Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sowing Wild Grapes (or would those be sour grapes?)

"Let me sing for my beloved, my love-song concerning his vineyard: 'My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.' And now, inhabitants of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected to yield grapes, why did it yiled wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waster; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justics, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry."

Isaiah 5:1-7 (NRSV)

Song of the (Unfruitful) Vineyard
"Why did it yield wild grapes? This poem is a parable that features God as the vineyard keeper and Israel as the vineyard. Through the course of the parable, the vineyard keeper goes to great pains to take good care of the vineyard; when the vineyard produces "wild grapes," the vineyard keeper abandons the vineyard. The abandonment refers to the exile and complese abandonment of the city of Jerusalem by God. This imagery of vine keeper and vineyard is picked up and reused in the New Testament in John 15 to describe the relationship between God and the community gathered around Jesus. In both places, the same two points are accented: that the vine is completely dependent upon the vine tree and that the vine must bear fruit."

(Commentary comes courtesy of: The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible)

I read this and such intense feelings wash over me: despair, doubt, chagrin, disillusionment, angst, hurt, and, eventually, hope. I read through this poetic chastisement of Israel and think to myself, "Where have I been producing wild grapes in my life? What have I been doing wrong towards God (AKA: sin) even after He's put so much into my life that should be bearing good fruit?"

Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not here whining and complaining about my moral failures -- I have enough of them and I badger myself constantly in my Pauline conflict (Romans 7:14 - 8:1). Thus, I don't need any help first tearing myself down and then bringing myself to my knees repenting and seeking grace once again. However, I do wonder how these wild grapes come about in my life.

Is it my inherent, Adamic, original sin nature that produces these grapes?

Is it that I can't find a way to follow the example that Jesus set before me in his 33 years & 4 Gospels of living?

Or maybe, it's that I don't actually allow the vineyard keeper to sow in my life?

Maybe it's the fact that I tend to be like the stony ground -- I have scant soil where roots can go down so that I might actually grow and be able to produce good fruit (Luke 8:4-15). Maybe I always find ways to allow my water supply to get poisoned or tainted, thus making my fruit wild & unedible. Maybe I simply kick the vineyard keeper out of my life at the precise time He's trying to prune me, shape me, mold me, help me. My fruit is wild because it's untamed in all of the wrong ways.

However, this is where I garner a glimpse of hope. I should not be lamenting at my inadequacies (though that could/would/should be a start), but I should be rejoicing in the stunning conclusion that I have failed and I cannot redeem myself, even though I so greatly attempt to do so. I am filled with hope and thankfulness that I have a God, a Redeemer, and a Comforter who are always there to work in me, forgive me, discipline me, and direct me upon a better way -- a way that's not of my design at all. My hope lies in a God who shows me undeserved grace & love and lets me know, day after day, that He knows what's going on so that I don't have to know.

Yes, I might have produced bad fruit at some point, but, if I turn back to my vineyard keeper, He will help me with the pruning and the fertilizing so that my fruit will be good. This will not through my attempts at purifying my soil, but because He's already done the work. Unlike an Israel that chose to face away from God, thus allowing their hedges to be torn down and protection to be taken away, I will remember that I cannot protect or cleanse myself. My inadequacies give me hope because I am inadequate, yet God is not.

"Lord God, help me produce fruit that is worthy of You, not because I'm worthy, but because I want to honor You and Your work in my life. You have invested everything in me, specifically the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I want to bear fruit that is proof of your glorious handiwork, so that people will not see my good works, but Your good work in me. And it's in Jesus Christ's name that I pray this prayer of contrition. Amen."

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