Saturday, February 27, 2016

Psalm 63:1-8

Isaiah 5:1-7

Luke 6:43-45

Do you get it? The vineyard of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
is the country of Israel.
All the men and women of Judah
are the garden he was so proud of.
He looked for a crop of justice
and saw them murdering each other.
He looked for a harvest of righteousness
and heard only the moans of victims.

[Isaiah 5:7 The Message]

I am fond of telling people that I am not a gardener. I envy those who have the gift of a green thumb.  The last thing I would ever want as a present is a plant or a flower.  I appreciate their beauty, but to have me care for it is courting disaster. The only plant that has a chance with me is a cactus because it thrives on neglect.

2014-07-21 Gervasi's Vineyard 5So whenever I read gardening images in Scripture I have to do everything in my power to suppress a chuckle. My meager knowledge of planting makes me to least credible person on earth to speak to gardening illustrations. Yet, the Bible is full of them.

And this one that we find in Isaiah at first glance appears to be pretty cut and dry. The prophet doesn’t hide behind subtlety, he tells it like it is, going so far as to make clear the symbolism behind the image of the vineyard.

As an aside, let me recommend that you read more than one interpretation of this reading. I have been sticking to The Message for the sake of consistency, but I caution that it is a paraphrase and paraphrases sometimes take liberties that go beyond what the text may have intended.

And it is tempting to take a leap from Israel and Judah to the modern day. Any other country can be substituted in the opening line of the verse above and the rest of the words would ring only too true:

God looked for a crop of justice
and saw them murdering each other.
God looked for a harvest of righteousness
and heard only the moans of victims.

But the message of the reading is not as obvious as it might seem. The prophets spoke unceasingly about justice and righteousness. For Isaiah, they were his central concern. But what do the terms really mean? What do justice and righteousness look like to you?

BlackLivesMatterAnniversaryWe find ourselves at a time in our country where the issues of hunger, poverty, homelessness, racism, violence, income disparity, education, and countless others threaten to trample our sense of an equitable and just society. We feel frustrated that our institutions are negligent in fulfilling their duties responsibly. Protests and demonstrations become the way of raising our voice against the seats of power.

The challenge of passages like these is that it urges us to draw our own conclusions. That is the beauty of engaging in God’s word. We should not walk away unaffected after reading such a passage. It should not leave us comforted, but troubled. It should call us to react.

How will you respond?

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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