Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 15: Year 1
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others:” (Mark 12:9).
Reading Marks version of this vineyard parable is somewhat confusing. Let us review Matthew’s version of the same parable. In Matthew we read Jesus saying, “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons:” (Matthew 21:40 and 41). We can clearly see in Matthew’s version of this parable that it is the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders who are saying that God will destroy those who killed the son of the owner of the vineyard. Why does our justice, in too many cases, have to have others suffer? I fully support incarceration of those deemed too dangerous to allow to go free. But I am totally against abusing people in some kind of retribution.
I ponder much from this lesson. First, why is it that too many of us want to bring violent judgment on those we find guilty? This is especially troubling when we remember that all of us have some guilt even if only a little. If we live long enough perhaps we will grow up and never sin again. So not only do we want to wreak havoc on those we find guilty, we want to justify it by saying “[God] will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others:” Could we not just say, “God will come and give the vineyard to others?
But even after hearing the parable and passing judgment on the people of the parable, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders now want to harm Jesus for telling the parable against them. Do we ever learn? If we hear something, perhaps a story wherein we can see ourselves in the story in an unflattering way, perhaps this then is the opportunity to repent and change. This is what pondering does for me. It opens me up to seeing myself in the parables and other stories, not only of the Bible, but in any story. I want to be the good guy, but it takes work; it takes pondering about love; love even for those who are undoubtedly guilty, just as I have been. We should take retaliation and revenge off the table of how to respond to unpleasant acts done by others and ourselves.
We need to replace retaliation and revenge with love, compassion and mercy, even as we acknowledge that some of us must be restrained for the safety of our communities. It is the loving care of our vineyard that produces the fruit that the owner wants when he returns.
Let us live to love, serve and teach, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying through the saints and to us, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John