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Homily for 8/22/10 - P13 - vineyard of the Church

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 16:13-24 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 , Aug 22, 2010
      Matthew 16:13-24

      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, that “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,
      which are 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, encouraging one another, supporting one
      another in our spiritual lives. 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 to move 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. Therefore, we will see differences in
      culture, language and custom when we visit the other parishes here – but
      we all confess the same faith, we are all on the same path. 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 into 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 in order that we
      too may stand continually in His presence surrounded by the light of His
      glory.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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