Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Vineyards That Are Our Life

Now I will sing to my beloved a song of my beloved concerning my vineyard. My beloved had a vineyard on a high hill in a fertile place. And I made a hedge round it, and dug a trench, and planted a choice vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and dug a place for the wine press in it: and I waited for it to bring forth grapes, and it brought forth thorns.  And now, ye dwellers in Jerusalem, and every man of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What shall I do any more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it? Whereas I expected it to bring forth grapes, but it has brought forth thorns. -- Isaiah 5:1-4
 The Prophet Isaiah here is speaking for God, as though he is God.  God is singing a song to God's beloved -- the humans firstly in Jerusalem, and by our Christian outgrowth to the whole world.  In the second sentence it is the humans (the beloved), who have a vineyard.  However come to find out, the vineyard is not anything the humans have built or planted.  The vineyard is on high fertile ground; the kind that grows tender sweet grapes and the best wine.  God has done all the work to prepare it, protect it, plant it, and prepare for it's future production.  God prepared it all for us, gave it to us, and then waited.  What grew was not the sweet incredible grapes any farmer would expect from such attentive caring, but rather thorns came to occupy the fertile space.  Various translations of בּאשׁים render it - wild grapes or sour grapes; when it got translated to Greek it became thorns.  It is not what anyone would have expected either way.

There is a "rogue" element in the goodness of humankind.  For the most part, human beings are good natured.  I want to believe this.  One needs to believe this to prevent falling into fearful suspicion and deep distrust of everyone who is met.  But, none of us -- no, not one -- is good all the time. It is the rare one of us who grows into a complete virtuous person (i.e. sweet grapes.)  Hence, what is God to do?  God can prepare a place for us in the most fertile of places, give us all the advantages and privilege possible, defend us from all affronts and we still cry about and become ourselves "sour grapes."

Perhaps the key word in the passage is "beloved."  "I will sing to my beloved a song..."  It is difficult to fully imagine being truly God's beloved.  We live day in and out with our failings.  I think most of us know just how scarlet our sins are, and think long and hard about how intractably attached, stuck, and welded to them we are. Oh, that we COULD just let them go and watch them drift away, but here they rest again another day!  We think because of that that there is no way we could be beloved.  Yet, through faith, hope, and love we can catch instants where we taste our own sweetness, or that of someone else who offers us a helping hand, an encouraging word, or a kind act totally independent of our woeful character.  "I will sing to my beloved a song" and I will give them a vineyard in which they can grow and produce sweet wine.  I give you your life.  Grow dang it!

Dear Lord and Protector of my vineyard, help me to grow into the person you most desire me to be   Show me the way to be rain, fertilizer, and sunlight for each of those around me.  For thine is the wine press and the sweetness of us all. In Christ's name.  Amen. 

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