8 October 2017
Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug the soil, cleared it of stones and planted choice vines in it. In the middle he built a tower, he dug a press there too. He expected it to yield grapes, but sour grapes were all that it gave.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, I ask you to judge between my vineyard and me. What could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done? I expected it to yield grapes. Why did it yield sour grapes instead?
Very well, I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge for it to be grazed on, and knock down its wall for it to be trampled on. I will lay it waste, unpruned, undug; overgrown by the briar and the thorn. I will command the clouds to rain no rain on it. Yes, the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah that chosen plant. He expected justice, but found bloodshed, integrity, but only a cry of distress.
There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. Keep doing all the things that you learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone. This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see?
‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’
“The kingdom of heaven will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit”
A vineyard is a tangible example of the great beauty that can occur when God and Man work towards a common goal. We are in the middle of planting one in our home in the wine valley. I can attest to the healing power of growing something from a mere sapling, irrigating the soil, staking the vines, praying for forgiving weather. There is order and process in a vineyard. Its borders are defined, its soil is fertile. There are fixed seasons in a vineyard. There is a time for sowing, for planting, for harvesting, for pressing, for bottling. These seasons mark the passage of time, our progress as an individual, the growth of our family. A vineyard is purposeful. It bears fruit at harvest time and gives us much cause for rejoicing. Our vineyard may not necessarily be a profitable endeavour, but its lessons for life more than make up for it.
The image of the vineyard is used in much of Scripture to denote God’s creation and our roles as His appointed stewards. In the reading from Isaiah, the vineyard is symbolic of the people of Judah, who rebelled against God and turned their backs on His covenant. God delivered them into the Promised Land yet they repaid him with wilful rebellion. In the reading from Matthew, the same image of the vineyard is continued; only this time, we are introduced to the Tenants, God’s stewards of the Law who purpose is to guide His people. They too, break their social contract with God and abuse the power that is entrusted to them.
But how does all this relate to us? As believers, we are given the mission to tend His vineyard. We are told to proclaim our faith, to be apostles of His word. The image of the Tenants in His vineyard is how God sees us. He has entrusted us with the keys to the vineyard and asked us to harvest good fruit from the bounty of resources He has laid before us – our health, our wealth, our talents, our children, our families, our friends. In the fullness of time, God will demand from us an account of what we have achieved for Him. When that time comes, will we be able to say that we have brought forth good fruit — love, forgiveness, compassion, hope, healing, redemption – or that we have sown and reaped a harvest of hate, bitterness, anger, pride, greed and jealousy? As we embark on a new week in the vineyard, let’s reflect on the agrarian images from this Sunday’s readings. Where is there room for more love and less anger, less bitterness, less hatred in our lives?
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to be good stewards of God’s vineyard, to make good decisions with the resources that He has blessed us with.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the rich imagery in Scripture that helps us to understand His purpose for us.