Yielding Wild Grapes

Prophet Margins

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

What if we celebrate the church by featuring what happens outside the church? What if we lift up ministry that may be happening in small ways throughout our neighborhood, or city, or world? What if we take time to point out that the church is wherever the congregation is and does whatever it is each member does?

Note to the Teacher

The key theme in this lesson is “Being a Good Vineyard.” The icebreaker is a game specifically chosen to exhibit what it is like when we don’t have enough room for everyone. The discussion encourages students to think about Isaiah’s metaphor of the vineyard and how the church can be an example of a good vineyard or sometimes a bad vineyard. God challenges us to do good and righteous works that care for others, not just ourselves. The activity invites students to share thoughts about the church as well as hopes and desires for what the church can be. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker: Penguins (10 minutes)

Think musical chairs, but in the arctic. Grab enough sheets of paper for everyone. The sheets of paper represent blocks of ice. Spread the sheets across the floor. Begin with everyone on a block of ice. Start music and have the penguins (students) jump off their blocks and waddle around— you know, like penguins. Students can’t stick around specific ice blocks. They have to waddle around. Please demonstrate for the students what waddling looks like. During the music, remove a block of ice. Stop the music at some point and have the students get back to their blocks of ice, still waddling of course. Continue until there is one block of ice and two penguins. The last penguin wins.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

We are continuing with Isaiah today. Remember, Isaiah was a prophet in the eighth century BCE. The book of Isaiah, which is made up of many prophecies over time, looks at Israel and the judgment that is on its way. Isaiah also spends time looking to the future, a new covenant, and a Messiah who is coming. Today’s passage looks at the people of God in the form of a vineyard, but God identified the vineyard as ready to be destroyed.

Read Isaiah 5:1-7.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • What stands out about this passage to you? If Israel is the vineyard, what does its future look like in this passage? Have any of us ever been to a vineyard? What do we think they look like?
  • God planted a vineyard. What happened? What did God expect from God’s vineyard?
  • The prophet labels this passage as a love song. How could these verses be taken as a love song?
  • In the New Testament times and afterward, the church began to see itself as the new vineyard. Similar to Israel, it seems in some places that the church has grown wild. Like Israel, the church can because insulated and focused on itself instead of focusing on justice and mercy and righteousness. Why might this happen? What causes a church to become focused on itself rather than on others? How can we help the church keep its focus where it needs to be?

Read Matthew 21:33-46.

  • The tenants were the people charged with helping the vineyard be fruitful and productive—think about that as the church leaders of Israel back in the day. Jesus is saying that God sent the prophets (the servants) and now his only Son (the heir) to work with the tenants with the harvest. Is it obvious that Jesus thinks the tenants are not doing what they are supposed to with Israel? What does this story demonstrate about leadership?
  • How can leaders in the church help keep their focus on God? How can they help us to keep our focus on God and growing in our faith? Do you think the same things that distract us can distract leaders as well?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

  • Grab markers and a large slice of butcher paper or posterboard. Feel free to have multiple posters.
  • Have groups or pairs of students draw and construct their idea of a church on the posters. Then have them surround the church with words or phrases that people say about the church, as well as words or phrases that Jesus wants for the church. Think good and bad things. What are the realities of the church sometimes and what are the ideals it strives for?
  • Talk about each poster and why the students wrote what they wrote.
  • Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • Sheets of paper
  • Butcher paper or posterboards
  • Markers and/or other writing utensils

In This Series...

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes