Sunday Eucharist reflections are available below.
TRINITY XVII SUNDAY 4 OCTOBER
The vineyard represents Israel, the chosen people of God, the people of the Old Covenant. They had been freed from captivity and slavery, had been led into he Promised Land, had received endless blessings and bounty from God, not least manna from heaven. The harvest represents the covenantal quid pro quo from his people to God. In the expectation of the people’s righteousness at harvest time, God sends his prophets. However, the tenants, the scribes and Pharisees, beat and kill those messengers. Finally, God send his only Son, Jesus Christ, expecting the people to respect his Son. But he also is to be treated like the other prophets, like the last of them, S. John Baptist, reviled, scorned, tortured and killed. This is the prophecy of the Holy Week to come.
This was not the Messiah they had expected. This was not the image of the Messiah they had anticipated. They had expected and anticipated someone more in their own image, within their frame of reference, circumscribed by their conventions and attitudes, not someone so radical and contrary to expectations: the one who overthrew the moneychangers in the Temple, who sat a table with Tax Collectors and sinners, who made whole sinful and fallen men and women. They wanted a King of this world but his Kingdom was not of this world.
Not only did Jesus foreshadow and foretell the events of his Passion but he uttered two more prophesies for those with the ears to hear and the insight to understand. He said that the stone which the builders rejected would become the cornerstone, and the edifice was his Body, the Church, which would be inspired at Pentecost in its Apostolic mission. He also said that, “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom.” No longer would there be a covenantal relationship with one people but there would be universal, all-embracing, all-encompassing Kingdom from which none would be excluded.
These prophesies were directed to a particular audience and we can see how they came to pass but they are also addressed to each generation, and so to us. They set out the standard that we must meet to inherit the Kingdom of God. Through our Baptism we have become the tenants of the new covenant. We have received the promise of a new creation. We have been admitted into the Body of Christ, the Church.
There is one word in the Reading that we should take very seriously, and which we might too easily overlook. It says that the landowner “leased” the land to the tenants. It does not say that he gave them the land. They are not freeholders. They are lease holders and holding a lease means a degree of reciprocity: that something is owed by the lease holder to the landowner, be it rent or service. What is expected of us in return for this tenancy? That we be “lights in the world.” That we say and do all that we can to proclaim, implement, and spread the faith that sets all men and women free: free to be their true selves: that “we shall not cease from mental fight, nor shall the sword sleep in [our] hand until we have built Jerusalem” among the “satanic mills” of the world in which we find ourselves.
It is no easy task in a world where the forces of secular apathy and indifference predominate. In his Letter to the Galatians, S. Paul lists some of the things that in his view will preclude entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. He writes: “the works of the flesh … fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing … will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Lest that dishearten us too much and with the delights of lunch in prospect, let us, rather, end on a more positive note. Today’s Gospel ends with the words, “Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be … given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom.” The fruits of the Kingdom are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They are “love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” That is our template for Christian witness and action.
Christ Church, Hampstead 2020