The first reading that we heard from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is often called the Song of the Vineyard. In another way, some authors call it the love song of the Vineyard. Now that strikes me as a little odd in that the owner has fallen in love with the piece of land. A little strange, but hey, who am I?
I don’t judge anyone, but it really is truly a love song, as is the song we just heard. And in many ways, the gospel reading. Now, it strikes me, though, at the end of the first reading that it’s not so much a love song as it is a revenge song. Now notice the vineyard owner who has fallen in love with the soil and the vines and the wall gets angry, the love goes sour.
So what does he do? He destroys it all. He gets his revenge. Now, this may sound strange, but it made me think of the popular Carrie Underwood song. Now just consider the refrain of that song. I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up four wheel drive, carved my name into his leather seats. I took the Louisville Slugger to headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires.
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats. Now, ladies, how many of you agree with the lyrics of this song? No one is going to admit to it. How many of us prefer a good revenge song to a good love song? Revenge is much more interesting, but would we want God to prefer a love song or a revenge song?
It’s very interesting that the first reading that we heard today really does ask us to consider how it is that we accept or reject love, how it is that we allow ourselves to be nourished or not nourished by the Lord. And for us, that really means that it’s all about the quality of our prayer. How is it that we come before the Lord in all of those virtues that Saint Paul talks about in our second reading?
Do we come to prayer with truth in our hearts, with honor, with purity, with love? Are we gratia so that our prayer is worthy of the praise of God in gratitude for everything that we’ve learned and have been given? And does the peace of God fill our hearts? Now, granted, the love song of the Vineyard is a bit on the unconventional side when it comes to love.
Gone back. It’s about someone who doesn’t understand the quality of prayer, the quality of nurturing, of patience. All he knows is that when he went to pick the fruit, it wasn’t sweet. So what does he do? He takes his revenge. How many of us go to revenge before we go to prayer? How many of us, when we feel that we have been wronged or slighted or insult goes to vengeance before mercy?
There is the issue. This poor landowner is really beside himself. The vineyard that he loves in his mind has betrayed him. He’s filled with grief. He’s outraged. He’s frustrated. All of his hopes have been dashed. So what does he do? He tramples on everything. Well, how many of us have ever been outraged? How many of us have ever been frustrated?
How many of us have had our hopes dashed? And so we just become destructive, either ourselves or those around us. Now, what is really interesting is this landowner throws away his tools. He ruins the land. He is bitter. He asks that even the rain stop. And actually, for us, that might be a good idea. And he simply acts up despair.
The despair that Isaiah describes is one of anguish. Now, if God is the vineyard owner and we are the vineyard that has gone bad, do we want God to throw away the tools? Do we want God to utterly destroy that which he loved awfully? We are saying, no, that is not what we want. What we want is what we hear in Psalm 80.
The psalm that we heard this morning, that truly it is in safety that our God addresses and redressed is his vineyard. God cares for the vine in good times and in bad times and in some 80. God does not abandon the community. That is again, the story that Jesus tells in today’s gospel. This time, his audience are those who have abandoned the vineyard.
His audience is those leaders who should know better but who don’t. When we hear the parable of the vineyard owners, some of us may feel relief when Jesus tells the story that it is the religious leaders who are thrown out. Thank goodness I’m not one of them. He blames somebody else. How many of us are good at blaming somebody else?
But really, it’s all of us. We are the vineyard. We are in charge of caring for the vines. We have the responsibility to proclaim the gospel. We are the ones who will inherit the riches of the kingdom if the harvest goes sour and is not delivered. Whose fault is it? Could it be all of our fault? So the song really does end on a rather sad note.
It’s that we all are responsible. The kingdom will be removed from all of us and given to better attendance. It happened before. It could happen again. That’s why we need to look to the quality of our prayer. Is our prayer filled with all that Jesus hopes for us? Is our proclamation of the Gospel all that it should be?
And do we live lives worthy of the baptismal vocation we have been given? And as we gather for the Eucharist, do we always give praise and glory in Thanksgiving for the great gift of the Lord that we have been given? Or do we take it for granted? Do we, in the words of Carrie Underwood, cheat? Well, whether we’re talking about the love song of the Vineyard or the great love song of some or the parable that the Lord gives us, let us remember the words of Saint Paul.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious. If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Let us pray that the peoples of Palestine in Israel will remember these words this day that the vineyard given to them will not be destroyed by war, and that all of us who will inherit the Kingdom of God will do so in love and prayer. And at the end. Let us also remember the words of Carrie Underwood, because as I dug my key into the side of this pretty little souped up four wheel drive, carved my name unto its leather seats, I took a little Louisville Slugger to both headlights, lashed a hole in all four tires.
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats. Maybe next time will thing about the quality of our prayer and how we nurture the vineyard before we cheat on Christ Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.