Monday, September 29, 2008

Matthew 21:33-46 -- Blogging toward Sunday

Matthew 21:33-46

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. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Of course the vineyard owner is God; the tenants are humankind; the messengers/slaves are the prophets and the son is the Son. And he will be seized, beaten, given a miserable death. And what will happen to us? Are we those that will be seized and killed or are we those who are producing fruit.

Of course, the Pharisees saw it differently. They understood that Jesus was talking about THEM.

Somehow this story is getting tangled all around the stories coming out of the news channels -- about homes being mortgaged to people who really can't afford them; about mortgages being sold and shuffled around -- and the piece of paper losing their human "face" of the person behind the loan and becoming just another statistic; just another number to enter into someone's ledger sheet. Some how this parable is getting tangled with the stories of people being seized and thrust out of the building they had been calling "home" -- to end up homeless and one the street; and their former home empty and desolate.

Where are we in all this? We are that mortgage broker; we are that CEO of the mortgage company who sells these bits of paper that represent people's lives; we are the people foreclosing on other's homes; we are the foreclosed.

On one level this parable is all about greed. On another it is about the generosity of the master. On another it's all about the fruit.

I read somewhere that the cornerstone always joins two walls -- here perhaps it is joining the Jew with the Gentile. This stone is referenced in Psalm 118:22-23
22The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23This is the LORD's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

I am also struck with the idea of crushing fruit in this passage. There is the winepress with the wine vat -- the fruit of the faithful -- people being crushed by falling on the stone and the stone falling on them -- the violence of how people are seized is also a type of "crushing." The word for Son (ben) and Stone (eben) sound similar -- is this play on word made so that we associate the Son with the Stone? How do I reconcile my concept of Gentle Jesus, meek and mild with a Stone that will crush so violently?

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