Children’s Homily on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost — The Parable of the Vineyard

Gospel Reading for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost

“Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The very stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Matthew 21:33—42 (Revised Standard Version)

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Homily

Yesterday was the start of the Church New Year, when we start the big story of God’s love for us all over again.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable. A parable is a story where the characters and events in the story represent something else. In this parable, there’s a landowner who represents God, some farmers who represent God’s chosen people, the Jews, and a vineyard that represents their special country, Israel.

In the story, the landowner builds a vineyard, hires some farmers, and then goes away to a far-away land. While he’s gone, the farmers are supposed to tend the grape vines, pick the grapes, and make some wine. While the landowner is away, he sends some servants to check on the farmers. They don’t like being checked up on, so they beat up the servants and even kill some of them. Finally, the landowner sends his own son to straighten things out, well, the farmers kill him too! In this story, the son represents Jesus. Jesus came to Israel to straighten things out, but instead, they killed him.

Now, I said that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that Israel was their special country. Well, we’re not Jewish, and we’re not in Israel, but we call ourselves God’s chosen people. How did that happen? Well, at the end of the story, Jesus asks the people around him what the landowner should do with the farmers. They say he should throw those evil people out of the vineyard and find some new farmers to work the vineyard. And that’s just what happened. God found some new farmers—He allowed everyone to join his chosen people, in a new special country called the Church.

So, now we’re the farmers in the vineyard, and God expects fruit from us. What does the fruit in this story represent? Love for God and for others, peace, patience, self-control, and to bring others into the Holy Church. That’s what He wants from us.

Sometimes, it seems like God is far away. Have you ever lost your parents in a store? You can’t see them. You think they’ve disappeared until you suddenly see they were there all along and you just weren’t looking at them. When we’re not looking at God, it can seem like He’s not there, but He’s always with us. And he sends His servants—who are easier to see—priests, deacons, church school teachers, our parents, our godparents, and many others.

And, just like the vineyard in the story had a wall around it to protect it, we have the Traditions of the Church—the Bible, the saints, our guardian angels, our baptism—and the strength that comes from receiving Jesus Christ through Holy Communion.

Thoughts

As we begin the new ecclesial year and the new church school year, I’m picking up with the children’s homilies again. Glory to God.

The sources I found for this parable frequently mentioned about the landowner’s going away into a far country being representative of God’s patience and our thoughtlessness. That seemed like a good message for kids to get from this parable. There’s also that fact that it loosely corresponds with the liturgical new year, and it’s a concise explanation of the link from Judaism and Christianity, and how the Church began.

I often have to resist the urge to preach to the adults. I want to tell them that God took away the vineyard from one people and he can do it again if we don’t produce fruit. That’s not my job though, and that particular interpretation isn’t in the patristic commentary that I could find.

Sometimes the Epistle reading for the day will provide more insight into the Gospel reading. In this case, the interesting part for me is that Paul uses the term firstfruits to refer to the household of Stephanas. Since we’re talking about fruit, it seems that one of the fruits we need to produce is new Christians.

Sources

And then it says that He went into a far country. This is reminiscent also of the parable of the prodigal son when where the son (representing humanity, and not God), goes into a far country, but the idea is the same. God can seem very far away to us. This is because He’s very longsuffering and patient with us and also because we are very forgetful.

http://www.orthodox.net/homilies/#S15 sermon from 2010-08-23

Then he “went into a far country.” He was patient with them. He did not always keep a close account of their sins. The meaning of “going into a far country” is God’s great patience. 

Be not thoughtful then about your interests, but leave them to God. For if you are thoughtful about them, you are thoughtful as a man; but if God provide, He provides as God. Be not so thoughtful about them as to let go the greater things, since then He will not much provide for them. In order therefore that He may fully provide for them, leave them to Him alone. For if you also yourself takest them in hand, having let go the things spiritual, He will not make much provision for them.

St. John Chrysostom; The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 68 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200168.htm

I urge you, brethren-you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints-

1 Corinthians 16:15

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