Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fruit of the Vine

Since preparing this homily, I've learned that October 9th is "Leif Ericson Day." 
Be sure to get some wine and celebrate!

   Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time   A  
Fr. Justin and I were trying to schedule something the other day,
and I pointed out to him that we have a holiday coming up: Columbus Day.
Christopher Columbus?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.  “You know—he discovered America.”
“Oh, I know,” replied Fr. Justin, with a big smile on his face.
“But he thought he was in India!”

Columbus is a big part of our national myth.
I say “myth” for several reasons.
For one thing, he was so far off track.
For another, 
it’s hard to say he “discovered” the continent
when quite a few folks already called this land home.
Not to mention most scholars today acknowledge
that this Italian explorer sailing on behalf of Spain
wasn’t actually the first European 
to lay eyes on North America,
but was beat to the punch by a Norwegian—a Viking—
almost 500 years before him.

About the year 1000,
very shortly after he converted to the Christian faith,
the Norse explorer Leif Ericson
was blown off course west of Greenland
and landed in a lush and fertile place
(quite possibly modern day Newfoundland)
which he described as “covered with vines and grapes
that produce the best wine.”
He therefore called the place Vinland.

This is our third week in a row in the vineyard,
as far as parables told by Jesus are concerned.
And as far as the original planting goes,
this Sunday’s Psalm makes it clear:
The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Jesus, however, drastically expands the vineyard's boundaries—
encompassing not just one small yet chosen nation,
but instead branching out 
to the four corners of the earth.
Despite the fact that corn, potatoes, and apples
all grow much better around here than grapes,
Leif Ericson was right: we live in Vinland.

And if this is God’s vineyard,
then that makes us God's tenant farmers.

Many words of Scripture are written
encouraging us to trust in the Lord.
“Have no anxiety at all,” St. Paul tells the Philippians.
“Make your requests known to God.”
It feels good to able to trust somebody—
to allow them to handle our affairs;
to believe they’ll always act in our best interests.
But is also feels good to be trusted—
to be put in charge of something;
to know that another had placed their confidence in us.
As much as we must trust in God,
we’re reminded this Sunday that God also puts his trust in us:
trusts us, as he has trusted earlier peoples and generations,
to be faithful caretakers of his vineyard.

I think of this at the start of this annual Respect Life Month.
It’s a rather sad commentary
that we even have to have such an observance—
that people today must be reminded 
that every human life is a precious gift from God,
immense in its dignity, and worthy of being defended.
Whether it’s the tender new shoot
growing hidden in its mother’s womb,
or a bent old vine approaching life’s end;
whether the threat comes
from poverty or shame, vengeance or indifference—
God has placed great trust in us for the ongoing care
of the most vulnerable plants in his vineyard.
When the Lord comes looking for his harvest—and he will—
how shall we answer for this fruit of our human bodies?

I also think of the trust God has placed in us
as I’ve been daily reading about unfolding scandal
on the front page of the local paper,
and hearing the grapevines rattle
with a whole lot of gossip in the parish of late.
As we see in this parable of Jesus,
fear, jealousy, and greed are more than capable
of working people into a frenzy,
such that they'll believe fantasies instead of facts
and stop at nothing to achieve their mistaken goals.
Ridicule and character assassination can be just as vicious
as the stoning of the landowner’s servants and murder of his son.
We betray God’s trust whenever we betray one another.
When the Lord comes looking for his harvest—as he surely will—
how shall we answer for this fruit of the human spirit?

God is just.
In the end, truth and goodness prevail.
The Lord has no real need to condemn us,
since we’re more than capable of doing so ourselves.
But God is also merciful.
The Lord gives us ample opportunity—
more chances than we actually deserve—
to get back on course 
and begin to cultivate anew the vast and noble estate
in which he has set us.

We live in Vinland.
And God has given us incredible reasonability over it.
We trust in the Lord.
Let us likewise prove ourselves trustworthy,
producing not bitter wild grapes,
but the good, sweet fruit of the kingdom.

with inspiration from J. Sacco and A. Lauer

1 comment:

MizzLizz said...

This seems a powerful sermon for me - especially as I have always seen Jesus telling His stories/parables right in the midst of the crowds, about the very things that those same folks are living.
I love the structure of this meditation as well as the nurturing message at the end. Thank you, Friend - and those to whom you gave a bow.