The stone the builders rejected became the corner stone
South Africa is a country blessed by God in a great many ways. But the country which should have been a haven for all the peoples of Southern Africa became instead a heaven for a privileged white minority. Many people tried in vain to change South Africa’s apartheid system. Finally Nelson Mandela appeared on the scene. He too tried to bring about reforms. But like reformers before him, he was rejected. Worse, he was hounded by the government, and ended up spending twenty-seven years in prison. However, he not only survived prison, but came out of it with the respect of his enemies and of the entire world. Furthermore, he came out without bitterness. In fact, he came out smiling, and immediately sought reconciliation with the leaders of the regime that kept him, in prison. But even greater things were to follow. The man once rejected was to become the President of a new multi-racial South Africa. The stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone of a new and better building.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’
In today’s gospel the story that Jesus tells could be considered an allegory, a mirror story, which could give insight into ourselves. Today’s story is about God and the human race and it uses a metaphor to describe the relationship, -the vineyard and the workers in the vineyard. Looking at the story as an allegory, we see distinct elements in the story mirroring Israel and its relationship with God, and consequently we can see ourselves in our present-day relationship with Him. The vineyard becomes Israel, God’s people and the vinedressers their religious leaders. Each successive emissary of the landlord stands for the succession of Old Testament prophets that God sent to his people who were rejected and killed. The sending of the son was the sending of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who was crucified by the people. The murder of the son is seen as the rejection not only of Jesus but also a rejection of who and what he stood for, the message of salvation, rejected by the chosen people and their leaders. The threat that the vineyard will be taken away and given to the nation that brings forth fruit is seen as a reminder that if we are not accountable for what we have received God could take away the gift and give it to others who are more responsive. In the case of Israel, since they rejected God’s offer, the good news is shared with the gentles and all those who are ready to live according to God’s precepts and commands. Where do we see ourselves in the story?
Losing our inheritance
It has happened in many families. Through diligent hard work and perhaps a little luck, one generation put together a tidy farm, prosperous business or substantial savings. Then, with little appreciation of what has been handed on, the next generation neglects the inheritance and loses it completely. In today’s gospel, Jesus is pointing out to the Jews of his own time that this is exactly what is happening to them. Through God’s choice, through exile and suffering, through great leaders and teachers, the Jews had been fashioned into a people who knew the one true God and who were entrusted with the special role of bringing God’s own Son into the world of their time. Theirs was a unique inheritance, a priceless vocation and they squandered it. Could something similar be happening in our own lives and in our own land? There is no doubting the value of our inheritance. Tested through persecution and deprivation, faith in the one true God and in Jesus Christ born of Mary, has been entrusted to us. We are in danger of squandering our inheritance and leaving nothing but baubles for the next generation. Accumulating possessions, we have lost sight of the ingredients of lasting happiness. Fidelity, generously, neighbourliness, forgiveness, heroism, and an awareness of God’s love and presence were the hallmarks of what we received. They must be handed on or our inheritance will be given to another people. Today’s warning of rejection is as applicable to us today as it was to the people of Jesus’ own time.
Tom Clancy in ‘Living the Word’
A story is narrated about the visit of Jesus to a church. The church was packed with the people and the people were eager to listen to Jesus’ sermon. Jesus ascended the pulpit and He just smiled and said, “Hello!” everybody offered Him hospitality, but He refused. He preferred to spend the night in the church. The next morning, He slipped away before the church doors were opened. When the people entered the church, they were horrified to see the doors, Windows, the walls and the altar vandalized. Everywhere, it was scribbled ‘BEWARE’. No part of the church was spared: The walls, the altar, the doors, and the windows, even the Bible was not spared. Wherever one could see, it was scribbled, in different colours, sizes, shapes: “Beware, BeWare, BewaRe, beware…” The first instinct of the people was to wipe out every trace of the defilement. But, only the thought that Jesus Himself had written those words stopped them from doing such a thing. Slowly, over the days, the mysterious word- ‘Beware’, began to sink into the minds of the people. They began to ‘beware’ of the Scriptures, and they began to profit from it without falling into bigotry; they began to ‘beware of the Sacraments, so that they were sanctified without becoming superstitious; they began to ‘beware’ of prayer, so they became self reliant; they began to ‘beware’ of God’s graces and blessing, so they began to ‘beware’ of God’s forgiveness, so they became generous forgivers. Later, they inscribed this shocking word ‘BEWARE’ at the entrance of the church and any one who drives past the church, even at night, can see it blazing above the church in multi-coloured neon lights. In today’s Gospel, Jesus narrates the parables of the vineyard in order to highlight the motif of judgement against the Israelites, and the idea of transference of the blessing from the Israelites to the other people who would bear fruits.
