Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Out in the vineyard

Rev. Gini Gerbasi
A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? – Matthew 21:28-32.

One of the things I love about my work at St. John's is that we have a Eucharist service every day at 12:10. Every once in a while the reading assigned for the day absolutely astonishes me – it's as if I picked it out on purpose. Today was one of those days. From the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary, today's Gospel was the parable about the two brothers. When the father asks his boys to go out and work in the vineyard, one says, no, but goes anyway. The other says yes and doesn't go. "Which of the two did the will of his father?" Jesus asks. I've been thinking about this a lot.

Too many times to count I have said – with every good intention, "Sure! I'm with you God! Let's go! Woo- Hoo! Out to the vineyard!" And then, for some reason – I'm too busy, I lose interest, it's more work than I could possibly do, I don't really know how to work in the vineyard anyway – I don't go. But mostly what I remember, when I look back on these times, is the saying yes part, and so I have long considered myself one of God's regular, steady, you-can-always-count-on-me-to-take-an-extra-shift kind of vineyard workers.

But today's parable showed me a painful truth. I may like to think of myself as having said "YES" to God's call to go out into the vineyard and hack away at the violence, injustice, and hopelessness that choke the vines that God has planted so carefully in the vineyard. But I see pretty clearly through the lens of Friday's mass killing who I've really been all of these years. I've been the second brother – saying yes, but staying home. When have I really taken a stand against gun violence? When have I really taken a stand and demanded open, and free access to mental health care? When have I taken a stand and demanded justice for people who live in communities where most of the gun violence takes place – communities with few resources, crumbling infrastructure, and few avenues to a better life? When have I taken a stand on pretty much anything? When have I paid anything more than lip service to God's call to go out into the vineyard and do something to stop the violence that keeps us cowering in fear and hopelessness?

I don't know exactly what God is calling me – or calling us – to do as a people. But I do know that God is calling us to get our hands dirty, to risk getting scratched and cut by the thorns that choke the vines and keep them from growing. I know that God is calling us to bring hope to a world that thinks there is no hope, and light to a world that sees only dark. Jesus is coming again in less than a week. And it will get darker every night until he comes. But we need to be there – out in the vineyard – with him.

Rev. Gini Gerbasi is the assistant rector at St. John's, Lafayette Square. Share your thoughts, reflections, and questions with the diocesan community on Facebook.