Kas me peaksime rohkem pingutama, et toota vilja, mida Jumal soovib? Ei. Alustame tagasivaatamisega meie jutluse teksti esimesele osale ja tuletame meelde, kui palju Jumal on meie heaks teinud. Kujutame ette, kui rasket tööd Jumal tegi meie südames usu loomiseks. Kuid millise usu? Mitte ainult ususse, et Jumal on olemas, vaid ususse Jumala Pojasse Jeesusesse. Jeesus tuli siia maa peale, et eemaldada meie patud. Nagu põllumees, kes koristas oma põllult kive, puhastas Jeesus meie elust patud ja kandis nende raskust ristil. See selga murdev töö … ei, see elumurdev töö, mida Jeesus tegi, päästab meid Jumala karistusest. Hea armulaul tekitab positiivseid emotsioone, eriti kui seda laulu laulab meile keegi, kes meid armastab.
Raadiost ega ka muu meedia vahendusel selliseid laule ei leia, küll aga Piiblist. Tegelikult on universumi Jumal meie tänase jutluse teksti kaudu tunnistanud oma armastust meie vastu. Ta ei ole seda mitte ainult tunnistanud, vaid ka näidanud Jeesuse Kristuse kaudu. Toogu see armastus meie vastu sellist vilja, mida Jumal otsib. Oleme kannatlikud, õrnad, armastavad ja lahked, sest meie oleme Jumala viinamarjaistandus ja toodame Jumalale meelepäraseid vilju.

Sermon for February 11th 2024 – Mark 9:2-9
Reverend Gustav Piir, Priest-in-charge

On a visit to our friends in the Church of England, one place we planned to visit was a medieval chapel with a famous medieval fresco depicting the legend of Saint Hubert, the patron of hunters. At the side of the main throughway there was a signpost pointing the way to Saint-Hubert-in-the-Wood. I expected this chapel to be located in the middle of a thick forest but, alas, it was in the middle of a field. I was informed by my host that there had once upon a time been a forest where the hunting was good but the forest had long ago been cut down by the locals. The road sign did not exactly lie, what it pointed to was a chapel dedicated to Saint Hubert; but “Saint-Hubert-in-the-Wood” was in reality “Saint-Hubert-in-the-field.” Another of my trips to the Church of England Diocese of Rochester took me to a small village for a service at a parish church. Driving along the road we came to an intersection with no visible road signs, just hedges on all sides. We had no idea where to turn. The archdeacon told me that normally he knew his way around the diocese like the back of his hand but this time we were lost, without access to “global positioning” for help. I suggested we look in the hedge, as I remembered from many an English mystery novel, signposts tend to fall down or are knocked down into a hedge. When we got out of the car to investigate we found that indeed, the whole signpost was down in the hedge and we propped it up and saw the marker pointing us to the way that we should take.
If we had a signpost showing us the various places where we could go, today it would be a post where one direction points to Epiphany where we have just come from and the other points us to Ash Wednesday and Lent. The Epiphany Season has shed light on the character and essence of Jesus. We have read about his miracles over nature, we hear of his power to heal. This Sunday, our gospel reading is about the most spectacular unveiling of Jesus’ essence. Jesus climbs up a mountain along with three disciples, the inner circle so to speak: Peter, James and John. When they reach the peak, Jesus’ outward appearance dramatically changes. He becomes radiant and his clothes take on a dazzling appearance. Then two visitors join him. They’re on the “VIP list” from the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah. They begin to converse with Jesus. Moses and Elijah: two very significant figures. Together, they represent the Law and the Prophets, from our Old Testament. Both men had close encounters with the divine presence of God on a mountaintop. Moses encountered God on the top of Mt. Sinai. There, God gave Moses the 10 commandments. Elijah also climbed Mt. Sinai. There he experienced the true presence of God in the still silence. Both men also experienced unusual and divine deaths. Moses dies in the land of Moab and God buries him but the location of the grave is unknown. Elijah was accompanied by a chariot of fire and ascended a whirlwind into heaven. Jesus on a mountaintop with these two men. This experience shed a completely new light on Jesus. Peter and James and John had witnessed Jesus’ astonishing miracles. They’d seen his marvelous healings, even to the extent of raising the dead. They’d listened to his stirring proclamation. They had a growing sense of his magnitude. Peter had even gone so far as to state that Jesus was the longed-for Messiah of Israel. Jesus, was truly touched by the hand of God. Now, on this mountain top, they see something even greater. They witness the fullness of Jesus’ divine nature. God moves in on this mountain. A cloud descends over the mountaintop. A voice speaks to the three quaking disciples: “This is my son! Listen to him!” Suddenly, the cloud is gone. When it’s gone, so are Moses and Elijah, and Jesus is back to his normal appearance.
