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1831 Minnehaha Avenue East
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Pulling out the Big Weeds

Sermons

Pulling out the Big Weeds

Julie Kovacs


 At first I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights
thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along
and so you're back
from outer space
I just walked in to find you here
with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed that stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I had known for just one second
you'd be back to bother me

Go on now go walk out the door
just turn around now
'cause you're not welcome anymore
weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
Did you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive (hey-hey)…

We know that song, don’t we? Originally released as the B-side to a cover version of the Righteous Brothers song “Substitute,” “I Will Survive” became a worldwide hit for Gloria Gaynor in October 1978 when disc jockeys played that side of the record instead. In mending hearts from broken relationships to finding an upbeat song that will bring about inner strength, this toe-tapping tune has captured and continues to capture the attention of many since its release 37 years ago.  

 

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart
kept trying hard to mend
the pieces of my broken heart
and I spent oh so many nights
just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
But now I hold my head up high
and you see me
somebody new
I'm not that chained up little person
still in love with you
and so you felt like dropping in
and just expect me to be free
and now I'm saving all my loving
for someone who's loving me

Go on now go walk out the door
just turn around now
'cause you're not welcome anymore
weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye
Did you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive

“I Will Survive” is a break-up song and is a part of that genre a music called love songs. Love songs speak to the emotion that is hard to name in words alone. When someone attaches a melody line those words magically make sense. It provides a level of comfort. It feels as though someone understands. Love songs are not new. They has stood the test of time. They even existed in biblical times.

The Psalms were often sung with a simple melody line. Since individuals could not read, if you knew a particular tune – the words of scripture could be captured and taught. The prophet Isaiah, knew this as well. He knew that in order to get the people’s attention he would have to sing it in order to be heard. Which is how he conveyed the words from chapter five to the people of Israel, the people in the southern kingdom who were under severe pressure of the Assyrian Empire and a king that was starting to bend to their demands. The northern kingdom was destroyed. And here is Isaiah the prophet to King Ahaz at this time, seeing and hearing this unsurmountable pressure and trying to give counsel to the king and to the people in a way that it will be heard – a love song.  

Let me sing for my loved one
    a love song for his vineyard.
My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
He dug it,
    cleared away its stones,
    planted it with excellent vines,
    built a tower inside it,
    and dug out a wine vat in it. (Isaiah 5:1-2 CEB)

He expected it to grow good grapes— You get sucked in…Oh Isaiah, what are you going to preach about today? What do you know about life, here in the southern kingdom?

 

He expected it to grow good grapes…
    but it grew rotten grapes.
So now, you who live in Jerusalem, you people of Judah,
    judge between me and my vineyard:
What more was there to do for my vineyard
    that I haven’t done for it?
When I expected it to grow good grapes,
    why did it grow rotten grapes?
Now let me tell you what I’m doing to my vineyard.
I’m removing its hedge,
    so it will be destroyed.
I’m breaking down its walls,
    so it will be trampled.
I’ll turn it into a ruin;
    it won’t be pruned or hoed,
    and thorns and thistles will grow up.
I will command the clouds not to rain on it.
The vineyard of the Lord of heavenly forces is the house of Israel,
    and the people of Judah are the plantings in which God delighted.
God expected justice, but there was bloodshed;
    righteousness, but there was a cry of distress! (Isaiah 5:3-7 CEB)

 

God uses Isaiah, much like God uses all of God’s prophets to convey a hard message of truth – a hard message that no one wants to hear. The people of Israel had a really good thing going and they squandered it by worshiping idols, by not following the way of God, by not showing compassion to the other. God was expecting one thing and instead, God was betrayed. And the real test will be if those hearing it will notice that they are the subject of what is being sung.

How many times have we been the subject to the song “I Will Survive?” How many times have we stood alongside the people of Israel and wondered if Isaiah’s words pertain to us?

I’m thinking about the young man who was shot in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m thinking about suicide bombers and what the people of Paris have endured. I’m thinking about those taken hostage by the members of ISIS and expected to do inhumane things in order to survive. I’m thinking about the education gaps here in the state of Minnesota and how we still cannot figure out the cost of healthcare. Has God been betrayed?

In Isaiah’s song, the vineyard is a beautiful metaphor for God’s people. And you and I both know that a vineyard needs to be weeded, needs to be tended in order for growth to happen. The soil needs to be turned, the big weeds need to be pulled, the plants need to be talked to and watered and fed. In this song, Isaiah sings of rejection, sings of complete heartache, sings of rotten grapes and then in only what God can do in the midst of this heavy heart – God acts and brings righteousness on behalf of the people.

 

A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;
    a branch will sprout from his roots.
The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him,
    a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    a spirit of planning and strength,
    a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
He will delight in fearing the Lord.
He won’t judge by appearances,
    nor decide by hearsay.
He will judge the needy with righteousness,
    and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
    by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
Righteousness will be the belt around his hips,
    and faithfulness the belt around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
    the calf and the young lion will feed together,
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze.
    Their young will lie down together,
    and a lion will eat straw like an ox.
A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole;
    toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den.
They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.
    The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,
    just as the water covers the sea.

On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:1-10 CEB)

 

What a beautiful song to grab a hold of this Thanksgiving Sunday. Peace. Love. Commitment. Honor. Abundance. Compassion. Wisdom. It is an alternate song. I would even say it is the preferred song. God does not leave God’s people. God cannot leave the vineyard without doing some tending. May we never lose sight of the vineyard that always needs to be nurtured? And no matter how frustrated God may be in the scriptures God is God and God never lets God’s people go, which may even allow us to hear the lyrics to this song:  

 

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me (“Because You Love Me” by Celine Dion)

 

May it be so. Amen.