There is a shell of a half-built hotel on the street where I live. It wears a sign that says, “Coming Soon: Spring 2009.” There are vines and weeds winding and poking through the concrete and steel. Animals have made their homes inside. What was once meant to be a hotel in the middle of the heart of downtown is a canvas for graffiti and decay.
What’s interesting about this building, though, is that it hasn’t been completely abandoned. A developer still owns it and is waiting for the right circumstances to finish construction so it might serve its intended purpose.
Today’s Scripture offers no answers for why the grapes turned out wild in Isaiah’s vineyard song, but there is a consequence. The beloved is still speaking, and he describes what will happen to the carefully built, perfectly prepared vineyard. The beloved will stop protecting, stop tending, and nature will run its course. There will be no pruning, no hoeing, no walls for protection, and no rain for sustenance.
It’s interesting that the beloved does not actively harm the vines. Instead, he’s passive. He removes his protection and ongoing care and lets things play out as they will.
Is the beloved’s response too harsh? I don’t think so. It’s difficult to read and consider, but I see a glimmer of hope. He lets it lay waste, but he doesn’t abandon it. He takes the time to tell the story of the vineyard to the people who need to hear it.
Has there been a time in your life when it felt like everything was falling into ruin? Could you sense the presence of the beloved even in the midst of it? How?
God, help us be people who listen closely when you speak, even when what we hear is confusing or hard to receive. Amen.