If someone had been on a spiritual quest, if someone had been searching for a divine encounter, this mountaintop vision would have hit the jackpot. That’s why it’s so bewildering when Jesus told the three disciples to keep their mouths shut about it. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said, “Don’t say anything until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” Peter, James and John must have thought they’d come to the end of their spiritual quest on that mountaintop. Jesus says “no”. Encountering the divine Jesus was not enough. No, this elevated coordinate by itself is not enough. Another coordinate is necessary, too. We can’t find the destination of our spiritual quest with only this one coordinate from the holy mountaintop. If we only had this one longitude, if we only looked upwards at Jesus’ untouchable holiness, Jesus would not be Immanuel, “God-with-us”.
To really grasp Jesus, his divinity alone is not enough. We need latitude. We need his critical intersection with our imperfect world. The critical intersection with our troubled, imperfect world is only revealed at the cross. Jesus is not just the God who remains on high and is untouchable. Jesus is the Savior who comes down. Jesus comes down from the mountain to the cross. From the cross Jesus descends to the grave. Then from the grave Jesus descends unto Hell. Jesus comes down as far as one can go. Jesus the Savior comes to us. Jesus comes to us where we are. Both divine coordinates for Jesus are displayed in his cross and resurrection. The English writer known here in Estonia for his Father Brown Mysteries, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, understood that the divine coordinates meet on the cross. He said, “The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.” The cross captures the two divine coordinates of Jesus’ identity. We see its vertical dimension. The cross’ longitude reveals that the glory and power of the divine has come to dwell with us. The lateral crossbar reveals the breadth of that divine love. It spreads from shore to shore, from age to age. The divine love in Jesus spans to all of humanity. Jesus the Savior’s actions on the cross bring into focus the deepest motivations of Jesus the Divine. Jesus the Divine doesn’t stay on the mountaintop that day in his resplendent glory. He comes down from the mountain. Jesus’ footsteps will ultimately lead him to his cross. His steps lead him to be our Savior. What draws him there is divine love. It’s because God so loved the world that Christ Jesus was born. It was always about love. Coordinates are important. They reveal our place in the world. Knowing whose we are in Jesus shows us where we are in the universe. Our coordinates are determined by Jesus’ divine coordinates: We are beloved of God. We are one Christ died for. Our hope is anchored in Jesus’ victory even over death. Grounded in this hope, we step forward in faith and mission.

Sermon for Sunday February 4th 2024 - Mark 1:29-39
Reverend Gustav Piir, priest-in-charge.

I live out in Kadriorg and when I go for a walk along the neighborhood streets, I like to look at the houses and apartment buildings. What makes a house or apartment building unique? Did anyone add onto it at some stage? The physical structures of the buildings houses are interesting. Is it the gingerbread like carvings of the decorated eves and awnings? Or is it the colours of the building, the purple and pink paint that has been used? Or is it the dilapidated wooden sheds in the back courtyard or the steep entrance to the underground parking garage? However, what fills me with awe is when I start thinking about who dwells in each building or house. Every one of them is home to someone or some family. I live in a certain house, in an apartment, under a particular roof. The building I live in has a story unique to its history. Built in 1910 as a villa, it was bought by the Holy Spirit Congregation in 1938 to be the residence of the pastor. It was confiscated during the Soviet occupation and turned into apartments. In the mid 1990’s the building was returned to the congregation as is, including the tenants of the time.
There is a history to each building and each house, old, renovated and new, as well as of the people living under each and every roof where ever their home or apartment may be. Their story, their life drama, is unique unto them. They have joys and sorrows, they face challenges and fears known only by them. Their histories contain triumphs and trials, promise and pain. Which one is facing crisis? Who is looking forward to the promise of tomorrow? Who finds it hard to sleep at night because of worry? Is there strife and conflict dis-easing relationships therein? Each building contains its own mixture of hopes and challenges.
