I have a brother who is a TV producer and who worked for many years with the BBC. He has done an assortment of programmes that you may have seen: one on the banking collapse, another on the Commonwealth Games, a programme on Kenny Ritchie accused of murder and put on death row and later released. He also made a programme on Pastor Jack Glass’s life, I am not surer whether he let Pastor Jack know he had a brother a priest, not sure whether that would have gone for him.
At present he is engaged in making a podcast about an event that he came across while researching another programme down south. An apparent suicide of a young scots man, which he has come to believe, was not a suicide at all, it may have been that someone took his life. There was nothing prior to his death that suggested he was suicidal; my brother has come to believe that he may have been thrown from a car park rather than taking his life. The story has stayed with him for many years, eating away at him.
Early on he made friends with the parents and family and has stayed in contact with them and remained friends over the years but was always unwilling to tell this story to his parents and family, lest he misinform them or get their hopes up of an outcome which would have been more credible to them, than the fact that he could have taken his life. For a number of months he has been following leads that seem to confirm his suspicious or, at the very least, lead to big questions.
It turns out to be a story of disappointment: disappointment at people who might have known more and didn’t come forward or say anything, of leads that could have been followed and weren’t, of evidence that was there and maybe since has been destroyed. There is a black cloud of disappointment for his family and friends that they may never know the truth of what happened to their son. There is disappointment that justice may never be done and the truth never be known.
Disappointment sends a shiver down your spin. It can come in different ways. Friends can disappoint you. Plans can come to nothing. Things that you hoped might not be realised. It’s like something given to you and when you reach out to take it, it is seized from you. It is a door shut in your face. It’s a call that you wait on that never comes. It is the parcel that you are waiting on that never arrives.
Disappointment seems to be what we hear of in the readings. In the first reading instead of a rich harvest from the land the landowner gets sour grapes. In the Gospel instead of expected income from the tenants whom the landowner has given the land to he gets nothing, instead or respect they attack the servants he sends and even kill his son.
If we hear anything from these readings it is a message of disappointment. God seems disappointed that what he has given so much nothing is given back to him.
We know what that feels like. A parent might give everything to their children and nothing might come back. A teacher works hard all the day long and people learn nothing. A friend does all the work in a friendship only to get nothing back again. A worker works hard all the day long and his work is not appreciated. A person loves another, but their love is not returned. There is a sting in disappointment. There is hurt in disappointment. There is an injury that can be done.
But can God be injured, can he be stung, can he be disappointed in the same way that we can be? If you listen to the readings that would be the impression that you get. He is disappointed at how Israel has turned out. he is disappointed at the tenants and their actions.
But the readings infact end on a more optimistic note. The first reading ends simply by saying that Israel remains his cherished plant; it sis not cut off and is not forgotten. The Gospel seems to end badly too but it also has a hopeful and sunny ending: that stone may be rejected but it turns out to be the corner stone on which the whole building gets its strength and leans.
God, it would seem to say can be disappointed but he has the far seeing eye. We can’t see beyond our disappointment but God can see further. The stock, the plant, the vine will in time produce a crop. The tenants may disappoint but the rejected stone will in time show itself to be the corner stone on which everything depends.
God has the far seeing eye, where we can only see a little, he sees into the distance. Where we can’t see round the corner at what is coming, God can see everything. In his world everything works for the good. He overcomes our disappointments, our failures, our lack of success. He sees right out to the horizon where our eyes see little, our heart knows only the bitterness of disappointment. His is a horizon which is wide and deep.
I wonder whether that young man’s family who died in suspicious circumstances in England can ever overcome their disappointment at not knowing what happened to their beloved son. Will they ever be told the truth and can the questions be answered? Who know what will happen. But these readings seem to give a very positive statement about how things turn out: for God the vine will flourish and burst into fruit. There will always be the stone which might be thrown away but a strange twist of providence will turn up again and will turn out to be the key stone on which everything depends.