Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!
In our readings for this coming Sunday, although the readings speak of God’s vineyard, I couldn’t help but hear a dialogue between God and his people. Let’s top up our coffees and begin reading through the conversation…
Readings for October 4, 2020; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 5:1-7, 25-32; Psalm 80:7-19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21: 33-46
The People: Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it. (Psalm 80: 3-13)
The Lord Almighty: The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. . . . What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it. When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? (Isaiah 5:7, 4)
The People: Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:17-19)
The Son of Man: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)
My husband and I enjoy visiting wineries and viewing the amazing architecture of their structures, taking in the scenery of the acres of meticulously manicured grape vines, and savouring the vast differences of taste in the many varietals. We stand in awe at the great amount of time, effort and hands that go into caring for a vineyard and the work and science involved in processing even a small amount of wine. Vineyards take work and producing good grapes for good wine takes ones attention and care. We have come to appreciate the great pride and joy a vintner takes in producing a wine that is all he/she hoped it would be.
In the same way that a dedicated vintner cares for and takes pride in his vineyard and grape vines, so God cared for His people, the Israelites, as described in the dialogue above. He took great pride in choosing the grapes, cultivating the land, planting the vines and caring for them. He gave them his full attention and guided them in the ways they should grow in order to produce good fruit, to be faithful. But even with all he gave, they continued to refuse to listen. They produced bad fruit. They turned away from the ways of the Lord and did evil in his sight. So God, the vintner left his people, the vineyard, to their own devises which we know simply accumulates with weeds and is devoured by the beasts. Any good that may have been growing simply gets swallowed up.
This story isn’t just about God and the Israelites of the Old Testament, but about our relationship with God as well. Are we a vine that chooses to turn a blind eye to God’s cultivating? Do we rebel when we’re being pruned? Then, are we surprised when our lives are overcome by the weeds of consequences and despair and we are face to face with wild beasts waiting to devour us? Do we wonder why God is allowing such things to happen? Do we, in arogance, ask how he could turn his back on us?
Well let’s get one thing straight: It is not God who turned his back on us. It is never God who turns his back on us. He only did that to one person, and it was for your sake, for mine. No it is never God who turns his back on us, but it is us – you and me- who turn our backs on him and his truths.
If you are crying the same plea as the Israelites in the above passage, then perhaps you may stop and consider the Almighty’s reply and adjust your prayer to lay your straying ways and guilt before the Lord and seek to be graphed into his grace through his Son. You see, even the Israelites new the son of man, a saviour, would come and redeem them from their sinful ways. But even beyond their wildest desires of an earthly saviour to whom they could follow, God sent the Saviour of the world to redeem all of humankind for eternity: in both the earthly and heavenly realms.
Now for us, on this side of the cross, we can rejoice in the Son of Man who came and paid the price our sins deserve, on whom God turned his back so that the Father Almighty would never have to turn his back on us. In Christ we are graphed into him, the true vine, and in him alone we bear good fruit. Fruit that brings our Heavenly Vintner great joy!
Prayer: Dear Lord, Please forgive me when I turn from your ways. Please forgive me my sins. Renew me and help me to remain in Jesus, the true Vine, so that I can bear abundant good fruit. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!