If you're not wanting church to have political implications, this is not the season for following our lectionary's Gospel texts! Jesus just keeps telling these stories that are loaded with politics and economics.
Again this week, for our third week in a row, Jesus has a story about workers and vineyard. This one's about real estate ownership, though--it features an absent landlord, who leaves slaves in charge of things, and sends back to collect income off his property.
The funny thing about this story, though, is that Jesus is playing with our assumptions about the cast of characters. Like in our own times, the regular people in Jesus' audience were likely resentful of the rich, powerful and greedy folks who seemed to be in charge of things. As the wealthy, absent owner of the vineyard appears, I bet they're already starting to boo and hiss.
But he messes with them--because this vineyard owner also reminds them of God. If God is the vineyard owner, then the people who seem to be in power become the tenants. And suddenly, the playing field they'd imagine shifts: the people who seemed so powerful are really nothing, in comparison to God who is God of everything and everyone. The tenants are punished for their attempts at greed, and the land is to be given into someone else's care.
How quickly perspectives can shift when we remember God! What seemed powerful suddenly looks pretty weak.
This Sunday, we celebrate World Communion Sunday. I pray that our sharing in communion, especially this week, will remind us of the perspective shifts God keeps asking us to make, over and over, as we remember how big God is, and how big God's grace is.
The communion table is one place where we're already working out the arrangement that will come to fullness in God's kingdom: everyone welcome and included as a part of one family and fellowship.
This Sunday afternoon, I'm going to share in communion worship at the US/Mexico border. Along with others in our worldwide Christian family, we'll pass the body of Christ through a fence that keeps our nations separate. And, I suspect, we'll taste a power that cannot be contained or constricted by any kind of border fence.
In invite you to join me--we'll meet in Friendship Park, inside the Border Field State Park at 2:30. All are welcome. (To get there from San Diego, take the 5 south, nearly to the border. Exit at Dairy Mart Road, and go west until you enter Border Field State Park. There is a $5 entrance fee for each car, and you'll need some valid US ID to get out of the park afterwards.)