Pentecost – Proper 22
Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3: 4b - 14; Matthew 21: 33-46
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
In the Bible, a vineyard was a common image used to describe the people of Israel. That’s how Jesus uses it in the story he tells today. During the time of Jesus, vineyards were fairly abundant, dotting the countryside with some frequency. Most of the vineyards in Jesus’ day were owned by foreign landowners, who entrusted the day to day operations of the vineyard to other employers, or tenants, as Jesus says in the parable.
Tenant farmers rented the vineyards from the foreign landowners, and they worked long hours for long seasons, returning the majority of their profits over to the absentee landowner. The tenant farmers were barely able to put food on the table, while the wealthy landowners received more money than they needed.
So how do you think the religious and civil authorities reacted to Jesus’ story where the mistreated tenant farmers got fed up with the situation and took matters into their own hands? Imagine how shocked those who heard this parable were when Jesus used the image of the hated absentee-landowner as an image for God?
In the story he tells, the vineyard represents the people of Israel, the absentee landowner we know already is God, and the slaves sent to bring the owner produce from the vineyard are the historic prophets - people like Isaiah and Jeremiah who endured insult, imprisonment, beating, and even death to bring God’s message to Israel. And the son of the landowner, is of course, the Son of God – Jesus.
The point of the story is simple – to each of us a vineyard is given, and God entrusts its care to us. The vineyards in our life are all different – your vineyard might be your family, it might be this church, or it might be St. Andrew’s School. How well do we take care of the vineyards God has entrusted us with?
Today marks two important occasions at St. Andrew’s. First, we are celebrating Episcopal School Sunday. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School started over thirteen years ago and currently has fifty-three enrolled students in three classes: Toddler 1, Toddler 2, and Early Childhood. According to our Head of School (and member of St. Andrew’s), Nancy Simpson, there are fifty five children currently on our wait list. So, there is clearly room for the school to grow. In your Service Bulletin there is an insert that provides information about Episcopal Schools, and on the back of your service bulletin, you will find printed the names of all staff and members of the School Board of Trustees.
The second occasion we are marking today is the beginning of our annual stewardship campaign. Today, and continuing for the next five weeks, you will hear stories from parishioners who sit in the pews next to you. They will share with you what St. Andrew’s means to them, how the ministries of this parish have drawn them closer to God. As you hear their stories, I hope you will see that financial stewardship at this church is all about gratitude. My hope is that you will see financial stewardship as a way of caring for this vineyard God has so
generously given us. How blessed we all are! AMEN.