What we say when we are asked a question, or how we respond to a challenge says much about ourselves. I have just been preparing a word for church today based on the parable of the tenants and the vineyard.
You can read it in Mark 12:1-12. Towards the end of the story, after telling the hearers about the tenants beating up the servants, sending them away empty handed, then later on killing them and eventually killing the beloved son, Jesus asks the question, "What then will the owner of the vineyard do? In Mark’s gospel it is Jesus that provides the answer, “He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others”. Matthew has a different rendering here which I prefer, Jesus asks the question and the hearers provide the answer “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."
What they say reveals their hearts…not God’s heart. We are bent on revenge and people getting their just rewards. God isn’t. God doesn’t think like we do. If he thought like we do, he wouldn’t have sent his Son.
Friday evening I was chilling out. It was the end of a rather busy week. There was nothing on the To Do list apart from the usual ironing and housework that rarely gets done! There was a phone call from a friend asking me whether, seeing as I was leading the Sunday meeting, I wanted him to bring his guitar and lead worship. What? Me? Leading the Sunday meeting? This was the first I heard of it. The little bird that told him hadn’t told me.
The gauntlet was thrown down! Obviously the little bird thought she had asked me. Usually I can come up with the distant memory of a vague conversation weeks ago, and I can usually hunt through a half dozen note books and find it written down. Not this time. There had been no conversation, no note…nothing. I hadn’t been asked.
I usually know about these things weeks in advance and have time to think and to pray. It ends up being the Friday night when I start to sift through my thoughts and bring order.
“So what’s the difference?” asked God. “Had you known two weeks ago, it would have still been this evening that you would have sat down and written something out.”
“They never asked me!” was my stubborn reply. I can be small minded and hard hearted at times and I suppose I wanted my tantrum. Not being asked. Presumed upon. Taken for granted. All these things were what I wanted to dwell upon.
“OK, so they didn’t ask,” said God, “So I am asking. Will you speak on Sunday?”
You can’t really hold out against God! I agreed to have a look at the topic, read through the assigned verses and think about it. And then God shared his perspective on it all and we came up with a word for the meeting.
I just wish that I hadn’t gone through the whole tantrum part of it. I was challenged that I was doing the same thing that the tenants in the story were doing. The vineyard was never their own and yet they wanted to claim it for themselves. Everything that makes me able to share a word on Sunday – the study habits, the access to books and materials, the time and concentration to meditate, the skills to communicate the truths I find – none of it is my own. I can’t claim anything and then demand that I choose when and where and to whom I will share my insights. It’s not mine, so I should not be treating it as mine.