A Study for Proper 22
September 29 – October 4, 2014
The Vineyard of God’s People
In the Lessons for this week, we look at evil confidences, which cannot stand under the light of God’s Holy Law. God’s people constitute a vineyard. The Gospel and Old Testament lessons complement each other in the use of a vineyard as a metaphor for God’s people. In both, the vineyard is at fault; in the Gospel, the tenants refuse to render fruit; in the Old Testament, the fruit is wild. In the Epistle lesson, the wild fruit are those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ” and serve as an example of the right kind of fruit Christians produce. Because God’s vineyard is His people, He has the right to ask for proper returns from the vineyard. Both the Old Testament lesson and the Gospel pronounce judgment upon the vineyard for failing to produce the fruit of acknowledging Christ as Lord and the fruit of justice.
Monday, September 29, 2014 – Psalm 118:22-24 - Antiphon, verse 1:“O Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.” – This is a call to praise the Lord. David offers a song of thanksgiving for deliverance and victory. The people rejoice over what the Lord has done. Thereafter, the king speaks his final word of praise (see verse 28). We praise and exalt the Lord because He is mighty to save. This is why He is good – His mercy, His steadfast love endures forever.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 – Psalm 80:7-19 – This week’s Psalm has as the key verse, verse 7. The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is Israel, and the men of Judah are the plant He cherished (Isaiah 5:7). After making a lament over the Lord’s severe punishment of His people the Psalmist looks to the Lord who will vindicate His own as He restores and makes His face shine upon them that they might be saved.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 – Isaiah 5:1-7 God’s people receive judgment for evil fruit. Confidence in violence and bloodshed leads to judgment. In the Old Testament reading, God’s judgment upon His people is shown for their failure to produce proper fruit. The prophet sings a love song to God regarding God’s vineyard, his people. God is his “beloved.” God loves His people. Proof of this love is that God’s vineyard, His possession, is His people. Out of love, God accepts and owns His people. And look what God has done for His people! He has placed a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug the ground, cleared away the stones, and planted it with the best vines. Then He built a watchtower and a wine vat. God is love and He deals lovingly with His people: claiming them as His own, and providing for them by giving them the best of everything to be fruitful.
Thursday, October 2, 2014 – Philippians 3:4b-14 – God’s people strive to be examples worthy of Christ. Confidence in the flesh cannot stand. Forgetting the past, Paul presses on toward the goal of Christ and lives as an example for others. Paul defends himself as a Christian of the first order through the mercies of God. Yet, he does not think he has it “made,” but keeps striving for complete devotion to Christ by becoming one in the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ. Because he imitates Christ, he is able to ask his people to imitate him in both faith and life.
Though we are in the world, we belong to the kingdom of heaven. When Christ returns, He will transform our earthly bodies to spiritual bodies.
Paul uses this phrase “I press on” twice in this passage. It must have been important to him in getting across his plan. He is not idly waiting for perfection to come to him. He is not neutral. He is urgent, pursuing, and energetic in getting to his goal. To become like Christ is a process over a lifetime — ever striving to be like Christ in every area of life. At the same time, Paul would say that God was in him pressing on, working in him. A Christian dare not be content with his life. He is ever seeking to improve it.
Friday, October 3, 2014 – Matthew 21:33-46 – God’s people refuse to return God His due. Confidence in one’s own faith will fail. This is another parable of the kingdom. It is an allegorized parable. The vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders. The servants are the prophets. The son is Jesus. The murder was the cross. Jesus is saying that time after time God has sought to redeem his people through the prophets, but each effort was in vain. In desperation, He sent His Son whom they crucified. This is in accord with the psalmist who says the rejected stone became the cornerstone. The outcome of it is that the religious leaders of Israel will lose the kingdom, which will be given to those who produce the fruit of righteousness. Because of their rejection of Christ, the Jews lost, but the Gentiles gained the kingdom.
The owner has a right to receive fruit from the tenants. People owe something to God. Time after time God comes for His due until finally He makes the ultimate appeal in His Son, Jesus. Rebellious tenants kill the Son in hope of taking over the vineyard. Here can be seen the patience of God, trying repeatedly to get the tenants to respond; here can also be seen the greed of people.
Saturday, October 4, 2014 – Matthew 25:1-13 - Our reading is the inspiration for the hymn, “Rejoice, Rejoice Believers.” The believer rejoices only in Christ. The days are getting shorter, soon the harvest will commence. We pray for the safety of all who work to bring food to our table. We also anticipate a harvest of souls.
As God’s vineyard will be harvested at the end of days so look to Christ the lord of the harvest, the one in whom the believer rejoices.
Collects for Proper 22 – Gracious God, You gave Your Son into the hands of sinful men, who killed Him. Forgive us when we reject Your unfailing love, and grant us the fullness of Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and forever.
O God, whose almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy and pity, grant us the fullness of Your grace that we may be partakers of Your heavenly treasures.
A prayer for Agriculture – You bless the earth to make it fruitful, bring forth in abundance whatever is needed for the support of our lives. Prosper; we pray the work of farmers as they bring food to our table. Grant them seasonable weather that they may gather in the fruit of the earth, and thus proclaim Your goodness with thanksgiving. Cause all people who give thanks over their food to treat those who produce it with honor and respect. May we see by this noble vocation that through them You feed the world.
A prayer before we study the Word – Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without Your help, our labor is useless, and without Your light, our search is in vain. Invigorate the study of Your holy Word that, by due diligence and right discernment, we may establish ourselves and others in Your holy faith.
Lutheran Service Book Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO © 2006
Lutheran Worship Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO © 1980 pg. 83