The other evening I noticed an advertisement on television. It concerned the birth of a child together with proud, loving and caring parents. It ended with the words:

“When a baby is born, a promise is made. As soon as this Sunday’s readings came up for reflection the advertisement came to mind.

When a baby is born, a

promise is made.

Think about it! Think about how true our Christian God has been to his promise of caring for and loving us – preparing a world for us to enjoy but also one for which we, in our turn, have to love and care. This world is God’s vineyard and we as tenants of the vineyard have been given a sacred trust.

All Christians, from the moment of Baptism, have been given a sacred trust. Once we are Confirmed (which is not our school-leaving certificate) this trust takes on special and specific responsibilities. Recall words from the Rite of Baptism which have been repeated at different times in these reflections:

As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King so may you live always as a member of his body ….

Now, add the Celebrant’s words at our confirmations: “

Be sealed with the gift of the Spirit.”

The manner of our living in the vineyard

is an ‘always’ commitment to which, together with the Spirit, we have been sealed. The sacred trust we have been given is undertaken as tenants, not owners.

Is this an exaggeration? Well, take a good look at both our

OLD TESTAMENT [ISAIAH 5: 1 – 7] and GOSPEL [MATTHEW 21: 33 – 43]. Therein we will see a moving expression of the manner in which the Lord has been faithful to his vineyard and to us his tenants. Isaiah says let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard … a vineyard on a very fertile hill … dug and cleared of stones …planted … built a watchtower in the midst of it. However, do not overlook the dramatic and poignant question posedwhat more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done?

It is in the Gospel that these sentiments are again clearly expressed, but Matthew introduces very specific indications of the presence of the tenants in the vineyard and the Lord’s expectations of them, and this time the question posed is very different – “what will he do to these tenants?” We must remember that Matthew also includes the fact the landowner “built a tower.” God-in-Christ is here, with us – in the very centre of his vineyard, watching, waiting, hoping but not forcing us to produce the harvest to which he has a rightful share. Yes, we too are entitled to some of the fruits of our tenancy, but we are never the owners with the right of ownership. It is possible for us to choose … choose to forfeit much of what is possible for us to enjoy.

At this Sunday’s Eucharist

{and I often think of our Eucharistic celebrations as the Lord’s watchtower in the midst of my section of the vineyard?!} I must grasp the opportunity to evaluate my tenancy as well as myself as a tenant. However, this evaluation must commence with the conscious decision (which needs ongoing repetition) that as a tenant I must never be primarily concerned with what I am able to get out of it. Too often I find myself expecting the landlord to ‘pop in’ and take over the minor matters of essential maintenance. Why should I pay for a small screw to prevent the towel rail in the bathroom falling off the wall?! After all I pay my rent in full on the very first day of the month …. what more am I supposed to do – it is the owner’s responsibility, he should not expect more?! In all of this I should recognise an image (even if somewhat blurred) of my constant expectations of God without the ‘balancing’ column of my own responsibilities – even though, as TODAY’S PSALM [80 or 79] suggests I see briers and thorns grow up.

Saint Paul makes a few interesting observations in

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 4: 6 – 9]. Whatever is true … honourable … just … pure … lovely … gracious. ….. What you have learned … received … heard …. seen – do. All in all, in these words there lies a challenging response to the sacred trust we have received and accepted. In the back of my mind I hear my father saying there is no such thing as a free luncheon.”

When we expect the free luncheon, we often discover, too late, that, as Isaiah reminds us today, the hedge has been removed … wall broken down … (and luncheon) has been trampled on. The watchtower is still there in the middle of it all but we have camouflaged it so effectively that when we need to see it with us we are unable to do so.

“Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard.”

When last did I sing a love song for the vineyard I live in and enjoy? What sort of tenant am I?