Proper 22A; Pentecost 18; Matthew 21:33-46
When I was 8 years old, I was given my very first baseball bat on my birthday.
It was a Louisville Slugger, painted black with Harvey Kuene’s autograph. I loved that bat. My friends and I played ball in the abandoned field behind our house.
A year later, the bat found lots of use. But being 9 years old and an absent minded kid, I left the bat outside in the field. After two days of rain later, and another day or two afterwards, I went looking for the bat and couldn’t find it. I looked out into the field and found the bat. The black coat had faded and cracked, the bat had swollen in size because it had absorbed water and was no longer useful.
The bat was my property. It was given to me by my parents. No one took the bat from me. I lost the bat because I was a poor steward and did not care for it.
By ignoring my responsibility to be a steward and care for it, I allowed the bat to be taken from me. It was a hard lesson.
Jesus tells another vineyard story to the religious elite. God had given them a Covenant, the Ten Commandments, a fruitful land, a cohesive people and a temple. By failing to be good stewards, Jesus said, they would lose it all—and they did. The Pharisees as a sect lasted only another two decades after Jesus’ resurrection.
We have been given so much. We have been given a vineyard in a country with a Constitution, with rich lands and a heritage of liberty. Wisdom directs us to ask how we have practiced the stewardship of what we have been given: Have our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews been taught the ways of the Constitution and our ancestors in our communities and schools? Do they know what Memorial Day really is instead of a long weekend off? Have they been shown the proper way to live with each other and the land that has been given—handed down to us?
Might Jesus be talking to us? Is it possible to lose our country?
We have been given another vineyard called the Church, a holy gift in an earthen vessel, with a holy Covenant with a Triune God and a heritage of tradition so that we can live lives of joy, fruitfulness, peace and freedom.
How have we been stewards over that which has been passed down to us?
How have we embodied and passed on the gift of Christ’s Body to our children, grandchildren, one another and the community and world around us?
Might Jesus be talking to us? Is it possible to lose our Church?
Jesus’ parable didn’t make anyone very happy.
But his parable turned out to be true.
The work of the Vineyard isn’t for others to do.
It’s for every one of us.