Our Willamette Valley here in Oregon has long been the scene of agriculture. It’s the heartland of grass seed culture. Driving along I-5 yesterday, my wife and I enjoyed looking at the sheep grazing on green fields. And as everyone who lives in the Northwest knows, there is a burgeoning wine industry, with vineyards appearing on slopes all over the valley. It’s a fruitful place here nestled between the Coast Range and the Cascades.
Sunday’s parable from Matthew 21:33-46 pictures a vineyard that is apparently productive. But the tenants who manage it refuse to pay the owner’s share. They kill not only the messengers sent to collect but the owner’s son as well. The allegory with the prophets and ultimately God’s own Son Jesus is clear. Jesus is focused on the leadership elements of Jewish society which have refused to acknowledge the claim on their lives presented first by John the Baptist and finally by Christ Himself.
It’s easy for confessing Christians to evade the force of the parable in the assurance that we have not rejected Jesus. But we may want to consider whether we have produced for our Lord the sort of fruit He desires. Jesus in verse 43 told the elders and chief priests that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to people who would in fact produce the proper fruit of the kingdom. With all the abundance that surrounds us here in our valley, we might wonder what fruit we will have to show if our Lord suddenly arrives.
Planting a vineyard is fine, but as people of the kingdom of God let us ask if we have planted fruitfully in this place where we live, both in our individual actions and in our life together as a community. Are we doing things which make a difference for His kingdom here and now?