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’
Can they see who we are?
Two men from Mars decide to do a little sightseeing on earth. They realize that to avoid causing a panic they must appear as inconspicuous as possible. They obtain American clothing, learn the language, and in general make themselves as ordinary as possible. During their first day on earth nobody notices anything unusual about them. At the end of the day they are paying their check, they are astonished to hear the waiter say, “You guys must be from Mars!” “What?” asked the dumbfounded Martians. “How can you tell?” “Well,” replied the waiter, “You’re the first customers to pay cash since I’ve been working here.”
Application: How can others see from the way we live that we are disciples of Jesus?
Gerard Fuller in ‘Stories for all seasons’
Murdering the Messiah
On August 16, 2005, Brother Roger, founder of the Ecumenical Taze community in France, was stabbed to death by Luminita Solcana, a 36-year-old mentally unstable Romanian woman. On August 21st, Amritanandamayi escaped an attempt on her life when mentally deranged Pavithran whipped out a knife and ran towards her during a Bhajan-mandli. On October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanti, many Indians will remember the Mahatma who wrote: “A man of knowledge has called us wayfarers. And so indeed it is. We are here for only a few days; thereafter, we do not die, but only go home!” While God’s Messiah, or Mahatmas and Matas are unafraid of death, we could make meaning of their lives and deaths in the context of today’s gospel of ‘the murderous tenants’. Reading about how Jesus was rejected and killed by his people, a sadhu respectfully remarked, “A prophet whose people do not want to reject and kill is no prophet at all!” When the Messiah preached love, I crucified him, when the Mahatma espoused ahimsa, I shot him, and when a Mata brings solace, I stab her. Solcana, Godse and Pavithran symbolize my ‘shadowy self’ who would rather murder Roger and Gandhi than follow their footsteps and bear fruit.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Gospel Deeds’
In 1978 a man travelled to Cincinnati to attend the funeral of Max Ellerbusch. Max had been like a father to this man for twenty years. Nothing unusual, except that as a 15-year-old this man had taken his mother’s car and struck and killed Max’s 5-year-old son. This was a week before Christmas in 1958. Soon after the accident, a surprised court heard Max ask that charges be dropped. Instead he wanted to give the death-car driver a job and help toward his education. Max did all that and more, virtually adopting the 15-year-old boy into his family. Max shared his home, time and understanding with the troubled youth. We might wonder, “How could Max do that? I could never befriend a wild teenager who had just killed my 5-year-old con. Max must have been a little crazy to go out of his way that much to become like a father for that boy.” But if Max Ellerbusch was a little crazy, so is God. The parable in today’s gospel describes God as a landowner who prepared a beautiful vineyard and gave it to his people to tend. However, his people wanted not just their share of the harvest, but the whole thing. They even abused and killed the prophets God sent to help them. Finally, in a desperate attempt to save his vineyard and his people, God sent his own Son, hoping they would respect and honour him. Nonetheless, they abused and killed him too in an effort to seize his inheritance. “What a silly story,” we might say. “No landowner in his right mind would risk sending his own son among rebels who had already murdered his messengers. How crazy can you get? Who can believe in a God so dumb?’ But that is precisely the point of the parable. Where we would cry for vengeance on the tenants, God chose another alternative – the alternative of unconditional love.
