Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Luke 20:9-19

9He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!” 17But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean:
   ‘The stone that the builders rejected
     has become the cornerstone’?
18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 19When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
There are lots of reasons I enjoy watching the television show, Schitt’s Creek, on Netflix. There’s one episode I especially enjoy when Roland, John, and Stevie are trying to figure out how to repair the crumbling foundation on the new investment motel property they’ve just purchased. The construction will cost more money than they have, so they approach the problem as one of having taken on too much risk without enough capital. Then Stevie makes a surprising proposal: maybe the solution is to actually buy more motel properties that could bring in more cash flow to renovate the motel that needs the foundation repair? 

I love the scene because it seems like such a smart, but unlikely solution to the problem: take on more risk. What’s more surprising is that Stevie read about this strategy in John’s book about how he built his prior business. It was actually a strategy he had used before, had seen work really well, and probably should have thought of himself.

I have actually suggested the ecclesial version of this solution to churches before, but without the positive reception that Stevie gets in the show. A church I was serving once was facing declining membership and decreasing income and every meeting was always about budget shortfalls. I finally suggested that maybe the solution could be to simply give away everything we had. If we were already flaming out, it would either expedite the slow, painful extinguishing of the congregation or we would be more truly fulfilling our mission and actually thrive. 

Sometimes we move so far away from our identity, mission, and purpose that we stumble over it when we rediscover it. The vineyard tenants in the parable had forgotten their purpose. They decide to behave as though they own the vineyard. Their lives would actually have been much richer if they had simply shared the produce the first time. Instead, the owner vows to give the vineyard away and the tenants will have nothing to show for their time and service on the land.

I cannot hear this parable (or the Isa 5, from which the cornerstone reference is taken) without needing to hear Noel Paul Stookey sing Building Block. My YouTube search for the song took me down other paths, as such searches often do, and I found myself listening to Stookey sing In These Times. The song made me pretty sad, but there was this cornerstone embedded in the song: 
The ship of state is drifting
It's getting hard to steer
It's a complicated issue
But the direction's pretty clear
And 'each of us' is who we need
To get to there from here
In these times

In spite of the complexity of everything around us, the direction is usually pretty clear. More often than not, it is a matter of coming home to ourselves.
In everything that's living
There's a promise of a Love
Planted in the seeds below
And in the stars above
We must listen to its message
Become faithful stewards of
These times
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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