Saturday, October 01, 2011

A, Pentecost 16 Proper 22 - Isaiah 5:1-7 "Absorbing God"

Have you ever wondered how a plant gets water into itself?  Its roots appear to be nothing special yet somehow they extract water and nutrient from the soil around them.
This was first figured out by a French chap, Jean-Antoine Nollet, in 1748 when he discovered what we today call, osmosis.  Osmosis put most simply is the natural transference of a less dense liquid into a more dense liquid through a membrane of some sort. 
For instance if rain water is allowed to come up against salt water separated by a membrane filter, over time the rain water would penetrate and pass through the filter to dilute the more dense salt solution.  The process stops once the water on both sides of the membrane becomes equal in density or pressure on the denser water become great enough to stop the natural osmotic pressure and flow.
Today we might hear more about reverse osmosis in water desalination plants which makes fresh water out of salt water.  By overcoming the osmotic pressure by pushing salt water against a membrane the natural osmosis is reversed; therefore, forcing drinking water out of undrinkable salt water.
So a plant gets water through osmosis occurring in the roots of the plant.  The liquid in the plant is denser than the liquid in the soil, the root contains the membrane and moisture passes through the membrane in a bid to dilute and balance with the liquid inside the plant.  So the denser plant cells get the lighter water cells it needs to survive.
What this has to do with God’s relationship with us here today might not be obvious, but the osmotic discovery in the eighteenth century, some twenty-two years before Cook sailed up the east Coast of Australia, reveals not only the marvel and function of God’s creation in plant life but the function of everything in his once perfect creation.
When God created our world, what he created on the first day was created to serve what he created on the second, and the second the third, and so on.  Water, sunshine, seasons, and soil therefore serve the plant.  Osmosis is how the water and nutrient serve the plant. 
God created people as the last of the living beings.  Everything God created flows onto human beings, the pinnacle of his creation, so we might be with God, rest with God, and enjoy our lives here on earth with God through the very last thing he created – the Sabbath day.
The Sabbath day was not just a day of rest and enjoyment with God, but it was also a day of recreation (re-creation) in this perfect seven day cycle God had set in place.  Just as osmosis is God’s way of serving plant life with what they need for life, God placed all things in this creation willing his love to flow onto humanity for the recreation he desires to share with us.
But creation and recreation today are far from what God intended for us.  Humanity has reversed the natural flow of God’s love, and from the moment Adam turned his back on God’s love all of us sooner or later realise that we’re living lives of dehydration and death.  Just like reverse osmosis, we seek to push out the God-given life-giving love leaving us to live on the toxic sludge that’s left. 
What type of fruit do you think a plant will produce that makes the decision to reverse the osmotic effect?  The same as the people we become when we choose to reverse the flow of God’s love.
The natural flow of God’s love in creation and osmosis can be seen in the picture painted in Isaiah 5 where Isaiah sings about his beloved Father in heaven and compares his fellow children of God to choice vines in the vineyard God lovingly prepares for the vines.
Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.  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. (Isaiah 5:1–2 ESV)
If the natural flow of God’s love was to be absorbed by the vines, then the vine would have produced fruit in keeping with the love bestowed on the vines.  Yet the vines yielded wild grapes.  The Hebrew word here is literally bad grapes derived from the word for poison berries, or a stench.
Israel’s gnarly roots allowed no growth from the love of God; rather bloodshed instead of justice, and an outcry due to a lack of righteousness.  The vineyard has become dysfunctional so God responds…
And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.  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. (Isaiah 5:5–6 ESV)
It was clear to God that what he had created was no longer working as he intended.  He had to intervene and fix things so his love could once again flow with the natural pressure he intended.  He had to install a new filter since the law was not filtering and recreating humanity so he could rest with them and further recreate them with his love.
So he set about fixing the problem by sending his one and only Son.  But the vine had overrun the vineyard and this new vine and new life for the old vine was rejected.
Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’  And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”  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.” (Matthew 21:37–41 ESV)
So Jesus was killed, thrown out of the garden!  But this enabled a new filter to replace the good old filter of the law which had become ineffective.  The pressure to push out God had become so great creating a spiritual reverse osmosis, pushing out the love of God and therefore the life, leaving only dehydration and death.
Now the new membrane is in place!  We are the vine branches and Jesus is the root.  In him we have growth!  In him we are rooted in osmosis, guaranteeing life, love and fruit.  We are rooted in him in baptism and the cross, the Holy Spirit sees to it there is a natural flow of grace and growth into us which overflows into the fruit we produce.  But it’s not really us!  It’s the root and the nutrient, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which grows us the plant, and faithfully fills the fruit that hangs from us.
This is why Paul says to the Philippians he regards everything else as rubbish (or better translated excrement - that which is cast out of the body) in order that he might gain Christ.  (Philippians 4:8) 
What Paul was doing here was simply letting the natural order of salvation in Jesus Christ do what it is meant to do.  And that is allowing the absorption of God’s love to wash out the stink of sin within.  He let the Holy Spirit bring the holiness of Christ into him to allow the waters of grace give him faith, hope, and love.
Are you a vine which allows the fruits of God to grow?  Are you allowing yourself to be rooted in Christ, absorbing God daily the way God intended you to soak up his forgiveness and love?  Are you fulfilled in this life? Or are you allowing the pressures within leave you without the grace God so desperately want you to have?  Are you reversing the osmosis of God’s love?
Now is the time to return to Christ and let him be the root of your being.  Now is the time for him to fill you and grow you as his choice vine as you absorb him in hearing his word.  Now is the time for him to produce fruit from you that lasts. 
The naturally perfect being of Jesus Christ has been given to you, let him clean your filter, let him fill you with the water that wells up to eternal life.  He wants holy grapes from you his choice vine.  Amen.