PROPER 19 (24) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A (Proper 21)

Proper 20 (25) Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A


Both of us work in institutions surrounded by people at the top of the academic world. We work with people who revere knowledge. And not just any old knowledge, but logical, rational, provable, cite-able, repeatable knowledge.

In general our society holds on to the idea that the best information is backed up by facts. Success is identified most of the time by the accumulation of 'things' we can point to. In the order of the world, everyone has someone above them and someone below them. Social order is one of the ways we can Prove who we are and what we have accomplished.

We (the bigger, close to universal 'We') are people who appreciate Proof.

Even the Pre-Enlightenment folks of the Hebrew and early Christian world struggled with needing Proof.

In this week's passage from Exodus we see an example of God looking for Proof of commitment from the Israelites and the Israelites looking for Proof of commitment from God. The people of Israel had been wandering around in the wilderness for a while (little did they know how long this would last!) and they were COMPLAINING...lack of food, lack of water, lack of safe and dry places to sleep...of course, it had slipped their minds that there was also a lack of Egyptian slave holders. They were unconvinced that this trip to the desert was God's work and they needed Proof Moses was the right guy to follow. And in turn, God told Moses that every morning there would be bread on the ground and every evening there would be quail on the ground and all they had to do was Prove that they could follow instructions and only take as much as they needed for the day. Both sides were testing the relationship.

Psalm 105 is the beautiful, lyrical, revisionist history version of the story of the Exodus. Go read it. It describes the story in an almost completely positive tone without remembering the dirty and hard parts. It is sort of like us singing patriotic songs of American wars without recounting or remembering the sweat, blood, and death that occurred.

In this week's passage from Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Phillipi, we see some interesting stuff from Paul. At the beginning of this passage he talks about the struggle he is having between wanting to 'go' and be with Christ and needing to stay and be a leader to others. Today, Paul would get admitted for a psychiatric work-up the way he is talking about possibly wanting to die to achieve a goal. But then he goes on to emphasize what a good thing it is for him to live and how important it is for these new followers of Jesus to live fully because that will continue the witness of Jesus. And then, as he does in many other places throughout his letters, Paul talks about how suffering in this life is Proof of salvation and Proof that an individual is on the right path. This is a message that many still carry today--if you are a follower of Jesus, a life of suffering if Proof you are on the right track. Of course, there is also a popular notion today that if you are a follower of Jesus you will be prosperous and not have a care in the world. Feel free to reconcile these things on your own. : )

The passage from Matthew this week gives us a parable from Jesus. You all know it. A landowner hired laborers to work for him at four different times throughout the day and at the end of the day he paid them all the same. The guys (we assume they were guys...maybe not) hired first were angry that the ones hired last were paid the same amount but did not work the same amount. Evidently the guys hired last had nothing to say on the matter.

But why were the first set of workers upset? They got paid what they expected to be paid at the beginning of the day. Our suspicion (based on personal experience) is that they wanted Proof that their extra effort had more value. They needed Proof...they needed validation that their work was appreciated more than the workers who did not break a sweat.

And the landowner / Jesus ties it up with "So the last will be first and the first will be last."

That is not all that satisfying for folks who need Proof, is it?

But Jesus is saying that there is Proof enough to go around. The last person is loved and valued as much as the first person...equal...no divisions...no preference based on preference, size, shape, color, or hours worked.

Hmmm.

Is that Proof enough for you?

God, help me to stop worrying about
who is above me
and
who is below me.
Remove the desire for rankings
and competitions
from my heart.
Be with me as I attempt to be at
Peace
with who
I am
and the knowledge
that who
I am
is
loved
by
You.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.

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