Isaiah 5: 1-7 Philippians 4: 6-9 Matthew 21: 33-43
Our minds and our imaginations can often be quite creative, even fantastic. This is especially true in the effort to appreciate and understand the vastness and complexity of the universe around us. Scenarios are developed, creatures of different sorts are imagine. We need only think of productions like Star Wars and Star Trek. Why does this happen? Because we are easily fascinated by what we have been given in being alive and living those lives in this vast complexity that surrounds us, one which we have really probed in a very limited way.
There are so many things that appear to escape our understanding, and especially in how we ought to respond to that understanding that we, in many ways, prefer to dwell on the fantastic rather than the simple. Especially is this true with respect to the idea that the source of this great universe, the created reality around us, truly loves us. Time and time again we need to be reminded of this. We need also to be reminded of the need on, our part to respond gratefully and generously to this loving relationship that is extended to us.
Even though we can often allow our imaginations to run wild about creation, simple images are those which are most direct. They are a basic and common part of our experience as human beings. These simple images can be, on the one hand, the rancher, the shepherd. On the other hand, a simple image is found in the farmer, the owner of a vineyard. They are simple images but they are also the basic resources of how we are fed and sustained. For this reason, they enable us to appreciate the depth of the love of our God for us. They illustrate to us how the God of our universe reaches out to us in very ordinary ways in order to care for us and to love us.
The poetic beauty of the prophet Isaiah rings out clearly in what we have heard today. The world, creation, is like a vineyard. It is a reality that is planted and cultivated so that it might produce what gives joy and peace. Humanity are the grapes of that vineyard that are to grow and produce. But grapes can also fail and rot. We know that well enough from plants in our own gardens which do not live up to our expectations. But the owner, the vineyard keeper, like God, persists.
Jesus makes use of the image of the vineyard, but with a conclusion that differs. He focuses his attention on the behavior of the tenant farmers. But, within that story, we are told of the consistent effort of the owner, of God, to reach out to the tenants. Messengers are sent, even the Son, to convey God’s care and concern. Thus we are reminded within this story of God’s desire to reach out to us, despite our often neglectful reaction. God continuously calls upon us to respond in a fruitful and productive manner.
The images used by Jesus are not fantastic or fanciful. They tell us of a simple reality. Despite the vastness and mystery of the universe in which we live, we are loved by our God, its source, its creator. We are so loved, as we are told, that in the person of Jesus Christ, our God, once more, seeks to be with us, to do “more” on our behalf. What is to be our response? We are to be that pleasing, peaceful refreshing product. Is that how you or I might be described today?
To gain a better appreciation of what we are to be, we can listen to Saint Paul as he addresses the Christians at Philippi and us. We are to demonstrate in our lives whatever is pure, whatever is gracious, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise. We are to do what we have learned and what we have received in this Faith we profess. It is in this way, in the vineyard of the world in which we live, the vineyard that needs so desperately the fine wine of our lives lived well, that we will produce the abundant and refreshing revelation of our good and gracious God.