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All for one, one for all

Friday, March 17, 2006

Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus tells a story:

"There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented this vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.

"When harvest time approached, he sent his servants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Then he sent more servants, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all he sent his son. 'They will respect my son,' he said.

"But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Let's kill him and take his inheritance. So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him."

In our world, possession is nine-tenths of ownership, even in the courts. And outside the courts it's just about all that matters. Without a place to lay my head and store my stuff I am insecure, unsafe and outcast. Those who might share their place with me will invite me in for a night or two, or a week; but then I'm gone again, on the road again. My address matters far more than my name.

"All the believers were together and had everything in common" (Acts 2:44). For me these words evoke visions of a mysterious Eden-like existence where the dark side of individuality (selfishness and insecurity) is defeated. Men and women share everything. "Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need" (v. 45).

This community-ideal has never lasted long on our earth. As Jesus' story goes, the tenants begin to keep the harvest for themselves. Cain sees Abel as a threat to his well-being, so he kills him. "Good" is regularly defeated by Evil.

But Jesus brings a new reality he calls the kingdom of heaven to earth. Though the tenants kill the son, he is raised to new life, and through him so are we. Satan, the prince of this world, "will be driven out" (John 12:31) and "condemned" (John 16:11).

The new world over which Jesus reigns will look like the community in Acts 2, as we learn how to live as the "body of Christ," the church, the whole of many parts. How that could come to pass in America, land of individual freedom and privacy, is beyond me; but it is happening elsewhere, especially where Christians are persecuted and rejected.

Selfishness clouds my eyes, Lord. The old prince whispers in my ear. Open my ears and ears to the beauty of your world, Lord.

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