OCTOBER 4, 2020 SUNDAY
Life with God and life in community are common threads in our readings for Sunday. Read the Collect and the texts carefully, several times if possible. Listen and think about what the words and phrases say to you, about your life with God, and our life together in Christ. Pick a word or phrase that you especially notice. Think more deeply about its meaning. Linger with it. In reading scripture with intention and a quiet mind to focus, we begin to hear God’s voice.
The Collect reminds us God awaits our prayers directed. God is more ready to give than we can imagine, when we ask and wait. God gives good things — mercy, forgiveness, and the good we believe we are unworthy to ask for. It is through Jesus God’s, love draws us into the life God wants to give us — just for the asking (prayer) with proper humility and gratitude.
Isaiah 5 begins with a love song to God. Note the similarities with today’s Gospel as Jesus describes a landlord/owner and tenants for his vineyard. The Lord pleads his case. He is at odds with what’s happened with his vineyard. It didn’t bear the fruit he planted – “wild” grapes – useless. The vineyard’s coming down. Drought will come. That vineyard is Israel. The owner expected justice. Instead there’s violence – righteousness, not suffering and cries.
Psalm 80 responds to Israel’s plight, a prayer for the Lord to restore the relationship of Isaiah 5. The Psalmist reminds God of his leading, loving attention to their needs. But now that’s changed. Protection is gone – it’s wall fallen. People help themselves, as if they are the owners of the vineyard. The project is vulnerable to outside intrusion. The plea goes up to the Lord — Look this way. Do something. Tend and preserve us.
In Philippians 3 Paul was a law-abiding, ritual-keeping dedicated to God Jew. He was righteous, blinded by his zeal, unable to see God is doing something new. Then Jesus got ahold of him. His accumulated achievements now mean nothing in comparison to the Gospel. He puts the past behind him, and leans strains toward a future, now directed by the law’s fulfillment – Jesus. Paul addresses himself, the Philippians, and you and me.
The Gospel parable in Matthew also reminds us, our work is to produce the “fruits of the kingdom.” A day of reckoning will come. The owner looks for a return on his investment. We must never be careless or reckless with what God entrusts to us. We are not the owners, though in this story, the tenants think they are. The ones Jesus addresses – the religious elite – become so caught up in the story, it takes them a moment to realize the judgment they now pronounce on themselves. Fortunately for them, God’s justice is different from theirs. It’s a wake up call — then, and now – in the hearing and by our response. They were offended and violent themselves, not repentant. They are not alone.
I look forward for those who can, to gather on Sunday as we worship together from our homes. I hope before long we can gather in small numbers in the church, safely, and as you feel safe – healthy, masked and properly distanced. We need to plan to offer a version of our “in person” service that can be recorded and played later for those with access, but unable to attend that day. As the Diocese says, when we have taken the necessary steps to prepare, and Harnett County data corresponds to state targets, we can.
18th Sunday after Pentecost – October 4, 2020
Proper 22 – Year A
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.
Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!
Qui regis Israel
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you cast out the nations and planted it.
9 You prepared the ground for it; *
it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered by its shadow *
and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.
11 You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
and its branches to the River.
12 Why have you broken down its wall, *
so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?
13 The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.
14 Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
behold and tend this vine; *
preserve what your right hand has planted.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.