We’ve got two readings today about vineyards – they talk about all the steps the owner went through to build the vineyard in order to maximize the harvest. There are a lot of great things we could say about that , but I want you to concentrate on one point in particular. It talks about building a hedge around the vineyard…. Think about that point…What is the hedge? What’s it for? The first reading TELLS us what the vineyard is – but – using that analogy – what is the hedge?
OK – I’m gonna do something odd today – I’ll give you the punch-line FIRST, then I have a story to explain it. So, obviously, the vineyard is the Church and you and I are the branches on the vines. The hedge around the vineyard is God’s law. Got that? You could say the Hedge is the 10 commandments. The boundaries that God has set for His people. So – given that understanding… What is the purpose of the hedge? What is the purpose of God’s law?
When Jerry was in high school, he knew everything. Really – everything – well – at least everything he thought was important. He knew how to do the absolute least he could in order to squeak by in his classes at school He knew how to chase people away whom he didn’t really want to talk to – you know how teens are – often they’re quiet – with a scowl on their face – and any attempt to make a real conversation just pushes them further into their shell. The only response you get is a one or two syllable grunt. Those of us who matured past that point quickly grow tired of even trying to communicate – which is what the teen wants. Just leave me alone. There’s nothing YOU know that I need to know.
At home, it seemed he and his Mom were always fighting. She just wouldn’t leave him alone. For example, she kept nagging at him for leaving all the dirty dishes and clothes all-over his bedroom. It was so bad, that she sometimes had to go get all the dishes herself, because there were no more cups or spoons left in the kitchen. Jerry’s Dad tried to reason with him…but Jerry wouldn’t listen …. So Dad made a rule: Every day before you can have the car keys, you have to bring all of the dishes from your room and put them in the dishwasher. But Jerry just rolled his eyes… “whatever”
Another constant issue was video games – If Jerry had his way, he’d waste just about every evening and most weekends in front of the TV in his room playing those video games. His parents had to make a rule that there would be no video games until homework was done – and no more than 1 hour per day. Jerry couldn’t believe they could be such tyrants!!!…. I’m not a 5-year-old! It’s not fair! So he’d lie saying he was heading to the library to study – but instead he’d go over to Paul’s house to play on his X-box. Jerry wanted the newest X-box – but it was expensive. He didn’t have a job – and even if he did have a job – he’d probably never go to it anyway because he was SO BUSY…busy doing what? - playing video games. One day, he saw his Mom’s purse open on the kitchen table and right there was her credit card. He slowly snatched it up and headed up to his computer where he ordered the x-box system on-line. He was sly – he had it delivered to Paul’s house so maybe he could keep his Mom from seeing it. But the next day, when Mom was trying to pay for gas at the gas station, her credit card was rejected. So she called the company and found out that somebody had used her card to buy something expensive from Best-Buy online. She knew immediately who it was…
When she confronted Jerry, he rolled his eyes again – whatever – you never treat me like an adult. You’re always getting on my case. You never let me have anything I want! I’m leaving!!!
Mom didn’t think it would escalate to THIS level, but – maybe it was for the best. Maybe it was time for him to learn just how good he has it at home. He stomped upstairs and slammed his door.
Mom and Dad met him at the front door 10 minutes later. Jerry – we love you – we want you to stay. Jerry just rolled his eyes – whatever – you guys don’t love me – you don’t understand me and you’re just always on my case with all of your stupid rules!! I’m outta here!!
He grabbed his dufflebag and the keys to the car and reached for the door handle. Dad stuck out his foot to block the door. Jerry – you can leave if that’s what you want – but – you can only take what is yours. Jerry was like – ‘that’s what I’ve got – all MY stuff here in this bag… and my x-box is already in my car.’
It took all the nerve Dad could muster to say the next thing – son – I love you. In fact, I love you so much that All that stuff in that bag I bought for you to use…but it is not yours. That x-box is paid for with money your mother and I earned. It has to go back to the store for a refund so we can afford to pay the house payment this month. This house – which we want you to live in with us – this is OUR home – not your house. I work everyday to get money to pay for it – for the electricity which runs your games – for the food – for the car and the insurance and all the other stuff here at home. You can leave if you want to, but realize that none of this stuff is yours. We sure hope you’ll stay, but as long as you live under our roof, you will follow our rules. You look at rules as something we come up with to keep you from doing or having what YOU want, but someday you’ll learn that rules are there to protect you. As long as you follow the rules, life is much easier. Think of it practically….When you follow the rules, there’s no reason for Mom and I to yell at you. :)
Then Dad did something which surprised his wife. Son – you are free to make this decision on your own. None of this stuff belongs to you – but as of now – I am giving you this car. You can choose to take it and drive as far away from us as you want to go – but remember - you’ll always be our son. You can always come home. Just please be careful – you are a new driver….– be safe – follow the traffic laws and don’t speed.
Jerry rolled his eyes, there he goes again… more rules… he grabbed the keys, slammed the door, hopped in the car – and headed for town. There was a hill just before you got to town where it was impossible to see over. Jerry got behind an old grandma driving 25 miles per hour as they approached the hill. He stomped his foot impatiently on the floorboard. And even though he could hear his Dad in his head reminding him to be safe and saw the sign that it was a no-passing zone on the hill, Jerry figured he had enough room to make it – so he gunned it and pulled into the other lane…. Just then a furniture truck came popping over the top. With only inches to spare, Jerry swerved back into his lane so quickly that his wheels went off the other side of the road before he regained control.
Jerry’s heart was beating so hard it nearly burst out of his chest. He pulled over and shut the engine off and without realizing it, tears started coming from his eyes. Suddenly, like a light shining through the fog… he understood what Dad had said: Rules are there to protect you. I might think I can pass safely on a hill, but the law is very clear that it is a no-passing zone, because you can’t see what’s coming at you. The rules are not random boundaries put in place to keep us from being happy – but they are the very KEY to living life to the fullest.
Sooner or later, we all come to realize that WE have been planted in the choicest soil – in God’s vineyard – and that HE has given us everything – even His law – so that we can flourish and bear great fruit.