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October 8, 2017

For those of you who love to drink wine, the last two weeks of gospel stories have been just for you. For they have been about the vineyard.  Last week, the Father asked his two sons to go and work in the vineyard.  One did and one did not.  This week’s parable is about the bad tenants in the vineyard.  Vineyards had a special significance to the people of Israel.  Isaiah wrote that the vineyard is God’s place given for the people of Israel but they had not treated it with respect and care.  A vineyard was a sign of God’s kingdom.  A vineyard is a sign that God loves us and cares for us, a gift to us from God.  A vineyard is a place we are called to do God’s work.  

The story here is easy to interpret.  The vineyard was taken over by the bad tenants and they did not respect the owner.  They even rejected the owner's son.  Jesus told the Jewish leaders that they would reject him just as they did many prophets before him.  So others will be given the vineyard.  It would be easy to dismiss this gospel because we are believers, we have accepted Jesus, not rejected him.  But I find the message of this gospel to be about the fact that the vineyard belongs to God, this earth belongs to God and we are to care for it as God would want us to.  So, our theme is about working in the vineyard.  This week, I am focused on how hard it is to make a difference in God’s vineyard.  

And I am saddened as I meditate about God’s vineyard.  Sometimes as a Christian member of society I find myself uncertain about what to do and how I should be involved.  I feel that way today as I consider all the events that have happened.  On the other hand, I find myself consoled by God’s love for us all and I find hope in the promise that Jesus made to us.

I learned this week that a vineyard is a sign of stability for is takes at least three years and a significant investment before the grapes are ready to be harvested.  You would only do that in a place where there is peace and tranquility.  Don’t we all look for that place of peace and don’t we work to make this vineyard a place of comfort. For we wish to bring God’s kingdom to earth now.  And yet, this week, bringing God’s kingdom here on earth seems so far away.  My mind keeps coming back to the horrible mass shootings in Las Vegas.  Why does it have to be so.  It seems like we are so far from God’s peace on earth right now and so far from people behaving as if they were followers of Jesus right now.  How do we care for God’s vineyard amongst so much tragedy and so much divisiveness?

We are devastated by the loss of life in Las Vegas.  We grieve for those that died and their families.  And we are fearful. We worry about whether we can be safe in large crowds, whether our life too might be snuffed out.  And in the aftermath of the tragedy, we find ourselves divided.  This week our arguments are about gun control. I wish I knew the answer about gun violence.  You see, I grew up in a household without any guns.  My uncle killed himself with a gun and my mother became deathly afraid of any gun.  When my father served in the military, he wasn’t allowed to bring his service revolver into the house.  So, guns never meant anything to me.  And yet, I have had several friends to whom guns mean so much.  I know how much it means for them to use their guns to go hunting.  I know that they appreciate the chance to shoot their guns in practice.  I know people who want their guns for safety.  I even have gone skeet shooting and understand how careful the guns owners are about safety issues.

So, I am not here to take away guns from people.  In fact, I believe it is impossible.  There are well over 300 million guns in the United States and we have no chance to take all of those guns away from good people much less from bad people.  So, I am just saddened.  Where is the vineyard, God’s kingdom on earth?  

This week, I spoke with a man who was in the service during the Vietnam war.  He reminded me of the strife that existed between the blacks and the whites who served in Vietnam.  And he told me that when he returned to the United States at the end of his tour of duty, he went to a bar in his uniform and was attacked by three men who jumped him even though he was not the cause of their angst.  Perhaps our country is not as divided now as it was during the Vietnam War days.  Still, when can we build God’s kingdom here on earth?

But in the midst of my sadness, I was lifted up as I heard the stories of the bravery, selflessness and care that folks had for others during and after that terrible 10 minutes in Las Vegas.  I heard the story of the man who was killed as he covered his wife so that she would not be hurt.  I watched the news story of the man who put the injured in his pick up truck and took them to a place where they could be helped.  I know that people lined up and waited for hours to donate blood for victims.  And I listened to a woman tell the story of leaving her post as a waitress and sitting with a man as he died in her arms.  It was someone that she did not know.  But she stayed with that man for four hours, sharing the sad news with his friends and relatives.  She wanted to be with him until someone he knew could be there.  I am sure that you have other incredible stories of people caring for others

So, in the midst of tragedy and division, there is hope.  That is why I think it is so important to share our stories of kindness.  I ask you to tell me of the times that people cared for one another so that we do not become callous.  Let us not think the world is hopeless.  Many people are out their showing that they are working in the vineyard seeking to bring God’s kingdom to earth.  We can make the vineyard fruitful.

I was encouraged also this week as I thought about Saint Francis of Assisi.  Today, we have the blessing of the animals in honor of Saint Francis whose feast day was Wednesday the fourth.  As a young man, Francis tried serve as a military person and fought several battles but he ended up choosing a different way.  Francis stopped serving in the military.  He gave up his earthly wealth and all his goods to try to live a life of Christ.  Today, we celebrate Francis for his love of and care for creation.

But it is not just these stories that cause us to understand Francis’ care for creation.  Francis believed strongly in the relationship between humans and all other creatures.  Francis seemed to have a special way of interacting with animals, just as we realize how important our pets are to us.  Francis offered this comparison:

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

So, in honor of Francis and as encouragement for us to continue our efforts to bring God’s kingdom to earth, I ask you to join me in the prayer of Saint Francis.  You can find it on page 833 of the Book of Common Prayer in your pews.   It is prayer number 62.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

 

Last modified on Friday, 13 October 2017 21:52

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