Among the simple dramatic stories Jesus told, which we call the parables, The Vineyard stands out. Vineyards are more common in the Cape than here, north of the Limpopo, but you can call it a farm. Much preparation goes into it: ploughing, sowing, weeding, maybe irrigating and then waiting.
There is nothing further the farmer can do but wait. That is essentially what God does: he calls Abraham but then he waits to see what Abraham will do. He invites Mary to accept her task but then he waits for her response. What will she do?
This is the essential tension in human life. We are faced with choices. What will we do? We talk of social and cultural ‘conditioning’ and they do influence us but, at root, a person can always choose. I met a man in prison condemned to 25 years for murder. He could choose to ‘do’ his time in bitterness and anger, counting the days and the years, or he could choose to live; to take part in activities in the prison, to laugh and to reach out to others. He chose this latter part.
Responses to Covid 19 vary across the planet. Some take it seriously for a while but are not convinced and soon become careless, mixing with others as they did before and not wearing a mask. Others plead work and their ‘rights’ and also ignore precautions. And still others simply get tired of the whole thing day after day. The result is a second surge of infections with the death toll reaching one million and even the US president becomes infected.
We pray, yes, but there is nothing God can do but wait. Will we choose with wisdom or will we rebel and go our own way? It is up to us.
This is not to say God will abandon us. The tenants of the vineyard chose badly and eventually murdered the heir. God knew they would do this, on Calvary, but he endured the cost of their evil choice and turned it into a gift of life that would outshine the earlier life in a way beyond our ability to grasp. The words of Jesus run through the gospel and must be taken as a whole; they are the ‘good news’ that crown our choices in a way we cannot imagine. The key is to choose well now, while we can, and not to ‘worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Set your hearts on the kingdom and all these other things will be given you as well’ (Matt 6:33-4).
4 Oct 2020 Sunday 27 A Is 5:1-7 Phil 4:6-9 Mt 21:33-43