A Grape Tale

Isaiah 5:1-7 – The 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, August 18, 2013

“Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard…” (Isaiah 5:1)

Imagine a vineyard.

Ring.BlogVineyards symbolize the most precious vow I’ve taken. I wear golden grapes and vines on my left hand. Inspired by the fifteenth chapter of John, a friend designed the wedding rings my wife and I wear.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them will bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Throughout all of Biblical times, Old and New Testament, in the myths, parables and history of Israel, vineyards represented life. They literally provided a safe drink and symbolized stability for an individual and community.

Though grapes were not specifically mentioned, Genesis’ third day of creation witnessed vegetation spreading across the newly formed earth. Bring forth seed that becomes fruit!

In the mythology of the flood (Genesis 9:20), the first Noah planted on the still moist ground were vines. A verse later, faster than you can say Chardonnay, Noah was already guzzling the harvest, soon to become a fall-down drunk.

Wasn’t that first post-flood vineyard—with the quickest time from planting a vine to drinking wine ever recorded—a cautionary story?

Jesus, of course, in several parables, used vineyard imagery. One, the so-called parable of the wicked tenants (Mark 12:1-12, Matthew 21:3-46 and Luke 20:9-19), depicted mayhem and murder between the rows of vines. There was punishment for those who didn’t follow the ways of . . . of God, of justice, of compassion? And long before Jesus took his listeners into a familiar field of grapes as a backdrop for a tale of divine disappointment, Isaiah 5:1-7 scribed a bitter “love song” about a vineyard gone wrong. If you don’t want to search any of the winey Gospel accounts of mayhem and murder, or to physically or digitally thumb through Isaiah to “hear” the fifth chapter’s vineyard lament, let me summarize the grape tales for you . . .

People of faith lose (abuse, ignore, deny, trivialize) their faith and God got grumpy. Isaiah 5 summarized God’s reason for destroying the vineyard (aka, Israel) with: God expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry. I’m polite when I referred to God’s response as grumpy, since the divine “hand” ripped apart the gift of the vineyard. Instead of toasting the people of Israel, their vineyard became toast.

I’d prefer to avoid this vile vineyard view of holy vengeance. Continue reading →