Isaiah is another of the prophets in the Bible and shares with us today a story designed to help us understand about God. Our story in Isaiah today begins with a song about a vineyard. It is a song that is a metaphor, a way of describing things in ways we can understand, in this case Isaiah is describing God. And Isaiah is describing us.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/327290-seasons-of-hope.mp3]
Now metaphors that describe God will always fall short for no single thing in our human understanding can completely describe the fullness of God. Still, Isaiah has a pretty decent partial description that we can get our heads around.
He begins with a love song, singing about the amazing things God is doing with the vineyard. God is planting the best vines in the best dirt and has a watchtower built to keep an eye on things. God has put the very best into this vineyard.
But before we get too comfortable with the story being a happily ever after story, things take a turn and not for the best. It is as if our sweet lullaby has transitioned, very quickly, into a heavy metal song. What was all sweet grapes ready for harvest has turned into wild grapes. What was all sweetness and light has turned into judgment and lament.
We get how it works with gardens and vineyards. We know that right now is the time that harvest is pretty much over and the grass turns brown and leaves fall. The hours of daylight continue to shorten and we know that now is the time to put gardens to bed for what feels like what will be a cold, dark winter.
But even as we lament the garden going dormant we still look forward with hope to the return to life in the spring.
Living has it’s seasons, too. We know that there are times when things don’t seem like they’re going so well. We know there are times when we are broken and afraid and living feels cold and dark. We know there are times when we are feeling like our mistakes will overtake us much like briers and thorns overtake the vineyard in today’s story.
But even as we lament the downturns of our lives, we still look forward with hope to the return of living in the spring.
Life has it’s seasons, too. We know there will be times when we slow down. We know there will be times that what God has planted will often be short lived. And we know there will be a time for each of us where this life on earth will cease to be.
But even as we lament the idea of the end of our lives, we still look forward with hope to the return to life, our life, in the resurrection.
That’s where Isaiah goes in the 11th chapter. The setup happens rather depressingly in chapter 5, rather honestly and real but with a cold and dark feel to it for all its honesty and reality. God has planted a beautiful vineyard in us but we have gone wild, we have gone rogue, we have gone our own way. And the vineyard has withered away into nothingness, we have withered away into nothingness.
But something new is coming on the scene. God is not finished with us yet and even from our withered nothingness God can make something new.
Isaiah describes this as he continues his use of metaphor when he describes a shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was King David’s father and an ancestor of Jesus. Something new is coming on the scene and it is coming from the family line of Jesse.
There is one coming that will make all things new. Isaiah is foreshadowing the hope that will come when Jesus comes to the world. Isaiah doesn’t know who Jesus is or will be so he isn’t predicting the future but Isaiah knows there is reason to hope. Hope that God will make all things new again.
Hope that after a long, dark winter there will return a springtime. Hope that after being broken and afraid there will be a return to life. Hope that after death overtakes us there will be a resurrection.
We have that same hope. Our hope is in Christ Jesus. What God has planted and we have destroyed, God in Christ will bring forth newness of life.
We’re getting ready to begin our preparations for Christmas in the season of Advent and we’re starting to hear words that lead us toward hope. We’re hearing about a shoot from the stump of Jesse coming to us and that shoot will be Jesus.
One will be coming who has the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. One will be coming who shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
That’s pretty good news for us today and we need some good news. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by winter coming on, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the brokenness we hear and see and it is easy to be overwhelmed by a fear of death. We are led toward being overcome with fear because that is apparently more interesting than the larger truth in Christ Jesus that surrounds us.
Christ Jesus surrounding us is something to hold onto because Christ sometimes asks that we do things that we’re afraid to do. You’ve heard me say many times that we’re called to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the prisoner.
I won’t say I was afraid the first time I went into a prison to visit the prisoner but neither was I exactly calm. I remember very clearly the sound of the gate closing behind me. And then I went to hang out with people who were criminals and were in prison because they’d done bad things. Some had done very bad things. Fortunately for me, I did what I’d been called to do even thought it was a scary thing. Called by Christ to visit the prisoner.
When we follow Christ’s call we bring hope and we experience hope. We all need a word of hope. Hope that after a long, dark winter there will return a springtime. Hope that after being broken and afraid there will be a return to life. Hope that after death overtakes us there will be a resurrection.
Hope that Christ the King will be coming again.