It’s Not Fair.

If you are a parent, then it is likely that you’ve heard someone complain that something isn’t fair. If you are parent like me, you’ve heard this phrase yelled at you while one child gestures wildly at another child. I don’t need to explain to you that comparing ourselves to others is a death sentence to loving them well and being happy. If you want to lose your joy, then start comparing yourself to others.

When I would yell at my parents about the fairness of their parenting my younger sister and I, most often their response was, “Fair doesn’t mean equal.” I never liked that answer. I used to think that equal portions, the same rules, etc absolutely means equal, but then I started to say it to my kids and it started to make sense.

In the gospel this Sunday Jesus tells a parable about a man with a vineyard who hires workers throughout the day and at sundown pays them all the same wage. Whether someone worked twelve hours or one hour, they all got a full day’s wage. The workers who worked a full day complain that they didn’t get what they deserved. The vineyard owner explains that they were paid what was promised, which is true. Then he explains that it is his choice if he also decides to pay the partial workers the same amount.

As the person who holds strict rules about standing in line and always returns the shopping cart to the cart corral (yes that is their technical name), I still struggle with this answer. I want to shout at Jesus, “BUT THIS STILL ISN’T FAIR!”And maybe I’m right. Maybe it isn’t fair, but it is love.

God isn’t fair, he is love. He is extraordinary love.

God is wild generosity and total self-gift especially when someone doesn’t deserve it. Who doesn’t deserve a full portion of God’s love? Me. You. All of us. Few of us started working at dawn in the vineyard and none of us have worked perfectly all day long. We don’t deserve the wage God wants to pay us. So who are we in the story? We are the workers who come at midday and the end of the day, and yet because of God’s generosity, we still get a full portion.

What is the wage we are paid? Paul says that the wages of sin is death. So what is our wage for working in the vineyard? Life. The reward at the end of the day of working is a life of eternal bliss with God Almighty! There is no half measure of Heaven. If Heaven is infinite joy and perfect communion with God, then those who receive it won’t have more or less than someone else. There is no comparison in Heaven because everyone there is perfectly satisfied. More and less no longer matter in a state of perfect communion with God. 

Finally, this gospel teaches us that it is never too late to receive that full day’s wage. If you are reading this, but have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, if you are reading this and aren’t in full communion with God, now is the time to reach out and take the job. Say a prayer that puts yourself at God’s mercy and God’s will. No matter how far away you feel. No matter how long you’ve been gone, God will welcome you back with extraordinary love. 

LIVE IT: Tell God you want to work in his vineyard. Actively seek to commit yourself to God. Use whatever words come from you heart. 

Sunday Readings for September 20th, 2020.

Paradise

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I distinctly remember watching an 80’s sitcom (though I can’t remember which one) in which a young female character was being wooed by an older man. He kept saying that he had two tickets to paradise if she would trust him. The whole show comes to a head when the female character goes back to this man’s dingy one room apartment where she finds “two tickets to paradise” to be an unnamed pill and vague promises of intimate pleasure. Needless to say, she flees, the man is confronted later, and the whole seen is lesson for us impressionable children of the 80s. 

Yet, I think the lesson is a true one. Again and again we try to find a shortcut to paradise. Maybe it is the obvious substance use, pleasure seeking route. Maybe it is more hidden like avoidance of any pain or suffering. Maybe we think if we are rich or successful or comfortable enough we will make ourselves a heaven on earth. 

The gospel this Sunday is a clear reminder that the one and only way to paradise is Jesus Christ. The only door on the way to heaven is Jesus himself. In some ways, this is bad news for all who try to gain entry to a heavenly experience in some other way. Yet it is very best news for all. It means we know the way to heaven. We know who can open the way and bring us to eternal paradise – Jesus. 

Jesus isn’t only the way to heaven when we die, but is the only way to peace and joy now. Jesus can heal our hurts in a way that no other method or practice can. If another way of healing works it doesn’t work outside of Jesus’ power, but, ultimately, through it. 

How do we enter into the sheep fold? First we have to stop trying to jump over the wall. We must actively and purposefully chose Jesus over what we think is a shortcut. The next step is to trust fully in Jesus as our gate to heaven. Pray and rest in him. Let Jesus heal your brokenness. Make a statement of faith in him. Jesus is the gate. 

Live It: Make a statement of faith. How? It could be as simple as prayerfully repeating a short phrase. Options: “Jesus I trust in you.” “Jesus you are my Lord and my God.” “Jesus I believe, help my unbelief.” Or you could recite the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed. You could also just speak to God from your heart like, “Jesus I give you my life. I trust totally in you. I want to be yours and follow you all the days of my life.” 

Sunday Readings for May 3, 2020. 

Better than cake. The Good Word for Oct. 11

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For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too!” As a kid, I never understood that bit of wisdom. I was always like, “Isn’t ‘having’ cake, just eating cake?” When I got a little older I heard people say, “Well, isn’t that just too pretty to eat.” I didn’t understand that either. No food is so pretty that I don’t want to eat it. It’s food. I guess I’m weird that way.

What both of those sentiments is getting at is that sometimes in life we can’t have things both ways. We can’t hold on to and admire a well-decorated cake and cut it too. It’s like when the Cake Boss yells, “Let’s eat some cake!” and then cuts into this momentous creation that he spent 150 hours decorating. At some point you have to decide if the thing is visual art or particularly beautiful food.

I heard a priest once preach that before about 100 years ago the plural form of the word, “priority,” rarely, if ever appeared in print. The reason being that the very definition of the word priority is “one thing before all else.” A priority refers to the thing that we but before everything else in our lives. In this way, saying that we have priorities doesn’t actually make much sense.

In our gospel today Jesus reminds the man in the story, and all of us, that if we want to be happy and holy and healthy we can have just one priority – an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. No rules will save us. No amount of money can redeem us. Nothing other than following Jesus Christ should be our #1.

Our current culture says that we can have multiple priorities – many first things. We are told we can be young and rich and beautiful and old and have a family and uber educated and powerful and good and selfish and relaxed and stressed and 1000 other things. We can have our cake and eat it and everything else too. The gospel reminds we that every day we make a decision what our #1 priority is. The rich young man goes away sad because he decided his wealth was his priority.

The thing is, every day we choose, whether we do it on purpose or not, what our priority is going to be. Wherever we spend our life, whatever gets our attention and focus, and what we spend our money on demonstrates what our priority is. This is hard to think about because it shows that most of us either have chosen poorly our priority or aren’t very good at living our what we wish our priority was. Even the disciples are discouraged by Jesus’ teaching priorities and heaven and then spend all their time following Jesus around.

The good news comes at the end of the reading. Jesus reminds us that though we will have to give up everything else in our life in order to make Jesus Christ our priority, the reward is no less than 100 times our investment. No matter what we sacrifice to follow Jesus, it will be worth it. God is never outdone in his generosity and will multiply any gift we give him.

Live It:
Take a peak at your bank statement. Based on where you spent your money, what is your priority? What is important to you and your family? Do you intentionally live with a priority in mind? Explain.