It seems we have another week ripe for preaching; manna from Heaven, an indignant Jonah, St. Paul choosing to remain present in his dispersed communities of believers, and the parable of the landowner who pays in more ways than one.
What bubbles up for you as you read the Exodus reading, as the people are grumbling (again!), saying it would have been better to die than to follow Moses out of their captivity? I can think of a few ways our people, and our selves, have been “captive” since the early spring. Are your people starting to grumble? Are they courting covid in their pressure to meet together, shoulder to shoulder, singing hymns fortissimo and hugging tightly without masks? What bread can we give them that will satisfy their lust for more? What light can we show them that will make the bars of our exiles and quarantines seem somewhat less confining? Where is that heavenly food in your own life? When have you found your complaining mouth unexepectedly filled with nourishment?
Maybe Jonah is on your list this week, his frustration with the people he was sent to save, and with the bush that withered and died over his very head. He’d come to love that bush, that small measure of protection, though he did not plant and grow it, or, indeed, even ask for it. When the sun rises where you are is the wind sultry? Is your town on fire, literally, or figuratively?
Paul, too, wants to die (a common theme apparently). And yet he obeys that Rule of Benedict (you know, the one that didn’t exist yet, ha!). He decides to stay, remain steadfast and obedient to the work laid out for him, though he longs for heavenly rest. Where do you, or your people, long for rest near a cool stream? In what ways have you, and your people, chosen to remain in community during this pandemic, when it would have been almost easy to slip quietly away?
And finally! One of my favorite parables. Work for all who will have it, and equal pay for all who will work. This parable reminds me of St. Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily:
If any have laboured from the first hour,
let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
let him not be afraid because he comes so late.
Why do we litmus test worthiness to receive a fair wage? Why do we think we have worked harder than others have? Do your people work in literal or figurative fields? Is Jesus talking about more than work? Could Jesus be talking about salvation? Are the cradle church members more holy than the new believers?
I hope these provide some jumping off points for you this week. Godspeed!
Alicia Hager resides in West Michigan and is a Postulant to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. Alicia enjoys spending time with her daughters and her husband, is bonkers about her cats, and blogs at astrawberrypointe.wordpress.com.
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7 thoughts on “RCL Reflections for 20 September: Death and Labor”
I am going with Exodus for four weeks (this is week 2). I have preached on the Back to Egypt committee before, normally about the dangers of nostalgia, but in the age of COVID with teh grief and loss that has filled life for the last 6 months I want to take a different tack.
It strikes me that a big part of nostalgia, of wanting to go back to when things were better, is grief — often unnamed or unacknowledged grief. That coupled with fear and anxiety of the new is a powerful driver of behaviour. BUt can we go back? Should we go back? All around me I hear a desire to get back to “normal” but is that wise or realistic? I have a hunch that grief over what people feel they have lost since March is a big part of the resentment and pushback against pandemic regulations and restrictions.
My early thoughts for the week are here: https://gordsponderings.blogspot.com/2020/09/looking-ahead-to-september-20-2020.html
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I use the parable of the workers in the vineyard for a workshop with children on the theme of equality/equity/justice…I always ask them if the person who worked the full 12 hours is worth more than the person who only worked one hour. At first they say yes, until we tease out the fact that our value as people is not the same as the value of our work…and the expenses of the person who waited all day to be hired are not less than the expenses of the person who was hired first. The landowner pays people based on their worth and their needs, rather than the value they create for him.
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In the Working Preacher podcast this week Matt Skinner describes this as (can’t remember the precise words) an offensive parable, offensive because of the scandalous nature of GOd’s Grace that it reveals that goes against the whole ethos of our economic model.
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I’m preaching on the parable in Matthew. I’ve been surprised at how this story makes people angry because they don’t think the latecomers should get the same pay. Today I’ve encountered a new example in real life in which a pregnant mother isn’t getting treated well by her employer because she didn’t get pregnant in the “acceptable” way. I’m angry on her behalf and frustrated with how little I can do about it. It’s another example of how we deem people worthy or unworthy. Not sure how this will come out sermon-wise. Lots of processing yet to do.
I’m in Matthew as well. Just read Amy Jill-Levine’s chapter on this parable in her book, “Short Stories about Jesus” and she helps illuminate all the ways we read “extra” into the parable.
At this point, I am thinking of using this quote by Teddy Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy.
I am also preaching the Exodus text and our need to see the past for what it was and not for what we wish it was. If we can do this, then we can grieve appropriately and turn our attention more healthily to the present. https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com/2020/09/17/learning-and-growing-in-the-wilderness/