II. From the Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil
1. The rejected corner stone:
There was a legend that was well known in New Testament times that in the building of God’s Temple by Solomon most of the stones were of the same size and shape. One stone arrived, however, that was different from the others. The builders took one look at it and said, "This will not do," and sent it rolling down into the valley of Kedron below. The years passed and the great Temple was nearing completion, and the builders sent a message to the stonecutters to send the chief cornerstone that the structure might be complete. The cutters replied that they had sent the stone years before. Then someone remembered the stone that was so different from all the rest that it somehow did not seem to belong. They realized that they had thrown away the cornerstone. They hurried into the valley to retrieve it. Finally, from under vines and debris, they recovered it and with great effort rolled it up the hill and put it in place so that the great Temple would be complete. The stone that had been rejected had become the chief cornerstone. Jesus, who had been rejected now reigns at the right hand of the Father. From rejection to rejoicing.
2. Black ingratitude and cold indifference:
Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left one million dollars to one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie bitterly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut the relatives off with one million each.
3. Samuel Leibowitz,
criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one of them ever bothered to thank him. Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king's table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, the beggar then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude. The king replied, "That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him." The parable in today’s gospel is about the gross ingratitude of God’s chosen people who persecuted and killed all the prophets sent to them by God to correct them and finally crucified their long-awaited Messiah.
4. Warnings ignored:
Recently the New York Times Magazine showed a series of photographs of a rock formation in Yosemite National Park near Bridal Veil Falls. A prominent sign in yellow plastic was attached to the rocks which clearly said: "Danger. Climbing or scrambling on rocks and cliffs is extremely dangerous. They are slippery when dry or wet. Many injuries and even fatalities have occurred." One picture showed a woman walking on the rocks in a tight dress and high heels. Another showed a couple walking on the rocks. The man was carrying his dog apparently because he thought it was too slippery for the dog. Another showed a man carrying a month-old baby in his arms while walking on the rocks. What causes us to ignore clear warnings? Why do folks rip the plastic cover off a pack of cigarettes when all of us know the surgeon general's warning by heart? Why do people remove the safety shield from power saws? Why do people ignore their doctor's warnings about being overweight and under exercised? Why do entire civilizations ignore warnings about pollution or the revolutionary pressures that economic and political injustice creates? Today’s gospel tells us how the Jewish religious leadership ignored the even the final warning given by Jesus after the Palm Sunday. ("Slippery Slope in Yosemite" New York Times Magazine, September 9, 1994, p. 14.)
5. "Send me one line back."
The former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, had proposed marriage to Muriel Wilson, the daughter of a wealthy shipping tycoon. Soon after Wilson rejected him, Churchill sent a handwritten letter asking to see her again. "Don't slam the door," Churchill, then 30, begged Wilson, a year younger. "I can wait; perhaps I shall improve with waiting," he wrote. "Why shouldn't you care about me someday?" Pleading in a postscript, Churchill added, "Send me one line back." Later he wrote her again. "Of course you do not love me a scrap," he wrote. At the same time he insisted on the existence of "a key if I could only find it, if you would only let me look for it which would unlock both our hearts." (Cox News Service)) The man who would one day provide a strong voice for the aspirations of the British people was once rejected just as many of us may have been rejected. Few things hurt as much as rejection. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us a story of his painful rejection by the Chosen People.
6. Rejection –
what a terrible, terrible word! Elizabeth Barrett married the poet Robert Browning against her parents' wishes. In fact, they objected so strenuously to her marriage that they disowned her. As everyone knows, her marriage was a beautiful, happy relationship for both Elizabeth and Robert. In spite of the hurt of being rejected by her family, however, Elizabeth Barrett Browning continued to write regularly to them. In each letter, she told her father and mother how much she continued to love them. She received no response. Then, after total silence for ten years from her parents, a large package arrived. Elizabeth Barrett Browning eagerly opened it. The box contained all of the letters that she had written them since her marriage to Robert. Not one had been opened. (Dr. William P. Barker, TARBELL'S TEACHER'S GUIDE, (Elgin, Illinois: David C. Cook, 1994).) Parents can be vindictive at times as can children. And the pain that can result is devastating. Rejected – is there a more painful word? In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us a story of his painful rejection by the Chosen People.
