Love often takes the shape of preparation. A young man showers and shaves and washes his car as he thinks of a date with his beloved later that day. A mother-to-be prepares a nursery for the arrival of her first child.
The beloved in this story from Isaiah is a gardener. His preparation is as meticulous as his love is boundless, even before a single seed drops into the dirt. He searches for a hillside with the best soil and clears all the stones that would hinder the vines of his dreams. After gently dropping grape seeds into the ground he prepares in faith by building a wall, a watchtower, and a winepress. A wall will protect: He desires to see the vines kept safe and secure. A watchtower will guard: He expects that the vines (though yet to be seen) will be of great worth. A winepress anticipates an abundant harvest worthy of making fine wine. He looks forward to the only way the vines can return his love: by producing good grapes, a crop of faithfulness in return for an introduction of love and care.
We discover that this meticulous gardener is the Lord God. God expresses love by preparing. God gives to each of us a gift that we call prevenient grace, a grace that comes to us before we ever respond to God. Perhaps you can see ways in which God has gone before you to lay a path of grace before you ever walked it. You may be able to peek into God’s plans for you and to see elements of walls, watchtowers, and winepresses that anticipated you would be of great worth before you ever took your first breath.
Lord, whether the crop of our response has been sweet or bitter, we can see that you have loved us well by sowing mercy and grace for us to find. Amen.
Isaiah compares the people of Israel to a vineyard that God has planted. However, the grapes that grow there have become wild. There is no justice, no right living in the vineyard so God is considering letting it be destroyed. The psalmist bemoans the state of God’s people using the same metaphor. The vineyard has been overrun, burned, and cut down. The psalmist appeals to God to restore the vineyard. The author of Hebrews presents many more examples of people of faith in past times. All these exemplars now surround us and cheer us on in our life of faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cautions that following the gospel requires full commitment. For some, this will mean tension in relationships, even within families. Following Jesus is not a commitment of convenience.
Read Isaiah 5:1-7. Recall a time when you lovingly prepared a place. What would prompt you to destroy it?
Read Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19. How has God restored you when you have been at your most vulnerable?
Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2. Who makes up your personal Faith Hall of Fame? How does each person cheer you on in your spiritual journey?
Read Luke 12:49-56. What does it mean for your life of faith for Jesus to have come to bring division?
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