A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Prayers of the People: Grape Expectations, 19th Sunday after Pentecost ’23 Yr A

Sunday, October 8, 2023; Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46

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 expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. [Isaiah 5:1b-2]

Restore us, O God of Hosts…you have brought a vine out of Egypt…You prepared the ground for it…look down from heaven; behold and tend this vine, preserve what your right hand has planted. [Psalm 80:7a, 9a, 14b]

…in order that I may gain Christ and be found it him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteous from God based on faith. [Philippians 3:8b-9]

Jesus said [to the Chief Priests and the Elders]…There was a landowner who planted a vineyard…Then he leased it to tenants…the harvest had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce…the tenants seized the slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another… When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do? They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death…” Jesus said to them…,“Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you…” …the Chief Priests and the Pharisees…realized that he was speaking about them… [Matthew 21:33a,b; 34-35, 40-41, 45] 

   The Gospel this week is back in the now infamous Vineyard. This time Jesus tells us a parable about the tenants who are running the place and trounce the owner's representatives who come to collect the owner's share of the produce. One was beaten, one was stoned, and another killed. Another group was sent and were treated the same way. Finally the owner sent his son, believing that, as things are meant to go, his son would be treated with all due respect. But even the son was killed so the tenants could "get his inheritance." [Mt 21:38b] At first glance, I can't help wondering if some of these tenants had been the disgruntled workers of the previous vineyard parable who worked longer hours for the same pay as those who worked fewer. 
   At second glance, I feel as if I'm reading a headline about a local, national, or even international situation. The violence of sudden flash-mobs tearing up urban and suburban shopping areas in this country. The epidemic of school shooting tragedies, murders based on racism, gender identity, sexual orientation, and politically fueled rage. Too many drivers act as if entitled to make the roads as perilous as sitting on a railroad track with an oncoming train, and so much more. The headlines on air, online, and in print tell us that “Life” is getting meaner by the moment, as we watch here and abroad to see that, not unlike in Jesus' own time, brutality is the tool of cowards who know no other way to express the fear of their own impotence.
   And then there's the third glance, Jesus is giving a local lesson to the disciples about what is happening then, what is to come, and the ever-watching Pharisees unhappily get the picture about who's who and what's what in this parable. And as they should ~ and do ~ know, God is pretty clear in The Law about how we are to behave ourselves and toward one another.    
   In the first reading, Isaiah opens with a love-song to his beloved and the vineyard with much of the same description of preparation Jesus is using, imagine! In this case, after all the work to dig, and clear, and plant, Isaiah says he expected it to yield grapes. Of course! However, it yielded wild grapes. After doing a little digging myself, there are many sites online telling which wild grapes are edible and which are not. Clearly, Beloved wasn’t happy with the results of his hard work. The vineyard is a reference to the House of Israel. The vine the Psalmist refers to has failed the Lord’s expectations and despite all the work and planning for it to flourish, it denied its roots. And just as clearly a parable as is the one from Jesus, the audience of Isaiah knew as well as the Chief Priests and Pharisees to whom Beloved was talking.
    But Paul tells us in Philippians:  ...this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:13b-14] We may not be able to make the world less mean, but we can each add more Christ-meaning to the world. And, we now have easier ways to meet our grape expectations!


Leader:  ~ Beloved God, our Master Planter, we, Your humble tenants, often lose sight of our temporal presence on this fragile Earth, our island home. As we strive to accumulate more, our actions seem to show that we value the gifts of Your hands ever less. Grant us the care and consciousness to recognize our call to produce the good fruits of  Your kingdom and give to others as You have given to us.

                                   O God of Hosts
   RESPONSE:      Restore us, Receive us, and Confirm our Faith                                           
~ Beloved God, our Master Planter, climate issues, war, violence in our streets, and severe poverty all surround us. Let us raise our voices to be heard in the halls of the political leaders in our world, our country, and our community, for significant action on and for this planet and for all of Your people. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

        O God of Hosts
                               Restore us, Receive us, and Confirm our Faith

~ Beloved God, our Master Planter, in Your mercy, enfold those wracked with pain of disease, the anxiety of mental illness, and the throes of addiction. Grant extra energy and compassion to all of their care-givers. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

      O God of Hosts
                             Restore us, Receive us, and Confirm our Faith

~ Beloved God, our Master Planter, lighten the burden of those whose hearts are heavy with grief. Give us the peace to replace dirges with comfort in knowing that those we love are welcomed into the glory of You, our Living, Loving God. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

      O God of Hosts
                             Restore us, Receive us, and Confirm our Faith

~ Beloved God, our Master Planter, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt intentions and petitions, silently or aloud…

      O God of Hosts
                             Restore us, Receive us, and Confirm our Faith

~ Beloved God, our Master Planter, our prayers ascend especially for those ordained and steadfast in their life mission to help us find our way to You. With Your grace and their prayer-filled guidance, we share this hope-filled journey together. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

      O God of Hosts
                             Restore us, Receive us, and Confirm our Faith

The Celebrant adds: O God in Christ Jesus, You are the Cornerstone of our life and faith. Grant us the courage to live the life You have given us to live, by working consciously and continuously in whatever ways we have, toward the abundance in health and spirit for all. We make our humble supplication to the Son who was slain yet lives again, and the Spirit who breathes holy life into our souls, together with You, as one God, in the timelessness of Your Eternal Kingdom. Amen.

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