Benediction Online

Sunday, October 05, 2008

St Benedicts was recently given a new computer, and, until such time as we have an office here and might need it, I plan to use it to replace my old and very slow one. But I’ve been putting it off. I expect you know why. I’m afraid that I’m going to spend a morning or perhaps two, getting it all set up the way I want it with the programs I use and the documents I need all carefully transferred. Then I’ll sit down at it, pleased to have this efficient new partner who doesn’t take an hour to wake up and check its vital signs every morning. I’m afraid I’ll sit down at it, write a lengthy email to the vestry about my latest inspiration, hit send and…nothing will happen.

Then I’ll have to spend several more hours troubleshooting and even have to pay a young person to come in and show me that this new computer has a handy-dandy firewall switch or some such gizmo that makes sure I don’t send emails unless I really want to… and by then I will have spent a week and a hundred dollars when I could have sent the email perfectly well on my very slow and elderly computer.

The first reading this morning describes the beloved’s vineyard which he tended carefully, planting the finest varietals and putting in irrigation systems and a security system. He built a state of the art wine vat in which to make the best wines. But the grapes grew small and sour. He did everything that needed to be done to produce luscious fruit and he did it all with hopeful expectation but despite his best efforts, the fruit was useless.

The gospel reading concerns another vineyard. Jesus is telling the story of a landowner who did all the right things but ran into another problem. This time it wasn’t that the fruit was sour and inedible. He just couldn’t get the right help. The people he left in charge did a great job of making wine but they kept all the money. The owner couldn’t get a penny of what was owed him!

In both cases the vineyard didn’t produce and so the owner took drastic steps. Fortunately we are told the moral of both stories so we don’t have to work particularly hard. In the gospel reading the vineyard was taken away from the thieves and given to those who would produce not just wine but also pay rent to the owner. In the first reading, the vineyard was destroyed and we are told quite clearly,

the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!

Just as computers are meant to send email, vineyards are meant to produce wine and income and the people of Israel are meant to demonstrate justice and righteousness. But they didn’t. Like the wild grapes in the vineyard they just couldn’t do what they were made for.

So are we doing what we are meant to be doing in the circumstances in which God has placed us? We don’t live in a vineyard and we are not vines, but we are all expected to bear fruit, the fruit of a spiritual life lived in the knowledge of Christ and his resurrection. As the fall brings fields of pumpkins along LOV Road and piles of apples at farmer’s market, we have a tangible reminder of the fruitfulness of creation. On Saturday night we will be celebrating a harvest dinner here together when we will remember God’s faithfulness to us and the miracles she has wrought in our lives and in the life of St Benedict’s.

The mark of a nation walking humbly with their God is social justice and right living. The mark of a church living humbly and faithfully with its God is working for social justice, serving the community, seeking to live more in alignment with gospel values and finding creative ways to communicate God’s abundant and reckless love for all beings. The fruit that God looks for in our lives are the signs that we are walking our talk, that our faith is not something we leave at the door when we leave on Sunday mornings, but which permeates every area of our lives.

This past month has been a time of tremendous financial concern as we have seen the sub-prime mortgage problem like a growing snowball hitting financial institutions and banks, threatening our savings and retirement plans, our real estate investments and the livelihood of millions of people. It reminds us that it is possible that life as we have known it could change in a flash. Like those in Texas who have lost their homes and everything they held dear, it is possible that we might wake up tomorrow and find our lives irrevocably changed. In times of financial and personal insecurity the only place we can turn is to our faith, our faith in a God who is bigger than all of it and in comparison with whom it all becomes quite unimportant.

This is part of what Paul is saying in the second reading. Looking at his resume you’d expect him to be highly successful. Born on the right side of the tracks, a leader of Israel, Paul had it made. In human terms. But he realized that none of that was important. Nothing is as important as knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. That is what is truly important.

We are made to know and worship God. That means more than just attending church. It means knowing and worshipping God in the very core of our being every moment of every day. It means living our lives as if the most important thing really is God and as if Jesus really died and was resurrected. It means showing the fruits of the Spirit of God in every aspect of our lives. I have been noticing how difficult that can be in the run up to an election. The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, mercy. But when we talk about a candidate whom we don’t support we often seem to forget who we really are and make hateful jokes. That’s not walking our talk as the people of God.

Being who we were made to be means also trusting God with our finances. Putting our security in our knowledge of God not in things that seem to bring security. There is no ultimate security in investments or pension funds, in houses or even in relationships with other humans. This is a time when many people feel insecure. When we live in fear we can make foolish decisions and we can be manipulated by people who promise certainty. The only certainty there is, is that God loves us and made us to love, serve and worship God. When everything else falls away, God remains.

But that’s not an excuse for carelessness. We were made to live in a material world and loving God means living as simply as possible while caring for all that we have been given. That’s not something we can do alone – each one of us can only do so much to care for the planet – but we can each play our part. In the same way within the church we each have apart to play so that St Benedicts can be the light of God within Los Osos that we are called to be.

As far as we know a computer does not have consciousness so it probably doesn’t make any difference to it whether it can send email and how long it takes to wake up, it probably doesn’t feel any different when it’s connected to the Internet. We are not computers. We know when we are fulfilled. We know when we are peaceful. We know when we are connected to God.

Because that is what we were made for. We were act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Let us today remember who we are.


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