But Why?

Homily – Sunday, the 14th August 2022

Reading: Isaiah 5:1-10

What more should I have done to my beloved than was already done?

But why?

Why is life behaving the way it does to me?

These are two questions we often hear around us as people face tough realities of life

Sometimes these are questions that reverberate in our lives too.

Isaiah is talking about a love song. The beloved sings this song to the dear one.

The ups and downs in the love story between God and God’s people is an interesting read in the Scriptures.

Here is an ebb point – a low point- that Isaiah is addressing

The expectation of God the lover is shattering

I expected justice to roll down like a river and righteousness like and ever flowing stream but alas I see bloodshed and hear cries all around

Yes, when we look around us today

We continue to see violence and blood shed

Instead of de-escalating conflicts strategic players are fanning the fire to ensure the weapons they make continue to get market.

Open our eyes- we see blood-shed

Violence sometimes has no visible expressions of blood

But there are several people who face violence from within and from without

The smell of blood is filling the air

If we are able to open our ears- we can hear the cries

The groaning of nature

The weeping of victims of violence and abuse

The abandoned children

The generations whose childhood is being stolen from them due to conflicts

The sobbing of the broken people

The sound of crying is filling the air

We must also not forget that sometimes the pews are full of people who cry

We might not see those tears

But there are shattered people- They are Us

That makes this text as relevant to us today as in the days of Isaiah

The Efforts to Cherish Love

The Beloved narrates what was done to the vineyard

  1. The most fertile hill was chosen- There are different types of soil, sandy, clay, silt but it is believed that the best for agriculture is loamy soil. Fertility is the characteristic of the soil to sustain plant growth and optimise yield. Absence of toxic substances that inhibit plant growth and enough depth for roots to spread out and retain water would be ideal. Presence of plant nutrients and microorganisms would be something that you would look for. The chemical, physical and biological conditions are all equally important.
  2. The ground was dug- Digging aerates the soil and improves root penetration. It improves the nutrient content available for the plant. Mirco-organisms finds the air required for metabolism. Though the no dig school claims its own advantages most people prefer digging preparing the ground for a good yield and to ensure that plant growth Is not stunted.
  3. The stones were cleared- though debated stones could be a hinderance in the growth of the plant in its fullness. The alkaline nature of stones does not complement the acidic nature of the soil. Stones could be potential injury hazard given its projectile nature with sharp edges. They could retain heat more that would be required for the soil for a congenial ambience for growth.
  4. The choicest vine was planted- There of course are different variants of good vine plants and in any choice available several factors decide on which best suits for each region. You do quite a lot of research on the topography, the soil texture, the weather, the type of vine that would yield best in the context and then go ahead and plant the best vine that was available.
  5. The hedge was strengthened- The importance of the hedge could be best ascertained by reading further in the text what happens without a hedge. When hedges are removed the field shall be devoured.
    When walls are broken down it shall be trampled upon
    It shall then lie waste, not pruned or hoed
    It shall be overgrown with briers and thorns
  6. The watch-tower was built. The “shamera” or the watchtower was part of agricultural vineyards wherein the farmer or in some cases the entire family stayed during the harvest watching over the horizons to protect the harvest from robbers or even the wild animals. Sometimes it was two storeyed with the storage of the harvest expected in the lower floor and the watching over in the upper floor. We are also told because of the toxicity that dogs have for grapes they could not really engage watch dogs without caution.
  7. The vine wat was hewed- Vat is a large container, used for storing liquids and is essentially used for the making of the wine. The process of making of the wine from grapes to the glass is a very interesting one. Vat was originally the crusher used to crush the grapes before the process of fermentation. So when you hew the vat before the harvest that is a symbol of great expectations of the yield.

This is what happens in each of the love story

  1. You chose the best locale- most suited locale for love to flourish- But Why?
  2. You sweated it out on the soil- Yes we did dig the ground hard. But Why?
  3. You handled obstacles mostly by clearing them- Yes quite many stones were taken off the way. But Why?
  4. You opted for the best to invest in- Yes we did not compromise on getting the choicest. But Why?
  5. You set your boundaries – Yes the hedges and boundary lines of life were well demarcated. Or was it? But Why?
  6. You foresaw possible threats- Look at our investments, insurances- But Why?
  7. You dreamt about returns – Yes the wine vat was hewed with lot of expectations and dreams. But Why?

The Expectation and the Experience

Having put so much of effort it is natural that the lover Expected choicest grapes but what you got was wild grapes

Wild grapes would have been anyway there without any of the efforts that you took

It is not a critic of the wild grapes but rather a deep sorrow at the experience not meeting expectations

Do we face that in our lives?

A mismatch between experience and expectations

Sometimes across the years this gap becomes more and more wide and unless you address the same could have impacts that we would never have imagined

The underlying question is

But why then all these efforts

Why then all these investments.

But Why?

Let us ask the question again

What happens when the hedges are affected

The Psalmist says

that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

The wild boar out of the wood tears it off, 

and all the insects of the field devour it.

The story of several such where the hedges were not proper is depicted thereafter

When hedges are removed the field shall be devoured

When walls are broken down it shall be trampled upon

It shall then lie waste, not pruned or hoed

It shall be overgrown with briers and thorns

Clouds refuse to rain upon it.

And

Why is the story of the love story mentioned herein

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;
righteousness, but heard a cry!

The prophet is called to stand on the gap

The prophet is called to initiate a bridging of the gap before it is too late for that

The Emancipation that is Hoped for

And the prayer to which Isaiah is leading the people too is the refrain we used in Psalm 80:20

Restore us, Lord God Almighty, Make your face shine upon us, that

we may be saved

Restore Us Again O Lord

Turn Us to You Again O Lord

Since we are moving away from you

Your face is not shining upon us

O Lord

Make your face to shine upon us

Lord Save Us

From the plight and predicament we have walked ourselves into

Isaiah was clear that

Ah, you who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of their rights!

Life cannot go on for long like this

The Prophet predicts the exile

The Good news is that we believe in a God of second chances

A God who is compassionate and forgiving

A God who is full of love- Yes love that covers the multitudes of sins

Yes we believe in Jesus Christ who invites

Come: All who are weak and heavy laden

I will give you a new beginning

Restoration is all about the new beginnings

Vinod Victor

August 14, 2022

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