When the Vineyard becomes a garbage dump…
…Well, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast. We are given this beautiful and pristine image of a vineyard set in the rolling hills of ancient Israel. You can smell the fresh grass and feel the warm sunshine, as you sit in the watch tower watching the rabbits (oh yes, there are rabbits). It’s so comfortable; you close your eyes and start to doze off. But then, much like a Chris Padgett guided meditation, things quickly go awry. The walls are smashed to pieces, there are wild beasts trampling and eating everything. There are thorns, briars, and storms. People are dead. Everything is ruined. This once beautiful scene has now turned into the aftermath of a middle school retreat. Woof.
If we think about it, it really looks a lot like life. “Everything is great, aaaand now it’s not”. Think back to elementary school. Math was great, 1+1=2, 10 times anything = that number with an extra zero, girls have cooties, LIFE IS EASY! Fast forward a few years and now you’re getting questions like “If Bill runs faster than Susie but is taller than Timmy, what will the cost of potatoes in Fiji be after the plane crashes in Michigan?” Maybe that’s a bad example, as the answer is clearly Australia, because of how many door knobs there are in Sweden, but I think you see my point. We can start off with the best intentions, with the best plans, have everything in order, but things will inevitably start to get really complicated.
In the Gospel this week, the most apparent lesson is that the Vineyard story is a parable for Christ’s coming and crucifixion. However, I would like us to look at the Gospel from different view. God, no doubt, looks down on his beautiful, wondrous creation – his vineyard – and sees that things are not as he intended them to be. The amount of pain and suffering that people inflict on their fellow humans, and the planet is disturbing, to say the least. The vineyard has become a garbage dump. So, what does God do about this mess? The same thing landowner does in the parable. He sent his beloved child and heir to His kingdom. He sent you. He sent us. He sent us to clean up the vineyard, to fix the walls, and to harvest the fruit. He sent you as his agent of life and love to bring light to a darkened world.
This mission is not easy, and we can be tempted to roll our eyes at St. Paul, when he tells us not to worry about anything when everything seems to be going wrong. At times, it can feel like God sent us into the middle of the boxing ring and then left our corner to go get a hot dog. However, Saint Paul is encouraging us to not get bogged down by actions and words of other people, or by the enormity of the task ahead of us. We need only remember who we are working for and remember to ask for what we need. He invites us to take a step back and rest in God’s peace and in our identity as His child. Saint Paul doesn’t encourage us in this way because he’s out of touch with what we are going through. He invites us to think about these virtuous things because he knows that when we do, God will meet us in our need, look at us and say “However, you know not the plans I have for you, plans to help you not to harm you, to give you hope and a future. For when you come to me in the face of life’s troubles, I will be your answer and you will find hope, you will find comfort, and you will find peace. There is no problem too big, no sin too great, and there is no burden that is too much to bear, for I am with you. Follow me.”