A Bully Named Pride
Today’s Gospel text is a parable. A story told by Jesus to connect with people who have different understandings. Jesus as the Son of God, could not explain the mind of God to humans who have never experienced the mind of God. So he told stories and whether any of them actually happened, we don’t know.
But today’s parable describes a landowner who built a vineyard and all of the necessities to farm it. Then he leased the property with the understanding that rent was paid by portions of the harvest.
The story was meant to help explain God’s persistent activity of reaching out to us equally persistent stubborn and prideful human beings. By using examples of the times, Jesus told the Pharisees that God had created the world (like the landowner creating the vineyard) and placed us in it as tenants to till the ground, to care for the plants, animals, and one another, and to bear fruit.
In the story Jesus also acknowledges that we as prideful humans perceive that we have been given ownership of God’s creation. And keeping with a contemporary story in their time to make a connection, Jesus references prophets, scribes, and Himself as slaves and the landowner’s son. He describes the Pharisees and us (tenants) as bullies in a sense, wanting to keep the fruit for ourselves rather than to give back to the landowner (God). The Prophets, scribes, and the Son were all killed because we didn’t want to give up our personal control or our pride to God.
In the beginning of Scripture we hear God tell Adam and Eve that he has provided them with all that they need and they are to till the ground, care for the animals, and manage his creation…it’s called stewardship. They are to care for God’s creation. As are we. But we like the tenants are bullies with our personal pride.
It’s easy to point out the flaws in others; to take to task those who are bullying us. But we too are bullies. In our own minds we have taken ownership of God’s creation. We want as much for ourselves as possible. We consider those who do things differently to be untrustworthy. And if their traditions are different, they are wrong.
Jesus repeated in the Gospels, ‘Do not fear’. Fear is not found in love and compassion for one another. Love and forgiveness are the anti-fears. Jesus didn’t bully anyone by saying, ‘Believe in me or else’. He simply loved and forgave. He walked the talk. He overlooked our histories. And in our baptism, God has claimed us as his own just as he did with his Son. Jesus loves you and forgives you. And he asks that you too love and forgive, seeing others (even in their differences) as brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.