Sunday, October 5, 2008

Think about these things...


Image: Ancient Tuscany Watchtower by Gary Godrey

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 5:1-7
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43


Got a déjà vu feeling about this gospel passage?
It’s the third of today's texts to mention a vineyard
and it's the third week in a row
that Jesus has used the vineyard image in his preaching.

Vineyards for raising grapes were very important in Jesus’ day.
They provided boundaries, ownership, food, employment,
income, status, and even, at harvest time, housing in the watchtower
where the vineyard owner or his employees – and their families –
would camp on a platform at the tower’s top to watch for thieves.

The important element to keep in mind here is that Jesus chose
a center of land ownership and commerce as an image for his kingdom.

Of course Isaiah beat Jesus to the punch,
using the same vineyard image
some 600 years before Christ was born.
Even in Isaiah’s day, the market place and the vineyards that supply it
were apt images of the reign of God.

Commercial realities in our own times are more complex.
and it seems over the past couple of years no one was keeping watch
in the tower over our nation’s economy:
either that or thieves had occupied the tower.

The land and who owns it… the crops and who shares them…
ancient questions that still obtain in our own day.

In Isaiah we see that God has done everything possible
to make the vineyard a place of beauty and productivity.
But the vineyard has gone to seed, producing nothing
but ruin and bloodshed.
In Jesus’ parable,
the vineyard is fruitful but those charged with its care
are overwhelmed by greed and want more and more for themselves,
so much so that their greed consumes them.
Isaiah’s vineyard has no hope, no future
while Christ’s vineyard will be handed over to others,
more worthy of trust and confidence.

Our own “vineyard” in the United States
and the world’s market place often fail
to bring forth a harvest to satisfy global human hunger:
many waste food on a daily basis, food for which others beg.
The greed of some regularly eclipses the needs of others
and still there is ruin, homelessness, poverty, bloodshed
and an outcry for justice.

Only at our own peril would we who all have more than we need
ignore the warnings in these vineyard tales.
What can we do?
There are many ways to share the harvest we so easily take for granted.
Every week there are opportunities
to literally take from the surplus of our own cupboards
and provide assistance for the needs of the poor.
Someone will even drive your contributions
to Lazarus House in Lawrence
– you don’t even need to leave Concord.

Once a month a group of students and adults from our parish
prepare a meal and bring it to serve at the Boston Rescue Mission,
sharing our plenty with those who have nothing.

And once every four years there is a chance for us
to choose those who seek a place in the watch tower
and stewardship over the vineyard of the world’s peace and plenty.
As we debate, argue and work towards decisions for November 4,
we should look through several lenses
as we consider candidates and their parties and policies.
We should look through the lens of faith
and the wisdom, insight and counsel it affords us.
We should look through the lens of scripture
and ask: to what choices does God’s Word call us?
We should look through the lens of the tradition and teaching
of our Church and seek to understand it as deeply as possible.
And as we shape our conscience and convictions,
we would do well to look through the lens of St. Paul’s words today
where he wrote:
think about these things:
whatever is true… whatever is honorable…
whatever is just… whatever is pure…
whatever is lovely… whatever is gracious…
whatever is of excellence and worthy of praise…
think about these things...

In just such categories are we invited to weigh the candidacies of
Joseph Biden, John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin --
and their respective party’s platforms and policies.

Paul’s list of virtues sets the bar high, appropriately so,
precisely because what’s at stake in such decisions
is the welfare of God’s people and the stewardship of creation.

Scripture tell us:
Wisdom has built herself a house and set a table for her children…
It’s at Wisdom’s table we gather today:
Christ prepares a table for us
where we are fed not with slogans or sound bytes or talking points
but with a food that reminds us that selfless giving
is at the heart of who we are as God’s people.

If you seek what is
true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious,

of excellence and worthy of praise,
then come to the Eucharist
for here we will find wisdom to deepen our thoughts
and light for the decisions we make.

As St. Paul says, “Think about these things…”


Note: It was a comment on a related post that drew me this Sunday's reading from Philippians as the hinge text for this homily. H/T to Anne! After preaching this homily twice this morning, I'm aware that representatives from "both sides of the aisle" have interpreted what I said as a plug for their candidate. My purpose here was not to endorse a candidate but rather to invite and urge people to study their political options through the lenses of faith, scripture and Church teaching - nothing more and nothing less than that.


-ConcordPastor

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I didn't hear you give your homily, but I have just read it with interest. We live in very difficult times right now and it is more crucial than ever to have the right leadership to move us forward. In Sunday's Globe there was a photo of Ethel Kennedy and her grandson Matthew visiting a nursing home in New Hampshire on behalf of Barack Obama. Two things I was struck by: (1) It doesn't seem possible that Ethel could be 80 years old! (2) She told the nursing home residents that only once or twice in a century does there come along someone like Barack Obama, uniquely qualified for this moment in history.

A couple of weeks ago I spent several hours at the JFK Library. It was very emotional for me. My first vote was for John F. Kennedy for president. One of the videos that touched me the most was of Bobby Kennedy. His deep desire to help those who most needed help was so evident in his campaign. We are again at a crossroads in our nation. Greed has consumed so many. It is time to have government work for the common good, for all of us, not for the very few at the top of the income ladder. If voters care about the common good, they will have no difficulty in choosing the right person to vote for for president in November. CP, you cannot endorse a candidate, but I can, and I unequivocally endorse Barack Obama.

Steve said...

And I unequivocally support John McCain and Sarah Palin because the common good must start with life from conception to natural death.