It is easy to think this gospel story is about someone else. But of course, Jesus’ stories are slyly addressed to those who hear them. Do we reject God’s unlikely messengers? Do we fail to care for the vineyard — the land, the fruitful vine, the precious resources for food and sustenance — that God has given us to tend? Do we let greed destroy our sense of responsibility to God and one another? Does our hubris overtake the sense that we are meant to be stewards and servants rather than owners and exploiters?
Perhaps… sometimes. Even unwittingly.
I cannot hear this passage without thinking about the environmental crisis, and wondering what it would look like for the earth to be handed over to someone other than us — the whales, perhaps, or the bees with their communal sense of well-being. At a certain point it seems that nature itself may simply rise up to be rid of us. And yet, unlike the tenants in the story moving inexorably towards destruction, Jesus invites us to change. To wake up. To go a different way. What, I wonder, have we rejected that is foundational to God’s new creation? Mercy, simplicity, interdependence, some of our kin? Can this harsh story soften our hearts, and move us to build on the cornerstone of Jesus’ generous justice and grace?