Monday, June 13, 2011

Tenant Farmers

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. Luke 20:9-19

Among Native communities in this country prior to European settlement, land was held in common as a tribe or community and private ownership was not considered an option. I have several friends who will not buy and sell land as it seems to them as dividing up something precious. They consider themselves caretakers, stewards, those who take care temporarily, knowing that the land is holy and part of the Creator, so priceless and tender.

We hear this parable from the Gospel which reminds us of how easy it is for us to assume ownership and control of things that do not belong to us. It reminds us of how quickly we divide up and sell land and property and how quickly people in previous generations divided up families and sold humans. Human trafficking still goes on to this day. And yet the land, and the people are precious to God, and we are to hold all of life in trust for the Creator, in trust for God, the ultimate owner and provider.

Today, I ask God to give me a new measure of reverence for life, for humanity and this "fragile earth, our island home." We are but temporary tenants, small time stewards given charge of things for an instant. May we all hold life tenderly and carefully, knowing we all come from and belong to God.

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