Today we learn the outcome of the gardener’s investment of care. When he harvests the grapes, they are not the sweet, wholesome fruit for which he prepared. They are wild grapes, bad grapes.
Just as the gardener’s caring preparation in planting the vineyard requires deep emotional investment, his response is just as passionate. He responds to his deep hurt by reversing his original work: He tears down the hedge and wall and allows the wild animals to trample the fields and the ground to return to thorny wild pasture. When finally he commands the clouds to withhold rain, we remember this is no ordinary gardener. This is the Lord Almighty, commander of clouds and climate. This passage seems to confirm all our worst fears of a vindictive, angry God. We worry: What will God do to us if we are not faithful?
I offer one note to help us put this parable in perspective: It is written in a way that shows a God capable of deep love and deep pain. It assures us that at the heart of the universe is not a set of rules being checked off but a relational God who cares deeply enough to be affected by our actions. This is at once both reassuring and terrifying. Then the last sentence of the passage gives the final clue of what stirs the gardener enough to prompt such a severe response: injustice and bloodshed, cries of distress unanswered.
God responds passionately here because God is passionate about justice. God sows Israel kindness, and Israel responds by sowing bloodshed and injustice. God cannot ignore or continue to nurture this kind of fruit. Change must come. As Christians, though, we remember that when the fruit of injustice runs its course, God wears the thorns that bring justice. The wine of salvation comes not from our grapes but from God’s giving of God’s self for our iniquities.
Lord, help us to bear the good fruit of justice. 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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