But this is MINE!
By The Rev. Judith A. Cobb
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Hear the Gospel for today -- a parable told by Jesus
There was a landowner who planted a wonderful vineyard – a vineyard like the one we heard of in today’s first lesson from Isaiah. He rented the vineyard to some people, the tenants, who were supposed to take care of the vineyard. They paid “rent” by giving the landowner a share of the fruit of the vineyard. They did not own the vineyard. They were to take care of the vineyard and make it produce.
Already in this story, as well, there is a command and a promise
Promise -- You may enjoy this vineyard and its fruits even though it is not yours.
Command -- Take care of it. Give back a portion of it to the owner.
Now we continue with the story:
At harvest time, the Landowner sent messengers to receive a portion of the fruit. The renters, the tenants, refused to pay. Instead they maimed and killed those who were sent to collect. They even killed the son of the Landowner.
At this point, I will stop. And ask
· Can we see ourselves in this? Are we like the tenants?
· What do we return to our God, for all God’s many gifts?
· The entire earth is entrusted into our care -- we earn nothing and we own nothing. We do not own our children who are given to us as a free gift. We do not own our homes – we only have them for a while. We do not earn or own the breath we take. The love we have, the minutes that we live.
· We are like the tenants who like to pretend that “ It IS Mine”
But it is not mine. It is not ours. Every single thing is a gift from our God.
The promise -- I will give you gifts to enjoy -- gifts of life and love and forgiveness, and salvation
The command -- take care of them. And share them, and return thanks to God.
Our God does hold us accountable for the caring of God’s people and God’s World. How are we doing?
One of the adult classes is studying Can You Drink the Cup? (Ave Maria Press, 1996) by Henri Nouwan. Listen to his list of sorrows: “What about the sorrow of the homeless people asking for money, what about the young men and women dying of AIDS, what about the thousands who live in prisons, mental hospitals, and nursing homes? What about the broken families, the unemployed and the countless disabled men and women who have no safe place?”(Page 35.)
We ask also: What about war-torn countries and starving people dying every five seconds. What about diseases for which there are medicines but they are not shared?
What about our own homes? What about how much time we worship Jesus compared to our television time, or soccer time?
We are the tenants of the world. God has created and given gifts to us to care for.
Listen to the promise -- I will give you gifts to enjoy. Gifts of life, and love, forgiveness and salvation.
Listen to the command -- Take care of them. Share them. Love, God.
I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me I was naked and you gave me clothing I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me (Matt. 25:35-38).
Thanks be to God the story does not end here. You see, the son that the landowner sent was killed
It is true that we are the tenants who also kill the son. We are the ones who also crucify our Lord each time we hold on to God’s gifts and scream” They are MINE!”
It is this beloved son who, “On the night in which he was betrayed, took the bread and broke it saying. Take and eat this is my body given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.
“He took the cup, gave thanks, gave it for all to drink, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
When he left the table, he was captured and crucified. On the third day he rose that we might know salvation and forgiveness.
So, on this day, all around the world. In every place, all who follow Jesus come to the table for the Meal.
We remember that this is the God who has saved us through all of history. This is the God who has called us together. We are the tenants in God’s vineyard, God’s very kingdom, who come together with the child in his First communion.
Today we hear the promise -- I forgive you. I love you I am here
And hear the Command -- Do this.
You see Every time the church gathers today for the Lord’s Supper, it joyfully proclaims that wonder of wonders, Jesus still chooses to invite sinful, disreputable dinner companions to the table. Today, all the renters of this wonderful earth vineyard gather for the meal. Take and Eat. Take and drink.
The body and blood of our lord, Jesus Christ, strengthen and preserve you unto eternal life.
And we say, AMEN- so is it.