What do you always get when you go grocery shopping? For me and my house, we get grapes. Each week, I make a pitstop at the crates of grapes. The crates are usually stacked and taller than me. The grapes are black, red, green, seedless, and seeded. When grapes are on sale, I celebrate. When they are not, I buy them anyways. My youngest and I love grapes. And we both know just how wild grapes can be.
In a previous life, my landlord grew grapes in his backyard in Queens. They crawled up a lattice, forming a canopy over a concrete deck. Those grapes were green, plump, and sweet. When I moved to Paramus, my yard was full of wild grapes. Vines choked trees, bushes, and the house itself. Those grapes were small and tasted awful. The well cared for grapes in Queens and the unruly ones in Paramus both, however, chased the sun. The spots on the ground where the rays of the sun touched were the places where grapes sprouted. Without the sun, nothing grew.
Vineyards take work. It takes time and effort to make grapes grow the way we want them to. In ancient times, vineyards were a sign of wealth and prestige. They were also a metaphor for love, fertility, and relationships. The care needed to make a vineyard work was a stand-in for the care needed to make a relationship blossom. When Isaiah starts our first reading today (Isaiah 5:1-7), people think they know what he is talking about. They look for words of love but they are met with something else. Isaiah is speaking to the entire community, including its political leaders, priests, and those with enough food to eat. He shows them the world they’ve created. God, who cares for God’s people, is not seeing God’s people care for each other in the same way. Where God expects justice and help for the vulnerable, God is seeing oppression, violence, and death. God expected God’s people to share a love-song with each other but there’s only injustice instead.
So how do we sing a love-song for each other? This isn’t easy. Disagreements are a normal part of life and hurting each other is something we are good at. We do not usually notice the ways we harm the people around us. We can become lost in our own vineyard, focused only on ourselves. But we also have a way to move past this vineyard of one. We have the Son. Through the gift of baptism, we are united with the one who knows how to keep God’s love at the center of everything. When we keep close of Jesus, the fruit of our work is changed. What we do becomes life-giving to those around us. When we stay oriented to the Son in a conscious and intentional way, justice, healing, and wholeness becomes all that we do.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 18th Sunday After Pentecost, 10/08/2017.