There is a popular TV program which features stories of family members struggling to assist their loved ones to let go of years’ worth of stuff that has been piling up in their homes. In many cases the hoarders originally held on to items of value, but after years of being ignored what was originally meant for good had become wasted, and we watch the anguish as their lives are turned inside out. What was meant for good, since the hoarders never used them, was eventually taken away.
In some ways, our Greek Orthodox Church can fall trap to the same struggle. We have in our possession something that originally had great value, but many times we have invested energy in holding on, rather than using what we possess. I’m not referring to “stuff” the Church owns, though we do have many physical items that collect dust rather than getting used for good. What we possess is much greater than anything physical, and MUCH greater than any items seen on TV. We possess the Gospel of Christ. We possess the Orthodox Christian Way of Life. We possess the truth.
In the Gospel lesson today, (you can read the entire passage below) we hear about a group of people who had been given a great possession, but rather than share the blessing with others, they tried to keep everything for themselves. Just as on TV, it didn’t end well for the hoarders. In fact, it ended worse, because in the Gospel story, EVERYTHING was taken away and given to someone else. At least on TV, the hoarders are allowed to keep some of what they have.
The Gospel of Christ, and the Church, have been given to us for a purpose, and the purpose is not so that we can hold on and keep them for ourselves. In fact, the Gospel and the Church are not ours at all, but they belong to God, and He has made it perfectly clear that we are to share them with the world. If we refuse to share what we have with the world, according to today’s Gospel, we run the risk of losing it all, and we will find ourselves on the outside looking in, as God gives the Gospel and Church to someone else. Imagine the anguish we will feel at that moment when we realize we wasted an opportunity.
As we find ourselves on the threshold of a new Ecclesiastical Year on September 1st, maybe we should declare some sort of slogan for the Church. How about “The Year of the Church”? It can be the year that we embrace using what God has given to us for others rather than hoarding everything for ourselves. When it comes to the Church, hoarding is never blessed.
The Lord said this 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