Collect for Proper 22
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.
Readings for today can be found here.
Rite II, Spiritual Communion & Meditation
Rev. Bambi Willis, Rev. David P. Casey, Sally Bennett, and Barry Holliday have coordinated our service for this morning. The service can be found here: https://youtu.be/8UMOVEEvoFs
We will be doing Rite II and you can follow along starting on page 355 in the Book of Common Prayer. The of Common Prayer (BCP) can be found here. The Psalm for this morning is Psalm 19 found on page 606 in the BCP. The readings are Exodus 20:1-4,7-9,12-20; Philippians 3:4b-14; and Matthew 21:33-46.
A Meditation for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
We meet a landowner in our parable from the gospel of Matthew who plants a vineyard, puts a fence around it, builds a watchtower and then leases his vineyard to tenants. After the grapes come in, the landowner sends his slaves to collect the produce. The slaves are beaten and killed and the landowner sends more who are treated the same way. Finally, the landowner sends his son believing the tenant farmers would listen to him; but they do not and kill him as well.
A tenant farmer is someone who works for someone else. Often a tenant farmer is farming land that originally belonged to him but has been co-opted by some outsider who now requires the tenant farmer to pay for the privilege of farming the land.
Such was the case in Palestine when Matthew is writing his gospel. The land of the Jews was co-opted either by Rome or by Jewish Roman sympathizers. Throwing off their Roman overlords was paramount in many Jewish hearts.
Understanding tenant farming is important, therefore to interpreting this parable. And the next interpretive move we need to take is to ask: “Who is the landowner?”
The landowner might be God. When Jesus asks those listening to this parable what the owner of the vineyard should do to the tenants who killed his slaves and his son, they respond: “He will put them to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
Here lie the seeds of anti-Semitism. Long before Matthew’s gospel was written, Rome crushed Jerusalem and burned the Jewish Temple to the ground. Long after Matthew’s gospel was written the Nazis killed millions of Jews in the Holocaust. Is God the landowner?
Or is the landowner Rome?
Who owns the vineyard – the Empire or God?
My vineyard requires me to pay taxes and hopes I will vote. My vineyard asks me to pray and to pray without ceasing. My vineyard asks me to wear a mask and socially distance. My vineyard is narrowing to the confines of my home, my phone and my computer.
My vineyard is asking me to spend time reflecting on how I have kept others out of my vineyard and I commend to your attention the recent report from our task force on dismantling racism in our newsletter this week.
My vineyard is asking me in these days to do a bit of weeding - paying taxes helps my neighbors and I should not complain, praying for others, all others, is a commandment, not an option, and wondering how I can produce the fruits of the kingdom.
What I know is that God will bring forth fruits. And sometimes God will use the Empire to do so.
Please remember all those on our prayer list this week found here or in the Good News Daily found here.
The Rev. Bambi Willis
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Sermon from the Bishop's Chapel
The Rev. Sarah Brockenbrough
Diocesan Transition Minister
The written version can be found here.
The YouTube version can be found here.