Several years ago I heard an interview with Alan Weisman about his book The World Without Us. The book’s title is fairly explanatory of its subject–it is a book about the world after humankind–how long it would take for the asphalt and concrete to crack; how well all those animals we’ve bred to live with us would fare after we are gone. It was fascinating to hear Weisman describe the changes that would come to a place like Manhattan–how the weeds, and successional trees, and cats would take over (dogs it turns out have tied their fate to ours).
I like to entertain such ideas–of a city overgrown with weeds, of the industrial countryside reforested–not because I am a misanthrope but because I like the idea of a reset. The way we’re living on this earth isn’t sustainable, much less flourishing and it would be good to start fresh with our cities and our countryside alike. There are certainly times for repair, but then there are those times when what is in place has been so corrupted that it needs to be let go, to lie fallow for a while until something fruitful and flourishing can be made of it again.
This seems to me to be the theme in our text from Isaiah this week. In this strange love poem, of which we see only a portion, the prophet talks about the people of Israel and Judah as a vineyard, a garden that God did all that God could to make flourishing. But as any gardener knows, its not all up to the grower. Sometimes the crop fails due to no fault of our own–some bad seed, a disease, the uncontrollable variances of weather. The only solution is to plow it under or pull it up. If there is a disease in the soil then we have to let the ground go uncultivated for a time. God has seen the vineyard he planted that should have become fruitful with a bounty of love and righteous justice bear the diseased fruit of greed, violence and oppression. The only answer is a reset. Read more