Each dwelling, a different story. One spiritual practice we can do when we go for a walk is to pray for our neighborhood. As we pass each house or each building, we can lift up to God the mystery of the people living there. We don’t know what they’re facing, but God does. God knows their situation intimately. Something like that happens in our gospel reading for today. After worship is over, Peter heads to his house along with Jesus and the other disciples. His mother-in-law is ill and is cured by Jesus. Many people want Jesus to be at home with them. They want him to stay close, right in the apartment building or on the street where they live. Now Jesus’ ministry moves in two directions. Jesus draws close, very close to people. But Jesus also expands his ministry outward, ever outward, like the universe. As Jesus’ ministry reaches outward he said, “I have sheep that don’t belong to this fold. I must bring them also.” And then he said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people unto myself.”
Jesus’ mission is both extremely personal and broad. Jesus is able to draw near personally to us but also do that same thing with all other souls. It’s greater than our minds can comprehend. We are not divine. We aren’t able to focus with such personal intimacy and global breadth at the same time. Jesus’ personal and global mission reached its climax on the cross. There, on the cross, his love reached out. His reach extended beyond the confines of time and space. It spanned to draw all people to his divine love. Yet it was not a generic love. No, Jesus love was centered exactly on us. His destiny on the cross was fulfilled for us personally. That saving grace was extended specifically to us. With that same love which focused specificity on Peter’s mother-in-law that day in Capernaum, Jesus is now, extending his hand to us in order to lift us up and service him in a shared mission.
In our shared mission and in our service as a community of faith, the two directions of Jesus’ ministry inform us in our own ministries. The Lord comes near. It’s very personal to each of us. And in that intimate touch, we are lifted up, you and I. We are strengthened so that we can return to our destined service. What Jesus intended to create when he gave the Great Commission was a community of disciples that would expand exponentially, that would empower all who become a part of it, and that would conquer the world by love for God and compassion for their fellow men and women, and make the world a place of justice and peace. More than that, Jesus wants us to expand our horizon and look beyond the confines of the material world. There is more to life than the years we spend between the cradle and the grave. Life goes on, and how we spend our life after the grave depends on our relationship with God.
Jesus’ greatest priority was to connect and to re-connect people with God. In order to focus on that priority, Jesus decided to escape the crowds that were looking for relief of their physical suffering and for the excitement of witnessing some miracles firsthand. That is something to remember when we share the Gospel with others. Jesus’ great priority should be our great priority, because we as a community are the body of Christ in a suffering and lost world. That does not give us an excuse to turn a blind eye on the physical suffering in our society and in the world at large. Jesus attended to both temporal and eternal needs, as far as his time and strength allowed it. But when it came to making choices, Jesus never lost sight of the mission that his Father had given him.
Back to our own lives and our priorities. Let’s face it: there is a huge risk of ending up living a life that is being driven by others, unless we actively resist. As Christians, we so often feel that we are expected to be “nice” to others, to please others unselfishly, and to give others what they ask from us, and even more. After all, Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to give what others demand from us with a bonus on top. Twice the Bible assures us that “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Here I would say “Yes!” and “No!” “Yes!” when it comes to living an unselfish life. That is certainly what Jesus expects from his followers. But “No!” when it comes to the question of who sets the agenda for our lives. This is where prayer comes in. God has a purpose for our lives, for each one of us. Our lives will not be fulfilling, unless we constantly move towards that purpose, that goal. We may not know what that goal is. We may ask God in prayer to show us that purpose and still not get a clear answer. But that need not discourage us.
The Swedish pastor Martin Lönnebo gives an interesting illustration of this. He speaks about moving around in a foreign landscape in the middle of the night, looking for a house. There may be times when we see a light in the distance that gives us a hunch of where we should be heading. But more often, we don’t see the light, and the only way to move forward is to use a flashlight and see where the path is leading us, one step at the time. It would be so great if God would show us his master plan and purpose for our lives. But more often than not he is ready only to show us what our next step should be. The Psalmist says in Psalm 119: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
When it comes to looking for God’s purposes and priorities for our lives, and when it comes to discovering what step to take next, we can go a long way by opening the Bible and let God speak to us through it. That in turn brings us to the heart of prayer. Prayer is not so much about us talking to God, telling him what we want or need. Prayer is first and foremost about us opening our hearts to hear God speaking and revealing his will to us. That is why prayer is most effective with an open Bible. Jesus’ great priority was to proclaim the good news that God’s kingdom is at hand. When we pray the words that Jesus taught us: “Your kingdom come, your will be done,” that is when we align our priority in life with God’s great priority.
Let that be our prayer and our desire in the days and weeks and years to come. Amen.