LESSONS for Sunday, October 4, 2020
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in continual godliness, that through your protection it may be free from all
adversities, and devoutly serve you in good works, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT: Isaiah 5:1-7 The Vineyard of the Lord Destroyed
5 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;[a] I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;[b]for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
PSALM 80: 7-19
7 Restore us again, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be whole.
8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you have cast out the nations and planted it.
9 You made room for it, *
and when it had taken root, it filled the land.
10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it, *
and the boughs thereof were like the mighty cedar trees.
11 It stretched out its branches to the sea *
and its boughs to the river.
12 Why have you broken down its hedge, *
so that all those who go by pluck off its grapes?
13 The wild boar out of the wood roots it up, *
and the wild beasts of the field devour it.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts, look down from heaven; *
behold, and visit this vine,
15 And the place of the vineyard that your right hand has planted, *
and the branch that you made so strong for yourself.
16 As for those who burn it with fire and cut it down, *
let them perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
17 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand *
and upon the son of man, whom you made so strong for yourself.
18 And so we will not turn back from you; *
O let us live, and we shall call upon your Name.
19 Restore us again, O Lord God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be whole.
NEW TESTAMENT: Philippians 3:14-21
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself
GOSPEL: Matthew 21:33-44 The Parable of the Tenants
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants[a] to the tenants to get his fruit.35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”[c]
NOTES for GOING DEEPER
ISAIAH 5:1–7 The parable
This is a little masterpiece. Its opening, as a love song, catches the ear and the imagination; the vineyard, like the walled garden and orchard in the Song of Solomon (e.g. Song 4:12–15), will surely speak of a bride and her beauty, guarded for the bridegroom. But the listeners are brought up short by the anticlimax and the appeal for their opinion (3–4)—only to find that like David before Nathan (2 Sa. 12:1–7) they have been assenting to their own impeachment (cf. also Mt. 21:40–43). Finally, in the original language, the charge is pressed home by an unforgettable last line, terse as an epigram (7). Its double word-play defies reproduction, but might be freely rendered: ‘Did he find right? Nothing but riot! Did he find decency? Only despair.’
The parable brings home, as nothing else could, the sheer unreason and indefensibility of sin—we find ourselves searching for some cause of the vine’s failure, and there is none. Only humans could be as capricious as that.
PSALM 80: 8-11 Israel is frequently likened to a vine (cf. Isa 5:1-7; 27:2-6; et al.). The Lord brought them out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan. He cared for him like a vinedresser as he cleared the ground, planted the vine, and nurtured it. Israel occupied the land, subdued the people, and controlled the nations from the Euphrates ("the River") in the east and "the mighty cedars" of the Lebanon mountains in the north to the Mediterranean on the west. The people had enjoyed the full possession of the land during the days of David and Solomon (2Sa 8:3; 1Ki 4:21).
12-14a Though God had extended much care to Israel in fulfillment of his promises, he had permitted his vineyard to be taken over by "boars" and by wild creatures. The people pray that "God Almighty" may look again with kindness on his vine with his mighty acts of salvation and rule.
14b-19 Israel is like a "root." However, the people have become a useless vine. They perished by the "rebuke" of God's anger. They pray that the Lord will sustain them in their hour of need so that the renewal of his favor will lead to a new commitment for Israel. The ground of hope in restoration lies in "the man at your right hand," also called "the son of man." These allusions to the Davidic dynasty focus the hope of the godly in the continuity of God's redemptive purposes.
PHILIPPIANS 3: 14-16 What is the goal (v. 14) of the maturing Christian? For Paul it is that we be engaged in the struggle of faith, confident that Christ has made us His own, but knowing we are not yet perfected. Thus, we are zealous to press on (v. 12) toward the completion of our salvation, the prize of the upward call of God (v. 14)—the resurrection to eternal life.
3:17 Because St. Paul and other saints set an example for us, a pattern for us to follow, we do follow in their steps (tradition) and honor them in the process (veneration).
3:18-21 The enemies of the cross of Christ (v. 18) is a reference to those made captive to dietary laws, circumcision, and discipline. Christian spirituality, by contrast, is based in the age to come, knowing we have no glory in this age. The passage from humiliation to exaltation that Christ experienced (2:5–11) is promised to those Christians who follow Him in perseverance. Transform our lowly body (v. 21) implies a change not in substance but to His glorious body, a change from corruption to incorruption.
MATTHEW 21:33–46 The tenants of the vineyard(see Mk. 12:1–12; Lk. 20:9–19). Here the theme of replacement is explicit. The story is of an absentee landowner and the tenant farmers who are obliged to pay him a fixed proportion of the produce as their rent. Their failure to do so is in itself sufficient reason for them to be replaced; the murder of his son makes matters far more serious.
The point of the story was obvious to the chief priests and the Pharisees (45) and would have been so to anyone who knew the book of Isaiah, where the memorable parable of the vineyard (Is. 5:1–7) symbolized Israel’s failure to live up to God’s expectations. But the focus here was not on Israel as a whole but on its leadership, whose execution of God’s sonwas about to bring to a head the repeated rejection of his prophets in the past. They could now expect only a wretched end, while others took their place.
Vs 42–44 work out the implications of the story. V 42 (quoting Ps. 118:22) illustrates the divine reversal which was soon to happen, when the one rejected by Israel’s leaders was to be proved to be the one chosen for the place of highest honour. V 44 takes up the same metaphor with allusions to the destructive stones of Is. 8:14–15 and Dn. 2:34–35, 44–45. V 43 is more direct: the kingdom symbolized by the vineyard belongs to God not to them, and he will entrust it to someone more responsible. A people suggests not just a change of leadership but that the very composition of the people of God was to change (along the lines suggested in 8:11–12). It was not, however, a simple matter of Jews being replaced by Gentiles (that would have needed a reference to ‘peoples’ in the plural, the normal Greek term for Gentiles); rather a new community of God’s people was being created (cf. on 16:18), in which both Jews and Gentiles would find their place. What would characterize them was not their nationality, but that they would produce fruit (cf. 3:8, 10; 7:15–20; 12:33–37; 13:8, 26; and especially 21:18–20).