October 2nd -- Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost -- Anne-Marie Jeffery

posted Oct 9, 2011, 6:02 PM by ajeffery@stmargaretsdc.org   [ updated Oct 9, 2011, 6:30 PM by Terry Brady ]

Look for what is ‘out of whack’                                                            Anne-Marie Jeffery

Matthew 21:33-46                                                                                           October 2, 2011

Listen to another parable (pause) that has something to do with a vineyard. If a parable with a vineyard seems familiar, it should be.  This is the third week in a row that the gospel has had a story about a vineyard. Two weeks ago the story was about the owner who paid all the workers a day’s wage even though some had worked only an hour. Last week, the parable was about a father who asked his sons to work in his vineyard.  One said no but ended up going.  The other said yes but never showed up. This week’s parable with a vineyard has a very different tone from the other two.  It is violent and shocking. People die.

The owner of the vineyard has gone to another country and rented out his vineyard. The tenants of the vineyard will not pay their rent. The owner sends servant after servant to collect the rent and the tenants beat some and kill some.  Finally the owner sends his son thinking they will surely respect his son and the tenants kill the son with the strange thinking that they can get the son’s inheritance.  In what universe could the tenants be living in where they would think that killing the owner’s son would end well for them?  Their thinking is completely ‘out of whack’ when it comes to respect for life and the basic decency one expects from one’s fellow human beings.

I find the story easier to take when I remember that is a parable - a story with a teaching.  This is a familiar teaching, one that is repeated over and over in Biblical history. God sends messenger after messenger and the people do not listen.  It is a theme that we hear in just about every Eucharistic prayer that we use. As it says in Prayer C, “Again and again you called us to return.  Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous law.” 

Somehow we human beings have a knack of getting off track, heading away from the love for God and one another that we are called to. Often we get way off track and come close to the “out of whack” thinking that the tenants demonstrate in the parable.  We live in a world where children take their lives because of being bullied. We throw food away while in other countries thousands starve. In the DMV, as we call this metropolitan area, people shoot each other sometimes over the most trivial of matters.  Some days it seems the world is going crazy. It is easy to blame others and say – it the parent’s fault. It’s the politician’s fault or the people who show violence on TV’s  fault. The truth we are all part of the system because we are in it. Just being around the “out of whack” thinking of this world can change us.

At the end of last week, I took a road trip and on the way out going up I95, I found myself startled at the drivers who would come up behind me wanting me to move over and then just as I started to move over, they would pass me on the right. On the way back, I was a little less startled. I was driving faster and although I didn’t pass on the right I found myself finding it all a little more normal. I had been reoriented the ways of I95.

How do we live in this world and not let the “out of whack” thinking take us over in the same way that I got reoriented on I-95?  How do we start to turn the tide back to the ways of God where we love and respect all people, where we care for the creatures of the  earth and this planet where we make our home? It takes awareness. It takes prayer. It takes being around people who are working to live with God’s ways first in their lives – like we try to do here at St. Margaret’s

On this day when we celebrate St. Francis and have the blessing of the animals, I realize that animals aren’t as susceptible to the “out of whack” thinking we humans get caught up with and perhaps being around them can help us fight the orientation of our thinking away from God’s ways.

When I was growing up, if my sister and I started arguing, our dog Charlie would jump on us and bark. Charlie knew that fighting in the pack aka family was not good. When I get home from work, my dog, Neve, is very happy to see me.  In fact I get almost the same amount of enthusiasm every day that I get if I have been away for a few days. In that moment, I know I am loved and his greeting will just about always change my mood if I have had a bad day.

With cats ... well they have their own way of showing their love. How many of you cat owners have been ignored by your cat when you have been away for a few days? They know that you were gone and you were missed.  Sometimes it is our pet’s antics that make us laugh and distract us from the troubles of the day. Emily, our assistant priest, has some particularly interesting stories about her cats. I love the one where her family came home to find yarn trailing down the stairs through the kitchen and then into the living room around the sofa several times and then back up the stairs. They were in hysterics when they saw the scene.

Even turtles can change your life. My first pets were two small red eared turtles when I was five, Mell and Pell. I don’t think they knew who I was, but I remember learning to care for them and for the first time being responsible for another living thing and loving them.

Sharing our lives with our pets can be one of the ways that we re-orient ourselves to what is important – making sure that we love and respect each other and the creation around us.  Whether you have a pet or not, all you have to do is to stop and look around and see the good gifts that God has given us whether it is the birds flying overhead or the majestic trees that grace our land.  Look for those gifts. Remember God’s amazing and enduring love.  Let that love take root in you and erase that “out of whack” thinking that is so prevalent in our world.