Saturday, September 17, 2011

Trinity 13 A Homily for 8.00 at St Matthew's

It's a scandal!
It's an outrage!

So sing the worthies of Oklahoma in Rogers & Hammerstein's splendid musical – and I rather suspect we might all like to join in with their chorus as we reflect on the gospel for today.

If we were in danger of hoping that Christianity was in any way an acceptable ethical system in the eyes of the world, this parable dooms us to disppointment.
If you stand Kingdom values and secular ethics side by side there's pretty much no common ground.

We are told that our faith is counter-cultural...and here's the evidence.

You see, we live in a world that, at its best, would like things to be FAIR
It's an instinct rooted deep within most of us...Just listen to a class of primary school children who have noticed that one of their number seems to be specially privileged...or, on a better day, seems to be missing out.
It's not FAIR they cry...
And as we grow up, we cling to that same idea of notional equality – tempered, of course, with a suppressed desire to protect our own interests,- even at the expense of our neighbours, near or far.
We like to believe that equal effort deserves equal reward (unless the effort is our own – in which case, we're pretty sure that our work is worth just a little bit more) – that the harder we work the more we should get – that there is a natural order to things, which ensures that those at the front of the queue will get the best.

And now here is Jesus, upsetting all our cherished ideas of how things ought to be, casting aside our received wisdom, asserting that our vision of how things ought to be is simply too narrow, missing the point altogether.
Where's the justice in that?

Justice,- well thereby hangs a tale.
At one point during the alarming assault course that is the selection procedure for training for ordination in the C of E, I found myself well and truly cornered by an interviewer. We had been talking about my life so far, and she had wanted to probe and explore all sorts of uncomfortable topics, including my attitude to God after the death of my parents, and during the period of my life when I seemed to be constantly pregnant and constantly miscarrying.
Finally, the selector asked me “Has God been just to you?”
The more I protested that for me, justice simply wasn’t an issue, the more she drove the point home.
Of course, my first reaction to the question was to look at it from the wrong angle. I imagined that she wanted to hear me say that I somehow “forgave” God for what had happened along the way. Sure, he hadn’t been as kind as I might have expected,- but I recognised that this wasn’t actually something that disturbed me any longer…so I kept on avoiding the question for as long as I could. But that selector was relentless.
Had God been just to me?
Finally, the penny dropped.
No, I said, thankfully God had not been just to me at all.
He has been wildly, extravagantly generous – accepting my half hearted gifts of time and energy (gifts that are God's in the 1st place) – receiving my broken, willful self at his table – and giving me, in exchange for my grubby offering, HIS own life, HIS overwhelming love – and a place in HIS Kingdom for ever.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?
He asks
You are mine – each of you...and I choose to respond to all that you are not with anger but with goodness,
not with justice but with generosity

The justice of this world is completely floored by the boundless grace of God...

Yes, God can do what he likes with his own
and what he likes is to show them,- show us, wild, extravagant generosity and loving kindness. There is no justice in sight at all,- or our fate would be decided long since, and would not be something to celebrate.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!


Still Breathing said...

Beautiful - thank you.

Kathryn said...

Thanks Hugh...Due to a communications failure, it didn't actually get preached as my Reader thought she was doing the 8.00 as well as the All I'm specially glad it spoke to someone here :)