Fresh Squeezed

NL Year 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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When Bekkah was pregnant with Aubreigh we received a shower gift that was a connectable plastic fence that could be used in several ways. The main way that it was intended to be used was to connect as many pieces together and create a play area for your child to safely play in. The route we went was putting a couple small sections together and using them as fences to block off areas that we didn’t want her to go. We blocked off the fish tank, the fireplace, and a few other areas. It worked really well because we knew that she could play in the house and move around freely while not being able to get to places that we did not want her getting for her own safety. If she had access to the fish tank who knows what she might get into including all the chemicals I used to test and keep the water clean and healthy for the fish. We not only didn’t want her getting close to the fireplace and getting burned but the stone hearth wasn’t something we wanted her climbing up to or on.
We used this same system when Madisyn was born as well as gates to keep them out of the laundry room and the child locks on cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. It was a good set of systems that we had set up to be able to do our best to keep our kids safe. And as far as I can remember our girls stayed relatively safe, and both they and we survived those years of when they were so tiny. But I also remember seeing them at times trying to get to the areas they weren’t supposed to be in, and doing things that they weren’t supposed to be doing. Just like last week I am sure many of you that were parents can relate to this desire to keep your children safe while knowing that they are going to attempt to do things that go outside that area of safety, and when they do they could find themselves outside of the protection that you created for them. And as you know this doesn’t end when they are babies, but goes on in different ways as they grow older.
Well as you can imagine this is just how I see God’s vineyard song from Isaiah. God has painstakingly taken the time to create this vineyard. If you didn’t realize it, then look back and see how detailed Isaiah gets about each part of the process of creating the vineyard. We actually get to see everything else the owner did for the vineyard when we hear about what is taken away. The owner also placed a hedge there and had walls put up around it. I’m not an expert on vineyards in ancient times, but placing hedges, a wall around it and a watch tower in the center of it seems a bit excessive. Though it may seem excessive, we can see how much love, care, and attention is being placed on this vineyard.
Now if we step away from the metaphor for a minute we can see how through this love song, we see how much God has done for the people. God has given them a land to live in. God has given them a covenant and has shown them through the commandments and laws how to best live with God and one another. God has done all this to allow the people to live in a safe and loving way. But now as God looks around, all the love, the care, and the working through and with them, God only sees rotten or bitter wild grapes.
Now, if we imagine grapes as people, then obviously we are not meant for eating, so I don’t imagine that God is talking about table grapes. One of the podcasts I listened to this week suggested this idea that the grapes are not the end result but what the grapes become. So imagine that the grapes were meant to be used to create wine. Or in other words God created us to be used to do and be more than just grapes, just people who exist. The podcast said that we see that most clearly in verse 7 where Isaiah tells us that God expected us to produce justice and righteousness but those things were not produced. Instead we went the way of bloodshed and causing distress in the world. What we as grapes did was we became bitter and did not produce the good result that was hoped for by God. We went our own ways and paths that did not yield the expected result.
As a result of not producing what was expected God took down the hedge and breaking down the walls and will not stop things from coming in and taking the vineyard over. This is where my metaphor of the fence we used for our girls comes back in. If the girls were able to find a way around the fence, then there’s not much we can do to protect them. They have gone out of the boundaries that we have set to keep them safe. The people of Judah have done the same thing. They were given these incredible blessings from God and they squandered it and walked outside of the boundaries that God had set. How is God supposed to protect them, watch over them and live in the covenantal relationship with them if they willingly step outside the fence? As harsh as this language of breaking down the walls and such seems, all God is doing is giving them easier access to do the very things they have already been doing. Or God is letting them know that if they want to live outside the bounds of God’s protection then God can make that happen.
Yet no matter how upset a person or a parent might get for the person they love going outside the boundaries set up for them, there is usually a way for love and forgiveness to enter the equation. You might scold the child for breaking the rules and going outside of the boundaries set for them, but then you always remind them how much you love and care for them and that those boundaries are there for a reason and you will be there for them the whole time.
This imagery is what we see in this next part of Isaiah. Even if Judah or all of Israel is reduced to a stump, God will make sure that new life will spring forth from it. The stubbornness of a tree stump that won’t die and keeps sprouting forth more and more every time it’s cut down to nothing is what God’s commitment to God’s covenant and God’s love for God’s people is like. Eventually this stubborn stump will produce a person who is able to bring about real change to the world. This branch will do all the things that we have failed to be able to do because of our brokenness. This person will bring about righteousness and equity. This person will produce the choice wine out of this person’s self as well as instill that goodness in the people this person meets.
We see this person in Jesus our Messiah. He is the one who executes justice and righteousness, who taught us how to love the Lord and love one another. It is through Jesus that we are brought back into a right relationship with God. It is through him that we are shown that God’s love knows no bounds even when we step out of bounds in our relationship with God. It is God who taught us how to live and who gave us the Spirit so that we might produce good fruit and that through that fruit we might share the goodness of God with others. So even when all seems dark, when you feel that you have wandered outside the boundaries of the vineyard, when all seems to be as dead and lifeless as a stump, know without a doubt that God is doing something new in this world and in you. That life will break forth in the dead places and that you do and will, with the help of God, produce the justice and righteousness that not only makes us children of God, but invites the whole world into the vineyard to be bearers of the fruit of our great caretaker. Amen.
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