Sunday, October 2, 2011

Welcome to the Vineyard--Year A Proper 22

Today was our annual Parish Picnic. St. John's has a tradition of having the picnic at Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain. This year, however, we had to move it back to St. John's and have it in the Parish Hall. Our weather the past few days has been unusually cold--like 48 degrees and windy! Even indoors we had a wonderful day. We worshipped in the parish hall and the acoustics made us sound like a choir of thousands when we sang. Today was also the first day of our Creation Season using a beautiful new liturgy and music, much of it from the Iona Community. A simple plastic folding table was transformed with a white cloth, votive candles, pottery vessels and fall flowers into our altar. After the worship, we moved in tables and chairs and enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and portobello mushrooms right off the grill, as well as a diversity of dishes and desserts that people baked and brought from home. The entire day was a powerful reminder of the abundance we enjoy and the abundance from which we are called to share.


We have in our gospel reading today another parable.
Jesus wants to be certain
that the chief priests and the scribes
understand the point he is making.
Jesus is not trying to be mean or trick them.
He simply wants them to open their eyes to the truth--
specifically, the truth about themselves
and their behavior.

This is difficult for any and all of us to hear at times.
The truth about ourselves.

So Jesus tells a parable.

The landowner plants a vineyard.
He does it with care.
He puts a fence around it to keep it safe, enclosed, hugged.
He puts a winepress there to provide revenue.
He builds a watchtower so they might ever be on guard
for those who would come to destroy
what they have planted and nourished.

Only the destruction comes from within, not from without.
The tenants get it wrong.
The tenants think this marvelous, abundant vineyard
is all their doing.
Yes, they have worked hard.
But the tenants forget that they are just renting.
They don’t own the vineyard.
They didn’t create the vineyard.
You get it.
God is the landowner.
We are the tenants.

We forget that we are not the ones in control.
We forget that we are not the center of the universe.

We forget that our lease here in this world is very short.
None of us know the terms of that lease.
None of us.

God is willing to give us everything we need--
but we get greedy.
We want it all--
even if that means taking from other tenants,
even if that means turning our backs on God.

Even when the priests and the Pharisees
understand that the parable is about them--
they still think the solution is violence--
we will just get rid of Jesus and everything will be hunky-dory.

They are so filled with fear.
Afraid they are going to lose their power.
Afraid they are going to lose their possessions.
Afraid of the truth.
They do not trust God.

So year after year,
generation after generation,
God keeps looking around.

Looking around for those who will care for his kingdom.
Looking around for those who will love all the children of the kingdom.
Who is willing to care for this vineyard--
who is willing to tend and to nourish
for the purpose of sharing the abundance with others,
not keeping the abundance all for themselves.

God hopes it will be you.
God hopes it will be me.
God hopes we can work together as a community
to care for the kingdom of God--this great and beautiful vineyard--
on earth as it is in heaven.

God gives each one of us gifts.
God creates each one of us to be completely unique.
No one--NO ONE--is just like any one of us.
That in itself is pretty amazing.

When you got here to the picnic
I asked you to write down one thing about yourself that is special,
that other people might not know.
I gave you some suggestions--
for example... could be that you make the best brownies in the world.
(that would not be me,
but it certainly could be my husband Tom--
he really does make the best brownies in the world) could be that you served in the Peace Corps
...or that you ran a marathon last year..
...or you have a cat named Ginger
that is the smartest cat that ever ever lived.

These might seem like frivolous things
but they aren’t.
They are little pieces of our stories.
Little bits of blessing
that make us all part of the body of Christ.

So now
I want you to take one of these slips of paper
(if you get your own slip,
you have to put it back in the bowl and draw another)
and then go on a search
for the person who wrote it.

Yes, you’re going to have to get up and talk to people.
Ask them a question...
you know, like "So, Mary do you like to hike?"
If Mary says no and your slip of paper says "I hiked Mt. Everest"
move on to another person and keep asking until you find the match.

When you find your person, go and sit down.

(During this time everyone is chaotically searching for the person who matches their slip of paper--it's a good chaos though, a joyful chaos!)

Let's come back together.
Now I’d like to ask that you introduce your person.
Say their name (you see this is a great way to learn names).
And then tell the group what you learned about this person today.
That little bit of their story that was on that slip of paper.

(Everyone introduces their person with a little bit of their story)

We are a diverse group of people with many different gifts and stories.

We are all in the vineyard together.
We all have short term leases here.
We are all loved by God.
We are repeatedly called to love one another.
To really, really love one another.
Not just in words but in how we act, in how we treat one another.
We are all called to be good and generous stewards.

We are asked to fear not.
Don’t be afraid of generosity
or compassion or mercy or
forgiveness or love.
Be fearless!
YES! Be fearless!!
Live as Jesus calls us to live.
Love as Jesus calls us to love.
Be as God created us to be.

Don’t wait.
Please. Don't wait.
The lease is so so short.

Don't waste or hoard or destroy.

Open your ears to the truth.
Open your eyes to all the beauty and goodness and abundance
God has given us.

Right now. Right here.
In this very vineyard we call the Church.
In this little corner of that vineyard
that we call St. John's.


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