Our story today begins in a beautiful garden. It begins with an owner who has planted this garden and set it up to be ready for harvesting. The grapevines are planted, the fences are put up, a wine press is dug, and a watchtower is made ready. Our whole story begins with the true owner meticulously preparing a place for all of us to enjoy. And in this garden, there is everything you could ever need.
And after the landowner makes it completely ready, he hands it over to tenants so that they can care for this garden, can use the equipment, can produce the fruit, and so they too can share in its abundance, for themselves and for others.
It would be nice if the story ended there.
It would be nice if Jesus ended the story by saying,”…and you have taken good care of this vineyard. Well done.”
But that’s not what Jesus says. Instead he tells us that this beautiful garden, this wonderful vineyard has turned into something ugly. He tells us that the story moves from goodness to violence, brutality, and greed. People are murdered. Land is stolen. And the produce of the earth is hoarded by those who do not rightfully own it.
Our parable this morning is the story of us. It is the story from Genesis onward. It is our story of how we have taken a beautiful, amazing earth – an earth that produces wine and bread, strawberries and cashews, lumber, cotton, water, and air – and somehow we have turned it into a place full of bloodshed, violence, greed, and pollution.
How did we get here? Why has humanity acted just like those tenants in our parable for today, hoarding things to ourselves, fighting and warring, instead of rejoicing and giving and sharing?
It begins first with us forgetting whose garden this truly is. It’s not ours. This is God’s world. We didn’t create the birds of the air or the fish of the sea. We didn’t create these trees whose leaves change color or flowers that bloom in the spring or plants that grow vegetables and fruits and grains. God created a world that is full of life and full of sustenance. And God gave us minds and hands and communities in which to work and cultivate and grow and care for this earth.
But over time, we have claimed this earth as “Mine, and mine alone.” We have said, “This ground is not God’s. These resources are not for the kingdom. They are mine, to use however I want.” And we’ve held on and held on, unwilling to let any of it go to anyone else. Even when God has sent people our way – those who are hungry, those in need of medicine, those who are our neighbors, friends, refugees, those who are working for the kingdom, we have said, “No! This is mine. It is not for you.”
But it is not ours. It is God’s. It is a gift we have been entrusted with. And it is a gift meant for all people.
The second reason humanity has become just like those tenants, and maybe the bigger reason, is that we live in fear. Instead of rejoicing in our gifts, taking time to celebrate all that we have, instead of sharing them as a community serving and living together, we have acted out of fear. And it is a specific fear that has grabbed a hold of us:
Fear of not having enough.
No matter how rich or poor we become, in our world we are always told, “You don’t have enough.” We are always being pointed to the bigger house, the more far away vacation, the better brand car, the more illustrious school, the clothes that will make us fit in. We are always being told, “If only you have more (or bigger or better) then you will be happy. But even when we get more, it never becomes enough. The goal just keeps moving further and further out. And as it does, we think to ourselves, “I need to keep holding on and holding on and holding on.” We start living out of this fear of not having enough, and instead of enjoying the present, we fear the future, and we stop giving and sharing and working. We stop living for the kingdom, living for love, living for peace, living how Christ invites us to live.
The Prophet Isaiah told a very similar parable to the one Jesus tells us today. It too was about a vineyard planted by God, offered freely to us, but instead of enjoying it and sharing it, the people lived out of fear and greed and hurt others. And at the end, he describes what has become of this land:
Ah, you who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is room for no one but you,
and you are left to live alone
in the midst of the land! (Isaiah 58)
We have exchanged joy for fear, gift for greed, community for isolation.
But Jesus offers us a different way of living in this world, a different way of seeing this treasure we have been given. And it is shown in how Jesus chose to live each day of his ministry. Jesus doesn’t even have a house to call his own, but he takes time to savor the gift of bread, to rejoice with others around wine. He takes time to to be with people and offer what he can – his teaching, his healing, his love. Jesus tells us, You are enough. You have enough. He reminds us that our value is not found in the size of our house or brand of our car or title of our job, but in the way we care for others, listen to God, and trust in the power of grace. He invites us t stop living out of fear and start savoring the small moments of joy, and then sharing them with others.
In God’s garden, there is enough to go around. People are not hungry in our world today because there is not enough bread. People are not sick today because there is not enough medicine. People are not poor today because there is too little money in our world. No, hunger and sickness and poverty are alive because we still don’t know how to live as Jesus lives. We still don’t how to enjoy the present gifts, remember this is God’s world, and reach out with abounding gratitude and grace.
So this week I have two challenges for you:
1. Find 30 minutes this week to savor one gift of this earth you enjoy. Maybe it is coffee in the morning. Maybe it’s a glass of wine. Maybe it’sdark chocolate. Maybe its’ something else entirely. Maybe it’s flowers in a garden. garden. Or watching birds. Or an album of music that connects with your soul. Whatever it is, take half an hour out of your week and savor it. Notice it. Give thanks for this gift. Enjoy it. Don’t rush on. And in that moment, think about what an amazing gift this world is that God ahs given us.
2. I want you to answer this question: What is one thing I can give to make this world even more wonderful? Maybe it’s food you bake. Maybe it is your time coaching or tutoring or visitng a friend. Maybe it’sa gift of money to a place that you know is working to make this world better. I invite you this next week to give in one way. Because there is something in you that is far more than enough. And it will make this world more beautiful and wonderful and good.
My hope is that when you do these two things, that sense fear and worry will transform. It will transform hope. It will transform into community. It will transform into gratitude and peace. We hear a lot of voices speaking to us about what we need. Today I invite you to listen to a different voice. A voice that says you have enough. You are enough. Come and join the kingdom. Because you have something worth sharing. Amen.