Sunday, October 2, 2011

They're back

Jesus said, "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 watchtower. 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 produces 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

Our little town has a freshwater lake only blocks from the ocean. Because of this, we see all sorts of birds that migrate stop over here before they cross the Delaware Bay heading south this time of year. In the spring they make a return visit with us. We also are the stopping off and resting place of the monarch butterflies as prepare to cross the bay en masse. They're here, massing for their southward journey. They are remarkable, these fragile beauties, blessed with an amazing navigation system and an internal drive. They knew to whom they belong and where they are going. When they are here, the town is theirs and they know it. Long before people settled here, dividing up property and the like, the monarchs came to a familiar place, a home that was their inheritance, their temporary shelter and home.

Jesus tells another story to illustrate how we humans assume we are in charge and that we have rights to places and things that are not ours. We played the game, "finders-keepers, losers-weepers", as children and have carried it forward to adult practices. It seems almost heroic when someone outsmarts another in business and steals their clients and ideas. And yet Jesus reminds us that no matter how we self-delude, God is in charge, and we are mere caretakers and temporary residents. We can do great harm to ourselves and to others by assuming we own what we have been given as gifts, as caretakers of creation.

Today, I ask God to help me see, in the beauty and fragility that surrounds us, the imprint of the Creator, the touch of God in the smallest creature and the lowliest of persons. May I know God today in the rejected and overlooked, those passing through and the passed over. May our hearts be tuned to see the beloved in the face of strangers today.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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