6) "It's the only thing!" When Vince Lombardi was hired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1958, the team was in dismal shape. A single win in season play the year before had socked the club solidly into the basement of the NFL, and sportscasters everywhere used it as the butt of loser jokes. But Lombardi picked and pulled and prodded and trained and discipled the players into become a winning team. They were NFL champions in three consecutive seasons, and took the game honors for the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi was a drill sergeant and a strategist, finding and developing the best in each of his players individually and then crafting a team community that could visualize the prize. "Winning isn't everything," he was often quoted as saying, "It's the only thing!" His Packers proved him true, time and again. Where's The Team?This is the problem Jesus pointedly identifies in today’s parable. God is the greatest coach, but the team is unwilling to follow Him.
7. "Do you mean suicide?"
There was a story in the newspapers sometime back about an 11-year-old boy in Los Angeles who hanged himself with a bathrobe belt because his girlfriend broke up with him in an E-Mail message. The boy left no suicide note, but told the 12-year-old girl in an E-Mail that she "wasn't going to hear from him anymore." She sent back a message asking, "Do you mean suicide?" but he did not respond. The boy's father found his son hanging from a shower frame. The children had met at a summer camp about a month before. (The Associated Press). Eleven years old. You and I would dismiss it as puppy love, but still there is pain. Actually, rejection is particularly hard on us when we are young. This is when we are still forming opinions about our own self-worth. Are we acceptable, lovable, worthy of our place in the sun? In today’s gospel Jesus tells us a parable of rejection by the Chosen people of God.
8. "'Yes, honey. That's the way life goes sometimes.'
There was a heart-breaking story in the Girl Scouts magazine, American Girl, several years ago. Listen to these words from a young woman: "When I was ten, my parents got a divorce. Naturally, my father told me about it, because he was my favorite. 'Honey, I know it's been kind of bad for you these past few days, and I don't want to make it worse. But there's something I have to tell you. Honey, your mother and I got a divorce . . . I know you don't want this, but it has to be done. Your mother and I just don't get along like we used to. I'm already packed and my plane is leaving in half an hour.’ ‘But, Daddy, why do you have to leave?' 'Well, honey, your mother and I can't live together anymore.' 'I know that, but I mean why do you have to leave town?' 'Oh. Well, I've got someone waiting for me in New Jersey.' 'But, Daddy, will I ever see you again?' 'Sure you will, honey. We'll work something out.' 'But what? I mean, you'll be living in New Jersey, and I'll be living here in Washington.' 'Maybe your mother will agree to you spending two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter with me.' ‘Why not more often?' 'I don't think she'll agree to two weeks in the summer and two in the winter, much less more.' 'Well, it can't hurt to try.' 'I know, honey, but we'll have to work it out later. My plane leaves in twenty minutes and I've got to get to the airport. Now I'm going to get my luggage, and I want you to go to your room so you don't have to watch me. And no long goodbyes either.' 'Okay, Daddy. Goodbye. Don't forget to write.' 'I won't. Goodbye. Now go to your room.' 'Okay. ‘Daddy, I don't want you to go!' 'I know, honey. But I have to.' 'Why?' 'You wouldn't understand, honey.' 'Yes, I would.' 'No, you wouldn't.' 'Oh well, Goodbye.' 'Goodbye. Now go to your room. Hurry up.' 'Okay. Well I guess that's the way life goes sometimes.' ‘Yes, honey. That's the way life goes sometimes.'" Would it surprise you to know that after that young woman's father walked out the door, she never heard from him again? [James C. Dobson, Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives (Waco: Word Books, 1980), pp. 44-45. Cited in Patrick M. Morley, The Rest of Your Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc, 1992).] It is a terrible thing to feel rejected. Jesus tells such a painful story how their long awaited messiah was rejected by God’s Chosen people.
9. “…that God loved me totally, unconditionally, and that he had a purpose for my life."
