The readings for Sunday, October 8, 2017:
First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm: Psalm 80:7-14 (Psalm 80:7-15 NRSV)
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 19
Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46
Today's Gospel contains a parable that seems to tell the story of Christ, in the vineyard owner's son, who is killed by the tenants. I suspect that when modern readers, many of whom own property, read this lesson, they identify with the vineyard owner far more than they do with the tenants. But what would happen if we thought about ourselves as the tenants?
Notice how the tenants are so stuck in their self-destructive ways that they can't change. Now, as we settle into the season of autumn, as we race towards the end of the liturgical year, it might be useful to do some self-evaluation. What are our habits that get in the way of us living as the people of God? By now, you might despair to realize that these are the same patterns you've wrestled with before. But take heart. As you continue to attempt to make changes and go astray, each time you try to get back to a more wholesome way of living, it should take less time to make the necessary adjustments.
The Gospels that we've been reading give us reassurance that we can go astray, and God will still welcome us back. Now all this talk of going astray may not be the most useful image for us. Many of us have grown up in churches that berated us with talk of sin and tried to make us change by making us feel ashamed. We live in a toxic culture that tells us that we're not doing enough, not earning enough, not buying the right stuff. Many of us spend our days with voices in our head telling us those same messages. Who wants to come to church to hear the same thing? We've tried, we've failed, we know, we get it.
The danger is that we might quit trying to live the life that God envisions for us. God doesn't want us to live the way we've been living. Many of us might agree--we don't want to be living these lives.
So take a different approach. What would a healthier life look like? What would a God-centered life look like? How would it feel?
Now choose one action that gets you closer to that God-centered life. We have a variety of choices. Maybe we'll add one prayer to our day. Maybe we'll donate to an additional charity. Maybe we'll read to schoolchildren. Maybe we'll turn off the news and quiet our brains so that we can hear God's suggestions of how to order our lives. Small action by small action, choice after choice, day after day, we can structure a life that looks like the one God would hope we could have.
Of course, there will be times of despair. There will be times of abject failure. Read the lessons again and think about the natural order of horticulture. The land must be cleared occasionally so that new growth can take place. God continues to call to us to work for the vision of the redeemed creation that God gives us.
Remember that God promises that no matter how far away we are from that vision, God will meet us more than half-way. If we're feeling like a rejected stone, remember that God has great plans for rocks of every shape.
feeling the feelings…
1 year ago