Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero,OHC
Proper 21- Sunday, October 8, 2017
|Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero, OHC|
The vineyard in both, the Old Testament reading, and the gospel lesson this morning is a common image for Israel. The Old Testament reading from Isaiah is known as the "Song of the Vineyard." In it, it is the vineyard itself, which is seen to be at fault. God planted grapes, but kept getting "wild grapes" instead. In today's gospel reading, it is not the vineyard itself that is flawed, but rather the leadership that has failed.
In the parable, the plotting of the tenants seems to be the following: If the landlord dies without an heir, the tenants would have a claim to the land. The son showing up at the vineyard is taken as a sign that the landlord has died. Kill the son and the vineyard is theirs. But the landlord, who is still alive, says: "They will respect my son." Matthew connects the violence to the circumstances of Jesus' own death. The tenants throw the son out of the vineyard, which is a metaphor for Jesus being crucified on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus asks the chief priests and scribes what would the landlord do to the wicked tenants? "He will put those wretches to a miserable death," they say, soon realizing that they have pronounced their own judgment. It is their judgment, not God’s.
Our God is a God of grace, and does not exclude anyone from the Kingdom. We do it to ourselves. We do it every time we struggle with self-condemnation or question whether we’re enough. We exclude ourselves from God’s grace every time we have to be in control, be right, or have all the answers. We do it every time we carry grudges, anger, or resentment. We do it every time we make judgments about others’ belief, choices, or lifestyles. We exclude ourselves from God’s grace every time we let our egos get in the way and we choose not to do the work of reconciliation and healing. We do it every time we sleepwalk through life without really being present or showing up. We do it when we choose to engage in more criticism and cynicism than thanksgiving and celebration. We exclude ourselves from God’s grace every time we hang on to old guilt that we believe cannot be forgiven.
This parable holds a mirror before us that makes us recognize in ourselves, and calls us to recover from the places of our self-exclusion. To produce the fruits of the Kingdom means to follow the teachings of Jesus, which affirm the equality of all, and the dignity of every human being. To produce the fruits of the Kingdom we must be stewards of God’s creation, to care for the poor, and advocate for justice that will bear peace. The fruits of the Kingdom are love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, reconciliation, self-surrender, joy, thanksgiving, peace, obedience, humility. These are not abstract ideas, but lived realities in the vineyards of our lives. And those vineyards are the people, relationships, circumstances, and events of our lives. They are the vineyards in which we are to reveal the presence of the living God- a loving, patient, and forgiving God whose abundant grace is freely given.
So, how are we doing caring for the vineyards of our lives these days? Before we start pointing the finger and casting blame on the easy targets around us in our lives, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves. Just how are we doing in our tending of the Kingdom of Heaven? Is it bearing fruit? Is it life giving? We are tenants. Let us care for God’s creation with the Beatitudes as our gardening tools. ~¡Que así sea! Amen+
John Dominic Crossan, The Power of Parable (Harper One, 2013)Robert Farrar Kingdom, Grace, Judgement: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002) Bruce J. Malina, Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (Fortress Press, Second Edition, 2003