St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church

Matt 21:33-42

Today we are given the parable of the vineyard.  We are reminded that our Lord has prepared this place for us and that here in this life we work for Him to present to Him the fruit of our labors.  In the vineyard of this world we are given everything that is necessary for this work.  The vineyard is tilled and the ground turned up, the vines are planted and surrounded by a wall to keep out the animals and predators; there is a watchtower and a winepress, and everything we need to work in this vineyard and to produce the fruit that God wishes.  The vineyard is, of course, this world and the workers in the vineyard are you and I.  God has set us here that we might work and bring forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our own souls and thus present to Him these fruits.

The Lord has planted the vineyard and has sent his servants to work in it.  He gives them everything needed for their lives.  But the servants enjoyed living in the vineyard so much that they began to feel that the place belonged to them and that they were there to enjoy the vineyard without regard for the true owner. More and more the servants began to consider as their own all the prosperity which they were able to get from the grapes which grew so abundantly in the vineyard that did not belong to them; and they gradually began to forget the owner of the vineyard.  The Lord gave them everything necessary for their life, but they began to take it for granted.  They had a different understanding; they had the opportunity to use the vineyard and all the beauty of these earthly goods which God gives to man.  This captivated them so much that they completely forgot, or better to say, they did not even give a thought to the fact that all this was temporary; and that years would pass, and the time would come when they would have return to the master the fruits of their labors.

How like our world this vineyard is and how like us the workers are.  God has given us a body which requires food, drink motion, rest – the things that we call the life of the body.  But man also has a spirit, which always strives for the ideal.  No matter how good our earthly life might be – in the human heart there will always stir that which cannot be satisfied by what we have, because the image of God is in every person, in his spirit; and that spirit also requires life – the life that comes only from God.  Although the vineyard workers were “all right” in their physical life, in their spiritual life, they were dieing.  They were dieing because they have cut off the vital part of their spiritual life – the life that comes from union and communion with God.

We live in this world and we are given all that we need for our lives from God.  We have air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, a time to work, a time to rest – everything that the body requires is given to us by God.  The reason that He gives us this is for our own salvation.  Everything that we have is given to us by God in order to be used for our salvation.  It is our task, as workers in the vineyard to use that which God has given us to produce the fruit in our souls which He desires.  But too often we forget God, or worse yet we don’t even think of Him at all.  We forget the transfiguration, the destiny become like God and to share in His life for which God created us.  Instead of using what He has given us to produce spiritual fruit to offer to Him, we turn our attention to the things that we desire, riches, comfort, worldly honor and prestige, power, authority, the satisfaction of our whims and desires. You know the list of what we desire in this world could go on and on.  The point, of course, is that we forget God and we forget His purpose for us – to become like Him as He showed Himself to us on Mt Tabor.  We neglect to produce the fruit which He desires from us – that is the fruit of the spirit – and instead focus on the fruit of our own fallen desires. 

God, seeing that we have fallen into this condition, sends His servants to us to remind us of our true purpose.  These servants: the prophets, the pastors, the teachers, who come to us to set us back on the true path are too often dismissed without honor, are mocked and ignored and if they are too persistent in telling us what we do not wish to hear are done away with – usually in modern times by being labeled as fanatics, insane, or out of touch with reality, but there were and still are times when in fact such people are martyred – imprisoned and even killed for their faith.  But God does not give up on us, rather He sends more servants, our friends, our family, sometimes even strangers who cross our path and they are treated just like the first. Sometimes these warnings that God sends are not people but events, misfortunes, illnesses, or other reminders that what we think we have in fact is not really ours.  Finally He sends us His own Son and we are face to face with Jesus Christ – and we have a choice to make, whether we will return with His help to the path of salvation or whether we will reject Him.  If we reject Him, if we turn away from Christ to serve our own desires, then the time will come when we will face the Lord in glory empty handed, and even what we think we have will be taken from us and we will be cast into torment – the torment of our own soul and of our own conscience – desiring life that God gives but having no way to obtain that life, having turned away from the Source of Life to serve our own desires.

This parable is in some ways the antithesis of the transfiguration.  But it need not be such a terrible thing.  If we remember God, who has given us this life, and continue to work for Him, to produce the fruit in our souls which He desires, then we will not fear and reject the prophets who come to shows us the path of salvation, but we will gladly walk with them on that path.  When the Son comes to us we will not reject Him but He will excite in our souls the grace inherent in the fruit that we have already gathered and seeing in Him the fulfillment of our destiny we will embrace Him and follow Him into His kingdom.

God has placed us here in this world as though in a vineyard.  He has given us every possible thing that we might need to work out our salvation and to produce the fruit of the spirit in our souls which He desires for us.  In order to welcome Him with joy when He comes and to draw from Him the eternal life which our soul desires, we need only to constantly remember Him, to work for Him.  When we look at what we have in this world, whether our wealth or poverty, whether health or sickness, whether a position of high esteem and power or that of the lowliest servant, we must recall that these are just the tools and raw materials which are to be used to produce the divine fruit and not ends in themselves.  Keep this focus in your life and work to produce in yourself the fruit of the spirit, that is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control which are the natural result of the working of God’s grace in us.  This grace we acquire by living the life of the Church which brings us ever nearer to God so that the miracle of our Lord’s transfiguration may become in us and for us a reality.