9th Sunday after Trinity - 14th August [Proper 15]
Readings – Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:1-2, 89-19, Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56
This week’s readings challenge us beyond our comfort zones. How do we balance our lives so as to live faithfully and with integrity? To what extent might Jesus be disappointed and frustrated by our lack of understanding of his work and purpose in the world? How might we pick up the pieces of the shattered dream and use them to build a better world?
Isaiah, in our Old Testament reading continues the theme of God’s sustaining love. The poem begins with a statement of love and tenderness toward the beloved who has a vineyard on a very fertile hill, and finishes with a shattered dream. God dreamed of Justice but instead got bloodshed.
This reading is full of regret, disappointment and unrealised dreams and expectations. The gardener looks lovingly at the vineyard. The vineyard is a metaphor for the house of Israel and the vines are the people of Judah. Despite the efforts of the gardener, who does everything to ensure a good crop, the vines yield wild grapes. The gardener abandons the vineyard, the walls are broken down and the vineyard is left vulnerable to attack. The dream is shattered and the gardener weeps.
The Hebrews reading continues with the list of faithful people who persisted against great odds and, motivated by faith, did great things. These verses were written to encourage those whose dreams are shattered and in danger of giving up their faith. When dreams are shattered and fear and discouragement stand in our way, it is difficult to remain faithful, act justly and love tenderly.
The passage concludes with an exhortation to keep our eye focused on the faith of Jesus “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” who endured great suffering, but also experiences the sustaining power of God who stood with him, wept with him and hoped with him. We are invited to keep our dream alive, to run the race, and stay strong in Christ.
Today’s gospel, indeed the whole of Chapter 12, is impossible to understand if we read it literally or out of context. In Luke 2:34-35, when Jesus is taken to the temple as a tiny baby, it is prophesied that he will be a sign among the people of Israel that will create division, tension and opposition.
Jesus shatters the disciples’ dream. His ministry confronts and disturbs, and the promise of peace becomes the threat of division. Jesus’ way is not easy, it requires us to be single hearted and to challenge the status quo. We can sense the urgency on Jesus’ part. Luke places the text in one of the chapters that describe Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and crucifixion, and we sense Jesus’ disappointment and frustration at the disciples’ lack of understanding. They pay attention to the signs of the weather, but they do not give the same attention to the changes that are coming upon their own lives and the world. So, we need to remember that the whole of Chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel [eleven short individual lessons in all] are for the disciples - and us.
A hymn for the week – Fight the good fight with all thy might, [R&S 496]