We’re all adjusting to social distancing and trying to stay safe in this coronavirus pandemic. We’re all feeling grief and the loss of connection. The language of Psalm 130 about “waiting on the Lord as those who watch for the morning,” is so fitting as we prepare for the onslaught of the pandemic in many places.
So much has changed in the past several weeks as we try to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic. Trying times like these can bring out the best and the worst in us.
Jesus breaks all kinds of boundaries when he engages in conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. While respecting differing beliefs and understandings among us, we as a church, also commit ourselves to not discriminate on the basis of race, culture, gender, social and economic status or sexual orientation.
Abraham and Sarah’s way of living as sojourners in Canaan are our example of faithfully trusting in God. They embraced their pilgrim journey and therefore received God’s blessing while they, in turn, became a blessing to all people.
The story about the first humans eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge is about choices that have consequences as well as about grace-filled boundaries.
Jesus’ stories about the lost sheep and the lost coin are straightforward but the story about the lost son(s) is more complicated, as all human relationships are.
Local efforts to improve the lives of vulnerable people, such as the work of the Fairfax Food Council, are examples of Jesus’ story about a tiny mustard seed and a pinch of yeast a hidden but phenomenal growth of an alternative kingdom benefitting the lives of countless people. Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God stands in the tradition of a long line of Jewish prophets who challenged imperial powers and advocated for an alternative community serving poor, hungry and despairing people. He instilled hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
Jesus’ parable loses its provocative edge when we associate the Good Samaritan with a do-gooder preforming random acts of kindness. This short story, instead, confronts our most deeply held prejudices as the wounded and half-dead man lying by the side of the road receives astonishing help from an enemy when our most respected people fail to offer assistance.
Jesus' parable with the familiar title of “The Laborers in the Vineyard” is better titled “The Protesting Day Laborers.” It raises provocative questions about how to live in community and what ultimately matters. The vineyard owner’s strange actions raise provocative questions about respect, justice, equality, generosity, mutual care, and how to create healthy, flourishing communities.
We have a penchant for keeping score and seeking revenge for wrongs committed against us. Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant turns that mindset on its head through undeserved mercy. A mindset that channels everything through the narrow categories of debts owed and debts paid will adversely shape our lives. The way of tit-for-tat and revenge paves the path to hell, but the way of mercy and forgiveness leads to the kingdom of God.