The Parable of the Vineyard - A Sermon by Metropolitan Moses
13th Sunday after
The Parable of the Vineyard
A Sermon by Metropolitan Moses
The Lord spake this parable, There was a certain householder, which planted a Vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country (Matt 21:33).
people of God and the hedge is the separation between the people of God’s Covenant and those without. In the Old Testament times, the hedge was the Law. Since the coming of Christ, the hedge is our Saviour’s teachings given to the Holy Apostles and passed down by their successors, the bishops of the Church. This includes the Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition preserved and expressed in the Ecumenical Councils and Canons of the Orthodox Church. signifies the
The husbandmen signify the teachers of the people. God Who is every where present and fills all things seems to withdraw and allows us as rational creatures to exercise our freewill as stewards of all He has given us. In today’s parable, the Vineyard bore fruit, so one can surmise that the Vineyard workers laboured with zeal in the beginning. What could their motives be for zealous labour? One could speculate and say that they began out of respect, gratefulness, reverence and love for the Householder. How did they fall away? There is a classic progression in sin. First; distraction, forgetfulness and error set in, and later this leads to negligence and lust. The husbandmen slowly fell into spiritual deception and lusted for control of the fruit of the Vineyard.
In that other garden were given dominion and God withdrew, as it were and, alas, through lack of vigilance and distraction our first parents fell prey to the deception of the Evil One. Saint Irenaus explains that the command not to partake was given to Adam and Eve so that they would know that they were subject to their Creator. Truly, they forgot God and His commands hearkened to the error of the evil one and lusted to taste of the forbidden fruit.
The great error in both cases was that they forgot that nothing actually belonged to them and that their real treasure was their relationship with God. If they were found to be faithful stewards, God would reward them beyond anything they could misappropriate to themselves in opposition to God’s will.
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise (Matt 21:34-36)
The Jews were the People of God and had as their inheritance the promises of God, yet they had in fact mistreated many of the prophets sent unto them and, alas, rejected the Christ Himself, as our Saviour predicted in this parable:
But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance. And they laid hold on him, and cast him out of the Vineyard, and slew him (Matt 37-39).
And they took their Benefactor out of the city and hanged Him on the tree of the Cross, and as a result, the veil of the temple was rent in two (Matt 27:51) and in the year 70 A.D. God allowed the pagan Romans to utterly destroy the Temple and scatter the nation of the Jews throughout the earth. These things were not written for us to become smug or self-assured, any one of us can fall away. As Saint Paul wrote to the Romans:
And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches… because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. (Romans 11:17-18, 11:20-23).
Real belief is demonstrated by faithfulness to the order set by God. However, Saint Paul assures us that even if we go astray and wish to return to God, He will receive us. Saint Paul is living testimony to this.
Yet, one may ask, what remedy do we have to prevent the terrible progression of sin, that is: distraction, error, negligence and lust? As the Prophet David said in the , “The is the beginning of wisdom; and all they that foster this have good understanding” (Psalm 110). Beatitudes with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”(Matt 5:3) rooted in poverty of spirit is the foundation of the spiritual life. Our Savior began the to show us how to begin our efforts to partake of the Kingdom of God. To practise a reverent awe of God and walk as if in His presence is how we grow in the things of the Spirit. As labourers in the Vineyard of Christ we must accept God and the things of God on His terms, not ours. In order for us to be saved, there has to be a synergy, a co-operation with God. We have to respond to God’s call and work out our salvation. Christianity is not a spectator event. Our Saviour said, “If ye love me keep My commandments” (John 14:15). How can we be good stewards of the Lord’s Vineyard and keep the commandments if we are ignorant of them? Lack of knowledge is not just found among the laity, but amongst the clergy also. Today there are clergy that are prayerful and pious, yet they have been tripped up through ignorance of the canons of the Church. As stewards of God’s Vineyard, every bishop and every priest will have to make greater answer before God. In Old Testament times there were those that had authority and for various reasons became false stewards, that is, . The Lord God spoke by the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel concerning these men:
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, , prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the . They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith: and the Lord hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The Lord saith it; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter: (Ezekiel 13:1-10)
In our own day this refers to leaders in the various local Churches who praise the Saints and yet depart from their teachings concerning what the Church is, what its boundaries are and how we achieve salvation. Every steward will be judged by God, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).
Let us not abandon the boundaries set by the , lest we perish. Every day we can resolve to make a new beginning and respond to the benefactions of the Great Householder Who provides all things out of love for man. Let us fear God in poverty of heart, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth and remember Him as we labour in His Vineyard and not let our hearts stray from His will. Amen
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