Good morning Bethel Peeps,
I have to read you one of our readings from this week’s Lectionary. Fasten your seat-belts; this one is a doozy:
“Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” Isaiah 5: 1-7
Ugh. Some love-song.
All of you have already heard the saga of my victory garden. There are some developments. First of all, I ripped out all of the tomato jungle and thanks to Marilyn Hicken’s suggestion I made tomato mincemeat out of the green tomatoes. Its really good! All that’s left in my garden now are dying pepper plants, herbs and my raspberry bushes.
I hate the raspberry bushes. Every year they take over, and I rarely get more than a handful of berries from them. They are prickly and nasty and don’t seem worth the space that they take. I prune them back every year but I’m never quite willing to rip them out and plant something else there. I’m not sure why. Maybe its because I still have hope? I have no idea. Its not the only thing that hasn’t produced anything in my garden; once again I’m glad that my family doesn’t rely on me to produce food year ‘round.
We have this beautiful pear tree that we planted about 7 years ago. Every spring it has a ton of pears on it, and usually I get a least a couple of pints of canned pears from it. This year, however, the squirrels ate all of the pears out of my tree before they even had a chance to ripen. (Any tips on how to keep squirrels out of a pear tree would be gladly welcomed!).
I totally get the images that we read of in this Isaiah prophecy: a hopeful landowner trying to set things up so that his vineyard will produce something edible and helpful.
But unlike me, this landowner was much more ready to bring things back to zero than I am.
This is a harsh reading, because you know that it is a prophecy about God’s relationship to the Israelites – the chosen people. Basically, the prophecy says that God had set everything up with hope and expectation that a ‘good crop’ would be produced, and when the wrong thing came up – something untamed and violent – then God is willing to get rid of everyone. That’s the story of the Old Testament, basically. That God sets things up to be good and hopeful, then God’s people mess is up. The ending to this prophecy that we don’t read is that God is always merciful and always offers grace and hope back to God’s people; even though they messed everything up.
I’m noting that the ‘crop’ that God expected from the Chosen people was justice. And the crop they produce was bloodshed.
God set God’s garden up to produce justice – and the ‘wildness’ that took over was bloodshed; the community being hurt, destroyed – lives lost.
I’ve been pondering this scripture all week; and in relation to the increased ‘wildness’ we are seeing in Canada. We have people making choices that mean that lives may be lost to Covid-19; people refusing to wear masks, to practice social distancing and to have a small social bubble. We see it done out of simple disregard for others, out of anger for a ‘loss of freedom’ or simply out of intolerance for the restrictions.
Wildness. Justice sown but only bloodshed reaped.
What is God’s good garden, then?
Well, of course since agricultural images are huge in the Bible, we have a specific verse that gives us the characteristics that is a ‘good vineyard’ – God’s vineyard, and this is found in Galations 5: 22, 23
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Here’s the rub. I’m not a particularly a ‘good vineyard’. In fact, there are several of these fruits that I’m regularly in short supply of. My wildness is my problem – the wildness that leads to other people being callously disregarded. I would never say that I’m deliberately ‘wild’ and trampling on other people; but often I want to ‘take over’ – to have my own way – to make sure that I choke out others so that I’m the most important. In a very covert, ‘nice-girl’ kind of way, of course. Now, this is beyond being assertive or ensuring that my needs are being met – that’s a whole other blog for a whole other time. So, how do I ensure that I am a good vineyard; one that God will cultivate, and one that will ensure a good grapes?
Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned about gardening this summer, the key to a good garden is:
Keeping out the pests.
And the rest is up to God.
Daily weeding to get rid of all the things that threaten to choke out our lives.
Keeping out the pests of thinking and influence that may mean that all the good is eaten up.
And the rest is up to God, through the Holy Spirit – who guides and directs us for the rest.
Blessings today and remember you are Loved,
P.S. Tex has stopped joining me in the garden. He thinks its too cold and wet. He even has to wear a sweater now. Gabby has always thought that she was too pretty to tramp in the mud.