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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES | Accomplishing the work in the vineyard requires the cross, resurrection

The generosity, compassion and love displayed by Jesus prompt us to ask ‘What more can I do?’

“What more could I do?” is a question that God asks us. The image is once again a vineyard and we have a relationship with it and a responsibility to it. God has entrusted us with a finely sculptured vineyard and expects us to produce good and plentiful fruit from it. I like wine and grapes as much as the next person, but let’s not get fixated on the literal in this case. Something from God, a finely crafted gift, has been entrusted to us. What is that in your life? How are you responsible for it?

In God’s mind, all of the correct materials and opportunities have been given to us to produce a rich harvest for God. Notice that God is begging us to reveal what might be missing from this finely crafted vineyard. God isn’t looking for excuses about why we aren’t producing a bountiful harvest. God is demanding that we get about the work that He has given us to do, no excuses. It is time to quit playing through life as victims. It is time to throw off the excuses that we hide behind so that we don’t have to do the difficult work of the vineyard. It is time to do what God asks us to do. Why have we not done that?

If you stare at the crucifix you see a dying man. We hear that the only way to accomplish the work of the vineyard is through the cross to the resurrection. Most of us usually stop at the cross. Not the literal cross. That is the safe object. The cross that we are asked to embrace is what we balk at. Let’s turn God’s question around and ask it of ourselves: What more could I do?

Look at the generosity that is displayed on the cross. Nothing is held back and all is given. The excuses of “it will hurt too much” or “it will leave me in an insecure place” or “it will cost me too much” or “I would have to change my mind and heart to act that way” are set aside. Jesus dies for all, without condition. What does that kind of generosity look like in your work in the vineyard?

Look at the compassion that is displayed on the cross. Even in the moments prior to His death, He remembers to forgive those who have done this to Him and makes sure that His mother is entrusted to the beloved disciple. Thinking about others and helping them in the midst of his suffering, giving and dying is what He shows us. What does that kind of compassion look like as you face your enemies, those who betray you and those who wish to do you harm?

Look at the love that is displayed on the cross. Given without condition, His love is all inclusive. His doesn’t dole out His love according to some code of conduct or prescribed agenda. He envelops all as He makes His love clearly apparent. No power other than the power of self-emptying is needed to convey the depth and breadth of His love.

Our question should not be, “What is the least I have to do so that I don’t burn in hell?” Instead the question should be, “What more could I do?”

Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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