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Speaking to the Soul: A Grave Miscalculation

Speaking to the Soul: A Grave Miscalculation

Holy Week, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 55 (morning) // 74 (evening)

Lamentations 2:1-9

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

Mark 12:1-11

Midway through Holy Week, our gospel reading asks us how we will approach the cross. We’re likely to hear many interpretations of the crucifixion as full payment of a debt, or as a pleasing sacrifice. Somehow, we’re told, the death of Christ fully compensates and satisfies God. And yet today’s gospel proposes a very different understanding of how God might respond to the death of the son he has entrusted to human beings.

In today’s gospel, we meet a landowner who is wise at setting up his property, but who is terrible at risk management. He plants a vineyard, digs a wine press, and builds a fence and a watchtower. Then, he leases this land to some seemingly reliable tenants before leaving the country. But then, in a pattern of escalating violence, the tenants beat, stone, or kill all of the servants sent by the landowner to collect his share of revenue.

A more cautious landowner might have either sent in the troops or simply cut his losses, but this landowner decides to send in his son. He thinks that the tenants will treat his son with greater respect than they did his servants, but this turns out to be a serious error in judgment. The tenants believe that by killing the son, they’ll finally have a chance of owning the vineyard outright. And so they kill him.

Notice that killing the landowner’s son hardly settles the debt or satisfies the landowner. Indeed, the landowner in today’s parable responds to the death of his son with destructive wrath. Which raises the question: How can the ruthless and selfish murder of God’s son ever lead to reconciliation, redemption, or righteousness?

As we move through Holy Week, let’s contemplate the possibility that redemption is not a transaction between God and humanity that reconciles our account. Rather, the sending of Jesus to be with us, and his death at human hands, was God’s fearless gift of love. And so our task is not so much to calculate and figure out how redemption works, but simply to experience the gift of God’s Son binding us in deeper love to God and making us willing to do anything for God and God’s people.

When we expect God to come to us as a debt collector, we lose our inheritance. When we’re too afraid to recognize God as one who approaches us in trust to teach us the way of love, we lose our grip on the kingdom. God’s gift to us in Christ, just like the landowner’s sending of his son, shows us that this is God’s way of loving: taking a risk, exposing himself, perhaps naively assuming that the Son he sends to his people will be respected and loved.

God took a huge gamble of love in sending us his Son: the person he loves most deeply, an extension of himself. He isn’t here to collect the rent. He’s here to invite us to take bigger risks with our lives in the name of love, knowing that these risks don’t always pay off, but also knowing that there’s no other way to live as God’s people. Only then will the kingdom be our inheritance.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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