In recent times a great deal of news centers on the Middle East.  As we all know in the year 70 AD, the Roman legions, under the leadership of Titus, put down a Jewish rebellion, over ran the city of Jerusalem, and scattered its inhabitants to the four winds.  At that point, for all practical purposes there was no longer a nation of Israel.  The Jews had no homeland.  This dispersion    continued for one thousand, eight hundred, seventy-eight years.

In 1948, the modern nation of Israel was established with Tel Aviv as its  capital.  Now, for almost 75 years, an endless dispute has raged and several wars have been and continue to be fought over the ownership of that part of the world.  To whom does it rightfully belong?  The Jews say it belongs to them by the right of divine providence – that God gave it to their father Abraham many centuries ago.  The Palestinian Arabs say it belongs to them for the same reason.  They, too claim Abraham as their father.  Not only that but prior to 1948, their ancestors had lived on that land for many hundreds of years. 

Which argument is correct?  Who can say?  Several years ago during his visit to the United States, Pope John Paul II affirmed that the Jews have a right to a homeland.  But then he added that Palestinian  Arabs also have that right.  This question of ownership is, by no means, a new dispute.  In the gospels  Jesus addresses many times this question of ownership.

In His parables, Jesus makes clear that the ownership of this world belongs to God alone.  We humans are tenant farmers.  For a few days or a few years, we hold this world in trust for God.  But ultimately, we are accountable to God, the owner, for what we do to it and with it.

The moment we forget that, our troubles begin.  Look at what humans have done and continue to do to our world.  We have eroded its soil.  We have polluted its air.  We have contaminated its rivers, lakes and even its oceans.  We have devastated much of its beauty by war and terrorism.

If we human beings saw this earth as the vineyard of the Lord, maybe we would stop trying to own so much of it. Perhaps we would love it more deeply, treat it more kindly, use it more responsibly and share it more freely.

The Psalmist once wrote, “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel”.  With due respect,    perhaps we could also say. “The vineyard of the Lord is the entire earth.”  God owns the whole thing.    You and I are just the tenant farmers to whom God has leased it for a while.  May we human beings   have the intelligence to recognize this fact and the integrity to make good use of our stewardship of it  for the good of all.