Thursday, September 29, 2011

Unfaithful Tenants in the Vineyard

  A vineyard owner leased out his vineyard.  When time came to get the proceeds of the harvest, the tenants are less than forth coming.  Messengers are sent to try to get the tenants to pay up.  The tenants beat some of them up and even kill some of them.  Finally, the owner makes a decision: "I'll send my son.  It is like I will be there myself- they will have to respect my son."
  The tenants see the son coming.  They decide to get greedy.  If we kill him, too, they think, then it will all be ours.  We'll just be tenants no longer.  The son arrives and they put their thoughts into action.  Ruthlessly, the son- the heir- is killed.
  I remember the first time I really looked at this parable- sophomore year at Nazareth Academy in religion class.  We were asked to identify all of the characters.  Easy, we thought.  The owner is God, the son is Jesus, the various messengers are the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, John the Baptist), and the tenants are the religious leaders.  We thought we were pretty smart!
  There is a difference, however, being identifying the players and truly "getting" the story.    Truth be told, you and I are the tenants.  So often we turn our backs on the One who loving created us and calls us by name.
  But even that is not the end of this story.  Once again we see a God who is so in love with us, that time and time again He tries to reach out to us.  Even in the face of rejection and abuse, God so desperately wants a relationship with you and with me that God tireless keeps trying. 
  For this Jesus came, to seek and save the lost, including you and me.  Thank you, God, for your wondrous amazing love that persists and that nothing can erase.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What is It?

After 45 days of wilderness wanderings, Egypt starts to look good.
At least there they had food to eat and water to drink.
There was a roof over their heads.
Forgotten is the back-breaking enforced labor.
Forgotten, too, is the bondage of slavery.
Forgotten is God’s liberation through Moses and Aaron.

A combination of restlessness, hunger, and a lack of direction leads to grumbling and complaining.
“Where is your so-called God now” the people ask Moses.
Soon the answer comes, loud and clear.
Quail and manna cover the barren desert ground.
“What is it?” They ask.  What is it, indeed. 

“Manna” comes Moses’ answer.  Manna.  Bread.
But this is not just any ole bread— this is special bread; bread the Lord God has provided.
While the people may have forgotten God, the Lord God has not forgotten them.
So the manna comes in response to their cries.
Manna, a powerful and visible sign that God is with them.
A sign that God cares about God’s people and faithfully provides for their needs.

Sometimes life seems like a barren desert wilderness.
We watch our pension funds decrease in the stock market.
Tough decisions are made as we struggle to make ends meet;
Do we chose food, medicine, or heat?
Yet another friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer.
“Where is God now?” we might ask.

"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.
The Lord will be gracious if you ask for help.
God will surely respond to the sound of your cries.
Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. "  (Isaiah 30:19-21).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Forgiveness

  No doubt Peter thinks he has got it made.  The Law only requires that an offender be forgiven 3 times. On the fourth time, the offender was cut off from the faith community.  An original "three strikes" rule, sort to speak.  And here Simon Peter offers to extend forgiveness seven times-- more than double what is required.  So Peter must be feeling pretty good about his generous spirit.
  Jesus, however, asks Peter to go further.  Jesus tells Peter that he must be willing to forgive some one 70 times 7 (some Bibles read 77 times or even 77 times 7).  The number 7 is often used to denote wholeness or completeness in the Bible.  So Jesus is challenging Peter- and you and me- to keep forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving, and then to forgive some more.  Keep on forgiving until you have lost count of the number of times you offered it.  In other words, forgiveness has no limits.
  Elsewhere, Jesus links our ability to receive forgiveness with our ability to extend forgiveness to others.  We tend to be good at receiving forgiveness and expecting it almost as a right.  But we are not so good at extending forgiveness to others.  Instead we hang on to the anger, the hurt, the resentment. 
  In the Lord's Prayer, we are taught to pray "Forgive us our sins (trespasses) as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us" (Matthew 6:12).  Christians around the world pray this prayer almost every Sunday, and many every day.  But I wonder . . . I wonder, do you and I really mean it?