A reflection on Trinity Fifteen
Offered for Sunday 20th September 2020
September 20th 2020
I don't know about you
but a substantive amount of my email box
is filled with subjects ranging from
the best offer ever
to unsolicited inappropriate invitations...
However on occasions I receive something,
for want of a better expression, initially rings my bell
and the following is one of those...
You know, I never really cared that you were gay...
until you started to force me to acknowledge it.
I never cared what colour you were
until you started to blame me for your problems...
I never cared about your political affiliations...
until you started condemning me for mine...
I never really cared where you were born until
you wanted to erase my history
and blame my ancestors for your problems...
I never even cared if your beliefs
were different from mine
until you said my beliefs were wrong...
But now I do care -
and my patience and tolerance are gone.
Nevertheless after, 'ringing my bell'
I experienced unease
and, deeply challenging myself, I offer
the following personal theological
reworking of these words.
You know, I've never really cared that you were gay...
I've never cared what colour you are...
I've never really cared about
your personal political affiliations...
I've never really cared where you were born...
I've acknowledged your beliefs were different from mine...
But now, like Jesus commanded and instructed,
I rise to the challenge to accept and care,
for you, like me,
and absolutely everyone under Christ
are loved, cared, valued
and accepted equally
who apportions no blame
but loves each and every one
of us unconditionally.
Let us Pray
God our Father,
the qualities we see lived out
so well in some people
are a reflection of your own goodness,
and we know we have much to learn
from other people
who reflect your image and likeness
in different ways.
Inspire us to respect others fully as equals,
seeing and loving in them
what you see and love
in all of your creation.
In the children's book 'It's Not Fair',
by Carl Sommer, a young worker bee, Buzzie,
becomes disaffected and complains
'it isn't fair'
that the worker bees have to do all the work.
The queen just lazes around laying eggs
and the male drones' only function
is to mate with the queen.
Buzzie is unhappy she and her fellow workers
have to work hard collecting nectar.
She doesn't even see how lucky she is
when a fellow worker acting as guard for the hive
sacrifices her life by stinging an intruder.
Instead she starts a rebellion
and many of the bees fly off
to create their own hive
where fairness rules.
Of course it isn't that easy.
There are soon lots of squabbles
over distributing the jobs.
Unsurprisingly, everyone wants the easiest
and safest job -
a fanner whose job is to keep the hive cool.
In Matthew 20, the vineyard owner is generous.
Surely this is a quality everyone admires?
Surely everyone will love him for it?
But this story gets to the heart
of the darker aspects of human character.
We love someone who is generous,
but only if they are generous to us.
Generosity to someone else causes that ugly reaction:
jealousy, often expressed in the words
"It's not fair."
There are many who work towards fairness
and justice for others,
giving great thought to what that means
in a practical sense.
But when it comes to making judgements
about fairness for ourselves as individuals,
we sometimes lose our sense of perspective.
"I worked harder than others.
I should have more,"
we might say, justifying our anger,
"I'm the leader here,
I should have the most."
But how can we ever really know what is fair?
If we look at payment only from the perspective
of how much work was done
or how senior our job is,
we are only seeing one aspect.
The vineyard workers thought they deserved
more wages because
they had laboured all day in the heat.
But they gave no thought to the situation
of those who had not been hired.
They had spent all day in the heat
in the marketplace,
probably worrying about not having earned
a day's wages.
Neither group had a particularly relaxing day.
As human beings,
we can only look on the surface.
We cannot know the interplay of personal situation,
past experience and individual character
to make judgements about what is truly fair.
Jesus is constantly turning
conventional ideas on their heads.
This parable from Matthew 20 ends with the words:
"So the last will be first,
and the first will be last."
We nod sagely.
We have heard this before,
and of course we agree.
We know this is how it is in the kingdom of heaven.
But what will we actually do or feel
when confronted with a real example,
especially if we are used to being in a position of power?
Will we try to hold onto power or money because,
after all, it is God-given
and our responsibility to use it properly?
Heaven forbid we should let go of it.
How could we advance God's kingdom
without the power or money
we have come to expect?
But our responsibility,
like that of the bees,
is to fulfil our God-given role and,
unlike the bees,
it may change many times throughout our lives.
Sometimes it may not be clear.
We may have to spend long days
working in the vineyard,
feeling we do not have time to think about
what God wants for us.
Or we may spend many days
in the marketplace waiting to be hired,
feeling we will never find a niche.
At times it may seem unfathomable,
but we can trust in our generous God
to distribute work and meet our needs
according to God's perfect plan.
God alone decides when we should work
or when we should wait,
when we should have power
and when we should be powerless,
when we should be rich
and when we should be poor.
God alone can judge the true worth of what we do,
and monetary reward, power,
or even our limited perception of fairness,
are not the ultimate goals.
Buzzie, the worker bee,
starts a rebellion because she thinks the way
that work is arranged
in the hive is not fair.
Generosity to others can cause an ugly human reaction,
jealousy, often expressed in the words:
"It's not fair."
We cannot judge what is truly fair
because we do not know enough about
the situations of others.
Rather than concerning ourselves
with God's generosity to others,
we are asked to fulfill our God-given role,
which will change as we move through our lives.
God decides when we should be rich or poor,
powerful or powerless, working or waiting.
God will judge the true worth of our lives
and judgement will not be based
on our own limited perception of race,
creed, background, colour or indeed fairness.
Lord, may we be generous encouragers
of all those we meet,
pointing them towards your purpose for their lives.
May we help them to value you above reward
or human power and status,
learning to see both themselves
and ourselves as valued workers
in your kingdom. And the blessing....