Many Australians, particularly older women and young people employed in the gig economy, are facing a rental affordability and homelessness crisis. Witness the rise in ‘rough sleeping’ in our CBDs, the Cathedral Precinct, and suburbs. The gap between rich and poor widens. Many are becoming more marginal. We, as a nation, as church are not producing ‘the fruit’ we say we are called to; namely providing ‘a fair go for all’.
We are like ancient Israel where the religious, social, and economic leaders and systems privileged landlords who failed to produce the ‘fruit’ expected by God by leasing land at exorbitant rates to poor farmers thereby increasing economic and social vulnerability. Isaiah 5 records that creation’s landlord, God, expected the fruits of justice and integrity but found instead the fruits of bloodshed and a city of distress. Sound familiar?
Today’s Gospel parable addresses this injustice. Here we read that tenants, who initially have the power, respond to the landlord’s reasonable requests for ‘the fruit’ of his land, for justice, with increasing violence; first to his servants and then finally, killing his son. A reckoning occurs.
The early Church interpreted this parable to mean that the religious, economic, and social leaders and systems of the day failed to live up to the just expectations of creation’s landlord expressed fully in Jesus and his reign. They responded to these expectations with increasing resistance and acrimony to the extent they kill the landlord’s son – Jesus. A reckoning occurs. The land, the property, creation, salvation etc is taken from the leadership and systems of the day and given to people ‘who will’ we are told in the parable ‘produce it’s fruit’.
Today’s Hebrew Scripture reading, and the Gospel leave us as church and nation with uncomfortable questions. Like, what will happen if we resist the just expectations of creations’ landlord? what would it require for us to produce the fruit of justice and integrity? what, if any, small steps can I take?