27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle A

1ST READING – ISAIAH 5:1-7

Isaiah realized that God cares for us His people like a precious vine: He cultivates us, cares for us, prunes us, nurtures us, waters us and removes the stones from our hearts.  He expects us to grow, to bloom, to produce a good harvest.  Why is the Lord angry with His people?

Those darn Israelites never seem to get it right.  Can you relate?  Do you ever feel like you try so hard and yet can’t seem to get it together?  Sometimes children work hard on an assignment and end up crumpling it up because of their frustration.  We hear the frustration in God’s voice through Isaiah.  This harsh love language can be difficult because of the strong emotion.  But in the end, God stays with the Israelites through their trials.

Some thoughts from Harold Kushner in How Good Do We Have to Be?:  “…if we cannot love imperfect people, if we cannot forgive them for their exasperating faults, we will condemn ourselves to a life of loneliness, because imperfect people are the only kind we will ever find,” (p. 111).  “Being human can never mean being perfect, but it should always mean struggling to be as good as we can and never letting our failures be a reason for giving up the struggle,” (p. 174).

2ND READING – PHILIPPIANS 4: 6-9

Paul encouraged his Philippian brothers and sisters and urged tenacity in prayer.  Worry drains us of energy and hope.  Not that he was suggesting a Pollyannaish approach to life either.  Paul knew how hard life was.  There was a large military presence in the area, and the Gentile Christians also had a difficult time dealing with the Jewish Christians.  “What is the right thing to do?” was a constant question.  So Paul says pray, and will peace will be given.  Do you experience this in your prayer life?  Even if there is no answer, prayer reminds us of God’s constant presence, and there is solace in that.   Paul also says hold fast to Jesus’ teachings.  Hold on to what is true.  There is peace in that too.  Do you experience this?

THE GOSPEL – MATTHEW 21: 33-43

From Pheme Perkins’ Hearing the Parables of Jesus:

This parable is a striking image of escalating violence in a situation in which the social and legal structures were clearly too weak to deal with what could and did occur among people.  The people who suffer its consequences are very often not the ones who are responsible for the socio-economic causes of the violence.  The people who suffer from it are those who are close at hand and weak enough to appear vulnerable.  Humans may use violence and vengeance to deal with situations of injustice; God will not.  The tenants must turn around, stop their own illegal violence, and give the owner what he is owed.  One must simply continue to pursue the relationship that should exist between oneself and the other party, hoping that the other party will then step into the role defined by that relationship.  God continually appeals to the people to stand in the proper relationship with him, but he will never compel them to do so (p. 192-194).

This parable ends with an image of a cornerstone.  This picture is from Psalm 118:22:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.”  Originally the psalmist meant this as a picture of the nation of Israel.  But Jesus is the foundation stone on which everything is built, and the corner stone which holds everything together.   It may be that people reject Christ, but they will yet find that the Christ whom they rejected is the most important person in the world, (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series:  Mathew Vol 2, p. 264-5).  Jesus is all about seeking relationship and bringing goodness to fruition.  At what lengths will you go to to seek relationship with Jesus and bring good to fruition?

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