Sun, 26 August 2018
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
The primary purpose of this parable at the time it was given was to warn God's chosen people that God had sent His Son – who was now among them – to see how the stewards of his vineyards were doing; to remind them what they had done to the prophets, and to ensure them that if they mistreated the Son of God was in their midst, there would be a terrible accounting.
We need to understand this lesson, but less because of what was going on then and much more because of what is going on now. The primary purpose of this parable NOW is to warn US. We – the tenants and stewards of St. Mary's and of the Church at large - are the Jews in this parable and this parish and the Church is the vineyard.
We see from the structure of the parable that there is a great temptation for tenants and stewards to misbehave; to think of the leased property as their own. We also know from experience that, just as in the parable, evil men will take advantage of the lack of transparency and oversight in situations like this to abuse the innocent and destroy those who question their actions and the illegitimacy of their claim of authority.
It is our calling to manage the vineyard properly, according to the Commands of God. To see that all of its fruits are offered both to the glory of God and to the service of our neighbor... NOT for our own glory.
How are we doing in this? As your pastor I can honestly tell you that there is much here that is done absolutely in accordance with those Commandments: glorify God and serve your neighbor. In fact, right now we are taking the best moments of the week and offering up the very fruit of the vine and wheat of the harvest so that the hungry and thirsty in our midst can be fed. This is the first calling of the parish, and while we could do a better job of inviting our hungry and thirsty neighbors to come and join us, we are completely dedicated to this thing.
This dedication is also seen in our charitable ministries and outreach, and in the way that we care for one another and for every former stranger that comes into our lives. Glory to God. I am sure that we have entertained many angels unawares.
But we must admit that there are things for which we must answer. The harming of innocents in our midst is an abomination and, because of where it occurs and in Whose Name we work, a blasphemy. It would be better for those who harm the innocent that a millstone where hung around their neck and they were thrown in the midst of the sea. These are the words of our Master and He is deadly serious.
It is easy for us to say; “no, Lord – not us.” And it is true that this parish has been protected from the sorts of things that have been occurring in so many of the parishes around us. Thank God.
But we have to take the challenge seriously. It is not enough for us to be blameless. We are running the vineyard and we are responsible for what happens here. As Paschal Psalm 81 proclaims, we must:
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
This is not just a passive protection, although that is part of it, but a call to hold one another accountable and to bring justice.
Christ is in our midst – we are gathered here in His name, we called Him here! And there will be an accounting.
We are blessed to have been leased a beautiful vineyard. We repent of the times we have shirked our duties and used it for our own glory and against the will of God.
As we celebrate this Liturgy, offering “Thine own of Thine own”, we rededicate ourselves to working to the Glory of God and to the love of our neighbor.