One of the most respected and best-liked persons in Hollywood is Kathie Lee Gifford. There was an article about her in USA Today in 1999. Like everyone, Kathie Lee has had her share of heartaches--particularly in her marriage, as the tabloids have pointed out to us repeatedly over the last few years. Kathie Lee was recognized recently as Mother of the Year at a charity luncheon. The Gifford's children, Cody, 9, and Cassidy, 5, got a day off from private school to support Mom. They took to the podium, introduced by ABC's Claudia Cohen. "I get an award for this?" asked Kathie Lee, standing with the kids after her introduction by New York first lady, Libby Pataki. "I am so blessed!" Then Kathie Lee thanked her parents, who were present. And here is what Kathie Lee Gifford said about her parents. It explains why Kathie Lee's life has been such a success: They "taught me," she said, "that God loved me totally, unconditionally, and that he had a purpose for my life." (USA Today, March 2, 1999). No wonder Kathie Lee was successful, not only in her career, but as a mother. She knew she was loved. They "taught me," she said, "that God loved me totally, unconditionally, and that he had a purpose for my life." No one who knows the unconditional love of God in his/her heart will allow the world to make them feel him/her rejected for long. When we have the love of God in our hearts, we carry a sense of security that the world cannot take away. Today’s gospel tells us how God continues to love us in spite of our history of rejecting him.
10. “You’re sitting in my chair.”
A story was making the rounds during the American presidential campaign a few years ago. An asteroid hits the speaker’s platform at a Seattle conference center, and Al Gore, George W. Bush and Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men on earth, all arrive in heaven at the same time. They are greeted by the Almighty, who is sitting on His golden throne. First, the Lord speaks to Gore, asking what he believes in. “I believe in the Internet and a clean environment,” Gore replies. “Very good,” the Almighty says. “Come sit near me. “Then he asks George W. Bush the same question. “I believe in cutting taxes and taking good care of the military,” Bush replies. “Excellent,” says the Almighty. “Come sit near me. “ Then God asks Bill Gates what he believes. “I believe,” Gates replies, “you’re sitting in my chair." There are times when all of us try to put ourselves in God’s seat. There are times when all of us act as if the world is our fiefdom and we are supreme over all we survey. We forget that everything we have is on loan to us from God. We are temporary tenants. We don’t own anything, even though we sometimes act as if we own it all. Everything ultimately belongs to God.
11. Jesus Calls Us to Good Stewardship.
William White once told of visiting his 98-year-old mother-in-law in a nursing home. He remembers her quietly saying, “Think of the lilies and how they grow.” Long ago this frail, blind woman made the discovery that all of life is a blessing from God. She spent much of her time repeating scripture verses that she had learned throughout her life. The scriptures gave her both strength and comfort during many lonely hours. She was an active woman right up until she entered the nursing home, walking a mile a day, though her eyesight was gradually worsening. She loved people and was always helping them. Even in the nursing home she used a walker to spread her joyful faith. “Facing each day is not easy for her,” White reflected, “but she keeps her spirits up.” How? She felt that even at ninety-eight she had a mission. There in the nursing home she was able to touch the lives of other residents as well as some employees. In fact some former employees who changed jobs still returned to the nursing home to spend time with this remarkable woman. William White was inspired when his mother-in-law told him how thankful she was to have memorized so many scriptures before she lost her eyesight. Those scriptures filled her heart with the Lord. (3) This dear 98-year-old lady did not have much left in this world but she had the only thing we ever really own, her faith in God. Everything else that we have is on loan. Someday it will be passed on to someone else. Don’t you see? No matter how rich we are, if we are not rich toward God, we don’t have anything! The vineyard belongs to Him. Happiness is found in recognizing our place as His tenants His stewards. But there is one thing more to be said. Jesus Calls Us to Good Stewardship.
12. "I dare you to do it again."
Once at a church meeting a wealthy member of the church rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith.
"I'm a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life." He went on to recall the turning point in his relationship with God. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar and he went to a church meeting that night. The speaker at that meeting was a missionary who told about his work in the mission field. Before the offering plate was passed around, the preacher told everyone that everything that was collected that night would be given to this missionary to help fund his work on behalf of the church. The wealthy man wanted to give to support mission work, but he knew he couldn't make change from the offering plate. He knew he either had to give all he had or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give all that he had to God. Looking back, he said he knew that God had blessed that decision and had made him wealthy. When he finished, there was silence in the room. As he returned to the pew and sat down, an elderly lady seated behind him leaned forward and said, "I dare you to do it again." When we start out, it's easy to remember that the gifts and opportunities that come our way are from God. But something happens along the way. We forget the owner. We come to think of the vineyard and everything it produces as something we own.
