It’s striking how today’s Scriptures (Isaiah 5:1-7 and Luke 12:54-56), with their warnings of the coming judgment, resonate with today’s news … from stories of war (and the human struggle for peace)… to stories of climate change (and the planet’s struggle to adjust)… to our own very personal struggles to change ourselves before it’s too late.
In our Gospel reading (Luke 12), Jesus points to signs of coming judgment:
When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. … You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
In our reading from the prophets (Isaiah 5), Isaiah tells the story of a 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. So God asks the people of Israel, Whose fault is the failure of my vineyard? I did everything I could to care for it.
Then God says, 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 waste; 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.
Here’s the end of Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard: Woe to the land barons (greedily buying real estate and developing it); woe to those who keep partying (while the judgment is advancing); woe to those who call evil good, and good evil (they look at their own evil and call it good, and they look at the good of others and call it evil).
In Life Abundant Sallie McFague extends the metaphor of Isaiah’s vineyard to include the whole earth, its land and air, its oceans and growing things, its animals and all its peoples. McFague asks the question: “What are we doing to the earth and its peoples? And where is God in all this?”
Then McFague writes, “Most of us behave lawfully and decently, do our bit for the common good, and often give generously to the needy from our surplus. But at the center of Jesus’ message is the invitation to ‘see differently.’ If we see the world as a place to buy and sell, use and discard, control and possess, we will treat the world differently than if we see the world ‘hidden in God.’
“If we see the world hidden in God, we may come to see ourselves differently. We may also see that we are invited to a different kind of economy. If the world is hidden in God, then we have come from God and we will return to God – and in the meantime we live in the presence of God.
“If we live in God’s presence, then we also live in intimate relationship with all other parts of God’s world. Sin is pretending that we can live outside this reality of interrelationship and interdependence. Sin is living a lie. Sin is refusing to grow into the image of God.”
McFague continues, “The Christian sacred story – that all things have evolved from one Source, and that all things are contained within that Source – is congruent with the ‘big bang’ of contemporary cosmology. But our sacred story also makes a claim about the direction the universe is heading.
“In Jesus, Christians believe they have seen the direction in which the universe is heading… All of creation reflects God, but in Jesus Christians see God’s reflection in an especially illuminating way. For Christians, Jesus is the window into the nature of God, and our life’s goal is to grow into the image of God by following Jesus.”
Here’s how Life Abundant re-tells ‘the Christian sacred story’
(we might call it a new version of the old Creed):
In this sacred story,
humans were created to be with God;
the creation is the pouring out of divine love toward that end;
the incarnation in Christ is the reaffirmation and deepening of that love;
sin and evil are not just individual failings but all the forces – individual, systemic, institutional – that thwart the flourishing of God’s creation;
the resurrection is God’s ‘Yes’ that, in spirit of the overwhelming forces of sin and evil, this shall be so;
becoming ‘Christ-like’ is not just personal salvation but conversion to the struggle for justice;and it is not what we must do or can do, but
what God can and will do through us.
Day after day, as the world struggles, as we struggle, can we hold on to this sacred story?
Whenever we are caught between the world’s news and the Good News, we must ask ourselves what we believe…that is, we must ask ourselves where we put our trust:
- Can we trust that a loving Creator continues to work in us and in our world?
- Can we trust that in Jesus we have seen the direction the universe is heading?
- Can we trust that, through the Holy Spirit we can learn to work together for justice and peace?
A prayer for the future of the human race
O God our heavenly Father,
you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth:
Increase our reverence before the mystery of life;
and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race,
and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future
in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 828)
Preached on August 18, 2013
at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church, Los Osos