Growing up, we were taught to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” I didn’t always know what that meant. Usually, it meant that you weren’t supposed to do work; you were supposed to rest. That was cool. But then there would be those Sundays where we DID do work on Sunday. At that point, the adults usually said something to the effect that someone’s “ox was in the ditch.” Again, I didn’t always know what that meant.
Then, someone pointed me to the Gospel of Luke. Apparently Jesus had had the audacity to heal someone on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees were upset. Jesus eyed them calmly and proclaimed, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” My first response was to wonder why no one ever talked about the son falling into the well. Then, I understood the general good news message here that God is not some mindless judge more interested in enforcing the letter of the law than in showing compassion to His people.
What brought this to mind today was that this morning I found myself in the position of having a friend with his ox in the ditch. Helping the friend was going to mean missing morning worship. I might not always know what it means to keep the Sabbath holy, but I’m guessing that going to church is at the top of the list. My friend owns a vineyard. (Very biblical!) It was time to harvest the grapes, and he had arranged for some people to help. However, bad weather and an impending deadline meant that my friend was in a very real bind.
So, this morning, I headed out to Dead Drop Vineyards in Republic, OH to harvest grapes. I count it a sign of blessing that throughout the morning I was reminded of various vineyard related parables and images from the Bible. I thought of “He is the vine, and I am the branches.” I thought of the vineyard workers who worked a full day and those who only worked a brief time and got paid the same. (You know who you are!) I thought of the Proverbs woman considering a vineyard and buying it. When the rain was coming down, I thought about the parable of the vineyard workers who killed the son of the vineyard owner. And I thought about the parable of the seeds, and the references to those who plant and what they do to plants that do not produce fruit. All in all, it was a very fruitful morning.
For those of you who haven’t seen a vineyard or a grape harvest, I’m including some pictures from the event.