In that day- "Sing about a fruitful vineyard:
I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually.
The themes of vines and vineyards wind their way through most of our scripture: the prophets use the vineyard as a dominant metaphor for the people of Israel; Jesus calls himself the "true vine."
Being in Sonoma County, CA, this last week has made me think a lot about vineyards. My dominant thought has been, 'Why would anyone do this?" Vineyards are a lot of work. Simply planting a vineyard is an enormous task. The site has to have near perfect incline so that the water stays long enough to nourish the plants, but drains fast enough to keep them from rotting. The soil has to be slightly acidic, but not too acidic. The rows have to be straight and evenly spaced and there has to be enough "dead space" between the vines and any other shrubs or trees.
In addition to the planting, there is the trellising. The trellis not only has to hold the vines as they grow, but also must be able to bear the weight of mature fruit hanging on the vine. Trellises also have to protect the vine from winds.
Most of this work cannot be done by a tractor. "Hands on" work is required to maintain a vineyard: pruning, trunk training, weeding. And it all has to be done by someone who knows the grapes. Then, assuming one can actually get vines to grow and bear fruit, the next task is protecting the fruit until harvest. Animals, fungus and insects do not care how much effort it take to grow grapes. They are happy to eat all of the hard work.
The work is endless and thankless and year to year; there are no guarantees on what you will get. But pull a premium wine grape off a good vine and you get to taste a little bit of heaven.
It seems right to me that God's people would be compared to a vineyard. We are a lot of work: delicate and stubborn, vulnerable and easily soured. Year to year, there are no guarantees on who or how we will be. And yet, by the miracle of grace, each one of us is capable of bearing good fruit; fruit sweet enough to change the world.