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Homily for 9/18/05 - Pentecost 13 - God's vineyard.

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  • David Moser
    Matt 21:33-42 Our God is so merciful and loving to us. In this parable we see the care that He has taken to prepare a place for those who love Him in this
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 18, 2005
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      Matt 21:33-42



      Our God is so merciful and loving to us. In this parable we see the care
      that He has taken to prepare a place for those who love Him in this world.
      God, is of course, "a certain man" and the vineyard He planted is the
      Church. Just in the use of the word "planted" we see the care that He has
      expended upon us. We have all at one time or another planted something - a
      garden, a flowerbed, or even a potted plant. Think of the care that goes
      into planting. To plant something implies that first the ground is cleared
      and prepared. All the competing weeds are removed, plowed under or pulled
      and the stones are removed as the soil is dug and broken up. We add
      fertilizer to make sure the soil is rich and healthy. Then we carefully
      plant the seeds or the seedlings into the soil, making certain that they are
      the proper depth, not so deep that they will be unable to sprout nor too
      shallow so that they will be eaten by the birds or uprooted at the first
      gentle breeze. The new plants are watered abundantly so that they don't dry
      out but continue to be strong and to grow



      All of these things God does for us as well. He has planted His vineyard -
      that is the Church - and we are the young seedlings that He has planted
      here. He clears the wild soil of our hearts, removing the weeds, that is
      the cares of the world, and the stones, the temptations and obstacles to our
      growth. He adds the fertilizer of His love and compassion to us that we
      might be nourished by His grace and then plants each of us in the perfect
      place - in a parish where we might grow together, helping one another. And
      we are watered with His grace that flows to us freely in the sacraments
      beginning with Baptism and continuing on with all the others, especially the
      Holy Mystery of His Body and Blood by which we are united with Him.



      The parable then goes on to detail some of the additional care that God has
      taken for us. He puts a hedge around the vineyard. This hedge separates
      the vineyard from the rest of the countryside, making it a separate place.
      It defines the limits and protects the vineyard from those who would intrude
      into it. Likewise God sets us apart from the world, calling us out of the
      world as a peculiar (or special) people. We are set apart from the world by
      our way of life, that is the life in Christ, whereby our outlook, our
      priorities (the things that are important to us), our goals, our standards
      and our actions are different. We look to those things which are of Christ,
      of heaven for our hope and our reason for living rather than to the things
      of the world. Because we live within the boundaries of the heavenly
      kingdom, we are set apart from those who live only according to the world.
      Another way by which we are hedged about is by the canons or rules that
      govern the life of the Church. Now notice that the hedge is only around the
      outside, it is not a maze that determines every move and path or a skeleton
      that forces a certain structure. Because it is around the outside it simply
      shows us what the outer boundaries are but allows complete freedom within
      those boundaries. This is the nature of the life of the Church which
      defines for us the boundaries of belief and practice, but which also allows
      for a great deal of variety and freedom within those boundaries as God
      provides for each of us different opportunities and situations. Just as the
      hedge also protects the vineyard from the outside world, so also our way of
      life protects us from the sinful and spiritually unhealthy influences from
      outside the Church. That "hedge" of canons and rules show us clearly what
      things we will turn away from and avoid, what things will lead us astray,
      what things will foster greater temptation and difficulty in our spiritual
      life. We are both separated from the world and protected from the dangers
      that are found within it.



      In this vineyard is also built a tower. This tower is for protection as
      well, it is the place from which a watchman can see over the whole of the
      vineyard, noting any disorder, anything that is out of place or that
      threatens the well being of the vineyard. This tower for us in the Church
      is the heavenly choir of the angels and the saints. We are constantly
      protected by the cover of the angelic host who shield us from every demonic
      attack and who come to our aid at every step of our life. We are also
      protected by the prayers of the saints who stand now before the throne of
      God interceding for us still in the world. As the scripture tells us "the
      prayers of a righteous man availeth much" so the prayers of the saints are
      powerful for our protection and to bring to us God's mercy.



      Finally, the planter of the vineyard brought in caretakers, those who would
      faithfully take care of the planting and nurture the vines by every means
      (by weeding, watering, fertilizing, pruning and so on) so that in due time
      they might bear good fruit. In the Church those caretakers are our pastors
      and hierarchs. These are the ones that Jesus Christ has placed in the
      vineyard of the Church to care for the Church and nurture her that those
      within her loving arms might mature, grow strong and bear the fruit of
      grace.



      Now the parable goes on to describe a tragedy, whereby the caretakers of the
      vineyard try to rebel against the master and seize the vineyard for
      themselves. This part of the parable of course is told to the leaders of
      the Jews (God's chosen people) as a warning that they might repent of their
      rebellious ways and return to serving God. But it also serves as a warning
      to those who are called to be pastors and hierarchs in the Church not to
      misuse or abuse the position that we have been given, but rather to act as
      faithful servants of the Master. Our Lord has taken an even greater measure
      in the Church in that the caretakers, like the whole vineyard are constantly
      in the presence of the Master through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for
      at Pentecost this great new treasure and characteristic was given to the
      Church. Not only is she planted and established by God, but He dwells
      within her constantly by the coming of the Holy Spirit.



      And so my brothers and sisters, we are here within the vineyard of Christ,
      lovingly planted by His gentle hand to be showered with the grace of the
      Holy Spirit and to grow and bring forth the spiritual fruit. We are bounded
      and protected by the life of the Church and the canons and rules which guide
      that life. We are watched over by the angelic host and the choir of the
      saints. We are cared for by the loving hand of our pastors and archpastors.
      Greatest of all we live and abide in the presence of the Master Himself,
      through the outpouring and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What a great
      mercy God has provided for us, what an outpouring of His love and compassion
      for us. How great is His provision, how great is His love for us that He
      has established this vineyard, this Holy Church in which we are able to
      establish spiritual roots, to grow, to draw strength from the grace of the
      Holy Spirit by which we are watered and fed and to mature and spiritual
      persons, bearing the fruit of grace in due time. God has given to us this
      great treasure, this great opportunity - we have but to make use of it and
      live in His Kingdom according to His provision for us.
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