The owner of a vast and abundant vineyard with hundreds of workers was soon planning to hand over the daily operations and responsibilities of his vineyard to two managers, each of whom had been working with him for quite some time. The managers knew the owner’s love for his vineyard, the care he took in growing the fruit, the daily satisfaction he enjoyed working with his hands to keep away weeds and harvest the grapes, and the perpetual joy he found in sharing the choice wine it produced. Even more, the vineyard had become a place of life, community, and festivity for everyone in their small town. Each evening, people would share table, tell stories, and dance into the night. The care each person had for one another was extraordinary and unique. This was the owner’s heart and dream for his vineyard community.
The two managers knew that taking over the vineyard would be a tall order, but each believed he deserved the privilege of managing it.
The first manager had a vision for expanding the reach and influence of the vineyard. He believed that a great partnership between the vineyard and one of their town’s powerful, influential, and wealthy businessmen would be beneficial. Despite the fact that the businessman was a prideful, judgmental, unforgiving, and crass man, who had values completely opposite of the vineyard owner, the manager thought that this partnership would, not only increase the status of the vineyard in the community for generations, but would also allow the vineyard to become even more powerful and influential throughout the town. Despite the fact that the businessman had never been to the vineyard himself, or experienced the depth of community and vibrancy that made it an essential part of the town, he knew that the vineyard had hundreds of workers who could strengthen his position in the community.
The other manager had similar aspirations. He believed the culture that had grown in this vineyard community, of treating everyone with dignity and caring for each other’s needs, was something that could also be instituted and modeled by the local government, so he partnered with the town’s head official. Despite the fact that this town official was a well-known liar, manipulator, and corruptor, untrustworthy to the core and completely opposite of the vineyard owner in every way, this manager believed the that town official would be a great partner in extending the values of the vineyard through governmental initiatives and programs. While the town official had been to the vineyard in the past, it was only to solicit the support and votes of the workers and community members who gathered there each evening. The unique beauty and quaintness of this special community was lost on the official.
One evening the two managers brought together the businessman and town official to the vineyard community and began to explain to those who were eating together, sharing stories, and dancing with one another, that they had great visions of how the businessman and town official could make the vineyard more influential, more powerful, and how the government could begin using the vineyard model to take care of the entire community. The workers and townspeople listened and considered what was being proposed by each manager and a clear rift began to rise among them. Some heard about the perverse character of the businessman and preferred the town official. Others knew intimately about how corrupt the town official was and preferred the businessman.
Fractures in the vineyard community grew. And each evening afterward, the fractures widened as animosity swelled.
While the managers and workers gathered to debate and argue for their vision of the vineyard and their positions on the businessman and town official, the townspeople slowly began to turn away from the divisive and hostile vineyard community. It wasn’t the community it once was.
Differences of opinion led to voices being raised, accusations being made, and feelings being hurt. The tension escalated when some of the workers got in the face of other workers and began to belittle and dehumanize them with their words. Before long, tables were being turned, bottles were being broken and wine spilled, and the people began to intensely hate one another.
And it was at that point when the lights went out and the entire place went quiet.
When the lights came back on, the vineyard owner was standing in the divided room between the two managers amidst the wreckage and calamity.
What have you done to my vineyard community? What have you brought into this life-giving and hope-filled place? The work of my very own hands and my very own heart have been trampled under the feet of self-interest, power, and corruption. The shared table of brotherhood and sisterhood has been overturned in division and animosity. The life stories of each person have been silenced by political positioning and arguing. The celebratory dance of freedom and joy has been shackled by your belief that what I created in this vineyard community was not enough. This has been my heart and dream for this community- to have a place of invitation and refuge, life and love, and the breaking of bread and sharing of the wine in celebration. Yet, this community of life has become a place of death.
And the fruit of the vine that was crushed and perfected into the choicest wine, has been poured out and spilled, once again, by the hands of greed and power.
Oh you wicked managers, who then can be trusted?
For those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear…
Special thanks to my friend Herb Haile for advice on this post.