“They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.’” Matthew 21:41-43
Every time I read this parable of “The Wicked Tenants” I can’t help but say, “Whoa there, Jesus! Give people a break! I mean, we can’t always produce fruits of the kingdom all the time. Cut us some slack!”
But this is Lent, we aren’t supposed to be cutting ourselves some slack, we’re supposed to be tightening up, right? We’re in a purposeful time of self-examination…looking at all the ways we both help and hinder the in-breaking of God’s kingdom.
So what are the fruits of the kingdom that we’ve produced? Where are the moments when you’ve been the Del Monte of good fruit production, and where have you been like those wicked tenants who are going to have the vineyard taken away from them?
My guess is that if we truly stopped and looked at the ways we’ve either produced or not produced good fruit we would start to find patterns around our good fruit production or our wicked tenant tendencies. Certain people annoy us…A particular kind of situation happens where, for the most part, we shine or rise to the occasion…we think no one is watching so we bend the rules…we help another person with our thoughts, words, or deeds. What are the factors that go into each of those moments? When do we tend to be those wicked tenants…when do we tend to be the producers of good fruit?
This is the hard work of Lent. This is the time when we are to engage with the harder truths about ourselves, take stock of both who and how we are, and try to find ways to become like those who bear good fruit. Perhaps we have to prune ourselves back in areas, cutting away the dead wood of bad behavior. Or, maybe we need to ask others to help us to identify the patterns of events that lead us down the slippery slope that leads to being wicked tenants. Perhaps most of all, we need to invite God into the midst of those moments where we struggle to bear good kingdom-fruit knowing that we can overcome those obstacles only with God’s help.
This is the hard work and holy work of Lent. The more we examine and invite God into that process…the more we acknowledge where we need God’s help…the more God will show up and help us to grow more fully into those who bear the good fruit of the kingdom.