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Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

~Matthew 21:37

Respect. When you read this verse in context in the parable you find out that there isn't any respect. Not even for the son. This weekend, as we hear Jesusparable of the “Wicked Tenants” I invite you to consider what/whom do you respect? Is respect given, earned, deserved?

Always the word "respect" brings to mind the Aretha Franklin song in the video at the top of this post.

In our recent Courageous Conversation we watched this TED TALK, "The Answer is Dignity and Respect" from four years ago. Watching it this past week, it was discouraging to realize we haven't made much progress in public discourse over the past four years, if anything we have moved backwards. Dignity and Respect. In a time in which there has been a tremendous breakdown in civil discourse the parable of the Wicked Tenants speaks to our condition.

38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

Me, mine, scarcity, entitlement, selfishness, fear, forgetfulness…the tenants aim to get the inheritance for themselves. Out for themselves, no respect, not for son of the owner of the vineyard nor the owner himself. No dignity. No respect. No connection, no conversation, no concern for anyone but themselves.

This is a parable- a teaching story. In parables we are invited to root around and see with whom we identify. Shadows of self and subtleties of ego, fear, longing may come to mind. At the end of this parable the chief priests and Pharisees realize Jesus is speaking about them. And for you? Can you see yourself in this parable? Tenant, slave, land owner, son…vineyard, fence, wine press, watchtower…

Scripture is an invitation to enter into the sacred word of God. We get to listen, study, pray scripture. We can let it console us and let it convict us. Perhaps you are familiar with the hymn. “God’s Word is Our Great Heritage”- here is a video of choir singing that hymn.

God's Word is our great heritage

And shall be ours forever;

To spread its light from age to age

Shall be our chief endeavor.

Through life it guides our way,

In death it is our stay.

Lord, grant, while worlds endure,

We keep its teachings pure

Throughout all generations.

Part of allowing God’s Word to guide us is a willingness to see where we might be the one in a parable from whom we are quick to distance ourselves. How you answer the question, “Who do you think you are?”, may really depend on the tone of voice in which you hear the question, the relationship you have with the one who is asking, the context in which the question is posed… many factors are at play.

This week, let this parable be an invitation to consider how at a time in our country where respect has gone by the wayside, where division and hatred are seen as acceptable how is God’s word guiding you? How are the teachings of Jesus informing how you show up in the world?

On Sunday afternoon at 2pm we will be having a ZOOM Blessing of the Animals. (send me an email if you want the password we would love to have you join in) October 4 is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. Francis understood that gratitude is the beginning of joy, and that “joy in this world is the aroma of heaven in the next”. So even in the midst of these challenging times we can gather to give God thanks, share how animals and the beauty of creation bless our lives and be encouraged to share the blessings we have received.

We are doing something different this year for our Blessing of the Animals. I hope and pray that this time serves as a TIME FOR BLESSINGS to be highlighted in your life. What if those tenants considered it a blessing to harvest the land, to have a vineyard to work that had a watchtower, a wine press and a fence? What if instead of being concerned only with what they could acquire and hold onto they considered how they could serve and give?

It is easy to sit home on the couch, watching television or on the computer, complaining about what ails the world --what if instead… you reoriented your perspective from what happens to you and around you --to what you are being called to do? How is God inviting you to be the heart and hands and love of God in the world? You. What is God asking you to do with that which you have been blessed?

What if the current challenges and struggles in our country and in the world are the invitation God is extending to you? What if in all those places you can see the world in disrepair and despair you hear an invitation from God for YOU to be whom God has created you to be? What if each time you see the disrespect, hatred, scarcity, fear, anger… you consider it an invitation to live in a different way? What does your life look like when you are rooted in God’s word? What if you reconsider how some things you might be quick to identify as unmanageable you ask for God's help to see in it your blessing? This song has often been a comfort to those who are struggling, grieving, wondering where is God in their challenges…

St Francis gave up all of his privilege. He left behind wealth, status, prestige when he heard God calling to him. He changed course to follow where he believed God was calling him. He was transformed by his experience of the Living God. All month long we will listen for and be open to how God is reforming and transforming us.

Frances didn't keep this experience to himself he made it his life's mission to invite others to join him in rejoicing in the beauty not of riches and wealth but beauty of the earth and all of creation. Creatures great and small would sing God’s praises and Frances joined in the song. Frances regarded the earth and all it’s inhabitants worthy of care and respect. As we celebrate his life and witness this Sunday we are invited to do so also. We are blessed to be a blessing.

What if indeed our blessings come to us in ways we don’t expect? And those blessings are meant to be shared. We give God thanks for our blessings. And we go forth into the world to be a blessing.

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