Ordinary Days: Tending Well the Vineyard

So whose vineyard is this anyway?

Our Scriptures this week seem a little haphazardly gathered at first glance. A strange parable that Jesus tells to shame some religious teachers, 2 OT passages about with metaphors about God’s relationship with Israel and Paul talking about his history and working though his pride. But there is a thread running through them. And it has to do with this question: Whose vineyard is this anyway? Or maybe more to the point: Who’s really running this show?

red grapes Ventana 9.07We like control. We like to be in charge and make decisions. We like to set the course. But if we’re honest, we can mess things up pretty quickly. Our desire for control can lead us to some bad places — fear, pride, manipulation, etc.

Our Scriptures this week remind us that with God in control, things work much better. He owns the vineyard, and I just get to tend to it. My life is much better when I follow his ways than my own.

So as we read this week, may we be reminded of the graciousness, the love, the mercy with which God rules our universe. And may we find comfort in our duty to tend to our little corner of it.

Matthew 21:33-46

“Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.

“Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.

“When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”

The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.’

I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”

When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.

Isaiah 5:1-7

Now I will sing for the one I love
    a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a rich and fertile hill.
He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
    and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
    and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
    but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
    you judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could I have done for my vineyard
    that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
    why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Now let me tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
    and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
    and let the animals trample it.
I will make it a wild place
    where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
    a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
    to drop no rain on it.

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
    The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
    but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
    but instead he heard cries of violence.

Psalm 80:7-15

Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved.
You brought us from Egypt like a grapevine;
    you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land.
You cleared the ground for us,
    and we took root and filled the land.
Our shade covered the mountains;
    our branches covered the mighty cedars.
We spread our branches west to the Mediterranean Sea;
    our shoots spread east to the Euphrates River.
But now, why have you broken down our walls
    so that all who pass by may steal our fruit?
The wild boar from the forest devours it,
    and the wild animals feed on it.

Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
    Look down from heaven and see our plight.
Take care of this grapevine
     that you yourself have planted,
    this son you have raised for yourself.

Philippians 3:4b-14

Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Prayer

To you, Father
I give my heart, my mind, my body and my soul.
Take control, Lord.
And deal with me and with everyone I see
in your mercy, grace and love.

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