Monday, September 24, 2012

The Gospel of Fairness

If one were to Google the question "What does the Lord require?" within the search query of the Bible, then the answer would say, "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"  (Micah 6:8)

Justice as it relates to the Gospel has been on my mind a lot lately.  The Episcopal Church talks about justice quite a bit.  I have no doubt in my mind that God is just and that God is calling his followers to be just.  I have no doubt that God wants us to pay attention to the unjust structures of society.  I am thankful for so many in our community who are committed to this work.

At Bible study this morning I was reminded that striving to do justice can sometimes get in the way of discipleship particularly when justice is equated and reduced to fairness.  Fairness can mean getting an equal share of something.  Fairness can also mean getting what you deserve for better and for worse.  In short, fairness is a mode of human judgment.

I was reminded once again that Jesus isn't interested in handing out a judgment of fairness.  Remember the workers in the vineyard?  The people who worked all day received the same pay as the guys who showed up at the last hour.  Remember the Prodigal Son?  The young son who spent his father's money on dissolute living was welcomed home and celebrated as a king while the upstanding older son stood on the sidelines screaming--that's not fair!

He is right.  Jesus isn't fair.  But the Gospel isn't about fairness.

The Gospel is about right relationship with God and your neighbor through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

I can hear Jesus saying to those of us who are concerned about fairness, "Don't worry about everyone else--about their shortfalls, about their successes.  Worry about yourself.  See this child?  Serve this child.  Serve without the expectation of fairness or receiving something in return."

I can also hear Jesus saying, "I'll worry about that slacker you are so worried about.  I'll worry about that jerk who is being unfair to all those helpless people.  You worry about how you can let go of your pride and serve the slacker and the jerk.  Forget about your model of fairness.  Have faith that my model of right relationship will serve justice to all people in the end."

What does Jesus require?  Jesus is calling us to follow him.  He is calling us to see the world through a different lens--not through the lens of fairness but through the lens of right relationship with all people.

I know this new way of seeing things is not easy, but I am thankful that Jesus is showing us the way because without his way I could not do these things.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Because we get to read The Story

In preparation for Children's Chapel, I went around to all the classrooms this morning to introduce the preschoolers to worship in the chapel.  I asked them a bunch of questions and one of them said, "Why do you think we are quiet when we enter the Nave?"  One child mumbled, "because we get to read the story."  I am not sure exactly what he meant but this is what I took from the exchange.

I am never sure how to prepare for Children's Chapel.  I do not consider teaching children to be one of my strengths.  I have a hard time translating adult learning into children's learning.  So I really never know if I am presenting age appropriate material.  In short, I feel like that all my efforts to say just the right thing get in the way of really hearing God's story.

This reflection reminded of two things about worship.  First of all, going to worship is not a "have to" it is a "get to" thing.  What a wonderful privilege to worship God in beauty and in truth.  In addition, I was reminded to listen in worship.  As a preacher, it is easy to become preoccupied with what I am going to say or do next.  So my challenge is to learn how to listen and reflect on God's story better in the context of worship.

The story of God in scripture is the story of how God has relationship with his creation.  We get to read the story.  We also get to be a part of that story.  It is a story about grace, failure, redemption, salvation, doubt, and faith.  In the end, the story is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

We get to be a part of the story of grace thanks be to God in Christ.  In his letter to the Ephesians (2:8-10), Paul sums up the gift of being a part of that story when he says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."   

What a wonderful, sacred, and mysterious story we have through the work and grace of Christ Jesus.  We don't have to be a part of the story, we get to be a part of the story because it is a gift.