27th Sunday: The Vineyard Scenario

Vineyards are one of the most powerful and pervasive symbols in the Bible, with lots of stories involving them variously in both testaments. The vineyard scenario is rich and malleable, with changes able to be rung easily. Today Isaiah’s vineyard song, the psalm snippet, and Jesus’ parable all work off the notion of God as gardener/vintner, laboring with high hopes, but then disappointed with "our" response. Disappointment turns to anger and vindictiveness, and the owner dismantles his work, breaking it apart with the same energy he used to build it, abandoning, evicting or destroying the tenants. In the language of nonviolent negotiation, God/the gardener would be asked to identify and articulate his own need before lashing out to accuse and scold. Sitting back in his chair, God might, after a pause to reflect, quote the Song of Songs on the vineyard and say that what he really feels is sadness that we are not able to share in that aspect of vineyard relatedness. Or Jesus, anticipating his eve-of-arrest reflection, might say how much the vine wants to have all its branches, will miss them if they lop themselves off. As hearers of these three stories, we might be asked to ponder our own need and tendency to be unco-operative vines or grapes. We might attempt to answer for ancient Israel, at whom these stories are directed; but we would be redirected to speak for ourselves: What prevents us from joyously choosing to hang out in the vineyard, to thrive on all that is offered there? If Jesus showed up in our group (family, community, local congregation, Church), strumming his guitar (after the Isaiah singer) and invited us to sing with him, what verses would emerge--from us, from him, from our companions? Barbara Green, O.P.

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