Some lines are so fine it is hard to know when we have crossed them. One of these lines is the one between God’s Church–the Bride of Jesus Christ–and “my church.” Yes, it is true that my family and I have attended my church for years. Yes, it is true that over the years I have supported my church financially, I have taught Sunday School classes, I have served on various committees, my children were baptized and married in my church, and–not to put too fine a point on it–I’ve even been up all night watching those pork butts get cooked for a fundraiser at my church. All this is true for many of us. And deep down we know that the church does not belong to us. Calling it “my church” is merely a term of affection and appreciation for all that my church means to me. But then I cross the line. Someone new and different shows up and wants to join my church. Or, my church institutes a change or begins going in a new direction. Suddenly the moniker “my church” switches from a term of endearment to a term of ownership. Calling it “my church” suddenly becomes my way of controlling how, when, if, and when “my church” changes. Our gospel for this next Sunday shows us this controlling sense of ownership of the church, or in this case, the Temple and the life that went with it, is nothing new. God gave Israel their Temple, their nation, and their faith, but the religious leaders of the day considered this “vineyard” their own to do with as they liked. In doing so, they sowed the seeds of their own destruction and removal, so that God then deeded this “vineyard” to others who “produce the fruit of the kingdom” (Matt 21:43). How do we as “tenants” navigate the very real and subtle interactions between tradition and change in the church we love and for which Jesus died? Join us this Sunday!
Matt 21:33: “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.”