I am soooooo behind this week! It’s so silly – all I need to do is copy and paste! Anyway, I have some fun photos to share later, too. Here’s my sermon from World Communion Sunday.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 5, 2014
God Does Not Give Up On Justice
Every year Bruce and I plant a vegetable garden at our house.
We usually have high hopes for this garden. When the snow finally melts in March and April, we till the ground and prepare the soil for planting. We put up the fence and start mapping out where everything will go. We buy seeds and start seedlings – and then eventually give up on the seedlings and go and buy plants. We plant and we water and eventually we weed. We wait patiently (and sometimes impatiently) for vegetables to grow.
In a perfect world, our garden would flourish. All of our plants would grow and yield vegetables, we would harvest those vegetables in a timely manner and we would eat farm-to-table meals all summer. The weeds would stay under control and no woodland creatures would help themselves to a snack.
Well, this is not a perfect world.
The reality is much less glamorous. Weeds grow. Animals chow down. Certain plant wilt and die. Mosquitos make it impossible to work at certain times of day. Snakes slither past us when we least expect them and cause us to run into the house screaming (okay, me more so than Bruce). Eventually we just completely lose control and yell at the garden, saying that it is a lost cause, protest any kind of weeding because we doubt it will help, let everything die and start making plans for next year.
We really have it down to a science.
In this morning’s reading, the prophet Isaiah compares the people of Israel – the world that God created – to a garden gone wrong.
Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vine; 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.
People often tell me that they do not like reading the Old Testament because there is too much violence in it and because God does not seem to be a God of love, but a God of anger and punishment. The Old Testament reminds us of some of the harsh realities of the world that we live in; that human beings make mistakes, that tragedies happen and that war sometimes prevails over peace.
Passages like these are very difficult to preach on. God is not speaking gently of his children. In fact, we hear a tone of frustration and vengeance that is quite powerful.
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.
We do not like to see this side of God. We want to believe that God never loses his patience with us, never gets frustrated with us and never gives up on us. We want to believe that no matter what we do that God will always, always forgive us.
I will not lie – this passage can be hard to read; because we – we, as human beings, we as a human race – are the vineyard. And it appears that God is saying that he has lost control, is disappointed and has given up.
But here is the thing: God does not give up. The resurrection is proof of this.
History has proven time and time again that God does not give up on us. Our faith is rooted strongly in that moment when a tomb was found empty, proving that with God, there are no lost causes. We are people of the resurrection and being a living expression of this Good News means knowing that even when all hope seems gone, that God is still there.
This morning we welcomed new members into our church community. The funny thing about church membership – at least here – is that there really are no strings attached. We want church members to be involved at a level they are comfortable with. We want them to give at a level they are able to. We want them to come when they are able to.
God has much higher expectations of us.
He expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!
This is what God wants our world to look like. God does not long for us to agree to disagree or to believe that compromises come when one side of the war is wone. God longs for justice. God longs for righteousness. This is what God wants to see flourish within us and throughout the world. This is who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to.
But in the same way that God does not give up on us, I truly believe that God does not give up on justice. And that God does not give up on righteousness.
World Communion Sunday is such a wonderful time to read this passage and be reminded of the fact that God is calling us to be tangible witnesses of the Gospel here on earth. We are called to demand justice; we are called to demand righteousness.
And today, as we stand in covenant with our Christian brothers and sisters around the world and share a meal that both nourishes and unites us, we do so as bringers of justice and righteousness. We stand as a bold proclamation that we welcome all to the table. We stand in confidence that peace is more than a promise. And we stand in the hope that we can learn more from those who are different by building bridges that unite us and not walls that divide us.
Bruce and I never give up on our vegetable garden. Every year, we till the soil and plant the seeds and wait with hope and anticipation of great things to come.
God is doing this in our midst today. God is planting seeds, preparing soil and delivering nourishment. No matter what we have done in our lives – no matter where our journeys have taken us up until this point – God is ready to make us ambassadors in this world.
Because as crazy as the world can be at times – and as depressing as the news tends to be – God has not given up on justice.
And we should not either.
Let us – children of God, ambassadors of Christ and ministers of justice and righteousness – let God speak to us and through us today. Let us never forget that God will walk along side of us every step of this journey.
And let us not lose hope that one day God’s vineyard will flourish – and justice and righteousness will prevail on earth.
Thanks be to God!