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God's way is not our way
March 17, 2019, 12:00 AM

Grace and Peace to you from the Triune God. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

Happy St Patrick's Day. A day we far to often forget is the feast day for a saint who was a tremendous evangelist. Sometime I think he has been reduced to being the patron saint of green beer, shamrocks, corned beef & cabbage and all things we want to call Irish. The shamrocks interestingly at least by legend, were a metaphor for the trinity. We think of only leaf of clover even though the leaf has three lobes and thus it is with God that we have three faces but only one God. So, if we can learn from his example as one who shared the faith with others and who creatively used the world around themselves to explain who God is the I too believe we should celebrate this Bishop of old.

Speaking of Parables we have one from Jesus today. Jesus tells us the parable of the workers in the vineyard. People are called to work at varying times during the day with only the first workers of the day having an agree upon wage. Those who came along at 9am, Noon, 3pm and 5pm were only told they would receive something fair. But what did they receive. 1 Denarius, a days wage, which was enough to feed the family for one day. In other words the land owner made sure that all who worked made enough to feed their family for that day Those who had come early in the day thought that they should receive more even though they receive the wage they had agreed to before starting work.

This brings up and interesting question, “What is fair?” First we know that “fair” means something different in God's Kingdom than it tends to mean for us day in and day out. Here we have people all being given enough to eat for that day. We consistently pray give me enough for today or give me my daily bread and yet when there is only enough for today we get really antsy and uncomfortable.

There was a day in third grade that lives on in my head. I don't remember what exactly had happened but we were being punished as a class. Every person in the class had to suffer the consequences for the actions of one or a few in the class. I was so incensed and thought this so unjust, no having been committed an offense but being required to suffer the punishment that I protested. I apparently protested enough that the teach felt is necessary to poll the class to see if they thought I should be allowed to not serve the punishment, not having been part of the offense. They did not see it as unfair because all were treated equally. Now I can tell you that putting the question to the others was I still think unfair. If the teacher was going to punish all then simply stand up the the third grader and that probably was an injustice but sometimes the only fair way forward is to simply treat all people in exactly the same manner. Often treating all the same is the only way to correct an injustice or to make sure like in this case that all receive enough. Actually, I would go one step further and suggest that sometimes God's sense of justice requires that people who don't deserve be given what they need anyhow. Yes sometimes justice requires that people who don't deserve are given the gift.

You may be protesting in your head that it is unfair to give people something they do not deserve and yet I would simply ask you what you have done to deserve salvation. What action on your part helps you to merit the salvation that God has freely given you through your baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing is the answer. There is nothing we can do to merit the salvation offered through Christ. That is one of the cores of Lutheran theology and grace. It has been argued that even the kernel of faith necessary to initially accept our salvation is a gift from God. No of us are righteous because of what we have done. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All have sinned or done things that separate us from the love of God and yet we are all brought back into the family. So, in one sense it is not fair that all receive things they did not deserve and yet sometimes the just answer is to give everyone equal portions.

Yes this is about salvation but it is also about economic distribution. They payment of wages before the sunset was a requirement of the law as we read in Deuteronomy. We also read that while taking and item in pledge for a loan if it will deprive a poor person of their blanket at night then you need to return it to them before they need it. As if to note that economics are part of the equation here and yes I mean like dollar and cent economics and instruction for those of us who are part of both living on God's green earth and the kingdom of heaven. Today's parable follows immediately after a short segment where they disciples talked about all they gave up to follow Jesus and Jesus telling them they will receive something far more valuable. This commentary by the disciples comes after the parable about the rich young man who was told to sell it all and given his entire wealth to the poor. So, yes there is a component of sell it all and give it to the poor and/or give everyone enough to eat whether they deserve it or not. For those who worry that people won't try if they are given this can be a truly grievous thing. For those who have lots and feel led to give up wealth so it can be distributed to those who might not work as hard this can seem terribly unfair and yet that is God's justice, to use those who have plenty and do well to ensure those who do not have enough get what they need. And when we think it unfair that those who do not receive are given then we are reminded again and again and again of the economics related to our salvation and how none are deserving and all have fallen short of the glory of God. Don't worry if this is difficult to digest, the rich young man who came to Jesus talking about all he had done correctly and then was told to sell it all did not like what Jesus was saying either. As if though to confirm this is not a joke immediately after it we are shown the story of the disciples who upon noting all they had given up are told “and because of that you will inherit eternal life.”

All I have to say in closing is to remember when you read the bible and it seems out of sink with the world you know and what you have been taught, you are probably right that it does not match the ways of the world. It does not match the sense of justice found in the world. The ways of God, which we are to emulate, are not the ways of the world and yet we are no less called to follow them in all we do. Amen.