By Linsey Dettmer
5 I will sing for the One I love a song about His vineyard:
My loved One had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could have been done for My vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? 5 Now I will tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” 7 The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines He delighted in. And He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
In the very beginning God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.
The earth and the sky with all its clouds. The hills, mountains flatlands, rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. It was all very good!
He led his people through the wilderness and for 40 years. He provided for them all they needed, including protection from their enemies. He gave them the Holy Law- of which even atheists say are good rules to live by. In other words, it was very good! He led them to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey- which means it was very good.
Now in our text we see where metaphorically He had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. (He also put a hedge around it.) And it was very good. Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. His people, the chosen ones, the people who would bring forth the Messiah were not thankful; they went against the very ideals God set before them. “(God) looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”
“Now I will tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.”
And so Israel was defeated by her enemies and the people led away into captivity and after the time of Jesus (70AD) the temple was torn down and Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948.
We are however in no position to condemn them for history has repeated itself in this New World. Columbus discovered the New World and claimed it for Spain and for the Church. The early Europeans, including Lutherans came here hoping to spread Christianity. In fact the first book written in the Indian language was the Small Catechism!
Not all the framers of the 13 colonies were devout Christians but most were. Some were Deists and I only read of one atheist among the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson made the statement that every classroom ought to have the Bible as its primary book.
Through Columbus, and the later Europeans God gave us a fertile vineyard along with a hedge and it was very good. But what has happened to it??? Especially in the last 20 years!
As I have said many times, and most of you also, this is not the country I grew up in! The country I knew as a boy and as a young man had most of its citizens claiming to be Christian and a large percentage of them involved in some form of church membership. Most businesses closed on Sundays. In Central Florida where I grew up public school days started with Bible reading and prayer. Profanity was not publically used. Even in Texas where I was a young pastor, graduation came along with a religious baccalaureate. Abortion was illegal; drug abused was almost unheard of. In the Army in my 3 years, there was only one user that I came in contact with. And of course homosexuality was a despised sin. That s all changed!
Isaiah said of his time, “They call good, evil, and evil good.” And I say it of our time. And the Bible says, “Whatever you sow, that shall you also reap.” We can sing, “God bless America, land that I love…” But He has no binding reason to bless us.
Israel is one thing, America is another but you and I are little different. Some of us came into this world and were baptized and brought into the Kingdom of God. Some of us were older. Some of us were confirmed in our early teens. Some of us were older. We promised to live a life worthy of the Gospel. We took our first communion and stood before God at that moment absolved of our sins and placed on the straight and narrow. But how well have we kept that confirmation vow?
And yet we try. That is why we are here this evening. And some of us will be here again on Sunday. And that is why we try to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile and bless those who curse us. That is why we give tithes and offering, not to earn our way into heaven, but to attempt to walk on that straight and narrow way,
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We know that. We know the wages of sin is death- an eternal death that we could only pay by spending our eternity in hell! But that is not what God wanted, for God is love. And in His love- well, how did Jesus put it? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
So in Spirit given gratitude we confess our sins, our faults our shortcomings knowing what St John said, “God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
With that in mind, we claim this hymn as our own.
Dear Master, Yours the glory Of each recovered soul.
Ah, who can tell the story Of love that made us whole?
Not ours, not ours the merit; To You alone the praise!
Give us a thankful spirit To serve You all our days.
Or as Luther put it: “(Jesus) has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness…’ To which we say, “This is most certainly true!” Amen!
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