August 14, 2016-Proper 15 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

August 11, 2016 | by Benjamin Cowan

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Reading 4 Reading 1 Alt Reading 2 Alt
Isaiah 5:1-7 Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 Hebrews 11:29-12:2 Luke 12:49-56 Jeremiah 23:23-29 Psalm 82

Isaiah 5:1-7

In this text, God describes how God planted the perfect vineyard–Israel. The rocks and hills in Israel made this task difficult. A person cultivating such a terrain has to be mindful of two things: preventing soil erosion and preventing water drainage. Yet, despite God’s care, things did not go well. The vineyard produced wild grapes, the opposite of what should have occurred based on God cultivating the vineyard. Instead of a source of food and wine, poisonous and useless berries grew. This served as an analogy for what was happening in Israel. God, like a parent, had attempted to raise Israel to achieve it’s fullest, but despite this the care and love, Israel choose a difference path. Instead of embracing the call to righteousness—love of God and neighbor, they choose the path of pride, selfishness, and willful oppression of the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God informs Israel as a result of them neglecting the weak and God, they would experience negative consequences.

Like anyone who is a pastor, parent, teacher, coach or mentor, this text is a reminder that despite all the good effort one can put into helping others and societies achieve the best possible outcome in a situation, choice exits. Individuals and societies can positively apprehend things or negatively apprehend resulting in positive or negative consequences based upon choice. Pastors, leaders, mentors and parents cannot control the future but hope for the best. The text reminds us that the future is in the hands of decisions that people are free to make.

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19

The Psalm echoes the theme of the vineyard found in the Isaiah passage. The psalmist acknowledges that God is the one who cultivates the vineyard of Israel. As such, the psalmist petitions God for help in the midst of chaos of the nation of Israel. This psalm is a reminder that not only do actions have consequences, but in the midst of those consequences God is merciful. Let us pray like the psalmist for mercy.

Alternative Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-29

The alternative passage in Jeremiah is a reminder of not only the closeness of God but the truthfulness of God’s word. God is honest with God’s people. In the context of this passage, prophets have given the nation of Israel a false hope about their current situation, flattering them with what they want to hear versus facing the truth of the present. It is often a common thing in our society to ignore the truth. Some claim that racism does not exist, despite the testimonies of others to the contrary and documentation of it. Others ignore the reality of the damage that humans have caused to the environment. Though many are always willing to tell a crowd what they want to hear, it is the call of the ministry and Christians to be like Jeremiah, declaring the truth in love.

Alternative Reading: Psalm 82

In this psalm, the author calls God to action against injustice–to take up the cause of the poor, the orphan and the widow. The psalmist identifies God as the hope of the oppressed. Like the psalmist, let us pray for God’s action against injustice wherever it is. Let us pray for those who are still in slavery, for the lack of care elderly, that a nation can understand that Black Lives Matter, and for the poor who are denied access to quality education.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

The author of Hebrews provides a brief accounting of individuals who have stayed the course in their devotion to God. The author provides honest accounting of what it means to follow God and Jesus– while some accomplished many great deeds and saw miracles, others endured suffering, torture, horror, pain, and death. The point of the author though is to remind the audience that these stories are part of their own history. Today we can prehend the qualities of our spiritual ancestors and go forward in faith!

 Luke 12:49-56

In the gospel reading, Jesus describes the effect that his message will have on the people, it will bring division. Like the alternative reading of Jeremiah, the truth of Jesus’ words are not going to make people happy. Just as Isiah described the results of the vineyard, the words of Jesus is going to cause some to reveal that they are truly not grapes of the vineyard. Jesus’ chastises the crowd for not discerning the times. In other words, they failed, like with Jeremiah, to understand that his words where coming from God. Instead, the people are content to believe lies.