Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The Irrepressible Vine

July 5, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, I am reflecting upon the coexistence of sin and love in all of human experience. In every era of human existence, there has been oppression of one people by another. Yet, pushing through it all, there has been the tenacious force of love, heralding the hope that justice can prevail and God can make us one.



Current Events & World Affairs

Supreme Court Delivers Major Victory to LGBTQ Employees

Nina Totenberg and Emmett Witkovsky-Eldred


Article detailing the recent decision of the Supreme Court affirming that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex.

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Arts & Architecture

In a Heartbeat

Esteban Bravo and Beth David


Animated short film that was the senior thesis of two recent college graduates on the love between two young men.

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What is our strength in the face of oppression?


“The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” –Song of Solomon 2:13

The book of Solomon is the festival scroll for Passover, the day for celebrating the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. So, the love story is told and retold each year against the backdrop of liberation from slavery and oppression. The blooming of the vine is understood, then, in the gathering of the faithful as something that happens not only, not even primarily, in favorable conditions, but rather, in the height of struggle and despair. Like weeds in the garden, this vine will not be stopped.

In today’s reading from Genesis, Abraham has already banished his slave Hagar and the son he had with her, Ishmael. Now, he commands another slave to go and find a woman who is kin to their family and bring her, with her father’s consent, regardless of her wishes, to become Isaac’s wife. And so it happens. It was the way things were done.

And Rebekah leaves her family, just like that, and takes yet another person bound to servitude—her nurse—with her to go to a strange land and spend the rest of her life bound to a man she has yet to meet. Rebekah has the promise of Isaac; the nurse has no one.

Isaac, for his part, knows nothing of Rebekah. He only knows a third party, the servant of his father, has gone to procure a wife for him.

So, here they are, the servant who is unnamed, Rebekah, and the nurse who is also unnamed, traveling toward the home of Abraham and Isaac. And in the cool of the evening, Isaac goes walking in the field on the land where he had settled.

Rebekah sees him. And asks who he is. When she learns, she covers her face. Isaac hears what has taken place. He takes Rebekah to his mother’s tent where she becomes his wife. And, here is the part we cannot explain. He loved her. And by all accounts, she loved him too.

In the midst of everything wrong with this story, in the midst of chattel slavery and arranged marriage. In the midst of voiceless and nameless ones, love arrives.

There is no explaining it. Love. The vine that pushes through every parched patch of desert earth to reach our weary hearts. Regardless of whether it can take root. Regardless of whether it can ever hope to be watered, or tended, or pruned, or seen, even. Still, it pushes through.

And as the story in the scriptures keeps transcending itself. The message of love Jesus speaks moves beyond the patriarchs, the slave owners, the ones with voice; it moves like the vine. Without regard for any barriers, it pushes through until it reaches everyone. This is the scandal of the gospel: love for every one. So that, by the time we are in the post-resurrection days, the writer of Galatians proclaims,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” –Galatians 3:28.

The vine keeps pushing through, two thousand years later. For the oppressed and those who oppress, the voiceless and those who speak up, the forgotten and those who forget, the forsaken and those who forsake. Everyone. Every. Single. One. The vine has no regard for barriers. If anything, barriers simply inspire new growth patterns.

On the heels of the historic Supreme Court Decision of June 15 (see current events and world affairs lesson), we are compelled to embrace hope. Hope rooted in an irrepressible force fiercer than any means used to suppress it. In the end, as Bravo and David so artfully portray, the heart will not be divided (see today’s arts and architecture lesson). The vine always finds new pathways.

Never forget. Never diminish. Never dismiss. The force that pushes through. Live your life tending the vine.