27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Phil 4: 6-9
Mt 21: 33-43
He dug the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted choice vines in it… He expected it to yield grapes, but sour grapes were all that it gave.
When we bought our house in California 3 years ago, part of the attraction was the large plot of land it sat on. Scripture often uses the image of the vineyard to illustrate truths. I discovered that for myself firsthand, turning our pile of dirt into a vineyard.
No one fully explains how much work it is going to be when you start out. I naively assumed my love would be enough. It was not. You need a good team. You need good stewards. And you need God’s help with the weather. Like the reading in Isaiah, A LOT of work happens before you even see a single grape. At every stage, you’re fighting to protect your vines, to keep your dream alive. Animals love the young shoots after they’ve been grafted. Weeds choke out the vines if you don’t keep them in check. Then there’s the drought. The heat. The mildew. The Santa Ana winds. The ants and aphids. There were lots of times when I despaired at the effort and money that had gone into it. By this time, we had sunk in so much, we couldn’t turn back. I was fortunate to have a good team to help me. They had more experience than I did. Without them, I wouldn’t have stayed the course. They found things to be encouraged about and I too, began to share in the small joys of pruning and training the vines, instead of letting the enormity of the work overwhelm me. In our third year, the vines bore their first fruit. It was a wonder. Our bunches were full and plump. They hung in luscious clusters, bending the boughs with their weight. Their juice was deep and sweet. Not all the fruit made it to the harvest. In some spots, for no reason, the fruit shriveled and withered on the vine. And some of the plumpest clusters were stripped from their boughs by raccoons and coyotes. It’s a fairly stressful endeavor if you allow yourself to get sucked in, because you end up caring so much. For 3 years, I fretted, fussed and micromanaged, holding my breath until our first harvest.
Not everyone has the opportunity to grow a vineyard from scratch and witness its evolution. But even if you’re tending to houseplants, the truths and challenges are broadly the same. Seeing the vines go from graft to grape gave me a new understanding for the effort that God has put into us. Like the vines, we are vulnerable and need to be protected at every stage. We are easily choked by the worries of life. We are susceptible to being corrupted by our enemies. We succumb easily to worldly pleasures. We are powerless against life’s storms. And after all that, some of us might still not produce fruit that’s worthy of Him. Still God perseveres, still He is faithful. He shelters us, nurtures us, watches our comings and goings because He cares so much. “I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain”. I never realized the full extent of it, until I had to tend to my own vines.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit to help us navigate the storms of life and our own impulses, so that we can bear fruit that is worthy of Him.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the presence of God in our lives, His guidance, His love and His faithfulness. All things are possible through Him.