13. “I knew I wasn’t a Christian.”
Sociologist/Baptist preacher Tony Campolo says he was once like that. He uses the word Bible-thumper to describe himself as a youth, legalistic, self-righteous, always trying to convert others to his personal brand of religion, until one day he was shocked to discover that he didn’t know God at all. Super-religious, but he didn’t know God. Can that happen? It happens all the time. In fact, if you meet somebody who is both super religious and smugly self-righteous, he/she is probably using religion to hide from God. Here’s how Tony Campolo discovered it was true of him. Tony was in high school. There was a kid named Roger in his school. Roger was gay and everybody made fun of him. They ridiculed him. They made his life hell. You know how cruel kids in school can be. They mocked Roger. When he would go into the shower after gym, they would wait until he came out and then they would whip their towels at him and sting him. One day, when Tony was absent, a group of five guys pushed Roger into the corner of the shower and urinated all over him. That night Roger went to the attic in the middle of the night and hung himself. And Tony Campolo, still suffering over this incident, writes, “I knew I wasn’t a Christian because if I had been a Christian I would have stood up for my friend Roger. Even if they ridiculed me for doing it, I would have been his friend. I knew [then] that I didn’t know Jesus.”
14. The tenant and the landlord.
A lady answered the door to find a man standing there. He had a sad expression on his face. “I’m sorry to disturb you” he said, “I’m collecting money for an unfortunate family in the neighborhood. The husband is out of work, the kids are hungry, and their utilities will soon be cut off. Worse yet, they’re going to be kicked out of their apartment if they don’t pay the rent by this afternoon.” “I’ll be happy to help,” said the woman. Then she asked, “But who are you?” He replied, “I’m the landlord!”
15. Professional advice:
TV personality Hugh Downs tells a story about the problem lawyers and doctors often encounter with people who seek to obtain free professional advice at parties and other social events. It seems that a certain doctor and lawyer were having a conversation during a cocktail party. While they were talking, a woman approached the doctor and complained about a sore leg. The doctor listened, then told her about applying cold compresses and keeping the leg elevated and taking aspirin, etc. After she had gone, the doctor turned to the lawyer and said, "I think I ought to send her a bill, don’t you?" The lawyer said, "Yes, I do think you ought to send her a bill." So the next day, the doctor sent the woman a bill… and the lawyer sent the doctor a bill."
A friend of journalist David Halberstam was planning a visit to Japan. It would be his first visit, and he was a little anxious because he couldn't speak Japanese. How would he communicate with the people he came in contact with?
Since most taxi drivers do not speak English, someone suggested that it might be a good idea to carry with him something bearing the name of the hotel at which he would be staying written in Japanese. That was exactly what he did. As soon as he arrived in Japan he picked up a box of matches bearing the name and address of his hotel. Then he went sight-seeing.
Afterwards he got into a taxi and did as the friend suggested, he took the box of matches out of his pocket to show the driver where he wanted to go. There were a few awkward moments before the driver understood. Finally his face lit up. Quickly they sped away. Half an hour later, the taxi came to a screeching halt. The driver turned and beamed at his passenger, pointing out the window. There was only one problem. They had stopped, not in front of a hotel, but a match factory!
Have you ever had an experience like that? Someone will say something and for whatever reason you do not understand. It's as if they were speaking a foreign language. You want to go back to the hotel and instead find yourself in front of a match factory.
There were times when Jesus tried to communicate profound truths to those around him and they acted as if he were from Mars...
___________________________In every cliff-hanger action movie, at some point in the chase scene an enormous chasm suddenly appears before the hero as he flees the bad guys. The only way across is an incredibly narrow, rickety, mostly-rotten bridge. The way forward looks terrible. But the way back is certain death. So, of course, our hero bravely steps or drives forward and steels himself to cross the abyss on the frail and shaky bridge.
"Cliffhangers" being appropriately named, the results are pretty predictable. Although the hero always manages to make it, the bridge itself collapses or is cut down by the bad guys, and the way across is lost for all time.
There is a reason bridges strike such fear into us at the thought of crossing over on them.
