Sunday, October 5, 2008
Produce at Harvest Time
‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produce the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. Matthew 21:33-46
I have had lots of gardens in my life time. Some have flourished and some have been miserable failures. Sometimes, we didn't have a yard with very good light, or very good soil and got poor results. Other times, we got too busy to care for our garden and the weeding and the watering were neglected and the plants and what they produced suffered. One year, when Mark and I lived in Colorado with our oldest who was three at the time, we planted a garden with a group of church friends. One of the group had land near where his nursery was and he set aside a couple of acres for a shared garden. It was a lovely thing to share with friends and we all made an effort to care for the garden space and take our turn weeding and watering. We often made the gardening project a social event, taking food and beverages with us to share with each other. Several of us had small children, and they reveled in running in the garden and the attention of all the adults. One day we had bright green tender plants, in neat, well-weeded rows, and the next day we had nothing. It was the year of the locusts, and we had provided the newly hatched, frenzied creatures with their first real meal. There was nothing to tend, because every last plant was gone.
Jesus tells the story of the tenants who acted like they owned the vineyard, and who simply killed anyone who got in the way of their authority and control. They thought winning was everything and assured themselves that their hard work would earn them ownership. They did everything right for the vineyard and it produced well. They believed they should be rewarded. How often do we fall into that trap? Thinking we own that which is truly a gift? God's generosity is too often considered a prize righteously won and deserved. Jesus comes into today to remind us who the owner and giver of land and life is. He stands with us, telling a story to remind us of the loving Creator who formed the abundant land, who showers us with renewing and life giving waters, and who asks us to live as loving tenants who rejoice in the bounty we have been given.
Today, I pray that I can be a laborer in the field. One who helps produce the fruit of the most loving God. God's garden is full of peace, healing, joy and lives transformed. It is overflowing with the capacity to forgive and offer others what we have to share. It is a field ripe with need, asking for us to help others to be fed. May we all have the humility to work in God's fields today, no wanting to own or control, but offering what we have to the healing of those around us, and those across our aching world.