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    FIRST READING Isaiah 5:1-7 What we have here is a love song that is expressing extreme frustration! The poet/prophet is Isaiah, the disappointed lover is God and the exasperation or frustration - both actually - is directed at Israel and its people. Isaiah really expresses his feeling about Israel. He uses the image of a person making a vineyard, taking every possible care with the task. This vineyard designer who is God - has "dug…cleared…planted…selected the best site possible on a “very fertile hill”.    So what results from all this loving attention God has given to this vineyard called Israel? The result is devastating. Nothing but wild grapes! In other words the moral and spiritual life of this society is a disaster. Isaiah then describes God's anger in detail. “I will remove its hedge…break down its wall…make it a waste…command the clouds to rain no rain upon it.    Then suddenly Isaiah gives up on his metaphor of a vineyard . Instead he says in the plainest and toughest of language “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. God expected justice but saw (only) bloodshed . (God expected) righteousness but heard only a cry.    All societies live in some sense under judgement.  For some that judgement may come from a divine source. For others - secular societies like ours - it may  come from the realization that the society is simply not living up to standards it itself acknowledges to be moral. Two of these standards are that our society  act with what the Bible calls justice and righteousness. In our culture the word righteousness is no longer a viable term. If anything it has been reduced to mean self-righteousness. How can we express then what the Bible means by righteousness?  You might disagree but I would suggest that the nearest term for us  would be integrity? In any given time and place and society justice and integrity may mean different things, but their demand never goes away. Without justice and integrity a society simply disintegrates.    THE SECOND READING Hebrews 11:29 - 12:2 The writer, whom we don’t know, is flashing quick images before our eyes, one-sentence reminders of great people in his past who can be an inspiration in the age he’s living in. Then we get flashes of the struggles they had, struggles they never gave up because they trusted in God. Then the writer arrives at a most important word - therefore. Therefore what? Therefore you and I need to know that people have always struggled with a world that is and always will be far from perfect. People, some of them magnificent people, have always felt themselves surrounded by things we know today all too well - apathy, doubt, disunity, argument, anger, cynicism, depression, bone weariness.  The list is long and familiar. But we also know, and should never forget, that we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who remained faithful in the face of immense challenges. They know our struggles because they experienced them. They point us to a grace beyond ourselves that makes it possible for us to be faithful in our own time and circumstances.    THE HOLY GOSPEL Luke 12:49-56 If we need any assurance that Jesus felt all that we feel from time to time, this is one of these moments that makes it very plain that he certainly did! We all begin things that we regret and wish we hadn’t. I think this is what is happening here. Listen again. Jesus says "I came to bring freon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled”. The enormity of what he has started is coming home to him. If we have any doubt about this very human moment for our Lord we have only to hear him say “I have a baptism with which to be baptized - in other words a task I simply must complete -  and what stress I am under until it is completed!   Here particularly we encounter the humanity of Jesus. There is no attempt to hide what he is feeling - stress!. We all know it all too well. The constant companion of contemporary life. When we are next driven to say "I'm stressed out!” we need to recall that our Lord knows what that meant. To realize this can be a help to us to offer a silent prayer to Him as our Lord about our stress, knowing that we will be understood. Why are we stressed? Are we prepared to ask simply and sincerely for his grace in dealing with it. ?