I have no problem driving a car across a bridge going 50-60-70 mph. Have you ever had a problem? When I'm going across I know there are huge drop-offs on either side of the bridge, but I never once have hugged the guard-rails or bumped into an iron barrier one on the way across. I'm never tempted to get close to the edge, and when a car edges me to the side, I negotiate the side of the bridge as if there were no safety rails.
But take away the scaffolding --- take away the guard rails, the concrete and steel side girders, the bumper-barricades on the bridge - and I'm now a different driver. I'm crawling across that bridge 5 or 10 mph at best. Without any protection to keep my car from driving right off the bridge, I'm not sure I could even make it 100 yards across any bridge.
We all need guard rails and barriers. They help us get across the chasms and abysms of life. But the guard rails and barriers work best when they aren't noticed, or celebrated, or even acknowledged. If they're there, you don't need them. If they're not there, you and I can't move, frozen in fear, or we risk going off the deep end.
Paul wrote his week's words to the Philippian Christians to warn them that they were worshiping the guardrails and safety guards rather than the bridge that was carrying them across....
Robert Ingersoll, that great agnostic of a day gone by, once said to a contemporary, "I will give God five minutes to strike me dead for the things I have said." After five minutes and nothing had happened, Ingersoll's friend remarked, "Did you think you could exhaust God's patience in just five minutes?"
Jerry L. Schmalenberger, When Christians Quarrel, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.
_____________________________Time bomb Parables
Eugene Peterson once suggested that parables are narrative time-bombs. These simple-looking stories lodged inside people's hearts and imaginations, slowly tick-tick-ticking away until finally, BOOM, they exploded into a new awareness when the real meaning behind Jesus' homely stories about farmers and seeds and sheep and bread-making finally sunk in. Well, if all of the parables were like narrative time-bombs, then I think it's fair to say the Parable of the Tenants was like a proximity-fuse grenade! In this case, it did not take very long before this parable blew up in the faces of those listening to Jesus. In the end we are told that the Pharisees and other religious leaders in Jerusalem that day knew at once that "Jesus was speaking against them." It made them furious and they were ready, right then and there, to arrest him and be done with this meddlesome Nazarene once and for all. Clearly Jesus got their attention!
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
Is Service Over?
Is Service Over?
A man hurried to the church door one Sunday afternoon and said, "Is the service over?" An usher who had grasped the implications of the minister's words that day said, "The worship is over, but the service is only beginning." Certainly it is a judgment against us when we no longer make ourselves useful to our heavenly Father.
With keen insight, Jesus portrays us sinners as God's tenants of his vineyard. We see what a great privilege it is to be a tenant of God, and have all this given to us. The vineyard was a great one. They had everything they needed - hedge, winepress, the tower - which would have made it comparatively easy for those tenants and could have made possible their doing a very good job. It's good to know that God not only gives us certain tasks to accomplish in our life-time, but he also provides for us the means to get them done. In what a generous vineyard our lives are set!
When Christians Quarrel, Jerry L. Schmalenberger, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.
______________________________Refusing to Share: Remember We Are God's Guests
One time there was a little village in the mountains of Italy where the people grew grapes. The mountain sides were covered with vineyards and each family in the community contributed to the making of wine. It was some of the finest wine in the world. Each village had a number of different recipes. Each family would bring their wine to the center of town and pour it into one large keg. As a result, the wine was a mixture of many recipes which made it very unique.
One particular year the weather did not cooperate and the vineyards did not produce an abundance of grapes. One of the wine makers decided that since things would be tight that year he would sell his wine elsewhere. He then filled his barrel with water and poured it into the town keg, thinking that one barrel of water in the gigantic keg would go unnoticed and not impact the outcome of the wine.
The wine in the keg aged for seven years. At the end of seven years the villagers all gathered around that particular keg to sell their wine to merchants who had come from all over the world. The entire community depended on the sale of their wine to provide for them until the next season. The villagers gathered around the giant keg and it was tapped. A pitcher was placed at the tap and out came nothing but pure water. It seemed that everyone in the village that year had the same idea and none had put in wine. Since everyone held back there was no wine to sell.
