The reading for Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016:
Luke 20: 9-16
Today's reading contains a parable that clearly tells the story of Christ, in the vineyard owner's son, who is killed by the tenants. What else should we take away from this story?
I suspect that when modern readers, many of whom own property, read this lesson, they identify with the vineyard owner far more than they do with the tenants. But what would happen if we thought about ourselves as the tenants?
What is it the tenants hope to gain by this behavior? If we take this parable on one level, we have to wonder what we're being taught. The system is set up against the tenants. They do not own the land. They will not be able to own the land, given the approach they are taking. But as with every parable, there's more, if we dive below the surface.
Let's return to the parable again. Let's look at that landowner, who goes away and then tries to claim what is his. Are we seeing the same lesson from a different angle? The landowner, too, cannot change approach. The landowner tries to settle a problem by the using the same approach, time after time after time.
Notice how all of the characters are so stuck in their self-destructive ways that they can't change. Now, as we settle into the season of autumn, as we race towards the end of the year, it might be useful to do some self-evaluation. What are our habits that get in the way of us living as the people of God? By now, you might despair to realize that these are the same patterns you've wrestled with before. But take heart. As you continue to attempt to make changes and go astray, each time you try to get back to a more wholesome way of living, it should take less time to make the necessary adjustments.
All this talk of going astray may not be the most useful image for us. Many of us have grown up in churches that berated us with talk of sin and tried to make us change by making us feel ashamed. We live in a toxic culture that tells us that we're not doing enough, not earning enough, not buying the right stuff. Many of us spend our days with voices in our head telling us those same messages. Who wants to come to church to hear the same thing? We've tried, we've failed, we know, we get it.
The danger is that we might quit trying to live the life that God envisions for us. God doesn't want us to live the way we've been living. Many of us might agree--we don't want to be living these lives.
So take a different approach. What would a healthier life look like? What would a God-centered life look like? The answers will be different for all of us. How would a God-centered life feel?
When you go astray, take heart. Remember that God promises that no matter how far away you are from that vision of a God-centered life, God will meet you more than half-way. If you're feeling like a rejected stone, remember that God has great plans for you. You can become the cornerstone that supports a building that you weren't even able to envision at an earlier point in your life.