Sermon – October 5, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. Matthew 21:34
Please be seated.
We are doing a number of things today. It is stewardship Sunday when we focus on what of God’s we return to God. And we are remembering St. Francis, whose commemoration was yesterday, with having our pets here with us this morning and blessing them after the service.
I’m more of a cat person than anything. Since the day I was born, cats have lived with me off and on. Sometimes it’s one cat and sometimes it’s as many as three cats. Many of my cats have come to me, chosen me. Seems they are messengers from God, really.
For instance, in late 1980, I was going through a tough time. I was a single mom, barely able to make ends meet. At Christmas, though, I held my traditional open house. At some point in the evening, someone opened the door and in walked a beautiful tiger cat! Just walked in, mind you! Later the next summer when we moved to Ithaca so I could go to college fulltime, he came with us and used to sit on my books while I was studying. My two young children and I needed his love, antics and companionship.
So many stories I could tell of the cats who have just walked in to my life and just shown up as loving companions along the way. I’m sure you have many of your own.
We’ve talked before about what it means to be a steward: being a steward is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care…. It is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.
When we have pets, we must be good stewards. Pets rely upon us to care for them. We feed them well. We do what we can to keep them safe from harm. We do what we can to give them a good home. When they’re sick, we do what we can to help them get well. When we can’t do these things, we find them good homes with someone else. We feel so strongly about this as a society, that we have laws about what it means to be good stewards to the animals in our care. We are appalled by cruelty to animals. We “get” what being a good steward of God’s creation means through caring for our pets.
And today, we are being asked to consider what it means to be good stewards to God’s church, the church of God’s son, Jesus Christ. Most specifically, we are being asked to consider what it means to be a good steward of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
God tells us through Jesus’ parable. God provided a vineyard…a carefully built vineyard. It had everything – a fence to keep animals out; a wine press so the harvest could be preserved; and a watchtower, because the workers would live in the vineyard during the harvest and the watchtower provided safety. The workers provided the labor to ensure, as much as possible, that there would be a good harvest. Of course, they couldn’t control the weather, but they could otherwise tend to the grape crop.
Similarly, God has given us all of the basic things we need to be The Episcopal Church in this region of Kentucky. We are charged with providing careful and responsible management of the basics God has given us, so that God’s mission with God’s people can be realized. And for those of you who just finished confirmation class, you know that this mission of the church is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” (BCP, pg 855)
And according to our catechism, the church pursues our mission, “as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” (BCP, pg 855) Now, we probably need to have regular conversations about what we truly need to be the church. What do we add to the fence, the watchtower, and the winepress that God has provided?
But for today, let’s assume that we agree that to pursue our mission, that to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ, that we need a facility, a park, items for worship and for spiritual growth, resources for outreach and a priest. Those are the elements necessary to being the church…to restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ…to pray, worship, proclaim the Gospel, and promote justice, peace, and love.
God has given us everything we need. God asks only that we do the labor and produce a good harvest. God asks us to be good stewards…to be careful and responsible managers of what’s been entrusted to us.
We know what this means with our pets, yet become squeamish when it comes to talking about what it means for the church, what it means for St. John’s. And that’s the question put to us in today’s parable. When God sends God’s workers to collect the harvest, what will be our response? Will we kill the workers and even God’s Son, so we can steal what is rightfully the landowner’s…what is rightfully God’s? Or will we do our part to care for the vineyard…to provide the resources necessary for a good harvest? Will God need to find new tenants for God’s vineyard known as St. John’s Episcopal Church?