27th Sunday

I had already been preparing the homily for tonight since last Sunday and when our gathering happened on Weds, and the Sacred Scriptures spoke even louder than before.

I’d like to begin tonight by simply acknowledging that I am sorry for causing anyone anger, fear, sorrow, or anxiety.

I have tried diligently to live my life by the Buddhist principle of not causing harm to anyone or anything.

For whatever harm you feel I have caused I do apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

I was not prepared for what I experienced in our All Parish meeting on Weds night especially in the pain that I encountered and I have been praying about it ever since.

Sometimes leaders have to make decisions that push on our comfort that push causes us to question, the leader, our own beliefs, and our understandings and that is never truer than when it comes to Church and to the journey of faith.

So rather than ignore the obvious, I want to take this opportunity to explore with you in the context of this liturgy where some of my prayer has taken me and where it is encouraging us as we move forward.

Spirit of Hope is a community of tremendous faith, it is deep, it is profound, it is strong and it is deeply personal to each and every one of us. Many of us have risked everything, and for many, the cost has been beyond measure. When those characteristics are present, there is an unequivocal desire for passionate defense.

And in many ways, I see a parallel in our Gospel tonight. We have been given a vineyard my friends, a vineyard in which we have toiled and poured our blood, sweat, and tears into creating a harvest of abundant grapes.

It is a vineyard that is small but bursting with love, and grace, and hope, and talent and the list can go on and on.

We have truly been gifted by God in this work we have done. And it is and continues to be a beautiful thing, from every angle and every point of view. I can’t say how beautiful it is, my words fall short of the depth of my gratitude, for having had the opportunity to walk with you in creating it.

The countryside around our vineyard however is in complete disarray. The political system is in upheaval and strife. Covid 19 continues to wreak havoc on our economic system and on our social structures, as we are forced to the physical distance for safety and survival. People are losing loved ones and jobs and everything thing that we held as sacred has fallen into question.

It is a disconcerting, troubling, and scary time in which we live.

And now, the vineyard owner, our God, is sending us an invitation to divide the shares of the grapes, to send out roots, tender, fruitful roots of the divine which we have tended for so many years. And I see us reacting in some ways like the tenant farmers of our Gospel story. We have invested much. We have tended, worked, and toiled and now the one who has gifted us with so much has come again, to invite us to expand and share.

Prophets like Moses, Noah, Jonah, and so many others remind us that God’s invitation shows up often at times that we least want and least expect and that often seems to be the least opportune times.

The challenge we face my friends, I believe is much like the challenge the tenant farmers of this Gospel pericope faced. Are we going to circle around and defend the vineyard, or share the abundance of the gifts.

I hope and I pray that everyone can see how your holiness has fostered the divine in me and in Rev. Colleen as well. You have not only fostered that holiness in us, but you all have also fostered it in the lives of Rev. Pam Kern, Rev. Dcn Karen Van Fossan, Rev. Joan Flood, and Rev. Corein Brown and so many others…even those who have journeyed with us only for a while. You have taught us much, you have pruned some of our edges, fertilized us when we were down, and poured your sunlight on us when we needed warmth. Now we are being invited to share the holiness that we have poured out into and onto each other’s lives so that others might have the opportunity to experience the same things that we have.

Every vineyard has to go through a time of pruning and reshaping, the grapes that are the fruit of the vineyard, while they never lose their fundamental flavor, the bouquet of the wine is different, given the ground from which they grow.

Will we hurt, as our pruning happens? Yes! Let’s just be honest.

Yet pruning from one gives new life to both the one pruned and the one who is entrusted with the pruning. From the vineyard of Spirit of Hope, a new vineyard is about to be born, a hedge needs to be planted and the winepress needs to be built and the nurturing and fertilizing needs to happen and the sun needs some time to shine on the vines to bring them to bloom in their new soil.

Spirit of Hope will become stronger, richer, and deeper, and Holy Presence will grow in new soil, carrying the DNA of our love in its vines and leaves and fruit.

My hope and my prayer is that we can see a way to share the abundant blessings we have enjoyed.

If we live like Paul’s letter to the Philippians encourages us, the future of both Spirit of Hope and Holy Presence will be blessed and fruitful vineyards.

As several people shared at the gathering on Wednesday night, this is our opportunity to direct our hearts to all that is true, and honest and holy, admirable, virtuous, and worthy of praise.

Then as Paul said to the Philippians, then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding will stand guard over our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.