Friday, July 06, 2018

Rebuild. Inhabit. Plant. Drink.


Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel; they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits. I will plant them upon their own ground; never again shall they be plucked from the land I have given them, say I, the LORD, your God. Amos 9:14-16

“No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:16-17

Rebuild.  Inhabit.  Plant.  Drink. 

The first reading today from the Hebrew Bible introduces the theme of restoration.  Just a few pages earlier, houses and vineyards were the sources of a curse upon Israel.  Now, as the Prophet Amos introduced an era of restoration, the Gospel reading from Matthew follows suit in a table-turning reversal of how to store the fresh wine of the covenant, so it is ready to drink.

Consider first the curse from Amos 5:11.
Therefore, because you tax the destitute
and exact from them levies of grain,
Though you have built houses of hewn stone,
you shall not live in them;
Though you have planted choice vineyards,
You shall not drink their wine.

Rebuild.  Inhabit.  Plant.  Drink. In this era of restoration, the Lord nullifies the curse and the prophet uses these same four verbs and turns it into a blessing for Israel.[i]

As we turn to the reading from Matthew, we re-encounter the theme of restoration.  People pour fresh wine into fresh wineskins.  If they used old skins, they would burst and spill the wine. Thus, the new skins preserve the wine while the old wineskins waste it.

In Amos, the action moves from the deadly curse to the positive restoration.
However, in Matthew, it seems to run from the joy of being with Jesus to the sorrow of separation.  However, contemplating the fresh wineskins (us?) into which the new wine (Jesus?) is poured brings us back to restoration and the blessing cup of our communion with the blood of the Lord.

Who are the “old wineskins?” Are they those who are unfit to hold new wine, wasting the very thing they are meant to preserve?[ii]  Yesterday (Friday), we contemplated the role of the Pharisees in rejecting the call that the dreaded tax collector Levi-Matthew answered. 

Who are the new wineskins?  Are they the ones who share in the sacrament for the first time?  Are they the ones who share in Holy Communion as if it was the first time every time?

The communion cup restores us.  When we accept our calling, we restore the mission of Jesus.

Jesus led his disciples on a mission to rebuild…inhabit…plant…drink.

The Lord called St. Francis to “Rebuild my church.” 

Rebuild.  Inhabit.  Plant.  Drink. 

New beginning begins at the beginning again.  Are we called to do any less?  
Whether it is tornado destruction in Joplin, Missouri, or Hurricane Harvey/Irma destruction in Houston or Puerto Rico, the needs around us call us to rebuild communities devastated by war or natural disaster. 

We also must consider rebuilding lives at the one person at a time.  Lives may be devastation by alcoholism, opioid addiction, divorce, separation or disease.

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