WBB: Jesus, Justice, and Vineyards

Vineyards, Justice and Jesus

Cultural discourse totally hangs on allusion and reference. You know what I mean. You can’t watch any episode of  The Simpson’s without picking up the references to other cultural products – whether they be other television shows, cultural stereotypes, music, art, sports, or politics. Now, of course, you don’t always pick up all the references every time you watch The Simpson’s or go to the movies or listen to a new song on the radio. And not all cultural products are created equal. Some are hopelessly flat. What you see is what you get and you aren’t getting very much.

Kind of like the difference between ABBA and Dylan. Okay, that is too close to home for some of you. How about the difference between Britney Spears and Joni Mitchell?

And it seems to me (in this little email that is starting to sound like an essay!) that the richer the allusions and references, the deeper the cultural product is. That’s why The Simpson’s is great television.

Well, Jesus knew all about allusion. He goes up a mountain to teach a new way, a new Kingdom, and everyone thinks of Moses at Mount Sinai. He feeds the multitudes in the wilderness and everyone thinks of the exodus and sustenance in the wilderness. He walks into the Temple and throws the furniture around and everyone thinks of Jeremiah’s temple sermon (Jesus actually quotes that sermon during his rage).

In all four gospels, Jesus makes reference to a vineyard. And just as  you couldn’t tell a story today with a wolf and a little girl in it and not catch the reference to Little Red Riding Hood, so also everyone who knew anything about Israel’s faith would remember Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard. Just say “vineyard” and the allusions immediately will come to mind.

And it is a vineyard that does not produce what was expected of it. Isaiah’s parable ends this way:

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry. (Is. 5.7)

There is actually a wonderful pun here. He expected mishpat (justice) but found mispah (bloodshed), he looked for tsedeqah (righteousness) but heard tse’aqah (a cry).

Jesus tells a story of a vineyard where there is neither justice nor righteousness but only bloodshed and the cry of the oppressed.

The tenants of the vineyard lose their tenancy, lose their stewardship because of that bloodshed and those cries.

Perhaps a cautionary tale during an election where the bloodshed of war, the violence of our culture and the cry of the oppressed are decidedly not on the agenda.

Tomorrow Scott Flemming opens up this parable for us,
Deb Whalen and the band will get some help from Radiohead and Bob Marley,
Joyce Mak has crafted the prayers,
and David Neelands will pour the wine of justice, not the bitter wine of oppression.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday @ 7.22am,
Wycliffe College Chapel

Remember, this is a community of hospitality. Bring your friends.

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