The villagers refused to share their wine with their neighbors and consequently no one ended up with anything. The parable of the vineyard is not unlike the villagers in Italy. The servants were to reap the fruits of the vineyard for the landowner but were denied that opportunity by the tenants. The tenants refused to share their grapes with others. They even went so far as to mistreat the servants and even kill the landowner's son.
Jesus uses the parable of the vineyard to describe the kingdom of God. It reminds us that we are here temporarily on earth and that we are God's guests. God wants us to be grateful for all that we have and to share what we have been given.
Keith Wagner, Guests at the Table
______________________________The Rejected Stone
Jesus quoted the words of the Psalmist: "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner..." (Ps. 118:22) Later Simon Peter would quote these words to the rulers and the elders in testimony concerning the good news of Christ. (Acts 4:11) Later he would cite those words again in his epistles. (I Pet. 2:7)
There was a legend that was well known in New Testament times that in the building of the temple of Solomon most of the stones were of the same size and shape. One stone arrived, however, that was different from the others. The builders took one look at it and said, "This will not do," and sent it rolling down into the valley of Kedron below. The years passed and the great temple was nearing completion, and the builders sent a message to the stonecutters to send the chief cornerstone that the structure might be complete. The cutters replied that they had sent the stone years before. Then someone remembered the stone that was different than all the rest that somehow did not seem to belong. They realized that they had thrown away the cornerstone. They hurried into the valley to retrieve it. Finally under vines and debris they recovered it and with great effort rolled it up the hill and put it in place so that the great temple would be complete. The stone that had been rejected had become the chief cornerstone. Jesus, who had been rejected now reigns at the right hand of the Father. From rejection to rejoicing.
King Duncan, From Rejection to Rejoicing, www.Sermons.com
I got my driver's license before most in my class. Joe, across the street, was younger than I had - but wealthier. He had a car, but didn't have a license. I had a license, but didn't have a car. So, we agreed that I would drive Joe to school every morning - in his car. It was mutually gratifying. But soon, I got my own car, and Joe got his own license, and the agreement simply evaporated.
Sometimes the agreement comes to be seen as unfair. Talk to the workers at Firestone or Titan Tire. Sometimes it simply becomes impossible to honor the terms of an agreement you've made. You want to, but you do not have the means - bankruptcy.
But though agreements are often broken, they are seldom broken without cost. There are ramifications: hurt, anger, annoyance - an emotional response. There are, at times, physical response - like a bloody nose. Sometimes the consequences are abstract, but real - like a damaged reputation or the loss of a friendship. But whatever the particular shape, the rupture seldom goes unnoticed.
At its simplest, our story from the scriptures this morning is the tale of a broken agreement. You might identify with the owner of the vineyard. After all, at some time or another everyone gets let down; gets dumped on by a friend or an associate.
Or you may identify with the servants or with the son - you know, the go-betweens or intermediaries who always seem to get the main lumps trying to patch things up between two other people.
You may even identify with the tenants - feeling oppressed, taken advantage of; a sense that "We do all the work, why should he get all the benefits?"
Or you may identify with the others - the ones who come in after the storm and find themselves on trial because of the previous troublemakers. You know, you can't keep a dog in your apartment because the tenant before you let his dog rip up the carpet.
Timothy C. Diebel, Hijacked Grace
_____________________________________________Shall I Sound the Eviction Notice?
There is a fable about the Angel Gabriel who has just come from surveying the earth and its inhabitants when he reports to God. "Lord, it's my duty to inform you that you're the possessor of a choice piece of real estate known as planet earth. But the tenants you've leased it out to are destroying it. In another few years, it won't be fit to live in. They have polluted your rivers. The air is fouled with the stench of their over-consumerism. They frequently kill one another, and all the prophets you've sent to them calling for an accounting have met with violence. By any rule of sound management, Lord, you've got but one option." Then raising his trumpet to his lips, Gabriel asked, "Shall I sound the eviction notice now, sir?"
And God said, "No, Gabriel! No, not just yet. I know you are right, but I keep thinking if I just give them a little more time they'll quit acting like they own the place!"
And God said, "No, Gabriel! No, not just yet. I know you are right, but I keep thinking if I just give them a little more time they'll quit acting like they own the place!"