Thank you, Jesus. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is now the God of Dick and Jane, Pablo and Maria, Jason and Jessica… and you and me too. In Christ, we are the chosen people. That is the good news of today’s gospel.
Jesus is in the temple and things are starting to heat up. In parable after parable, he is trying to slap the religious leaders awake. They are the problem not the solution. Their pride has perverted God’s covenant with Israel. The Father has sent the prophets and the Baptist. And now he sends his Son. Over and over God tells them to repent. But there they sit resplendent and self-satisfied. They love the perks and the trappings. What’s all this repent stuff about? For them, temple life is glorious. They have a good thing going. Why repent? Can’t you hear them whispering? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? But it is broken. They have kept the letter of the law and made a mockery of its intent. They don’t serve God’s people; they lord it over them. They don’t feed the faithful; they milk them dry.
Jesus is telling stories. But he is deadly serious. He sees the cross. He is ready to pay the price. He knows that with the unspeakable pain will come infinite gain. And we are all the beneficiaries. Jesus tells us: The kingdom of God will be given to a people that will produce its fruit. Through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are that people. We have been chosen. The stone that the builders rejected is our rock of ages… cleft for you and me. In this gospel Jesus throws open the gates of salvation and invites us in. We are the children of the new covenant… built on love of God and love of neighbor.
But before we get feeling smug and superior to the scribes and the Pharisees, we could use a reality check. Are we just a new edition of the same old thing? What have we done with God’s grace? Has our pride distorted the new covenant just as their pride perverted the old? Are we so full of ourselves that there’s no room for Jesus? Was Bernard Shaw right to mock that: “Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it.” Or as Gandhi scolded: “If Christians lived according to the teachings of Christ… all of India would be Christian today.”
The scribes and Pharisees were comfortable keeping Christ’s parable at a distance. In the abstract it was just wordplay. But then things got personal in a hurry. He was talking right to them. And now he is talking right to us. He was challenging them. And now he is challenging us.
How have we tended the vineyards of the Lord? What fruit have we produced? We are not in his vineyard to sun ourselves or to putter about. We are here to make a Christian difference. That’s our job. That’s what God expects of us. And that means actively witnessing Christ’s love in the world… in kindness, in generosity, in forbearance, in forgiveness… in forthright testimony…in all the fruitful ways that share God’s grace with everyone we meet. That’s our part of the covenant that we have with the Creator… sealed in the blood of the Redeemer… preserved and protected by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the original “Indiana Jones” movie. Remember the search for the Ark of the Covenant… all the adventures from Tibet to Egypt. That was fiction. This is reality. Our search for the new covenant is far more rewarding and can be far more exciting. There may be no car chases or sword fights, but it’s equally as strenuous. Dig deep in your heart. The new covenant lives within us… imprinted by the grace of baptism. Search for it. Cherish it. Cling to it. In these troubled times… energetically and courageously… praise God… thank God. Love each other. Forgive each other. Fill the day with joy. The covenant is ours. We are God’s chosen people… but only if we choose to stay chosen… every day.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.