What are you thankful for? Feasting on Gratitude is a six-week reflection inviting readers to reflect and discuss stewardship principles and practices based on the Gospel readings from Matthew for each Sunday from Oct. 2 through Nov. 6, All Saints Sunday. Take time to read this week's Gospel, then enjoy the reflection that follows. When you're done, you'll find questions to use for your own reflection on the topic.

Reflection #1: Matthew 21:33-46

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard…

Recently I was in the Napa Valley of California, arguably THE wine area of this country.  I am always intrigued by the intricacy of the work that goes into all the preparation and growth that leads to grapes and then, finally, wine.  While there, I was told a story about some of the vines that were imported to this country.  To make sure there were no unwanted introductions to our ecosystem, these particular vines had to be quarantined for three years!  So, the one waiting to plant, and begin the harvest, had to wait three years to even get the vines in the ground.  At countless points in the process toward grapes, the key word seems to be patience, and also, a whole lot of care.  The bottom line is this: it takes good stewards of the land, the vine, the natural resources, all of it, in order to actually get the fruit, and ultimately the wine.  Some vines in this region are nearly 100 years old.  Many who planted them are long gone from this earth, but the vines still bear fruit.  The vines stand as living legacies.

This parable always reminds me of a story

about a farmer who told the preacher he was tired of hearing that we didn’t own anything, and that it all belonged to God.  The farmer invited the preacher over for dinner, and after dinner took him out to look over his land.  He had him stand and look in all directions, and he said to the preacher, “As far as the eye can see, this is all mine. Now can you really stand there and say I don’t own it?”  The preacher just smiled at him and said, “Ask me that in a hundred years.”   The shorter versions of this same idea are these: there are no luggage racks on a hearse, and at the end of the game the king and the pawn go in the same box.

All we have been given in this life is on loan, at best.  It is not ours, we will never truly own it.  We have it, for whatever reason, in order to care for it as best we can.  This is true of everything we, or the bank, says we own, and it is just as
true for every relationship we have.   We are stewards of all of it, called by God to leave the land, our material
possessions, our money, and our relationships better than we found them, or they found us.  All we now see, hold, and know is God’s vineyard, and we are called to tend it, for the One who truly owns it all.

The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel
Bishop
Diocese of Olympia

Reflection Questions:

1. How can you live into the claim that we are not “owners” of anything, we are simply called to steward what has been entrusted to us?

2.  How do you embrace a practice of gratitude for all that has been given?

3. How does the practice of giving bear fruit in your life and in your community?

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