Welcome to this service of Morning Prayer on Sunday, October 4. We’re delighted that you’re here! Please download the liturgy and pray along with us here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZZG6p4gIBnmnSID5e_MjdM-pjLj8Y3tw/view?usp=sharing
“What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?”
In our gospel reading this morning Jesus tells another parable about the kingdom of God. It’s an ancient parable that the disciples would have known because Isaiah told more-or-less the same one. In fact, Isaiah sung it: “Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard.” The gospel is a love song and this morning Jesus is singing it over us.
And it goes a little something like this: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower.” From the word ‘go’ this parable demonstrates the great love of God who is the subject of all the verbs in that opening sentence. God planted, God put a fence up, God dug, God built. “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” God asks. In other words, God has set his people up for success. He has given us everything we need to bear good fruit. God has done that. This is the very foundation of Christianity, “to understand that we did not first love God, but that he first loved us,” (Bossuet).
And what does the landowner do next? He entrusts the land to others and hits the road for a bit. There isn’t much left for the farmers to do other than care for what was there and preserve what was given to them. But even after being entrusted with so much they made little effort to work the land. Such that when it was harvest time they had nothing to show for it.
The landowner sent his servants to collect the harvest. But those wicked farmers beat and killed them. Again the landowner sent more servants, even more than the first time but they were treated exactly the same way. Finally, the landowner gave it one last shot: “I’ll send my own son, surely they will respect him.” But when he showed up all they saw were dollar signs. So they grabbed ahold of him by the scruff of the neck, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him dead.
Now you’ll excuse me if I go out on a bit of a limb here but let me just interpret the parable this way. The vineyard is the faith of the church once for all entrusted to the saints. The fence is the teaching of the apostles by which the faith is guarded and hemmed in. The wine press is the Eucharist, where grapes are crushed into wine, as our blessed Lord was crushed, for our spiritual nourishment. And the watchtower the prayers of the church from which we watch and wait for the coming of our Lord.
God has given us everything we need! All that’s left is to tend the vines and bring forth a harvest of holiness and obedience, a harvest of faith, hope, and love. You see the treasure of the Christian life is given as a gift but God asks that we tend it.
Beloved, to take responsibility for your faith, to nurture it, to prune it, to bring forth a harvest of holiness is the greatest gift that you have to offer: to God, to one another, and to the world. Take hold of the faith of the church that you’ve received and make it your own faith as well, live it out with joy, bring it forth and offer it to God and offer it to your neighbour as well. This is the work of the kingdom that has been entrusted to you and I.
And this is what the Lord expects of us. “He expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes,” says Isaiah. Wild grapes, sour grapes, faith left untended on the vine. “Therefore I tell you,” says Jesus, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
Like the farmers in the parable and like Israel before us the Church is prone to rebellion. We resist God’s love, we resist holiness, we resist moving nearer to Jesus each day. In the parable it is the son who is sent finally. Not another servant, but the landowners own son. And he is the final one sent. No one follows him. Because ultimately everything we’re talking about, everything about the Christian life comes down to the Son. How we respond to Jesus Christ determines everything. Everything hangs in the balance here. Do we receive him or do we resist and even reject him?
That’s not a threat. That’s an invitation. That’s a love song for everyone. Outsiders hear that song and find themselves drawn into the middle. And no one finds themselves an outsider at the end of the story that wasn’t an insider to begin with. Have we received the Son? Are we moving near to him each day? Are we bringing forth the good harvest that God expects? We must ask this of ourselves. And then we must pray: Blessed Lord, produce in my life the fruit of the kingdom that you long to produce in me.