This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
JAPAN “RE-INTERPRETS” ITS PACIFIST COINSTITUTION TO PERMIT MILITARY ACTION
33 (Jesus said,)Listen to another parable. A man, who was an employer, once planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, built a tower, and then let it out to tenants and went abroad. 34 When the time for the grape harvest drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to receive his share of the produce. 35 But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 A second time the owner sent some servants, a larger number than before, and the tenants treated them in the same way. 37 As a last resource he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38 But the tenants, on seeing his son, said to each other ‘Here is the heir! Come, let us kill him, and get his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, and threw him outside the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 “Miserable wretches!” they exclaimed, “he will put them to a miserable death, and he will let out the vineyard to other tenants, who will pay him his share of the produce at the proper times.” 42 Then Jesus added: “Have you never read in the scriptures? — ‘The stone which the builders despised — Has now itself become the corner-stone; This corner-stone has come from the Lord, and is marvelous in our eyes.’ 43 That, I tell you, is why the kingdom of God will be taken from you, and given to a nation that does produce the fruit of the kingdom. 44 Yes, and he who falls on this stone will be dashed to pieces, while anyone on whom it falls — it will scatter him as dust.”
45 After listening to these parables, the chief priests and the Pharisees saw that it was about them that he was speaking; 46 yet, although eager to arrest him, they were afraid of the crowds, who regarded him as a prophet.
The great Americam prophet Lenny Bruce had a splendid routine in which Jesus returns to attend a Conference of “Religion Inc” causing terrible anguish to those who don’t believe in him but even more to those who do, especially the leaders of the Christian Church, who are caught in the midst of all their betrayals of true faith. Jesus would have appreciated Lenny’s parable, which is really quite similar to his own as above. It used the familiar picture of Israel as God’s vineyard but depicted Israel’s leaders with unfamiliar severity as those who refused “the fruits pf the kingdom” and who, by killing the owner’s son, hoped to take it over for their own profit. Doubtless those who heard Jesus found his standup routine pretty scandalous but perhaps also amusing. Until they supplied the punchline themselves, “He will take away the vinyard and give it to other tenants who’ll pay up,” meaning that Israel might cease to be God’s chosen people.
The image of the corner stone was also originally applied to Israel as the people rejected by empire builders, but integral to God’s empire (Psalm 118). Jesus may be using it to refer to himself, or his community of faith, or to the gentile believers as the cornerstone of God’s House. In all cases it would be offensive. Matthew, writing at time of separation between orthodox Judaism and the assemblies of Jesus, obvously relished Jesus’s denunciations of the official leaders of Jewish faith.
We can see it as a warning to those who manage the tradition of Christian faith. Are we providing God with the fruits of the kingdom-justice, mercy and humility? Or have we tried to kill the son of God so that we can run the church for our own benefit? If so, we may find that God’s lining up a bunch of Muslims or Sikhs or even atheists to take over the Jesus business from us.