This was my coffee last week at our local coffee shop, The Grumpy Baker. I have to confess, the first time I went there, it took me a few seconds to realise that the face on top is part of their logo and not a personal message directed at me. The coffee underneath was good.
Last year has been a bit of an adventure for us and we’ve felt blessed by the house we’ve been renting for the last 5 months. It has charmingly crooked walls, high ceilings and beautiful old fireplaces and is big enough to have lots of people over for meals and to stay overnight. It’s also on a road with a great view and friendly neighbours. We’ve loved it.
Sad face time; we’ve just been told that we can only live here for another 2 months so we are praying for another house to fill the gap until, hopefully, we can move into a house of our own. We wish we didn’t have to move, but we’re trusting there is some “good coffee” beneath the apparent sad face in this turn of events.
Now I know this is a bit predictable, but there is a story that Jesus told about a landlord and tenants that I have seen in a new way this week because of our circumstances. (It’s in Mark 12, if you want to see it yourself.)
Once there was a landlord who lovingly planted a vineyard, putting up supports for the young plants, pruning and watering them. He built a wall round the vineyard to protect it from the wind, and in anticipation of a brilliant harvest, dug out a hole to serve as a wine press.
Soon, however, he needs to travel to another country and so has to trust this precious crop to tenant farmers. It feels a bit risky.
The tenants settle in and begin to work. There is watering and pruning and harvesting to do. But once the owner has been away for a while, they start in small ways to act as though the vineyard is theirs.
When the landlord sends servants to collect his share of the harvest, they think ‘how dare he? We’re the ones slaving away.’ They beat them up and send them away.
The landlord sends his son instead, but by that point they are so caught up in their own importance that they convince themselves that it makes sense to kill the son so that they can legally inherit the vineyard (which in their minds is already rightfully theirs).
It ends in disaster for the tenants. What went wrong? We’ve got no reason to think that they weren’t working hard, that they weren’t looking after the plants in their charge.
What went wrong was that they allowed themselves to believe that the vineyard was theirs. What do you have to do to be a good tenant? Remember that the fruit isn’t yours.
There are some things that are good about being a tenant. For example, we don’t have to worry about leaking pipes, the mortgage or re-roofing. We don’t have to decorate or think about fluctuating house prices. We’re free from all those hassles.
In a similar way, love sets us free from anxiety and fear. Love is the opposite of the need to control. We are set free to joyfully respond to what God is doing in this moment. If everything is God’s and I’m only a tenant, what do I have to fear? If God loves the people I care for more than I do, why do I worry? Being God’s tenant makes me free.