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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The Word This Week

Today we focus on the vineyard: frequently we see the vineyard as an image or parable of the Kingdom of God. A vineyard takes a great deal of work, throughout the year; it must be tended, watered, pruned, cared for if there is to be any fruit - there are no quick results with vines. So the financial and labour investments made would create high expectations for a good crop. How heartbreaking when the fruit is as sour as vinegar! So it was with God and his people: he invested immense care and love on them, tending then and giving them what they needed - but the fruit was rotten and sour. What can God do? Hand the vineyard over to some tenants who will bring in a harvest. That is us, the new people of Israel: but what sort of harvest will we produce?

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7.

The first line gives this reading away: it is a song, a piece of poetry using image and metaphor. So you will have to read it in that light - it is not a story or a statement. There are four, obvious sections: the introduction, which tells of the work put into the vineyard by the owner; then comes the question: who is to blame for failure ? The owner did everything he could, so what went wrong. This question is not answered - so leave a moment for listeners to think about it. Third, we come to the decision: the vineyard doesn't work, so it will be thrown over. Then finally, just to make everything clear, is the explanation: ‘"The vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel.’" Read this particularly clearly. Notice that the final two lines are quite deep, expressing the Lord's disappointment with the people of Israel: the last three words "‘...a cry of distress’" are very mysterious, and should be spoken quite softly.

Second Reading: Philippians 4:6-9.

This letter is very practical; it is all about living the Christian life. Today that practicality comes in a way that can touch us all, especially in the first six words: ‘There is no need to worry’. Pause even before you start reading, so that you can fill those words with faith in God and deliver them to the congregation with great sincerity - then pause again, so that those words stand alone. There are some wonderful phrases in this reading: "‘that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand,"’ is beautiful; think about it, and read it with meaning. The list of ‘"everything that is...’" statements is a great crescendo - enjoy it. Again, the final sentence, like the first, is full of comfort and reassurance: allow this to be carried by your tone and expression while reading it.