Sermon – 10-04-20 – Proper 22 – Holy Communion – Cycle A
Scriptures: Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-15, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46
Sermon Title: “How Big is the Vine: Can It Cover the Whole World?”
So many kinds of vines! Some poisonous. Some beautiful. Some planted on purpose. Some just grow. Are they beautiful to you or are they just a nuisance? Some vines can be managed. Some vines refuse to be managed!
Our yard has all of the vines! My son and I share the house and the property. We share the responsibilities but guess who gets to take care of the vines. I don’t mind taking care of the vines except for the poisonous ones. My son has the weed killer and the equipment. It is just the timing of the spraying effort that leaves much to be desired. Also, we care about the environment.
The field next to our yard became the host to a pretty vine which I thought was a pumpkin vine from someone throwing a pumpkin into the field. It also resembles a pickle vine. But, my son informs me that it is neither but a cousin maybe. As the years go by, the winters do not kill the vine. Whatever the farmer is doing or is not doing does not kill the vine. This year another weed started growing in that field. It is tall. So tall that it blocks our view pulling on the road from that driveway. Since it is really our field which we rent to a farmer, should I claim the corner of that field in which the soybeans have lost the battle and use my time and energy and equipment to control that corner?
I am glad that we don’t expect a share of the produce. The farmer pays on time for the use of the field. So we don’t have the same problem as the landowner whose agents were beaten and worse. I have no fear that my son will be killed by this farmer. But these vines and the weeds bother me because they stifle good growth, they cause unproductivity.
So when we read in Isaiah 5 that God planted the vine of Israelites, a vine of people, and expected sweetness but only found bitterness in the fruit, also known as the Israelites, we can empathize with God, the planter. God became angry with this bitter fruit and tore the vineyard apart and let enemies come in and devour – like wild pigs. We get the pigs from the Psalm 80 passage which we said responsively today. You may know that the Psalms are writings about the history of God’s people. They fit into each other like a jigsaw puzzle, if only we take time to search. Today, the internet is a huge source of this type of information.
This Psalm passage talks about the vine coming out of Egypt. Think Moses and the mini-messages we have been hearing. The nations, who were already living in the Promised Land, were cast our of the Promised Land when Joshua, taking over from Moses, led this vine into the Promised Land. It says God planted the vine there – the Holy Land. In our Bible Study, one person’s Bible named the bodies of water to which the tendrils of the vine reached – the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Euphrates River on the right.
But the Psalmist is asking God why God is tearing down the walls. We know that God tore down the walls to let enemies in as a last resort to have these bitter vines become sweet. Was that the end of the vine? Was this the end of God’s people? Did the vine die? No, it did not die! God’s mercy is so great! It is beyond comprehension. The vine had some life left in it. Enough life!
And now that the vine is still living, it depends on us to keep it living. The way we interact with each other makes the difference. The way we interact with outsiders makes the difference. It takes a huge amount of mercy with each other. It takes a huge desire to spread the love of Christ and to tell how this love makes a difference in our lives. How it keeps the vine growing within our church family and without our church family.
Instead of the vine reaching from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, the vine has reached around the world and to the north and to the south. Think! A vine that long. People all along the way nourish it and give and receive life from this vine. Today, World Communion Day, the holy act of bread and juice moves along the vine. But, there are people who do the opposite to the vine – sometimes on purpose, sometimes accidentally and unknowingly.
Remember the prophets being killed. Remember Jesus Christ being killed by God’s own people! Why did God stand by and let it happen? It was for the good of God’s people. It was God pouring mercy upon us. Even before the cross event, Jesus was telling his disciples how he is the vine and the disciples, and therefore we, are the branches and we bear fruit. Is our fruit bitter or sweet? Are we merciful and gracious?
These scripture passages are rich for thought. Let’s keep the vine healthy in the coming days – both with each other and with the brothers and sisters outside our walls.
Lord Jesus, help us to be sweet fruit for you. Help us to take your vine through our walls to the people who have not heard or have not felt your love in their hearts and minds. Help us to reject sin but not to reject you, the head and cornerstone of our faith. Jesus Christ, you are Lord! In your name we pray. Amen